Trespass Notice Served Against Travellers

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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 ommunity 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.

Have the wheels fallen off the Carriageworks proposals?

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For over a year people living and working around Stokes Croft have expected an iminent start on the redevelopment of the Carriagaworks and Westmoreland House.  While the Carriageworks Action Group hope that something will still happen, we are finding it increasingly hard to avoid the conclusion that the current development scheme is unlikely
to be built.carriageworks-clown

In October 2015 the City Council agreed to give Fifth Capital London planning permission to build 112 residential units and 1000sqm of non-residential units on the long derelict site. The permission was finalised in July 2016 and lasts for two years from that date. Fifth Capital are required to undertake a wide range of surveys before starting any work. They are also required to “consult and work with local stakeholders, including the Carriageworks Action Group“ on a number of issues including local employment and how the site will be managed.

Proposed ground floor

CAG has been frustrated by the lack of progress with the scheme. To the best of its knowledge no surveys or site investigations have yet been undertaken. Neither have there been any recent updates from Fifth Capital; the last face-to-face meeting was in May 2016, the last phone conversation was in October and since then phone calls and messages have gone unanswered.

There are some understandable challenges facing Fifth Capital, not least the need to agree contract terms with a builder and many unquantified risks attached to the buildings which will only be resolved when surveys are undertaken. Furthermore, the site itself is still owned by Comer Homes. Fifth Capital have an option to buy the site subject to securing planning permission. It is not known when this option expires, but given that planning permission was obtained last July Fifth Capital seem to be struggling to complete the purchase.

Whether the lack of progress with buying the site and finding either a builder or a development partner means it is the end of the road for Fifth Capital is far from clear. But CAG is concerned that Fifth Capital might ultimately seek to exit the project.

schistostega

Luminous moss (or Goblin’s Gold) growing on a tunnel wall (not in the Carriageworks)

Having said that, there might be a glimmer of light. Fifth Capital have instructed the Bristol
office of property consultants CBRE to help find a development partner.  CBRE say that the process is going well and that there should be news in the second quarter of this year.  We hope that this is true, but then we’ve also been here many times before. Is it really light at the end of the tunnel, or is it just the moss glowing on the wall?

From an early stage in CAG’s work to get the site redeveloped it has been agreed that there should be a dual-track approach. On the one hand working with any willing developer and on the other pursuing compulsory purchase (CPO) by the City Council. The CPO process was started in 2012 and Knightstone identified as the preferred developer in November 2013. But almost immediately Fifth Capital emerged with its option to buy the site and this made the Council understandably reluctant to further the CPO process.  While CAG worked closely with Fifth Capital on its proposals, we all hoped the CPO wouldn’t be necessary. But now CAG believes that it is time to restart the CPO process so that swift action can be taken if, as and when the Fifth Capital scheme fails.

Bristol is in desperate need of more housing. This site will provide 112 units which, if properly managed by a housing association or ethical corporate landlord, will help meet some of the City’s needs. Ideally CAG would like to see a good mix of social, affordable and market units but this was not the case with the Fifth Capital scheme which only provided 10 affordable units.

Lori Streich, Chair of CAG, said: “We worked really hard with Marc Pennick of Fifth Capital to get a scheme which was acceptable to the community and viabile for the developer. If he can still pull something out of the bag that will be great. Equally CAG remains committed to working with any developer that will develop the site in line with the Community Vision.  But if the private sector cannot step up to the mark then it must be for the City Council to take a leadership role and bring forward a compulsory purchase to enable the desperately needed end to this site’s long term dereliction”.

Alternative developer? Key points from the Community Meeting

There is growing concern about the lack of visible action towards development on the Carriageworks site.  This has rekindled some of the dialogue within the community about the current plans for development.  If these seem too difficult to deliver, what about thinking about alternative approaches and about the actions we can take to move the development forward.

The community want to see the site developed in line with the CAG Community Vision, through whatever means/whichever developer.  There is concern that even though the Section 106 agreement was signed in June, the site is still owned by the Comers through their company Opecprime.

ACTION:  CAG, through the Liaison Group, was delegated to seek a meeting with the Comers to discuss unsticking the process.

There was a discussion about the price of the site.  If the site has to be Compulsorily Purchased (CPO), then the price would be market value.  If, however, a different arrangement not involving the Council was reached with the current owners, then there could be more latitude in the agreement of the price.

Given the seeming stalemate, the meeting would like to see the CPO process started up again.  This has to be led by Bristol City Council.  It is complicated by the fact that Fifth Capital have Planning Permission but ownership is still with Opecprime.

The meeting talked about setting up a development consortium to deliver community led plans for the site.  If this is the case and a consortium developed viable plans for the site, then it could become the “preferred developer”.  We have been advised that this would avoid the need for a full procurement process.  It would be up to the consortium to approach the Council to seek assistance to progress this idea.

ACTION:  BCC was asked to look into restarting the CPO process.

For a CPO to be successful, there needs to be a viable scheme.  Community members expressed considerable enthusiasm for the idea of a consortium to work up a scheme that would meet the Community Vision for the site, and be viable in terms of a CPO.   It was suggested a masterplan could form the basis for development being brought forward in phases and developed or sold to different developers.  Some people at the meeting wanted to be involved.  There was a discussion about what this means.  If we want this to move forward, consortium members have to be able to contribute real resources towards the design, finance and delivery of each part of the site.  Prue collected the names of people who are interested in setting up a development consortium.

The meeting agreed that we don’t need a “development brief” because this is captured by the Community Vision and the subsequent consultations about scheme design – carried out by Knightstone and Fifth Capital.  There has been a lot of discussion about what people want on the site.  What people want now is action!

ACTION:  CAG will convene a meeting in January for people who can contribute to a development consortium.

ACTION:  Can/will BCC Planning waive the fees for a planning application from a community led consortium?  This will be explored.

Carriageworks building:   There is a lot of concern about the continuing deterioration of the Carriageworks building.  Can notices be served on the owners for urgent works? The problem with this is that if the owner does not carry ouit the repair notice works Bristol City Council would have to do the works and pay the upfront costs, and then try to reclaim them.  While there is a pot of money for the Carriageworks, this is being held in case of the need for a site acquisition.

ACTION: CAG Liaison Group to explore with BCC how this money might be used (in the most creative ways!) so that we get the outcome we want – development of the site in line with the Community Vision – and protect the fabric of the Carriageworks building through this process.

ACTION:  If a development consortium is set up, this should explore grant funding for the historic building

ACTION:  BCC to establish the “curtilage” of the Listed Building.  This is the area around the listed building (Carriageworks) that is covered by the Listing.  It’s a technical issue but an important one that could help to bring in more resource for the development of the site.

Risks of the site:  Developing the site is complicated and there are many risks, including unknown ones.  For example…  Is the land contaminated? Are there issues about the water table? How unstable, or downright dangerous, are the buildings? And what does all this mean for the costs of redevelopment? There’s not an action arising from this point, but it’s worth bearing in mind.  Not knowing the risks makes it very difficult to establish the costs of redevelopment.  This is something that has to be addressed in drawing up alternative plans.

Ideas and moving forward:  At the end of the meeting, Lori (Chair) asked everyone to send their thoughts, ideas, intentions etc. to CAG via the comments section below (or click the speech bubble top right) or email  ideas@carriageworks.org.uk or Facebook

We look forward to hearing from you.

Lori Streich, Chair, Carriageworks Action Group

 

Questions for the community meeting on 16 Nov

In advance of the Carriageworks Community Meeting (Wed 16 Nov, 6pm at Kings Centre, King Sq) we’ve received the following questions from all you great people out there.  We’ve sent the questions on to Fifth Capital and the City Council.  Hopefully they’ll be at the meeting and able to give the answers but if not we’ve asked them to write so that we can pass the answer on.

Questions for Fifth Capital

·      Who currently owns the site?

·      Do the owners HAVE to sell to Fifth Capital?

·      Has Fifth Capital got the funds to carry out the development?  If not, what can be done?

·      Can you provide a timetable of key events from now until the start of construction. For each event: can you tell us who is responsible for making sure the event takes place, what the potential challenges are and the strategy for dealing with each challenge.

·      Is there still a Housing Association partner? Who is responsible for the affordable housing?

Questions for Bristol City Council

·      Can the Council compulsory purchase the site?

·      Can the twin track (i.e. work with developer AND start the CPO process) be restarted?

·      Is there another local developer who could take on the scheme and make it happen?

‘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]