Notes of Community Meeting – 27 November 2017

34 people inc Bristol Post and c.12 UWE architecture students

Introduction by Lori

Today is a celebration of Comer no longer owning the Carriageworks. To reach this point has taken a collective effort. Over the last 20 years redevelopment schemes have come and gone but the dereliction has continued. CAG was formed in 2011 and since then we have been pushing and pushing. We haven’t stopped and we haven’t let the Council or even Comer stop. We kept going, kept having community meetings, kept up the pressure. Without us it is very likely that proposals would have been dropped maybe when Knightstone withdrew, maybe when compulsory purchase looked harder, maybe when Fifth Capital emerged, or at many other times. Success has come from a combination of many people working together and being stubborn along the way. Together, we did it.

PG Group were invited to this meeting but for many reasons why they couldn’t come. They will definitely be developing the site. This is an opportunity to remind us what they will be building. We will pass on any questions.

Copy of PG Group’s letter to residents available. Sent to households in the streets adjoining the site. A second batch will go to a wider area and to businesses on Stokes Croft. Comments: Kino and Post Office have not had a copy. People took more to distribute themselves.

Site plans were on display. PG will develop as approved so that they don’t have to seek a new permission.

They will start demolishing Westmorland House in January, but we don’t know when (PG may not have a date yet from demolition contractor). They will start building in March / April.

Questions

(CAG will seek answers to all the questions raised and post them on our website)

Q: Will we (Cafe Kino) be able to operate our business while they are demolishing? And when will they tackle the site behind us? Kino have had no feedback from discussions between PG and the landlord. A: This sort of question should be answered on PG’s own website although at the moment there’s very little information.

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Information letter from PG Group to local households

PG Group have delivered an information letter to every household close to the Carriageworks site.   Key points are:

  • Demolition of Westmorland House (not the Carriageworks) is likely to start in January
  • Construction will start in March / April 2018
  • As the development progresses there will be regular updates on the site hoardings, letters to householders and the PG Group’s project website.

PG Group will be invited to attend CAG’s community meetings in the coming months.

Click to the letter below to open PDF.

Household letter from PG Group 7 November 2017

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.

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Community Meeting – 4th September ’17

There will be a Community Meeting on Monday 4 September, 6pm at the Kings Centre, King Sq.

PG Group will be attending the meeting.

We will be discussing their proposed changes to the pre-commencement conditions, their programme of work and the commissioning of the Cultural Plan for the site.

PG Submit Application to Vary Planning Conditions

On 8 August PG Group submitted an application to vary the conditions attached to the planning permission gained by Fifth Capital in October 2015. The application has to be determined by Tuesday 07 Nov 2017.

The application and supporting documents can be found on the Council’s planning portal. Public comments can be submitted via the portal.

Planning Statement

Bristol based planning consultants CSJ provide the supporting planning statement. To summarise:

  • There are many pre-commencement conditions that have to be dealt with prior to demolition. This impacts on feasibility and deliverarbility of the project.
  • Planning permission expires in July 2018 so there is limited time.
  • Delaying some of the conditions until after demolition will allow for site constraints to be properly assessed, investigative works and preparation of a suitable construction contract.
  • The Carriageworks is unsafe and therefore needs demolition of the rear wall and internal structure (see justification below).

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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

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 Westmorland 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]