Notes from the 20th July Community Meeting

Summary

Although there are still serious concerns about the scheme proposed by Fifth Capital London, there was also a recognition that the developer has made changes to the scheme that constitute significant improvements.

There are many differing views in the local communities around the site, ranging from total opposition to this scheme, through to support for any scheme that will end the dereliction of the site.

There is a real desire, and need, to have an honest dialogue with the developer, and disappointment that he was not at this meeting to enable such a dialogue to continue.

The majority of people at the meeting discussed the need to be deeply pragmatic about the development of the Carriageworks site.  There was a focus on what we can realistically influence.

Positives:

The meeting noted the positive changes:

·      Access form Ashley Road

·      Removal of gates

·      Potential market space

·      Less housing

·      More commercial units

·      Ashley Road set back

Key concerns and issues to resolve

Scheme Design:

Significant concerns about the design of the scheme were expressed:

·      The design is bland, boring, boxy and looks like a “London import”.  It is out of place in this heritage street-scape

·      The scheme is not in keeping with the spirit of the community vision, which calls for a mixed development “designed to a high quality with good environmental standards”.

Housing:

·      There is real concern that the housing is not going to offer a good experience for people to live in.

·      Poor quality housing tends to be bought only by Buy-to-Let landlords.  The result is short term tenancies with constant throughput.  This is damaging to communities

·      Poor quality housing will not meet local need.

·      There is a real need for well-managed, affordable housing in this area.

·      The scheme needs to address sustainability:  renewables, heating, ventilation, insulation. We want to see the best renewable energy programme on the site.
There needs to be more information about the quality standards of the accommodation being developed.  It must, as a minimum, meet BCC’s quality standards.

·      There is strong support for having a housing association as a responsible owner.  And a strong view that CAG Liaison Group members should be in dialogue with the housing association partner as soon as possible.  This is necessary for people in the communities to have confidence in this critical element of the scheme.

Commercial units/space

·      People are pleased that the number of commercial units has increased, but concerned about their management.

·      The success of the scheme will rely on the use of the commercial spaces.  There are many positive, constructive and realistic ideas about this, based on local experience.  A number of successful local traders and entrepreneurs are keen to be involved in a discussion about how to make the space and units work in this area (and in the face of the various challenges, e.g. parking).

·      A management plan is essential.  Local input into this is essential: this area is unusual and there is local knowledge about how best to deliver co

·      The units and the central “square” must be accessible, or they will remain vacant/will not work.  This will undermine the whole scheme, and the community.  There needs to be active marketing and active ongoing management of the site as a whole, and especially of the commercial units.

·      The need for a robust and realistic management plan is essential, as is local dialogue and input to ensure that it is deliverable.

Going Forward:

·      The meeting wanted to have a dialogue with Fifth Capital London, and so the whole meeting agreed that we need to hold another community meeting, at which the developer is present.

·      Four issues were identified as of primary importance:

  1. Liveability of the units and the need for an excellent renewable energy programme
  2. Uses of, reaching and using the commercial spaces:  terms for local businesses; what kinds of businesses; what business opportunities; what businesses will make these units in this location (with their challenges, e.g. parking, vehicle access etc.) have the greatest chance of success; how will customers know they are there, etc.
  3. A robust management plan for the site as a whole, with local input
  4. A housing association as a responsible owner

·      The need for open dialogue is essential in order that the community can have confidence in the scheme, and in the developer’s commitment to deliver.

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