Notes of Community Meeting, 4 September 2017

32 people attended including reps of PG Group and their consultants, CAG Liaison Group and residents, businesses and other interested parties. Thangam Debbonaire MP called in briefly before the start.

Order of summary below is rearranged for logic and convenience so may not reflect actual order of the discussions.

Changes to Planning Conditions

A summary of the proposed changes was circulated (click to download pdf). Main focus to date of discussions between CAG Liaison Group and PG Group has been variations to the pre-commencement conditions to the planning permission. Focus is on phasing a complicated set of conditions to allow things to happen in more rational and workable order e.g. allow for demolition of building before carrying out historical investigation below.

PG clarified that they are not trying to change the design – they want to work with the existing consent. Just want to change the sequence.

One caveat is the rear wall of the Carriageworks building which is unsafe. This will be rebuilt in its current location. Q: Is there an opportunity to improve the designed space if the wall is to be rebuilt? A: This would require a new planning application which PG is reluctant to do. Nevertheless, rebuilding the wall is some way off so change to design could be considered at a later date.

Discussions between PG and planners indicate no problem with proposed changes. Planners will take a very binary view and either approve or refuse the proposed changes. They won’t get into lots of discussion. It is unlikely to have to go to Committee.

Section 106 Agreement

When conditions are changed the planning consent has to be changed so this requires a change to the S.106 Agreement. No other changes other than the name of the applicant (PG Group will be the owner by then).

Alternative use of highways contribution

Q: Currently £50k in the S.106 for junction improvements. As this won’t buy much could the money be better used e.g. for local parks? There is also no toilet provision for the market area – this should be included.

A: PG agreed that this could be discussed with the planners. However, it would require a new application as there are no toilets in the approved plans and it may then have to go to Committee. PG want to progress as soon as possible so are not seeking to make changes, just tidy things up. While they are not dismissing the ideas they would rather progress what they can now (i.e. demolition) and address new ideas later on.

Timescale

Site will be secured as soon as travellers vacate (October).

Application to change the Conditions will be determined in first week Nov. New S.106 will then need to be signed. No development (including demolition) can be started until then. Hope for November.

Asbestos surveys etc will be taking place in first month, and then actual demolition.

Westmorland Hse will come down slowly (not an explosion!). Four contractors are pricing for the work and this will include their strategy for demolition. Suggestion that the process should be captured on time-lapse camera.

Construction to begin in spring 2018. 21 month construction period.

Duration of pavement closure

Adjoining pavements will be closed for part of the development period. Concerns about the impact on businesses. Planning has not yet reached this level of detail but PG will aim to minimise closure times.

Construction Management

Planning Condition 5 requires good liaison with the local community. Conversations will continue through CAG but there will also be direct communication from Bray & Slaughter to residents and vice versa. There will be a person responsible for liaising and talking. Conversations will start early via the scheme website (will be linked from CAG site Carriageworks.org.uk). PG said “We’ll make sure we’re speaking to and sharing info with people”. The meeting stressed the importance of dialogue with those who will be impacted the most. Local people often have the good creative ideas to resolve problems.

  • Once PG have start dates they will send a letter to everyone in the immediate area (definition of the area to be agreed with CAG)
  • Monthly and quarterly newsletters with updates on construction progress and plans will be sent locally
  • Signage on site will be kept up to date
  • There will be a complaints process which Bray & Slaughter are used to running
  • A party wall surveyor has been appointed to deal with neighbours
  • Construction Management Plan will include noise management. Works will take place to a standard day – so not at night
  • Concern regarding impact on businesses across a much wider area than just Stokes Croft – will stretch up Gloucester Road and into Broadmead. PG reminded to take into account this long thin street.

Housing

Q: There is a local aspiration to see more affordable or even social housing units in the scheme. Currently 10 affordable units (7% of total).

A: Before PG can talk about housing tenures and affordable housing they need to establish the build cost. They expect to have this in October. They can then engage in discussions. PG’s plan is to sell units on the private market.

A number of Housing Associations have approached them about the affordable housing units and about buying units. Some of them may be able to bring additional funding. That is all for future discussion.

Q: PG want this to be exemplar development. Could that include an element of community ownership?

Contract Price

If the contract price is higher than hoped (not thought likely but cost of materials is the big changeable factor at the moment due to Brexit.) PG will review the methodology of construction, the structure, the materials, the sourcing, phasing etc. Cost reductions can be achieved without reducing quality.

Cultural Plan

Condition 15 deals with the Cultural Plan. The vision states “The Carriageworks development will make a positive contribution to the economy, culture and environment of Stokes Croft and surrounding area.” But what does local culture mean? How will this be an exemplar development? What is the context of the development? What is the local employment, management etc? How to define culture, how does it fit in BCC”s cultural strategy, how to include all the communities impacted? There are no rules, guidebook or precedent for this. But lots of local groups and individuals who have been contributing over the years. Need to collate what local stakeholders think. Cultural Plan will need to be submitted to BCC by late Dec / early Jan in order to give them 8 weeks to discharge all the conditions before construction begins.

Who to commission?

Lengthy discussion about who should lead this work. PG want to appoint Ginkgo (Axbridge based arts consultancy) to scope the work and create a ‘skeleton’. But many calls from CAG for an open tender to give local organisations the opportunity to pitch as well – would get more ideas and potentially get a better fit.

Content of the Plan

Q: There are many artists working locally and informing what happens (e.g. Jamaica St studios, Bearpit), but art is part of but not all of culture. And it’s not just Stokes Croft. Can include economy, tenure of housing, the A38 etc.

A: Planners have a narrow requirement relating to process and how the market square will be managed – not interested in detail of what will happen.

Q: We mustn’t get into reductivism (i.e. doing the least necessary) – that would not go down well locally. Mustn’t just be about the management of the market square.

Moving forward

  • CAG want this to be an exemplar, it’s an opportunity to do something new and innovative but it needs to be done with the local communities.
  • PG know the area – haven’t come in from somewhere else and are not ignoring the community.
  • CAG acknowledge this needs to be PG’s decision, but can it be opened to wider competition?
  • PG will have to think about it. They want it to be impressive but have struggled with this being new. PG just want to get it done.
  • Credit is due to PG for listening and engaging. We are confident that PG have heard us. They want a great scheme. They know we want more than box ticking with the planner. We’ve said our part. They understand the feeling in the room and we understand the timescale.
  • Agreed that it can’t be taken any further here and now. Let us know soon.

Next meeting in October.

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