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.