Carriageworks is Heritage at Risk

English Heritage has listed the Carriageworks as one of five entrenched buildings at risk that are ready for redevelopment and reuse.

“More than 15 years on from the first Heritage at Risk Register, English Heritage has identified five more buildings ready for redevelopment and reuse. All of them have been on the Register for at least a decade and it is these entrenched cases, where seemingly there is no way forward, the organisation wants to draw attention to.

“(#3) Carriage Works, Bristol, Grade II*, on the Register since 1998. Built in 1862 for Perry and Son’s carriages, only the shell of the building remains, which has not been used since 1977. Previous proposals for the site failed to gain planning permission and the buildings remain empty. A housing association recently put forward draft proposals for the site, and another scheme is being prepared by a private developer

“Simon Thurley, English Heritage Chief Executive, said: “The next few years will be crucial for At Risk sites. Although there has been a reduction in the number of sites on the Register, more than a third of buildings that were on the national Register when it first began in 1999 are still there now. We can’t give up on all these incredibly important historic buildings; getting them back in use will lift the blight from historic areas, bringing back in to use really important buildings and giving people a sense of pride in where they live. As the economy starts to improve and the demand for development increases, we need to push these buildings forward and find a future for them.””


You came, you spoke and you left no doubt

We had a packed room last night for the Carriageworks Community Meeting.  Around 60 people turned up to hear the latest on plans for the redevelopment of the Carriageworks and Westmoreland House and to quiz the City Council and Knightstone on what is and should be happening next. There was also a lot of discussion about what Comer / Fifth Capital are up to.

The big problem we face is the way in which the Fifth Capital proposals have stalled the City Council’s proposals to compulsoraly purchase the site and Knightstone’s proposals to then redevelop the site. The reason for the stall lies in the risks: the Council and Knighstone would have to spend £3-400k to work up proposals, but that expenditure could be abortive if (and it’s a big ‘if’) Fifth Capital do get planning permission and do develop the site. The City Council is therefore waiting to see if a planning application is submitted and whether it is viable before they take their next step.

Amidst much frustration, the key message from people at the meeting was that the City Council needs to be a lot more robust and assertive in its response. When CAG was established in 2011 there was talk of a two track approach – one track tackling the owners and the ongoing dereliction, and the other bringing forward redevelopment proposals. Sadly it seems that that twin approach is being somewhat derailed. The message for the three Councillors present was, therefore, to get back on the tracks, to take control and to be prepared to invest in the surveys and planning permission which Kinightstone need to prepare.

There was also discussion about the planning policies which apply to the site. There are some things, such as affordable housing and the through route, which people feel should be secured.  So can the policies be improved? It might be too late if Fifth Capital do submit a planning application in the near future (they say they’ll do that in the next fortnight) but if, as many people fear, the reaility is going to be ongoing dereliction it could help get the solution we want in the longer term.

There’s been a lot of media interest since last night’s meeting so the story will be told in many places as it unfolds. And don’t forget to keep checking back here for updates.

Compare and contrast: The Vision, Knightstone and Fifth Capital

To help you understand all the various ideas for the Carriageworks site we’ve prepared this handy(ish) comparison table.  It shows what the Community Vision says, and how the Knightstone and Fifth Capital schemes respond to it. Click to download the PDF.

And for you to see how we’ve got to where we are, we’ve made this timeline.


What’s happened to Knightstone?

Three years ago we were discussing our Community Vision. One year ago, in a significant step towards compulsory purchase and the end of years of derelection, Knightstone were selected as the preferred developer to deliver the Vision. But since Fifth Capital emerged it’s all gone very quiet. Are Knightstone holding back to see what comes of the Fifth Capital scheme? What does the Council think about that? And what should we, the local community, do?

Let us know what you think. Come to the Community meeting on Monday 13 October (6pm at the Salvation Army, Ashley Road), write your comments below, or send your thoughts to

What we think of Fifth Capital’s proposals

Over the last few weeks you may have seen publicity by Fifth Capital about their latest proposals for the site. Given the calibre of their consultants you might not be surprised to be told that the designs are at least reasonably impressive. Having looked at them in a bit more depth, however, we retain significant reservations.

Firstly we remain unconvinced that Fifth Capital will build anything.

  • We have asked them to provide information about their track record. They have told us about a number of developments but none of the documents provided or our own research has linked the sites or the development proposals to Fifth Capital or its Directors.
  • We have asked them to provide information about their funding, just as Knightstone was required to provide. We even said that this would be treated in the strictest confidence. Fifth Capital have refused to provide any information beyond saying that it is coming from private investors.
  • There is a history of coincidence: whenever the City Council has started to use compulsory purchase powers the owners, Comer Homes, have applied for planning permission which then undermines the CPO process. The applicant may be different this time, but is the intent?

Secondly we have reservations about what they intend to build:

  • There is no through route permeating the site. This is one of the key principles in the Community Vision and helps underpin links with the community and a vibrant mix of ground floor uses. Without the through route our concern is that the site will eventually become a gated community.
  • There are no proposals for affordable housing. This may change by the time they submit their planning application but so far there have been no details.
  • While they say that there will be space for small businesses etc they have not said how this will be secured long term or how it will be managed.
  • We are concerned that they will play off community aspirations for vibrant ground floor uses with wider social needs for affordable housing. They will tell the Council it is their choice. It is then likely that affordable housing will win. The ground floor will then revert to occupation by the highest bidders, most of whom will be corporate multiples.
  • Introducing a London arts consultancy, Future City, to develop a ‘cultural strategy’ for the site seems parasitical when our own city is full of the skills and heritage needed to do the job.
  • There is no information how, in the long term, the space for small businesses, community uses, workshops etc will be seured.
  • There is no clarity on long term management.  We would like to think that there will be a commitment to active management that engages with the wider community. We suspect it will just be another management company like any other block of flats.

What do you think? Come to the Community meeting on Monday 13 October (6pm at the Salvation Army, Ashley Road), write your comments below, or send your thoughts to

What you’ve been telling us

A few weeks ago we sent out an update on the Carriageworks and, in particular, Fifth Capital the company that now says it’s going to develop the site.  Lots of people wrote in with their thoughts.  Here’s what they said (to respect individuals we’ve removed actual names). The comments stand in contrast to Fifth Capital’s PR which is claiming that local people are saying “just get on with it”.

Thank you for your informative email — I was wondering about the leaflet, and was deeply suspicious after reading it. I used to (be) a financial journalist — this smells bad. As well as bearing the hallmarks of various kinds of dodgy dealing, it’s exactly how the ‘dead hand of gentrification’ works — as soon as an area becomes ‘up and coming’, with the trotting out of promises that ‘developers’ have no intention of delivering on (or being around long enough to deliver on) being a major aspect of it.
I am very pleased to see that you sound already very aware of this, and trust that we’ll be able to put together a robust demolition of their planning application unless the bad smell proves unfounded, and the motives and plan better than rotten. With links to major developers and financiers, they’ll be good at it, so we’ll need to be quicker and smarter — a strong collaborative relationship with BCC, whatever the limitations on what Planning can and can’t take into account, may well prove to be our greatest asset! It will be fascinating to see what they present at their exhibition.
Keep up the good work. Stokes Croft CAN do regeneration differently!
best, J
P.S. How old is the photo they used on their leaflet?!

Thank you very much for this – for those of us without the time to really follow these things too closely, but with a very keen interest in what happens there, this is a perfect summary. I appreciate this level of brevity, with links to as much further info as anyone interested and with the time can follow. It is an excellent update for people like me, of which I am sure there are many.
Thanks again

I had lunch with a friend in Glastonbury, who described the owners of the Carriageworks site (on what evidence I don’t know) as a ‘bunch of gangsters’.
I must say the situation as described in the newsletter supports this view. There is no evidence of any kind to support the proposals of this company with less money than I have as a retired and not very wealthy individual. It all sounds like ‘Stokes Croft is the place to be in Bristol. We can make lots of money by banging up some overpriced flats with just enough minor alterations to get the planning permission.’
Let’s hope Knightstone, a local and relatively well known organization trusted to a large degree, can get their vision up, but if I know developers they will be shafted in the interests of a quick buck.

I hope Fifth Capital do not have any association with Hong Kong estate agents who seem to be selling off London at the rate of knots.
Thanks for the update.

[The next message was sent to Fifth Capital and copied to us]
We respond to the ‘Carriageworks Community News’ put through our letterbox as local residents.
We think your consultation with the local community is commendable, despite being an obligatory requirement of submitting a planning application of this scale.
However the fact that on the site map/plan contained on your Community News three of the surrounding streets have been misnamed or misspelled (see attached), is a sloppiness that doesn’t suggest any kind of local awareness, let alone inspire confidence.
Of course, all the questions being asked by the Carriageworks Action Group (as below) require good answers, that according to them seem so far to be lacking.
I’m not entirely convinced that hiring an independent communications company suggests real commitment to direct engagement with the local community either.
And Fifth Capital having no website and a possibly residential business address doesn’t inspire confidence either I’m afraid.

Why are you giving all this publicity to Fifth Capital ?
They have turned up too late to enter the race. Surely the race has already run, with Knightstone the winner. Let’s just let them get on with it .

Dont worry about the leaflet – thats a small issue.
The bigger issue with this group is that Marc Pennicks mate is Peter Bingle, who works for Bell Pottinger – a Public Affairs.
I think BPPA used to work for the government, but certainly Peter has connections in Westminster.
Will keep digging.

It seems from looking at your histories that what these people with no money who have just bought a controlling interest are after is a fat profit from the compulsory purchase. After all you buy the place for little money on a loan, then prepare, cheaply and quickly, a set of plans that are obviously not sufficient for what is required, but which, if implemented, would make a lot of money for you, and then when the Council decides to compulsorily purchase, you claim all kinds of business losses and make a huge profit for doing nothing, leaving Bristol impoverished and less money for the proper implementation of the original scheme. Worse than that if TTIP* goes through you will have a legal right to sue for all losses made as the result of any government or council decision, and that will probably include projected profits over the next 50 years assuming the most favourable possible position.
We may well get the Knightstone option, but at a cost several times what it should be, thanks to these fly by night operators.

* TTIP = Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. For more see 38 Degrees campaign