‘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.


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.


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.


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.


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]

BBC Radio interviews with CAG and Fifth Capital

Members of the public interviewed on Stokes Croft:

  • I remember time and again there have been conversations in the Council about doing it up. They didn’t come to fruition so you kind of forget about these things.
  • There’s so much need for a push from the community to do so many different things in the building; it’s a terrific opportunity. It’s something that Bristol could do to be proud of.
  • It’s good news.
  • Such a waste. Could be such a lovely building with people living in there.
  • Should be affordable housing.
  • It isn’t an eye-sore. It should be opened up to let people do what they want with it. That would be better.
  • It’s been a bit of an eyesore for a long time. With many people looking for housing in the area. Will benefit Stokes Croft and also tenants or people looking to purchase property in the area.

Laura Rawlings interview with Lori Streich and Cllr Rob Telford

2015-10-15 07:40

LR: Is this good news?

LS: Yes it is. Cautious optimism – it’s been an incredibly long road. A very significant step to actually achieving the end of dereliction of the site.

LR: When we spoke last time (in April) there had been concerns about making sure the development is in keeping with quirkiness of the area, the lack of affordable properties, that it wouldn’t be this gated closed off community. Has that been addressed now?

LS: That has been addressed. A lot has changed since April. CAG has been very actively engaged in a really good quite often difficult dialogue with the developer. To their credit FC have responded positively and creatively and made a lot of changes. Most significantly there’s a lot more commercial and open space. It is no longer gated; it’s been designed so that it would be pretty much impossible to turn it into a gated community.

LR: Lets bring in Rob. Are you happy with the plans?

RT: Yes we are largely. What’s been amazing with this process is that for the last year at least it started in a not consultative way. A lot of developers come to Bristol saying what they want to do and don’t start with a consultative frame of mind. But in this case the developer has gone away and thought he really wants this to happen and has actually worked with the community. That’s good to see. Would have saved a lot of time if they’d come with the right mindset from the start. It’s positive news that it’s happened eventually.

LR: You say it’s the developer who came with the right mindset. People are saying this morning, ‘why has it taken the Council 30 years to do something?’

RT: What happened is we had a compulsory purchase process to work with a registered social landlord but that fell through partly because Fifth Capital came in the frame. It’s been an eyesore for so long. It’s desperate for development.

LR: Is there anything we can learn?
RT: We have to learn the lessons of consultation from this. CAG has done amazing exemplary work to bring the Community Vision to fruition. It really has been amazingly exemplary work – the kind of stuff we should be looking at for all major developments in Bristol.

Laura Rawlings interview with Marc Pennick

2015-10-15 08:40

LR: Marc Pennick owns Fifth Capital London – the company that will own the site. It’s all changed sine we spoke to you last (in April). It’s all good news. What will people see?

MP: Last night was very enjoyable with the consent going through. It’s come a long way since April. With almost 1500 objections, last night we had 2 objections. We’ve turned it around over the last 6-7 months. The scheme that we’ll start in the next 6-7 months is a vibrant new square, apartments, independent businesses, pop-up shops, exactly what Stokes Croft needs.

LR: People were concerned that it would be exclusive, that it wouldn’t fit in the area, that it would be gated. Segregated yuppie flats was some of the concern and that there wouldn’t be enough affordable properties. But all of that has been ironed out?

MP: Through good work with CAG and good dialogue with wider community the gates have gone, the scheme’s been changed, we’ve got more commercial, more independent businesses going in there, affordable housing has gone up, and we’re looking forward to starting on the site. It’s been 27 years of pain for the area and we’re just looking forward to getting on.

LR: How do think it will it change the whole area?
MP: Stokes Croft has never really had much investment on the site itself and also in the wider area. We need to create a hub area that people not just in the area use but people in the wider city see it as a centre point. By creating this new market square that will be open at weekends with new independent businesses, it’s going to be a destination point.

LR: When will work start?

MP: We still have to sign S.106 agreement with the Council but that won’t take too long; there’s a lot of goodwill from Council members and the Carriageworks Action Group. One of the big points is that we’ve got some people who are on the site at the moment, some of them have been there for quite a while 5-6 years, and I’ve given my word that they’ve got 6 months until they have to vacate then we can get on

LR: How confident that you can deliver exactly what’s in the plans?

MP: These plans that we’ve proposed are not just going to be the plans but they will get better, we’re going to refine them, we’re going to work with CAG and the local community, we’re going to keep working on these plans and we’re going to keep making them better.

LR: If everything goes to plan when could it be finished?

MP: As soon as we start on site we should be done in 18-20 months.

LR: Wow – what a transformation that area’s going to see. Thank you.

Updates from Bristol Planning Committee

Click refresh for the latest from the Planning Committee.  We’ll update at the top of the page.

18:58  The room empties!

18:57 A vote. All for except for Ani S-T who votes against.

18:49 Cllr Martin Fodor. We’ve seen community objection, a developer pull rug out of CPO. There was a lot of pressure on us in April to refuse permission. Felt ambivelent that we were going to send it back for improvements as refusing would have resulted in appeal. It’s an important lesson. Our ambition needs to be as high as it can be. With strong messages we have achieved more. We might not have everything that all would like, but we have an agreement that is a partnership with the community. Agree on wording to “work with community” not just “consult with”. That will strengthen it and show what we really wanted.  Chair wants to deal with this issue. Sees consultation as something that we have a formula for (MF says he’s not sure we do). Would be worried about nebulous word like “work” – not sure we understand that in the Council (laughter). Would be dangerous to include words that could be misinterpreted. Don’t believe it worthy of change. MF: Some people in public look sceptical. Consultation can be done badly or well. Working in partnership requires a certain standard. Also wants to raise local employment – needs to be monitored. There is still disquiet that we’re not getting a % of affordable or social housing that is our aspiration – the viability test can be abused. We should thank officers, community and developer. To wrap up: wants to see “working in partnership” used as the wording. Cllr Helen Holland: we have the SCI – refer to that in the Condition? Cllr Ani S-T: The importance is that it is remarkable how well FC have worked with CAG, but we need to ensure that this is iron clad in the future – whichever way it is worded has to be iron clad. Chair: would be happy with ref to SCI – it gives us something to refer to. Agreed on that change.

18:45  Cllr Peter Abraham. Have been involved in planning for 50 years. Have seen dark times regarding this building. Was threatened by the owner.  Never believed we’d get to where we are – it seemed impossible. Today this is better than I hoped for. Only a short time ago the scheme was not acceptable to me and many others. It’s right that it’s as good as we’re going to get. We shouldn’t sell ourselves short. But it needs action. So I’d like to thank Officers for the work to get it right and interpret our views, and the developer who has picked up and listened, and the community who has really changed things and changed their own views. This is partnership to get the best we can and pull it off. But, but, we have to be vigilent. We still have to watch what happens. I hope the Conditions are strong enough to hold firm. Accept that some things are beyond planning control, but they’re not beyond us as a Council. So we need to step in if people are going to become homeless. Move that we grant planning permission with conditions in the report. Seconded. Martin Fodor wants to speak.

18:43  Cllr (can’t see his name, sitting next to Helen Holland): Congratulates community groups and officers in ensuring the scheme is as good as possible, and the developer for changing the scheme. No doubt that the scheme needs redeveloping. Our committee wants the best project, not just any old one. The street art on Carriageworks is ever changing. I will miss that aspect, but not the rest of the state of the building. Interested in public art Condition 14. As much as I am a fan of grafitti art I am aware it can lead to tagging. Would be nice if some balance could be made so that street art is confined and concerns of neighbours are taken on board. Pleased to see even delivery hours and bin collections conditions are in place.

18:41 Cllr Helen Holland. Wasn’t here in April. Really delighted that there has been such a level of engagement and that community feels they have had real influence. Want to pick up on Rob Telford’s point re wishing this had been done first time. Council has a prize winning Statement of Community Invovlmeent. This scheme should be used as best practice in how SCI works. This has been far beyond, and has turned a mountain of objection into support. Will be voting in favour.

18:36 Cllr Ani Stafford Townsend. Crucial that CAG stay involved. Would like proposed amendment but change from simply consult with to “work with”.  Also a few other issues.  A2 Dominion have been mentioned a few times, but no mention in the Conditions. The mention of them has sweetened the plan to the community. Would like to see A2 or another RSL included in the conditions. Chair asks for answer to this point. Planning Officer says we can’t specify which companies to work with. But can say a registered provider has to provide the affordable housing. (Misses the point that Ani is talking about more than just the 8 affordable units). The delivery management plan will establish a relationship of the nature with A2 but can’t nail it down beyond affordable housing. Ani: re the travellers – wants a condition that they have 6 months to vacate the site. Planner: We can’t condition this through planning conditions but we can contact housing colleagues and alert them to the need for their services.

18:33  Cllr Mark Wright. I spoke against the scheme in April. The previous plans were difficient in a number of ways, pleased they were sent back for more work. Genuinely surprised when I saw what came back. Normally the developer comes back with only notional change. That’s not happened here. My gasp was well and truly flabbered. Fifth Capital have addressed the issues in a serious way. The plans we see now are very much improved. Not brilliant – affordable housing could be better. But they have done enough and a bit more to conform with the Vision. Feel that these plans are good enough and workable. Will lead to a positive improvement of the local community. Agree need ongoing community involvment in case Marc goes under a bus. Developers don’t normally behave like this. I support the plans.

18:29  Peter Westbury is going through the changes to the proposals comparing before and after. Cycle parking, relationship with Tucketts and the new walkway through, absence of any gates, Ashley Road frontage (lowered in scale and gap to Tucketts), affordable housing now in block backing on Croft Dale at southern side of site, alterations to building heights to reduce overlooking on Hepburn Road. Any questions? Officer opinion is that the scheme can be supported.

18:26  End of statements. Peter Westbury, Planning Officer now speaking. Two points to highlight. Refer to the amendment sheet esp. P.25. Suggesting to put on the decision notice Conditions 12,13,14, 15 & 19 that CAG and other stakeholders are involved in discussions.  Other Conditions are technical matters that wouldn’t attract debate –  things that either are or aren’t.  Also mentions Condition 19 re delivery management plan – it has a number of elements that have come out in the public comments received. Condition 19 already includes establishing a resident liaison group.

18:21  Next five – no one to speak. Following five – no one to speak. Following five – Chris Chalkley from PRSC to speak. For last two days I’ve been at Bristol New Economy Summit where some of the city’s brightest minds are trying to work out ways to build a future that can work bearing in mind climate change and the financial system – looking for new thinking. The fundamental thing with the proposed development is that it is old thinking. The market mechanisms do not deliver what is required for community so we end up with a scheme that does not fulfil the spirit of the Vision – although Marc has worked hard to get a flavour of it. Can’t blame him – he’s a capitalist! But you end up with 10% affordable housing. There are people who think differently. Stokes Croft is at the forefront. CAG and the community have fought for a long time over this empty property. In the face of extraordinary difficulty they have done pretty well.  Nationally Labour councillor have a new leader that focuses on equality. For the Greens – what does a resilient city look like?

18:17 Marc Pennick speaking. 6 months ago the decision was deferred so that differences could be worked through. 1400 people had objected.  Now it’s only 2. Fifth Capital has listened to the community and worked with CAG. Have met with residents of Hepburn Road and addressed their concerns. Changed the Ashley Road building.  Worked with Tucketts building who now support the scheme. There is space for independent businesses and a market, and the amount of business space is increased. You asked me to listen to the community, we have and the community has spoken. Please consider the proposal before you.

18:16 Rob Telford. Won’t repeat what’s already been said – but this is about community involvement. There are lessons for the city to learn. There is still the outstanding issue of affordable housing – we’re not meeting the 30% target. Need to keep this in mind in the city otherwise it’s a worthless policy.

18:14  Prue Hardwick.  Wants to reiterate that Marc Pennick has broken all the stereotypes. No longer the ‘don’t give a toss’ ‘big bad wolf’ from London. But we need to build in community engagement in case he goes under a bus. Bear in mind that you the Councillors want this to be as good as possible.  Without CAG there none of us have the power to influence – we are the watch dogs to nip at the heals and help the Council out. Hold your heads up and say “we did the best we could”.

18:10 The next five statements, but none of them are here / want to speak. The next five: Lori Streich to speak for CAG. Thank you to everyone who supports our position. Five years of hard work to get to where we are and to bring the community behind a vision for the site and to work with the developer. Hard work but we’re nearly there.  But many details still to address.  Key questions for CAG: 1. Maintain close involvement with CAG. A precedent from Trafford Council. Fifth Capital are keen for involvemenet. But we’d like it written into the Committee’s decision. So far the Committee has been bold to get collaboration with the community.  Need it in writing to continue in case a different developer gets involved. 2. Still some concerns, mainly affordable housing. We’ve had constructive discussions with Fifth Capital and A2 Dominion. Would like to ensure that committee gets Officers to work with us to get amount of affordable housing increased and even get social housing included. Finally, thank you to the committee and to Fifth Capital for working with us and producing a much more acceptable scheme.

18:09 The first five statements. Hugh Nettelfield speaking: a sense of gratitude that Fifth Capital have engaged with the community and changed their scheme. But a sense that we need to maintain community involvement at every stage. 1. Need to ensure a reasonable local employment strategy that is properly monitored. 2. Need an effective management plan with community involvement at its heart.

18:08  They’re dealing with other procedural matters before getting to Carriageworks

18:05  Cllrs Ani Stafford-Townsend and Mark Wright say that although they previously objected to Carriageworks application they are now open minded.

18:03  The Chair (Cllr Peter Abraham) says there are 40 statements but only 30 mins so he’s going to ask for people to speak in groups of five!

18:01  Under starters order, and they’re off (with a sound check)

17:54   Everyone is gathering.  The room is full of UWE first year planning students. What will they make of this?!

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


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

Submit your statement to Planning Committee – 14 Oct

The Council has sent letters to everyone who commented on the Fifth Capital planning application telling them that the application will be considered by Development Control Committee A at its meeting on Wednesday 14 October 2015.

The meeting will take place in the main conference room (Waterside 3) at the Watershed, 1 Canons Road, Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 5TX starting at 6pm, although it is not possible to say exactley when the application will be discussed.

Download the notice (60kb pdf).

The planning officer’s report should be available from Wednesday 7 October via  the Council’s planning website.

To make your written or verbal statement to the Planning Committee (speaking is by far the best way of making sure your opinion is heard by the elected members) you must send it to Democratic Services by 12 noon on Tuesday 13th October. Download the Council’s guidelines on making a statement (330kb pdf).