CAG objection to latest planning application

The Carriageworks Action Group has today submitted an objection to the planning application to build 28 1 and 2 bedroom flats on the site currently proposed for eight 3 and 4 bedroom houses. This hasn’t been an easy objection to make as we support the broad priniciple of more social and affordable housing on the site. However, the quality of the proposals is so far below acceptable standards we feel we have to object. The content of the objection is below.

Objection to 21-00577-F

In December 2011 the Carriageworks Action Group produced its Community Vision for the future of the Carriageworks. This built on extensive public debate and consultation and was later adopted by Bristol City Council.  Excerpts from the Community Vision that are relevant to this application are as follows:

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; a range of sizes should be provided to suit a mix of needs, from single people to families“.

We want the new development to be designed to a high quality with good environmental standards. We want to see full use being made of roofs to provide opportunities for biodiversity and the creation of gardens, perhaps for growing food“.

The statement of community involvement that has been submitted by PG Group as part of the application rightly notes that CAG and others in the community have always wanted more social and affordable housing on the site than provided for in the approved 2015 scheme. When PG Group suggested, confidentially, to members of the Liaison Group* that this could be achieved by changing blocks E and F, in principle support was voiced.

On 14th December 2020 Liaison Group members were sent some plans for changes to Blocks E and F. We had substantial concerns, not least unit sizes below the national standards, and sent these to PG Group on 22 December. There was no further contact until after the planning application was submitted at the end of January.  Neither did PG Group do anything to consult more widely with the local community about their proposed application.

CAG held a community meeting, via Zoom and attended by 18 people from CAG, on 25 February to discuss the application. PG’s architect presented the proposals and two other members of the PG team were able to provide answers to some of the questions posed.

Our objections to the proposals have, at their root, the divergence from the Community Vision in terms of unit size, occupation types and quality.  While we remain committed to seeing more social and affordable units on the site this planning application fails on so many levels that we cannot support it.  In particular:

  • The quality of residential space, in particular natural lighting of the interior and solar gain, is potentially below acceptable standards especially on the ground and lower ground floors. This is due to the lower ground levels, the presence of retaining walls and the height of the surrounding buildings. This will not only have an impact on the health of residents but will also put increased dependence upon artificial lighting and heating. A daylight assessment in accordance with BRE guidelines should be submitted
  • The proposals further consolidate a narrow mix of unit size on the site with the addition of more one bedroom units and the removal of larger units
  • The choice of external finish and material colours is depressing and more fitting to  brutalist housing development in the Eastern Bloc. A more appropriate solution should be found that fits better with the local context
  • The lack of natural surveillance in the sunken courtyard gives us concerns about community safety. The advice of secure by design specialists should be sought
  • The increased height, the removal of the gap between Blocks E and F, the changed roof configuration, the placement of windows (in habitable rooms and corridors) and the materials used lead us to believe that there will be an increased impact on the amenity of neighbouring residential properties especially through the loss of natural light and overlooking. A daylight assessment and shadow path should be submitted along with sections showing the proposed building in the context of properties on the neighbouring streets
  • The impact of the increased height and depth of the building, compared to the permissioned Blocks E and F, is not justified by any benefit to the quality of design and the mix of unit size as aspired to by the Community Vision
  • Conflicting descriptions of the tenure mix have been provided. Most recently, at the February community meeting, we have even been told that the mix is unknown. It is impossible to support this application without knowing whether the scheme is for social rent, affordable rent or shared ownership occupiers
  • During site construction there has been almost constant Sunday working and working outside of permitted hours Mon-Sat, to the great detriment of local residents. If, as and when planning permission is granted there should be an absolute condition to prevent out of hours and Sunday working
  • The loss of green space, replaced in part by a dark subterranean courtyard
  • The amended parking layout needs a swept path analysis to demonstrate it is workable
  • The Energy and Sustainability Study states that PV panels cannot be installed because “the roof space for Block E is proposed to accommodate a green roof in the interest of biodiversity” (page 21). However, no green roof appears in the planning application drawings. There should either be PVs or a green roof.

In conclusion, the proposed development is unacceptable and would provide housing units that are unliveable. To refer back to a quote from a member of the planning committee when the first 2015 application was submitted: “Only its mother could love this”. Since 2015 we have come a long way but we are in danger of the scheme sliding backwards little by little, justified by challenging circumstances and the smoke and mirrors of viability. A mixture of unit sizes and occupation along with high quality design and environments is essential for this development to be a success. As they stand the fundamentals of this proposal are sub-standard and no amount of change to the exterior design will compensate. This is an important gateway site with a facade of historical importance both locally and nationally. From a potential silk purse PG have made a sow’s ear. These proposals should be referred back for improvement.

* The CAG Liaison Group comprises six people involved in CAG who engage at a detailed level with the developer and the Council to champion the Community Vision.  They report back to the broader CAG community.

Notes of the February ’21 Community Meeting

24 people took part in the meeting including local residents, members of the CAG Liaison Group, representatives of PG Group, Bristol City Council and others.

It was noted that this year marks the 10th birthday of CAG and probably 30 years of campaigning by the local community to get the Carriageworks site redeveloped.

The Proposals

(Details are available on our website pages: proposals and axonometric illustration)

Andrew McCarthy from Stride Treglown (the project architects) summarised the new planning application and the reasoning behind them:

  • Site levels are 3m lower than those cited in the original planning application. So an extra storey of height
  • Review of best type of housing on site – preference for more social / affordable flats rather than private 4 bed houses
  • New block will have a footprint largely the same as the previous scheme although courtyard is slightly smaller due to extended frontage
  • Access is unchanged and parking is reconfigured
  • New lower level courtyard
  • Tried to keep same amount of green space and trees
  • Doors of flats open onto the courtyard to keep an active frontage
  • Orientation of rooms and windows to reduce overlooking of neighbours
  • Contrasting tone in the brickwork to keep sense of two parts to the block and to better address the change in window and door orientation between the different storeys.
  • Overall height of south wing is slightly lower than currently proposed houses
  • Units will be managed by Sovereign Housing Association.

Comments

  • Would like to see long sections to better understand how it relates to neighbouring properties outside the site
  • Concern about quality of living accommodation on ground and lower ground floors given the proximity of retaining walls and the lack of natural daylight. Do they meet minimum light standards? Hard to visualise what the lower ground floor flats will be like. They do not feel like attractive places to live. Just because they are affordable does not justify them being dark. Would not want to live there.
  • The overall density of development on the site will be too high with these additional units
  • What is the tenure mix?
  • Will there be a management fee on top of the rent?
  • Concern re security in the sunken courtyard due to lack natural surveillance. Need input from secure by design people
  • No playspace if there are children living on the site
  • If you start having children will you have to move out?
  • There is logic for contrasting brick colours, but a grey box is a cold brutalist style that does not fit well with Godwin. It will make neighbouring properties even darker than they currently are.  Is there potential for a green wall?  Different coloured brick? Tiles instead of brick?
  • Concerns about overlooking e.g. from corridor windows. Need obscured glazing
  • Bathrooms with external walls should have windows
  • Could lower and upper ground floors be combined to make duplex apartments – upper level would benefit from more light (although pointed out that even upper ground floor flats look directly at retaining walls at the rear)
  • There is demand for family housing in the area. Why can’t they be social/affordable family houses?
  • Does the parking layout work? There needs to be a swept path analysis
  • How bill bicycles be brought in?
  • Is the motivation the ground levels or making more profit?
  • What is the timeline

Response to comments from PG team

  • Some tones of grey can be quite warm, but nothing yet decided. Key thing is to have a contrasting colour.
  • Have to avoid cladding with fire risks
  • The flats will have a mix of affordable tenures but no decision as yet on the exact mix
  • Density is changing from 8 x 4 bed houses (up to 32 people) to 8 x 2 bed and 20 x 1 bed. This is not a significant increase
  • All meetings with CAG since 2017 have requested more social housing – PG will now deliver on that
  • Don’t know answer re management fees – that will be up to Sovereign
  • Bicycles will come in from the central courtyard down shallow steps with a bike ramp
  • Target will be to complete Block E at the same time as the rest of the scheme, so Q3 or Q4 in 2022

Other discussion regarding the proposals

  • Family housing was promoted by SPD10 (2006). Since then demand has changed, in part because of the bedroom tax (i.e. higher demand for smaller flats). BCC can help get more data on current housing need based on bidding patterns in the area
  • Concerns about the lack of parking. This is Bristol City Council policy for last eight years. Has always been contentious but is not something we (CAG) can resolve. Best for residents to lobby local councillors on this issue
  • How to apply for affordable housing? Have to apply via Bristol City Council
  • Is the Carriageworks frontage safe given the high winds of late? A: It is very secure – a lot of concrete holding it down and the steel frame now bolts onto the facade from the rear. Completion of the steel frame in 3-4 weeks time will enable the structural scaffolding to be removed and be replaced with access scaffolding to allow the large amount of cleaning and restoration to start.
  • If you want to be involved in the discussions about materials and finishes please email ideas@carriageworks.org.uk

Cultural Plan

PG told us that this is still to be picked up as the focus has been on getting the build programme back on track.  But nothing will happen without discussion with CAG.

 

The planning application is live on the Council’s planning portal.  CAG will compile a summary of this meeting and submit.  Everyone can make their own comments.

Illustrations of proposed flats

For last week’s community meeting PG provided these two illustrations of the scheme based firstly on the currently permitted eight houses, and then on the proposed block of 28 flats.

Axonometric illustration of the scheme showing, at the lower corner, the eight houses included in the 2015 planning permission
Axonometric showing the eight houses replaced with 28 flats

Site progress

Some photos from February 2021

Block D, one of the affordable housing blocks, seen from Stokes Croft. The crane and cherry pickers are in what will be the main market square.
The view from Ashley Road, standing at the top of Picton St. You can see Block D in the distance, with what will be the market square in front of it. Block A on the left will, in time, come further forwards to where the yellow digger stands.
The Ashely Road view. Salvation Army on the left. Block A, on the right, will build further forwards and to the left along the street frontage. There will be an access to the rear of the site next to the Salvation Army wall.
The view from Hepburn Road. In a separate and unconnected development, Croft Dale, the house on the left, is proposed for demolition as part of redevelopment proposals by the owners of the site.
The view from Nine Tree Hill. The gap in the frontage will be filled in later in the development programme and the old Carriageworks frontage restored.
The Stokes Croft gap and the Carriageworks frontage
Block A emerging above Kuumba

New planning application for extra affordable housing

PG Group have submitted a new planning application for Blocks E and F – the two blocks of houses at the rear of the site.  Full details of the planning application can be found on the Council’s website. There will be a community meeting to discuss the proposals – see end of this post for details.

CGI view of the proposed building

The proposal is to replace the 3 x 4 bed and 5 x 3 bed family sized houses (given planning permission in 2015), for which there is probably limited demand in this location, with a single block of 28 affordable flats.

Site layout

The proposed flats will comprise 20 x 1 bed two person flats and 8 x 2 bed three person flats.  

More affordable units will help meet local housing needs and is something that CAG and the community have been pushing for for a long time.  

The final development will now comprise: 

  • 95 x 1 bed flats
  • 35 x 2 bed flats
  • 8 x 3 bed flats
  • Total 138 flats
  • Of which 38 (28%) will be affordable.  There will be 25 x 1 bed affordable flats and 13 x 2 bed affordable flats.

The affordable flats will be managed by Sovereign Housing Association, along with the shared ownership units in Block D.  

The CAG Liaison Group was shown early plans just before Christmas for a scheme comprising 19 social rent and 14 shared ownership flats. We submitted comments on these proposals at the time since when the scheme has been amended.

Details of the proposals are as follows:

Housing tenure:  The existing 2015 planning permission was for 8 houses for market sale or rent. The proposed changes shown to us before Christmas comprised a mix of social rent and shared ownership flats.  It is now for affordable shared ownership flats only.  “Affordable” = 80% of market value.

Ground floor layout

Footprint:  The two blocks are now merged into one ‘L’ shaped block.  The footprint is slightly larger, mostly with the south west facade extending further towards the south west.

Height:  At its highest point the building is now one storey higher than the 2015 permissioned scheme.  There is also a new lower ground floor, although this does make use of the existing ground levels, which are 2.5m lower at this end of the site, whereas the permissioned scheme would require the ground level to be increased by the equivalent of one storey.  Most of the building is therefore five stories in height, with the lower part four stories. 

Birds eye view of the scheme

Massing:  The merging of the two blocks with the loss of the gap in between, the greater height and the additional lower ground floor creates a larger mass than the permissioned scheme.

Daylight:  No shadowing details have been provided, but the higher building will inevitably lead to increased shadowing, especially of the Brigstocke Road gardens.  The lower ground floor flats will have limited natural daylight.  The ground floor flats have rear windows looking directly at retaining walls.

Parking:  As in the 2015 scheme, there are six spaces reserved for disabled drivers. The configuration has been changed which could result in them being blocked by other vehicles e.g. delivery vans. However, this situation was only marginally better in the 2015 scheme.

Security:  While the pathway behind the building has restricted access there appears to be open access to the area around the lower ground floor which is largely hidden from observation. Also risk of tagging on the brick walls. Need comments from the Secure by Design team.

Materials and finishes:  Buff and grey brick.  This seems a rather austere choice.

Planting:  The permissioned scheme included a pocket park in front of the houses and gardens to the rear.  The pocket garden has been replaced by a sunken courtyard with planting and planting beds close to the parking. To the rear of some of the lower ground floor flats there are planted courtyards with crab apple and rowan trees.  The lack of direct sunlight to the courtyard areas will limit the choice of plants.  The sustainability statement states that the building will have a green roof, although this is not referred to elsewhere and is not shown in the roof plan.

Landscaping plan

Drainage:  The application states that all surface water will be discharged through the main sewers. There is no provision for soak-aways.  It is not immediately clear how surface run-off adjacent to Kuumba, which is the lowest point on the site, will be handled.

Community Meeting

We will be holding a community Zoom meeting on Thursday 25 February 7-8pm.  We’ve invited PG to present their proposals after which there will be a chance for questions. If you would like to take part in the meeting please contact us at ideas@carriageworks.org.uk to request the Zoom link.  If you have questions it will help us manage the meeting if you can submit them in advance using the same email address.

The new Carriageworks emerges

As anyone regularly passing or living close to Carriageworks will be aware, work above ground began late November and the steel work is quickly taking shape. PG Group, the developer, found some of the worst ground conditions they’ve ever encountered with large amounts of buried concrete, steel girders etc pointing to the site’s long industrial past.

COVID and Brexit have both been challenges for the development so far with impact on the supply of both labour and materials.

Block A (the largest of all the blocks but without a direct frontage to Stokes Croft) has now reached its finished height of six storeys, although roof finishes will add a bit to the final height.

Nov 2019 site plan

The steelwork for Block D. behind Croft Dale, is also progressing.

Block C, the Carriageworks building itself, will be the last to be completed, probably by late 2022.

Pictures from mid December 2020

Block A emerging, as seen from Nine Tree Hill. In time this will be obscured by the new Block B on Stokes Croft which will fill the gap where Westmorland House once stood.
Block A seen from Ashley Road. The scores on the doors make the lift shaft clearly visible. In time the steel work will come forward and go further to the left.

Closer view of the lift shaft showing the full height of the building

This is how the building is emerging above the skyline, as see from Portland Square, looking down Cave St. The top three storeys of the six storey building are visible.

This is the emerging view for residents on Hepburn Road. Kuumba is in the foreground.
Block A is it will be when finished. The lift shaft will be left of centre. Ashley Road is to the left, Hepburn Road to the right.

Dave Prowse: ‘The force’ on Stokes Croft

Dave Prowse, known for his roles as Darth Vade and the Green Cross Code Man, has died aged 85.

David Prowse at Mountain-Con III in 2007

According to his memoirs, Straight from the Force’s Mouth, Prowse worked for Stokes Croft based Regional Pool Promotions Ltd (RPP) as a Pools Claims Clerk. The company, which in 1966 opened its headquarters at Westmorland House, employed 600 staff on Stokes Croft from where they managed the 4m subscribers, each eager to win a prize based on the success of their allotted football teams. Prowse wrote:

“RPP was a good firm to work for, I got on really well with all my colleagues and initially promotion through the ranks was rapid”. But when the promotions slowed down he challenged one of the company directors as to why. “He told me they were more than happy with my work but felt that I wouldn’t be with them for very long, expecting that sooner or later somebody within my sport would make me an offer I couldn’t refuse and I would leave”. The sport, body building, did indeed attract him away although his enduring fame is more for his role as Darth Vader and, the role he apparently felt most pride in, the Green Cross Man.

Obituaries: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/nov/29/david-prowse-obituary and https://www.bristol247.com/news-and-features/news/tributes-paid-to-bristol-actor-dave-prowse/

More about the Regional Pools Promotions on this site under Stories

PG seeks approval of materials

When planning permission was granted in 2016 for the Carriageworks development it was agreed that approval of materials and finishes would have to be given by the Council before development began. PG have now submitted their application for approval of materials to be used at the Carriageworks. The application can be found on the Council’s website at this link.

The proposed materials are shown below. We have asked PG precisely where the materials will be used – the information provided refers to which block but not whereabouts on each block.

It is a condition of the 2016 planning permission that the developers “consult and work with local stakeholders, including Carriageworks Action Group” in discharging the condition relating to materials and finishes.

Works on Carriageworks site – update from PG Group

We have received the following update from Jenny Gee, the PR person for PG Group, about works on the Carriageworks site.


As you are aware, welfare units are all set up on site and as now the site is being run by PG Construction Management (Carriageworks) Ltd. This is now the main contractor for the development, rather using external contractors. I am confident that it will mean information will be more forthcoming. The current situation with COVID19 and bringing people back after furlough has added significantly to the already complex requirements of reports, legal and administrative paperwork required to finalise the funding.

We are now able to share a headline Programme of Works which I have attached. I should clarify that this is a draft programme and liable to change due to several factors, the main ones at the moment being Covid and Brexit which are having large knock-on effects on materials and suppliers. Supply issues are affecting elements of the programme as diverse as finalising fixed dates for steel and also straightforward supplies such as brick stocks – just as an example. We ask that you understand these dates are flexible, but PG will try to adhere to them as much as possible.

Draft programme of worksAs you know only too well, it is the groundworks investigations on site that are causing the resulting noise and vibration. Whilst the contractor did measure this aspect of the work, PG is today installing their own measurement equipment which will be closely monitored. The trial pit work has moved across to the old Croftdale side of the site, where levels of concrete are being trialled.

Site working hours start at 8.00am and ending at 5.30pm Mon-Friday.

This was always going to be a difficult site to develop, and PG is doing what they can to keep disruption to a minimum. Going forward, we plan to share activity on site in the following ways:

  • Monthly progress reports as well as regular updates whenever work on site might prove more intrusive.
  • Site noticeboard at the entrance to be updated weekly
  • Site viewing windows punched into the perimeter hoardings
  • Security/Time lapse cameras which are now installed

Note that while contractors are not to start work before 8am they can arrive on site earlier than 8am.