Trespass Notice Served Against Travellers

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

On Wednesday 22nd March a Notice of Trespass was posted on the Ashley Road gates to the backland at Westmoreland House / Carriageworks.  Notice of TrespassThe Notice has been served by the site owners, OpecPrime Properties Ltd (sometimes referred to  as Comer Homes). It is dated 17 March.

There will be a hearing to consider the trespass at the County Court, 2 Redcliff St, on Monday 27 March at 2pm.

For many (possibly 10) years the site has been occupied by a group of travellers.  Our understanding has always been that they were on the site with the consent of OpecPrime in order to maintain site security. This followed a number of deaths on the site when people gained unauthorised access to the buildings.

In October 2015 Fifth Capital, which has an option to buy the site from OpecPrime, gained planning permission for the redevelopment of the site. For this to proceed vacant possession will obviously be required. In all of CAG’s contact with the travellers since 2011 they have always accepted that they would eventually need to move, although they were naturally concerned about having sufficient notice to allow them to find move-on sites. Similarly CAG have been anxious to ensure, for reasons of community safety, that there is no break in site security.

On a number of occassions Marc Pennick, the Director of Fifth Capital, has made statements to the effect that he would give the travellers 6 months notice to move (see notes of community meeting, 10 September 2015).

CAG’s formal response to the 2015 planning application (page 6) stated “The travellers living on the site have been involved in CAG since 2011. We understand that Fifth Capital have guaranteed them 6 months notice to find an alternative site. We also understand that it is the Council’s responsibility to help find sites for travellers. We ask the planners to ensure that their colleagues fulfil their commitments to the travellers and find move-on sites within 6 months. The travellers have provided site security for many years. Given the safety issues on the site consideration will have to be given to ensuring ongoing security after the travellers vacate the site.”

The planning permission granted to Fifth Capital states “No development shall take place including any works of demolition until a construction a (sic) method statement in respect of construction environment management plan has been submitted to, and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The approved statement shall be adhered to throughout the construction period. The statement shall provide for…..Procedure for the sensitive relocation of the existing occupants of the site” (page 15).

CAG hopes that at Monday’s Court hearing Fifth Capital’s past commitments to give the travellers 6 months notice to vacate the site will be honoured and that thereafter full site security will be maintained without any break in service.

‘Our responsibility is to demand more’

The Carriageworks Action Group and our work to bring about the redevelopment of this long derelict site has received a write up in the prestigious Urban Design Journal (issue 140).

ud140_magazine_carriageworks-october-2016The author is Rowan Mackay, a Bristol based urban designer and researcher, who has been tracking our progress for some time.

Rowan sets out the national and local context of dereliction, redevelopment and the difficulties that communites often face in engaging with major proposals.

He sees three key events in the success of CAG’s work to date.

  • Firstly the creation of the Community Vision and CAG’s ability “to communicate technically and knowledgeably, ….to form trusting relationships with major stakeholders and in doing so, to negotiate local interests on an equal footing”.
  • Secondly the Planning Committee’s instruction to Fifth Capital in October 2015 to work with CAG and improve their proposals.
  • And thirdly, the efforts of Fifth Capital to engage with and understand the issues faced by the local community.

The role of the City Council is praised for facilitating the Community Vision,
building the capacity of local representaives on equal terms with major stakeholders, and
pursuing conflict resolution through closer stakeholder partnerships.

But as the article concludes, if we are to secure our rights to the city “it is the responsibility of us all to demand more”. That’s our challenge in the coming months.

http://www.udg.org.uk/publications/journal

Time to act for the Carriageworks and Westmoreland House

It’s now a year since Fifth Capital were given planning permission for the Carriageworks. At that time we all hoped and expected that they would get on site quickly and by now be making significant progress on building their scheme.

In the event the paperwork for the planning permission (namely the S.106 agreement) wasn’t completed until July. We then hoped that the purchase of the site would be quickly completed, but that still hasn’t happened. Furthermore Fifth Capital have not yet found an end purchaser, despite discussions with a number of Housing Associations, and a contractor isn’t yet confirmed.

Fifth Capital tell us that the reasons for the delays are outside their control, which is probably true, but they are understandably causing frustration in the community.  ‘When will it start?’ and ‘Will it ever start?’ are the two big questions.

To discuss this, and get a sense of what people want to happen, we will hold the next community meeting on Wednesday 16 November (venue to be confirmed, time probably 6pm).  We will invite Marc Pennick, Director of Fifth Capital, to attend along with the City Council.

In advance of the meeting we would like to have as many questions as possible for Marc Pennick, the Council and anyone else you can think of. We hope that they will come to the meeting with answers but it is only fair (!) to give them a bit of time to come up with answers. If they’re unable to attend we’ll ask that they send answers to your questions in time for the meeting.

Please send us the questions you want answered. Use the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of this page or email us at ideas@carriageworks.org.uk. You can also send questions via Facebook and Twitter. We’ll collate all the questions on our website and the answers once we have them.

Prue, Lori and the Liaison Group

Notes from 2 June Community Meeting

Over 30 people came to the Carriageworks Community meeting on 2 June to hear the latest about proposals for redevelopment of the site.  Unfortunately, due to injuries recently incurred, we couldn’t be joined by Marc Pennick from developer Fifth Capital although he had provided updates to members of the CAG Liaison Group.

Planning permission

Last October the City Council’s Planning Committee resolved to give planning permission to Fifth Capital.  However, this isn’t formalised until the S.106 Agreement is completed (the agreement sets out undertakings by the developer to provide affordable housing and make payments towards various off-site works e.g. road improvements). Because it’s a binding agreement it has to be signed by the Council, the developer (Fifth Capital) and the landowner (Opec Prime / Comer Homes). The wording is all agreed but the landowner has yet to add his signature.

Ownership

Fifth Capital have a legal option to buy the site from Comer Homes. The option is triggered by the grant of planning permission which itself is dependent upon the signing of the S.106 Agreement. We understand that Fifth Capital will actually buy part of the holding company (Opec Prime), rather than take a conveyance of the site.

Timescale

Many people have said that progress on the scheme is very slow but this is often the case, especially with complex developments.  Members of the Liaison Group are keeping an eye on the situation and maintaining a dialogue with Marc about it.

Once planning permission is granted and Fifth Capital has taken ownership they will be able to progress with meeting all the pre-commencement conditions set out by the Council.  Once everything is submitted the Council has up to 8 weeks to give approval, but would hope to do it quicker. CAG will be consulted on some of the conditions but we hope that we will have been able to make constructive contributions well in advance of them being submitted to the Council.

Once the pre-commencement conditions are all met Marc will be able to start demolition.  He has told us that he hopes this to be in November this year.

Westmoreland House will be demolished and the Carriageworks stabilised so that further survey work can be undertaken. That will then enable detailed plans for the Carriageworks to be worked up which will then enable the main construction contract to be awarded.

Housing

Marc is holding discussions with a number of Housing Associations for them to buy the freehold of the completed development. One of them is considering using all but the 10 affordable units for private rented accommodation.  So every unit would be rented out by the Housing Association at market rents (not social rents and not affordable rents). This would mean that no units would be available for sale and that in turn would mean that there would be no buy-to-let landlords. This would be more in line with the European model where many people rent from institutional landlords with high quality terms and conditions. Elsewhere in Bristol there is much interest in developing an ethical private rented sector to replace sometimes expensive and poor quality buy-to-let landlords. Carriageworks could be trail blazer.

if the scheme does become private rented housing there are some questions about the 3 x 4 bed houses.  They would probably not let to families in the area given their level of rent.  Some proposals to reduce them to three bed (of which there are five currently proposed) or even to convert all the housing units to apartments.

Ground Floor

Back in December Spaceworks was being considered as the owner of the ground floor. However, their financial offer was a long way from what Marc could accept so that is no longer the proposal.  Instead Marc is thinking about taking a long lease-back of the ground floor from the Housing Association. He would then create a management company to take care of letting the commercial and community units while a specialist market operator would run the market. He is open to ways of the community being involved in how the ground floor is managed. Marc has visited the ground floor of Jamaica St studios and was very inspired by Jacknife and the PRSC pottery and would like to see similar businesses in the Carriageworks. There was much enthusiasm in the meeting to this approach – Marc seems to be speaking our language.

Discussion and Questions

How will the impact of the demolition be controlled? Answer: Via the construction management plan which has to be approved before any works begin. This will deal with site access, lorry movements, scaffolding, noise, dust etc etc.

What’s happening with the Travellers? Why the need to move out if there won’t be any work on site for some months. Travellers have provide good security for nine years. Communication with Marc has not been good. Note that children have been getting through a hole to play on the site. Travellers have prevented them and covered the hole but as future on the site is uncertain they can only do so much.

Discussion about what happens if Comer does not sign the S.106 Agreement.  Various options explored. Agreed that these need to be pushed via BCC if there is no progress by September.

Someone who was attending his first CAG meeting asked what CAG is trying to achieve. Answer was for the site to be developed in line with the Vision via the Fifth Capital proposals. Aside from a small number of abstentions everyone else agreed that this was the right approach.

Would right-to-buy apply to a Housing Association’s private rented units?  Answer: No.  As they are commercial the new law would not apply.

Comments: a) The Housing Act is still going through Parliament so there remains uncertainty about what Housing Associations will have to do or not do. b) Shared ownership does not always work for the Housing Association. Affordable and social housing are not synonymous. Affordable can be up to 80% of market value. c) If Bristol sets up its own Housing Company (as is proposed), it could buy the scheme (although noted that timescale for that may make it unrealistic).

Would private rented units be accessible to people on benefits? Answer: One of the Housing Associations that Marc is talking with has said that they would need evidence of income from employment for all tenants.  However, if a tenant is made redundant and then claims benefits they will have no problem with that so long as the rent continues to be paid.

Discussion about whether the scheme is addressing the real social need in Bristol. Suggestion that the 2011 consultation is out of date and that the Vision needs to be rethought with more social housing required. Other people pointed out that Carriageworks is doing better than many other developments in Bristol. Rethinking the plan would take years to resolve. If you keep rethinking it you never make progress.

Suggestion that losing the 4 bed houses should only be supported in return for more affordable units.

Suggestion that changing house sizes will require change to the planning permission. New housing focused agenda within BCC will be more likely to object.

Ground floor should create a magnet for the applied arts (reflecting Godwin’s work). This should be a feature of the cultural strategy that has to be written. Would be good to discuss with Marc at an early stage.

The groups that people signed up to in December have not yet had the chance to start – we really need Marc to complete the purchase of the site before any progress can be made.

Meeting ended at 8:40pm.  Agreed that the community now knows way more about planning and property development than we ever thought likely!

[Please note that these notes aim to give a logical account of discussions rather than an accurate chronological record]

Council must ensure community stays involved

UPDATE: The deadline for sending statements has now passed. Planning Committee meets to make decision at 6pm on Wed 14th at Watershed.

We want to make sure that the Council gives its weight to ensuring that the community stays involved in the Carriageworks development as the detailed proposals are drawn up. Fifth Capital have assured us that we will be closely involved but we want to see something in writing and attached to the planning permission. At the moment the Council has singularly failed to do this.

We are asking you to send a statement to the Council’s Planning Committee urging them to write CAG’s involvement into future discussions. For our part, we will make the process as open as possible and involve other people with the expertise or knowledge to contribute and ensure that the Community Vision is delivered.

You can use this form to send an email to the Planning Committee on 14 October. You must send the email by noon on Tuesday 13 October. You don’t have to attend the Committee to read it out, but you can if you want (and it will add to the impact).

Paste the following text into the comment box below or, even better, write your own thoughts (which will increase the impact).  Make sure you add your name and address or postcode so that the Council knows you are a real person!

Dear Councillors

The Carriageworks and Westmoreland House are incredibly important to our community. For the last four years we have worked hard to express and then secure our Vision for the site's long term future. 

If you give planning permission today there will still be many details to agree. I believe that it is essential that, via the Carriageworks Action Group (CAG), we as a community have a place in the discussions that will follow. I also believe that this will result in an improved development that will benefit everyone involved.

As drafted, the planning permission makes no provision for the involvement of the community and CAG in any future discussions or decision making. Fifth Capital have said that they have no problem with this, but we want to see it in writing and backed up by the Council.

When you make your decision, please ensure that future community involvement via CAG is sufficiently written into and protected in the legal documentation.

Yours sincerely

[INSERT YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS / POSTCODE]


UPDATE: The deadline for sending statements has now passed so the form has been disabled. Planning Committee meets to make decision at 6pm on Wed 14th at Watershed.

The Carriageworks Action Group will also receive a copy of your email. We will add your email address to our mailing list (we send out about six email updates per year) but will not share your address with anyone else. If you do not wish to be added to our mailing list please send a message to info@carriageworks.org.uk

CAG formal response to Fifth Capital amendments

Following consultation on our draft response, CAG has now submitted to the Planners its formal response to the Fifth Capital amendments (120Kb PDF).

The main changes since the draft are the inclusion of quotes from the comments we received (for which many thanks to everyone who took time to write), and additional sentences calling on the Council to work towards increasing the amount of social and affordable housing and ensuring that the scheme is delivered in line with community expectation.


 

Response to proposals for redevelopment of Carriageworks and Westmoreland House as amended September 2015

Context

This response represents the conclusion of five months’ discussions between the Carriageworks Action Group (CAG) Liaison Group, members of the local community, the planners and Fifth Capital. The response was issued as a draft for comment via the Carriageworks website from 23rd to 28th September.

Summary

Our primary reference point is the Community Vision (2012). This states that CAG is “keen to work with any organisation that embraces our vision for the future”.

With the changes proposed, overall CAG now supports the application, albeit with some reservations as set out below.

The five months since the April Planning Committee have seen a much improved working relationship between CAG and Fifth Capital. We believe that this has facilitated significant improvements to the development proposals. To ensure that these gains are consolidated and progressed we would ask that the developer and the planners continue to involve CAG in discussions as the planning permission is finalised and the detailed development proposals are worked up.

Consultation on the Draft

After discussion by the CAG Liaison Group, a draft of this response was posted on the CAG website on 22 September. It was also sent to the CAG mailing list (630 subscribers) and linked via Facebook and Twitter. A press release triggered coverage in the Bristol Post and Bristol 247. Eight comments on the draft were received via email (most of which were transferred to the website) and eight via the website. Further comments were made on Twitter and Facebook.

Most of the comments received were supportive of the draft response and of the role of CAG in improving the proposals.

  • “You have brought about real improvements and clarifications”
  • “Thanks for all the work to get this far with the redevelopment”
  • “(I) congratulate those that have dedicated so much of their time to diplomatically represent their community in the plans for this iconic building”
  • “You have clearly worked very hard, so well done”
  • “It seems like there is a will on all sides to engage in conversation for the benefit of the area, which is rare”
  • “Huge appreciation for continued community action on our behalf”
  • “Thank you for all your hard work and persistence in seeing this through to this stage with so many significant improvements from the original scheme”
  • “fantastic work on behalf of the community. If not for orgs like yours we’d all be in the trenches”
  • “Huge appreciation for continued community action on our behalf”.

There were two main areas of concern. The first was the level of social and affordable housing:

  • “10 affordable units, and over 100 not affordable units. Is that what the area needs?”
  • “I still have major concern about the low level of affordable housing when the whole of Bristol is sorely in need of more of such housing”
  • “Without social housing central to the plan it’s just another white elephant compounding Bristol’s problems”
  • “another affordable housing sell out”
  • “they have entirely sidestepped issues of housing density, quality and affordability.”

There was additional concern that private landlords will buy into the development and push up rents: “it is clearly in the best interests of the community in the long-term if the accommodation is in some way protected from becoming buy-to-let”.

The second area of concern related to the agreement between the planners and the developer:

  • “hope you can get everyone to “sign on the dotted line” asap”
  • “from very bitter experience – things can change the moment any permission is given. Marc Pennick may have been really positive but he (or his Board) may still flog it off to someone else, after which much of what you have fought for could be up for grabs again.”
  • “the concern is that this conversation gets lost due to a lack of legal obligation on behalf of Fifth Capital as well as future landlords further down the line. To this end I hope the council continues to represent the interests of CAG, particularly with regard to awarding the freehold to the housing association and detailing the management plan to provide significant control to a suitable management company. Good luck!”
  • “Can binding agreements be made, when the developer can sell on the site and permissions?”
  • “(I) am hesitantly confident that these new proposals, IF adhered to and respected by both the developers and the council show a major improvement on the original plans”
  • “hope we can write in legally binding guarantees that will prevent back-sliding in the long term.”

Other comments related to dust and treatment of asbestos during demolition, concern that the target of 75% independent traders may not be achieved,

A poll on the CAG website attracted 25 votes. 17 votes gave full support for the draft and a further 4 gave partial support.

Continue reading

Make sure the Planners hear you….

Whether you’re for or against the revised proposals from Fifth Capital, it’s important the Planners hear your voice.  Here’s what to do.

1. Have a look at the revised proposals.

a) Download and have a look at the revised floor plans (5Mb PDF) and elevations (30Mb PDF)

b) Read Fifth Capital’s summary of the proposals (the Design and Access Statement) (10Mb PDF)

d) Have a look at what CAG thinks

d) You can also see the full proposals on the planning website (persevere – it takes ages to load!)

2. Write your comments in the Council’s planning website comments box.  (Write them in direct but note that the page will time-out. So if you’re writing lots or will get interrupted it’s best to write them in a text editor and then paste when you’re ready)

Technically (i.e. the planners tell us) the only issues for consideration are the ten points raised at the April committee meeting.  Everything else is taken as agreed. However, don’t let that get in the way of a good argument!

Deadline: For Planners to take your comments into account in their final report they need to hear from you by Tuesday 29 September.

3. Submit a statement direct to the Planning Committee (A) – the agenda is likely to be published two weeks before the meeting i.e. 1 October. Petitions and statements must be received by noon on the working day prior to the meeting. So your submission must be received at the latest by 12.00 noon on Tuesday 13th October. Send to democratic.services@bristol.gov.uk

4. Come to the Planning Committee (A) – 6pm on Wed 14th October at the Watershed.  The best way to make sure the Planning Committee know what you think is to read your statement out to them.

5. Then sit and listen (quietly – eh hm) to the Committee’s deliberations.

6. Retire gracefully to celebrate / commiserate / disect depending upon what you said in 2, 3 and 4 above.

If you have questions or need help, just let us know.  Write in the comments box below or email us at ideas@carriageworks.org.uk