Site residents move off

The long term residents of the Carriageworks have now left the site.

The Carriageworks and Westmorland House have been derelict for as long as most people now living in the area can remember.  It is a rotting hulk, a ruin to explore, a canvas for artists and even, tragically, the place of death for a number of people.

Some years ago with the fatalities increasing, the owners of the site, Opecprime / Comer Homes, agreed to allow a group of people to set up home on the backland in return for them keeping trespassers away.  For many years they did this successfully, living alongside the rest of the community and otherwise going about their regular lives.

The site residents had discussed the future redevelopment of the site with CAG and subsequently Fifth Capital’s Marc Pennick.  They weren’t opposed to development but asked for time to move off as and when. Marc promised that he would give them six months notice.  In the meantime everyone was happy that they kept the site secure.

It was therefore something of a surprise when a Notice of Trespass appeared on the gates in March. The residents went to Court and, supported by CAG, argued their case that they were there with the consent of the owner. The Judge agreed and set a second hearing in May when agreement was reached for the residents to be able to stay on the site until October.

On Saturday 7th October the residents celebrated their last night on the site.  They’d spent the previous weeks moving equipment away and cleaning things up.  The party was a long goodbye, going on well into Sunday morning until the DJ played out with ‘Hit the Road Jack”.  And with that an era came to an end.

It had been intended that Comers’ security company would arrive to take over possession of the site that morning, but they didn’t.  Some of the residents therefore stayed on to keep things secure overnight.  The next morning the security finally arrived and the keys were handed over.

With Comer now in vacant possession of the site the purchase by PG Group can be completed.  We understand that this can be after 20 days – so 29th October should just about do it.

So thank you to everyone who lived on the site over the years, thank you for being part of the community and thank you for keeping it safe.  And good luck with wherever life takes you.

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Marc Pennick wishes us ‘Good Luck’

Statement from Fifth Capital London

I’m aware that you had your meeting tonight (Wed 14 June) and hope the developer and community can work together and deliver this exciting opportunity.

When I picked PG Group I believed this was the best outcome for all concerned.

When I started this journey I generally had the interest of the community in mind but probably didn’t have a true understanding of the area, it’s complexities and all those involved. Over this journey I have grown to understand and highly respect the work that the Carriageworks Action Group does and I truly believe we would not have reached this outcome without such proactive involvement. I hope all concerned will agree that this has overall been a positive process, with the community interests at the heart whilst still trying to balance a sense of commerciality that will hopefully mean a successful delivery.

Wishing all concerned the very best of luck. I look forward to visiting the completed regeneration.

Kindest Regards

Marc Pennick

Notes of the Community Meeting on 24 April 2017

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Attended by: Lori, Prue, Pete, Jeff, Chris, Julian, Sarah, Kimberley, Rich, Mel, Clayton, Dominic, Danuta, Heather, John, Pauline, Inge, Joel, Harvey, Rachel, Janine, Lawrence, Rob, Mike, Simon, one other.

Update re Developer

Lori spoke to Marc Pennick of Fifth Capital in the morning. There is a Bristol based developer who is taking over the development of the site. This information has been confirmed by a number of separate sources.

The details of the take-over are not yet known but we think they are well advanced in buying the site from Comer / Opec Prime. We don’t know what the future involvement of Fifth Capital will be.

We will let the group know who the developer is as soon as we can. The Liaison Group is pushing for an early meeting with the new developer and will ask them to come to a community meeting as soon as possible.

We do not yet know if the new developer will build the scheme with planning permission but we anticipate that some amendments are likely. Dominic pointed out that any alterations will require a new consent. We must ensure that it is the Community Vision that guides decisions regarding any changes and that CAG is involved in the dialogue. Reminder of the number of comments we received when writing the Vision (1,600) and the number of objections to the first Fifth Capital planning application (1,400).

There was concern that a new developer will argue that some elements of the scheme are not viable and therefore need to be amended. We need to resist this. We can point to the amount of interest in the scheme (two RSLs, various users of the commercial space) plus rising values as evidence of viability.

Noted that the new developers need to realise that it is not just about them and that there are other stakeholders. They have to take us seriously. We have achieved a great deal so far and we will seek a positive relationship with the new developer, but we need to get around the table and talk so that we work with and not against eachother. We can help make the development exciting for the developer as well as us.

Community Ownership

Discussion about the potential for the community to have a real stake in the finished development and ensure it doesn’t become an exclusive development with little relevance to the surrounding area.

Previous meeting had discussed a direct approach to Comer (Lori reported that a letter had been sent and while we know it was received we have had no reply) with a view to buying an interest. Cost would be probably be £2-5m and then £20m to develop. Potential to place a Community Right to Bid order on the site – gives 6 months to submit an offer.

Alternative approach would be take on the market / commercial areas. Would need a cohesive legal entity / structure to do this. Possible interest from Stokes Croft Land Trust, Bristol Pound, Bristol Community Housing Trust and Hamilton House.

Agreed that CAG should take the lead on any discussions with the developer and with planners.

Site Occupiers

The site occupiers (travellers) were served a Notice of Trespass in March. Hearing was adjourned until 8 May at 3pm at County Court.

A representative of the occupants stated that they had anticipated 6 months notice to leave the site. Trespass papers were put on the gate in March. The occupiers have their homes there and for a generation have been keeping people out of the dangerous site. The Council were apparently involved in early discussions about them being on the site as well as someone from Comer. Having the site occupied would help keep the Council off Comer’s back, following a number of deaths on the site.

Lori explained that CAG had pressed really hard for dialogue between travellers and Marc Pennick (although it was Comer who issued the Notice of Trespass). Marc eventually agreed but Comer instructed him not to take part. We now need a dialogue with the new owners of the site.

We need to take into account the needs of residents as does the local authority. Discussion about how to support the travellers e.g. through donations. Agreed that this should be as individuals, not as CAG.

Keeping the site occupied until the day the builders take possession will be much cheaper than getting early vacant possession and then paying for 24 hr security.

Noted that there is a pre-commencement condition requiring a “Procedure for the sensitive relocation of the existing occupants of the site” (page 53 of Committee Report). However, planners have now told other officers that the notice to seek possession was nothing to do with planning.

Agreed by all that if we can have amicable conversation then it will go the right way.

Other sites in the area:

Discussion about other empty buildings and development sites.

  • Putterills building – empty and unused
  • Magpie building. John Dalton paid £300k for the site. Planning application for Change of Use A3 café restaurant. Already started major refurb of existing building – spending £400k. Building is in two parts: two storey fronting Picton St and single storery fronting Ashley Road. Current use is retail.

Inter-relationship of sites and transport policy. Metro mayor will be responsible for major routes inc. A38. Need to keep an eye on wider policies, agendas and proposals.

Compulsory Purchase

Is there a possibility of losing the money for CPO? Julian stated that funds were granted to BCC by HCA specifically for compulsory purchase of Westmorland House so cannot be put to other uses. Lori stated that if the development does not go ahead as anticipated we need to keep CPO as an option.

Proposal that until there is signficiant progress with the development the CPO process must continue. As this was felt to be a crtically important issue there was a vote on whether to agree the statement. Unanimously agreed.

Discussion about whether BCC could pursue CPO without a preferred developer. Thought that they could not but it may be possible for HCA. [Subsequent research found that “It may sometimes be appropriate for the Homes and Communities Agency to compulsorily acquire land which is in need of development or regeneration even though there are no specific detailed development proposals in place” Source: Guidance on Compulsory Purchase Process (pdf) page 47, para 93]

Could one of the PRS RSLs that were interested still be involved? CBRE have been working for Fifth Capital to find development partners. Presumably they will have been linking developers together as this would share the risk – it’s why people like joint venture.

Actions:

  1. Seek a meeting with the developer
  2. Work hard to get info from them into public domain
  3. Work with site residents to find ways to support them and for a dialogue for a planned way of moving
  4. See if HAs that have expressed an interest are still interested
  5. Seek expressions of interest in commercial space
  6. Investigate potential for communal ownership of parts
  7. Enter into constructive dialogue with planners to ensure that they and the developer work with CAG and hold to the conditions in the planning permission to work with the community
  8. Investigate HCA CPO rules re schemes and preferred developer
  9. Court case on 8th May at 3pm

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 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.

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?