Local residents in St Jude’s have expressed their concerns over the proposed regeneration of land either side of the River Frome near Cabot Circus.
At a public workshop organised by Bristol City Council’s Frome Gateway Regeneration Framework, residents came face to face with the team behind the project, which plans to redevelop an area framed by Newfoundland Road, Wade Street, Pennywell Road and Easton Way.
The land near Cabot Circus is bisected by the River Frome and is mainly used by industrial businesses but the plan is to regenerate the area by enhancing public spaces, build 1,000 new homes and introduce new employment spaces and cultural spaces.
Although much of the land in the catchment area of the project is privately owned by 30 different companies, some of it is owned by the council.
But residents attending the workshops expressed their concerns at the 10-15 year project, which is at the early stages before a city-wide consultation between May and July.
The final plans will be presented to Bristol City Council cabinet in the autumn for their endorsement.
One resident, who didn’t want to be named, told Bristol World: “There is a lot of fear, people are very worried about this community being destroyed in the name of gentrification.
“This is a multi-cultural community with a lot of people on benefits and Universal Credit. They say there will be ‘affordable’ housing but will it be affordable to people who live here now?
“We’ve seen it happen in St Paul’s and other areas and we know the council doesn’t care about the community - and we also know the council always gets its way whatever the people say, so why even bother with these meetings?”
Mario Saeed is the manager and head coach of Trojan Free Fighters in the former Staples store on Newfoundland Circus. It’s now a martial arts school which has become the hub of the community in St Jude’s and neighbouring St Paul’s.
A professional fighter, Mario now has hundreds of local adults and children attending his club, many of them with mental health issues.
He says: “We didn’t even know about this meeting until a couple of hours before it took place and local people around here are scared that the community is going to be wiped out by these plans.
“There has been no mention of whether there will be a gym, a community centre or whether we would be relocated from this site.
“Next time there is a meeting, I will take along 500 kids and their parents to show how much the community cares about this and we won’t be going anywhere without a fight.”
Mario says that through discipline and respect, he has managed to train young people who may otherwise have turned to crime.
“We even have police officers at the club and they are engaging with youngsters, which wouldn’t have happened before. Our club is bridging the gap. I’ve had more than 60 knives and even a gun handed in to me from people who now want to change their ways.
“Some of the kids don’t have any parents so they see me as their dad and this club as their family. If this had to close, it would be devastating for the community and I worry about the kids who live here and what will happen to them.”
A spokesperson for Frome Gateway Regeneration Framework said: “We were really pleased with how the meeting went because we want to hear from the local community. We don’t have all the answers yet but we need to know what people want and it’s great that we have this early engagement with the local community.”