Report from 14 June 2017 Community Meeting

The meeting was attended by c.50 people including members of the CAG Liaison Group (Lori Streich, Simon Lewis, Pete Bullard, Jeff Butterfield, Janine McCretton, Prue Hardwick, Julian Mellor), PG Group (Stuart Gaiger, Sam Woollcott and Jenny Gee), residents, councillors, reps of local and interested organisations, and media. Lori Streich, Chair of CAG, chaired the meeting.

Stuart Gaiger introduced the PG Group and their proposals for the Carriageworks.

  • PG Group has been developing property in Bristol since 2002. They tend to focus on residential schemes including new build, conversions and listed buildings. They work either in or within about 2 hours of Bristol, but Bristol is their focus. In the past they have taken on tricky and challenging sites (e.g. Bedminster Parade) but the Carriageworks will be the most challenging to date.
  • PG Group are buying the Carriageworks site. Stuart Gaiger stressed that Opecprime (the current owners) cannot pull out of the sale.
  • PG Group will deliver the scheme that went to Planning Committee in October 2015 so they will not be seeking to change the height, scale, mix or number of units. Appointment of the design team (architects, engineers, contractors etc) will be complete within the next month or so.
  • Construction will start in early 2018. The build programme will last 18-24 months, so aiming at completion in Autumn 2019.
  • Jenny Gee will provide community engagement on behalf of PG Group. She praised CAG for its work to date and is keen we work together. She will setup a website that will provide updates on progress with the proposals and enable people to leave comments.

Lori Streich stressed that CAG is committed to work with any developer that delivers the Community Vision. The details of how CAG and PG Group work together will evolve in time but at the very least we have a role defined by the planning permission.

There was then discussion between people attending and PG Group the main points of which were:

Site Acquisition

  • Can we be clear that Comer are not imposing any staged conditions along the way, that it is an outright sale?
    • SG: That is correct.
  • Can PG Group walk away?
    • SG: No. We’re committed.
  • Does PG Group own other properties in Stokes Croft?
    • SG: No

Vision

  • CAG has worked to change the scheme to get more vibrancy and connections with the neighbourhood. The site will direct the future direction of Stokes Croft, it is talismanic. How visionary will you be? Could there be parts of the scheme in community ownership? Need to make it really great – a benchmark for here and the rest of the country. Will you do something that is genuinely extraordinary and truly amazing?
    • SG: Yes! We want this to be an exemplar scheme. We don’t want to build bland schemes. Currently working through the mundane stuff but happy to have dialogue. The more input, especially regarding the ground floor, the more life we give to those areas. The units are more suited to small traders – we can do something different. We are under no illusion how important those buildings are. We support the Community Vision.
  • Commitment to community:
    • SG and SW: We are very vested in Bristol. All the money we have made on other schemes will be spent on this one. Our reputation in the city is important. A poor scheme will not do us any favours.
  • Are the opportunities for investment of social capital that might deliver different aims?
    • SG: The scheme is fully funded. It’s worth having the conversation about social capital and where it might apply, but have to make sure we know what we’re getting into and that we can deliver.

Site Proposals

  • Development partners:
    • PG Group do not employ their own builders so will contract with a construction company. They are working through tenders but likely that it will be a Bristol firm.
  • Will you revisit 9% affordable housing? Involvement of RSL could benefit everyone.
    • SG: We have arranged to meet the Homes and Communities Agency (and willing to meet BCC as well) to see what potential there might be for change. Don’t want to make changes if it means that a new planning application is required (considerable time and cost implications), but open to dialogue if it can be done without needing a new permission. SG stressed that they want to deliver the best scheme for the area and that they are looking to do what they can.
    • Lori committed CAG’s help if it means the scheme gets closer to the Community Vision (which states “We want to see a true mix of housing types for sale and for rent including private and social housing, both low and high cost”)
  • Any scope for underground parking?
    • SG: Don’t intend to provide more than the 6 spaces in the permission. Would require new planning permission. Proximity to city centre means a car isn’t necessary. Anticipate there is very heavy stone not far below the surface which would rule out underground parking. There will be provision for commercial deliveries.
  • Is there a Registered Social Landlord involved?
    • SG: No – whole development will be delivered by PG Group.
  • Can Carriageworks restoration be delivered within constraints of the existing planning permission?
    • SG: Engineers will have to assess the building. We know some parts are lost (e.g. fire damaged floors). The fact that the building still stands c.10 years after fire damage is a good sign. We’ll know more in the next few months.
  • Rear wall of Carriageworks building is damaged and has little merit but its retention constrains use of the building.
    • Quentin Alder (Chair of BCC Conservation Advisory Panel): Listing is of the whole building. There is always a balance – if there is little historic fabric remaining there could be an argument to start again. Planners will have to assess this.
    • Chris Chalkley: Godwin would have questioned everything and say look at it again with fresh eyes. When built, the Carriageworks was all about the facade – the world’s first showroom.

Building Works

  • Phasing:
    • The scheme will be built as one phase although it is likely that some parts will be completed before others.
  • Presence on site:
    • Contractors will have site office. Likely that SG will be mostly based there.
  • What is happening with the Travellers on the site?
    • Prue: At both parties’ request CAG facilitated a meeting between the travellers and PG Group. They are now in direct contact and working with each other. CAG is still there if needed but otherwise we’ll let them get on with things.
  • Will there be road closures?
    • SG: Not yet at the stage of knowing. Contractor will put together a site access and delivery plan. Likely to be pavement closure outside the Carriageworks building. Will find ways of dealing with this closer to the time.
    • Lori: Likely to be tricky given site constraints. CAG has suggestions for Highways. Lets talk when we get there.

After Completion of Works

  • Post development management company:
    • Likely to be one company to maintain the residential areas and another to manage the ground floor.
  • Does PG Group intend to retain ownership of commercial units?
    • SG: Would like to retain, but key thing is to get the right occupiers, flavour and mix. Some may want to buy, others to rent. Nothing set in stone but definitely don’t want boarded up units or the wrong occupiers. Flexibility is key.

What would Godwin do?

People liked the idea that this would be a good question to ask as proposals develop.

What Happens Next?

  • PG Group will appoint design team and contractor
  • PG Group will carry out site surveys through the summer (access by arrangement with the site residents)
  • Next meeting with CAG in early September by when the site challenges etc will be better understood. Contractors will attend.

 

The Bristol Post also reported on the meeting: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/landmark-bristol-building-derelict-30-112724

 

Marc Pennick wishes us ‘Good Luck’

Statement from Fifth Capital London

I’m aware that you had your meeting tonight (Wed 14 June) and hope the developer and community can work together and deliver this exciting opportunity.

When I picked PG Group I believed this was the best outcome for all concerned.

When I started this journey I generally had the interest of the community in mind but probably didn’t have a true understanding of the area, it’s complexities and all those involved. Over this journey I have grown to understand and highly respect the work that the Carriageworks Action Group does and I truly believe we would not have reached this outcome without such proactive involvement. I hope all concerned will agree that this has overall been a positive process, with the community interests at the heart whilst still trying to balance a sense of commerciality that will hopefully mean a successful delivery.

Wishing all concerned the very best of luck. I look forward to visiting the completed regeneration.

Kindest Regards

Marc Pennick

Press Release from PG Group

This is the press release issued today (14 June 2017) by the PG Group

NEW REGENERATION PROJECT FOR THE HEART OF BRISTOL

A major regeneration project creating new homes is to go ahead at Stokes Croft in the heart of Bristol following full community consultations.

City developers, the PG Group, have acquired the derelict Westmoreland House, a six storey1960s built concrete framed office block which has been empty for 35 years and condemned as an eyesore by residents.

The deal also includes purchase of the adjoining historic Grade Two listed Carriage Works building which dates back to 1862 and is one of the West Country’s top ten most at risk heritages sites.

Local residents have been campaigning over a considerable time for action on the site which includes a yesteryear showroom for Victorian carriages.

PG Development Director Stuart Gaiger said the demolition of Westmoreland House and the restoration of the Carriage Works would create 112 new homes, as well as a ten business units.

“We have acquired the site, which was granted planning consent in July last year, from Opecprime Properties Ltd, and will now start work on a wide range of preliminary assessments,” he said.

Mr Gaiger said purchase of Westmoreland House would allow the creation of a development that could contribute positively to an already vibrant community and that consultations with the Carriage Works action Group and other local community interests would begin shortly.

” We want to deliver an enterprising development that respects and reflects the community ethos and, given the independent spirit that flourishes around the area,we look forward to some lively and interesting discussions.”

Mr Gaiger said PG hoped to start work on the two year project in the autumn but could reassure local people that the company was not looking to materially alter the existing permission.

PG Group, who have build up a fine reputation as regeneration specialists in and around the city, are currently completing conversion of the 1970s-built Lewins Place office complex into 148 new homes.

ENDS

New Developer Confirmed

[To comment on this post click on the title and then go to the bottom of the page]

The Carriageworks has a new developer!  Following much recent speculation the Carriageworks Action Group can now confirm that the new developer is the Bristol based PG Group. They have exchanged contracts with Opecprime (aka Comer Homes) to purchase the freehold of the Carriageworks and Westmoreland House site and aim to start building in January.

The PG Group have given us this statement to publish:

PG Group logo“The PG Group has acquired the site from Opecprime Properties Ltd with the benefit of the planning consent granted in July last year, and will now start work on a wide range of preliminary assessments,” said Stuart Gaiger, PG Group Development Director.

Mr Gaiger said purchase of Westmoreland House would allow the creation of a development that could contribute positively to an already vibrant community and that the company had already made contact with the Carriageworks Action Group with a view to keeping the community involved in the development of the projected scheme.

“We want to deliver an enterprising development that respects and reflects the community ethos and, given the independent spirit that flourishes around the area, we look forward to some lively and interesting discussions.”

Lori Streich, Chair of Carriageworks Action Group, said: “We welcome this news that PG Group are buying the Carriageworks and Westmoreland House site. For over 25 years the communities adjoining Stokes Croft have lived with the neglect and dereliction. As a local developer we hope that PG Group will have the skill and commitment to deliver a development of which the community can be proud”.

Stuart Gaiger and his colleagues from the PG Group will be attending the Community Meeting on Wednesday 14 June, 6pm at the Kings Centre, King Square where they will say more about their plans and proposals to get the development going.  Please come along to find out more and to pose any questions you may have.

Who are PG Group?

What are PG Group’s plans and timescale?

What’s happened to Fifth Capital?

Community Meeting, Wed 14 June

You might recall that at the last community meeting in April we heard that there is a Bristol based developer who is likely to take over development of the Carriageworks site from Fifth Capital.  We are not yet able to confirm the identity of that developer. However, we can with an optimistic tap on the keyboard invite you to a Community Meeting on Wednesday 14th June, 6pm at the Kings Centre, King Square.  Further details about the meeting will be published earlier that week but you might want to put the date in your diary – it should be worth coming along!

Lori and the Liaison Group

Notes of the Community Meeting on 24 April 2017

[To comment on this post please click the title above and then go to the ‘reply’ box at the bottom of the page]

Attended by: Lori, Prue, Pete, Jeff, Chris, Julian, Sarah, Kimberley, Rich, Mel, Clayton, Dominic, Danuta, Heather, John, Pauline, Inge, Joel, Harvey, Rachel, Janine, Lawrence, Rob, Mike, Simon, one other.

Update re Developer

Lori spoke to Marc Pennick of Fifth Capital in the morning. There is a Bristol based developer who is taking over the development of the site. This information has been confirmed by a number of separate sources.

The details of the take-over are not yet known but we think they are well advanced in buying the site from Comer / Opec Prime. We don’t know what the future involvement of Fifth Capital will be.

We will let the group know who the developer is as soon as we can. The Liaison Group is pushing for an early meeting with the new developer and will ask them to come to a community meeting as soon as possible.

We do not yet know if the new developer will build the scheme with planning permission but we anticipate that some amendments are likely. Dominic pointed out that any alterations will require a new consent. We must ensure that it is the Community Vision that guides decisions regarding any changes and that CAG is involved in the dialogue. Reminder of the number of comments we received when writing the Vision (1,600) and the number of objections to the first Fifth Capital planning application (1,400).

There was concern that a new developer will argue that some elements of the scheme are not viable and therefore need to be amended. We need to resist this. We can point to the amount of interest in the scheme (two RSLs, various users of the commercial space) plus rising values as evidence of viability.

Noted that the new developers need to realise that it is not just about them and that there are other stakeholders. They have to take us seriously. We have achieved a great deal so far and we will seek a positive relationship with the new developer, but we need to get around the table and talk so that we work with and not against eachother. We can help make the development exciting for the developer as well as us.

Community Ownership

Discussion about the potential for the community to have a real stake in the finished development and ensure it doesn’t become an exclusive development with little relevance to the surrounding area.

Previous meeting had discussed a direct approach to Comer (Lori reported that a letter had been sent and while we know it was received we have had no reply) with a view to buying an interest. Cost would be probably be £2-5m and then £20m to develop. Potential to place a Community Right to Bid order on the site – gives 6 months to submit an offer.

Alternative approach would be take on the market / commercial areas. Would need a cohesive legal entity / structure to do this. Possible interest from Stokes Croft Land Trust, Bristol Pound, Bristol Community Housing Trust and Hamilton House.

Agreed that CAG should take the lead on any discussions with the developer and with planners.

Site Occupiers

The site occupiers (travellers) were served a Notice of Trespass in March. Hearing was adjourned until 8 May at 3pm at County Court.

A representative of the occupants stated that they had anticipated 6 months notice to leave the site. Trespass papers were put on the gate in March. The occupiers have their homes there and for a generation have been keeping people out of the dangerous site. The Council were apparently involved in early discussions about them being on the site as well as someone from Comer. Having the site occupied would help keep the Council off Comer’s back, following a number of deaths on the site.

Lori explained that CAG had pressed really hard for dialogue between travellers and Marc Pennick (although it was Comer who issued the Notice of Trespass). Marc eventually agreed but Comer instructed him not to take part. We now need a dialogue with the new owners of the site.

We need to take into account the needs of residents as does the local authority. Discussion about how to support the travellers e.g. through donations. Agreed that this should be as individuals, not as CAG.

Keeping the site occupied until the day the builders take possession will be much cheaper than getting early vacant possession and then paying for 24 hr security.

Noted that there is a pre-commencement condition requiring a “Procedure for the sensitive relocation of the existing occupants of the site” (page 53 of Committee Report). However, planners have now told other officers that the notice to seek possession was nothing to do with planning.

Agreed by all that if we can have amicable conversation then it will go the right way.

Other sites in the area:

Discussion about other empty buildings and development sites.

  • Putterills building – empty and unused
  • Magpie building. John Dalton paid £300k for the site. Planning application for Change of Use A3 café restaurant. Already started major refurb of existing building – spending £400k. Building is in two parts: two storey fronting Picton St and single storery fronting Ashley Road. Current use is retail.

Inter-relationship of sites and transport policy. Metro mayor will be responsible for major routes inc. A38. Need to keep an eye on wider policies, agendas and proposals.

Compulsory Purchase

Is there a possibility of losing the money for CPO? Julian stated that funds were granted to BCC by HCA specifically for compulsory purchase of Westmorland House so cannot be put to other uses. Lori stated that if the development does not go ahead as anticipated we need to keep CPO as an option.

Proposal that until there is signficiant progress with the development the CPO process must continue. As this was felt to be a crtically important issue there was a vote on whether to agree the statement. Unanimously agreed.

Discussion about whether BCC could pursue CPO without a preferred developer. Thought that they could not but it may be possible for HCA. [Subsequent research found that “It may sometimes be appropriate for the Homes and Communities Agency to compulsorily acquire land which is in need of development or regeneration even though there are no specific detailed development proposals in place” Source: Guidance on Compulsory Purchase Process (pdf) page 47, para 93]

Could one of the PRS RSLs that were interested still be involved? CBRE have been working for Fifth Capital to find development partners. Presumably they will have been linking developers together as this would share the risk – it’s why people like joint venture.

Actions:

  1. Seek a meeting with the developer
  2. Work hard to get info from them into public domain
  3. Work with site residents to find ways to support them and for a dialogue for a planned way of moving
  4. See if HAs that have expressed an interest are still interested
  5. Seek expressions of interest in commercial space
  6. Investigate potential for communal ownership of parts
  7. Enter into constructive dialogue with planners to ensure that they and the developer work with CAG and hold to the conditions in the planning permission to work with the community
  8. Investigate HCA CPO rules re schemes and preferred developer
  9. Court case on 8th May at 3pm