Under-fire developer gets 46-home plan for Southville approved - after late change due to criticism
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Plans for 46 homes in Southville slammed as ‘a slap in the face’ and ‘disappointing on so many fronts’ have been narrowly approved by councillors.
Bristol City Council development control committee voted 5-4 to grant permission to demolish Castlemead House offices near Asda and build two houses and a five-storey block of 44 flats.
Officers recommended giving the go-ahead despite the proposals having zero affordable homes, but the developers changed their minds and included three of these just days before the meeting afterbeing criticised on social media by the authority’s cabinet member for housing.
Seven objections were received, including from BS3 Planning Group and both Green ward councillors who said applicants Land and Buildings Ltd and consultants Pegasus Group had failed to engage with them.
The meeting on Wednesday evening (April 27) was told the current occupiers, Castlemead Insurance Brokers, needed to move into new premises because the old building was no longer suitable for a modern business wanting to become carbon neutral.
But no study had been carried out to show the site, on the corner of Coronation Road and St Johns Road, had no future for employment use, councillors heard.
A planning officer said the proposed design could be an “attractive addition to that corner and remove what is a negative building”.
When the plans were originally submitted they included 20 per cent affordable homes, but figures supplied by the developers and independently verified by officers showed it was not financially viable to have any below market price.
A late amendment to the plans changed this from zero to three flats to be sold at a discount.
Southville already has a high amount of privately-rented accommodation, while the city has some 12,000 families on council waiting lists for social housing, and has become one of the most unaffordable cities to live in the UK.
Katy Mourant, of Pegasus, told the meeting: “The applicant accepts affordable housing is an emotive issue and is therefore willing to offer three units as affordable.”
Members granted consent “with a heavy heart” after roundly criticising the development.
Green Cllr Tom Hathway said: “This application feels like a slap in the face, not only because of the really poor affordable housing commitment but there has been no engagement with the ward councillors, poor engagement with the community, it’s really poor ambition on our climate commitments and ecology for the site, and the mix of units doesn’t contribute to a balanced community, as well as the crucial loss of employment space in a sustainable location, so I can’t vote for this.”
Green Cllr Ed Plowden said: “The word of the evening is disappointing. This is disappointing on so many fronts.
“Sustainability – bare minimum. Design – not doing damage but hardly enhancing a conservation area.
“Very disappointing engagement, and most of all, very disappointing on affordable housing.
“However, I’m mindful that construction inflation is high and I’m very nervous that if we turn this down then we would find that any affordable housing would become even less viable, so with a very heavy heart I will be supporting this.”
Committee chairman Tory Cllr Richard Eddy said he was normally loath to see employment space lost but the building was not environmentally fit for purpose.
He said the three affordable homes represented “considerable progress” but regretted there weren’t more and that a planning inspector was likely to overturn a refusal on appeal and award costs against the council.
Other members were divided between voting against because they could not accept so few affordable homes and voting in favour despite being “quite uneasy” and “very frustrated” because the law and planning policies meant there was not enough justification to throw it out.