Time to lobby your Councillor

What’s happened to the Council’s twin-track approach?

We’re asking you to write to your local Councillor asking why the Council has abandoned its twin-track approach to getting the site redeveloped.  Click here to take action immediately.

What is twin-track?

At the community meeting back in October we were reminded that the City Council said, when helping start up CAG, that it was important that it followed a ‘twin-track’ approach. This meant working with the existing owners should they bring forward plans for redevelopment, but also working up a compulsory purchase order (CPO) for use if the owners made no progress.  The aim was to ensure that, either way, something happened to address the dereliction.

Background

For the last two years we’ve been working with the Council to find a developer for the site and to put in place the compulsory purchase process.  Knightstone were appointed the preferred developer and we were hoping we would see them working up their planning application and the Council starting the CPO process through 2014. However, Fifth Capital then arrived on the scene.

By October we were hearing that a planning application from Fifth Capital was imminent. This was making both Knightstone and the Council jittery about committing resources; if the application were successful it would render as wasted any design work by Knightstone and work on the CPO by the Council.

However, October went without a planning application. Then we were led to believe that a planning application would be sumbitted in November. The middle of November came and went, without a planning permission application. And we now hear that they’ll be submitting at the end of December.

We’re asking “How long?”

As CAG we have to ask the question: how long will this go on for? And how long before those with the power to do something about it (i.e. the Council with its CPO powers) get off the fence and recommitt to the twin-track approach?

We are very supportive of the City Council for all the work it has done to help create the Community Vision and move redevelopment of the site forward.  We think that Knightstone’s ideas are good and should create a scheme that delivers the Vision. But we get the sense that something has changed in the Council to reduce its level of commitment and backtrack on the hard work and investment of the last four years.

Time to write to your Councillor

We are asking you to now write to your local councillors and ask the simple question “Why?”.  Why is the Council not using funds allocated by the Homes and Communities Agency to pursue its twin-track approach?  Why has the Council stopped acting on its own Cabinet decisions to working up a CPO? Why is the Council not supporting Knightstone, its preferred developer, to get the site surveys done and a planning application prepared (an essential precursor to a CPO)? Why is the Council going cold on the whole scheme?

Follow this link to our website where you can select your ward councillors, fill in your details and send an email.
·      Ashley ward (St Pauls, Montpelier, St Werburghs, St Andrews)
·      Cabot ward (Kingsdown, city centre)
·      Cotham ward (Cotham)

You can also email the Mayor from our website.

Please send us copies of the responses that you get from your Councillors and the Mayor. And if we hear anything, we will let you know.

The latest from Fifth Capital

Shortly after the October meeting Lori and Julian had an informal meeting with Marc Pennick, Director of Fifth Capital, plus their PR company and their architects. They are clearly eager to please and were suggesting ways of creating a through route, confirming that there will be affordable housing, and considering how to ensure that the business space is locked in for local use for the long-term. Marc was also clearly frustrated by the ongoing scepticism that exists locally about his intentions, although he still hasn’t provided any concrete evidence of what he’s done in the past. We asked if they would come to a CAG community meeting to explain their scheme and they have agreed to do this. We were also told that they would be submitting their planning application in mid November. Hmm.

Planning group

Another suggestion at the October meeting was for a group of people to get together to look in more detail at the planning issues. This will be a combination of preparing a robust response to a planning application from Fifth Capital, should it appear, and also looking at how planning policy affecting the site could be strengthened. If you’re interested in getting involved in this group (first meeting is next week) please contact us info@carriageworks.org.uk for details.

In the meantime the City Council is consulting on the final amendments to its Central Area Plan.  This includes a section on the Carriageworks (page 126).  More details on their website http://www.bristol.gov.uk/page/planning-and-building-regulations/bristol-central-area-plan. Consultation ends on 6th January.

Stay warm and don’t forget to send those emails 🙂

Lori and Julian

Compare and contrast: The Vision, Knightstone and Fifth Capital

To help you understand all the various ideas for the Carriageworks site we’ve prepared this handy(ish) comparison table.  It shows what the Community Vision says, and how the Knightstone and Fifth Capital schemes respond to it. Click to download the PDF.

And for you to see how we’ve got to where we are, we’ve made this timeline.

timeline

What’s happened to Knightstone?

Three years ago we were discussing our Community Vision. One year ago, in a significant step towards compulsory purchase and the end of years of derelection, Knightstone were selected as the preferred developer to deliver the Vision. But since Fifth Capital emerged it’s all gone very quiet. Are Knightstone holding back to see what comes of the Fifth Capital scheme? What does the Council think about that? And what should we, the local community, do?

Let us know what you think. Come to the Community meeting on Monday 13 October (6pm at the Salvation Army, Ashley Road), write your comments below, or send your thoughts to ideas@carriageworks.org.uk

Knightstone update

We’ve just received this statement from Knightstone:

“Soon after Knightstone’s selection as the City Council’s preferred development partner for the Carriageworks and Westmoreland House site in November 2013 we learnt that the private developer, Fifth Capital, had secured a legal interest in the site. Since then we have been closely monitoring their progress in drawing up redevelopment proposals in preparation to make a planning application.

“Knightstone is still very keen and committed to the project, working in partnership with the Carriageworks Action Group (CAG) and the Council to regenerate the site in a way that meets the Community Vision. Whilst Fifth Capital is targeting to submit a planning application in autumn 2014 we are currently in discussions with the Council about how we may progress our redevelopment proposals further if Fifth Capital’s planning application does not proceed.

“We will issue a further update in the autumn about our next steps and hope to agree on a way forward with the Council and CAG within the next few weeks.”

Fifth Capital leafleting the local area

A leaflet might soon be coming through your door telling you about development proposals for the Carriageworks and Westmorland House.

The leaflet may raise many questions in the minds of you and your neighbours, not least about who this new developer is and what has happened to the Knightstone scheme and the Community Vision.  Here are some answers:

Who is this new developer Fifth Capital?

Fifth Capital emerged in November 2013 just as the City Council appointed Knightstone as its preferred developer. They are a private London based company setup in 2011. Their 2013 accounts show net assets of £5,983.  Read more…

Have Fifth Capital built anything before?

We’ve been asking them this.  They haven’t sent us any evidence that they have built anything.  Read more…

Do they own the site?

No, the site is still owned by Comer Homes. But Fifth Capital tell us they have “a controlling interest”.  Read more…

Who’s behind Fifth Capital?

There is an impressive team of architects and consultants working with Fifth Capital. They claim to have already spent £400,000 on their fees. So who’s paying?  Read more…

What do they intend to build?

We understand that their current scheme shows that they will demolish Westmoreland House, build 116 mostly private flats and include some retail along Stokes Croft. Read more….

How do the proposals compare to the Community Vision?

From what we understand, some aspects are broadly in line with the Vision. But; there is no through route, there is little affordable housing, long term management arrangements are very vague and we don’t even know if Fifth Capital can or will actually develop the site themselves. Read more…

Have they submitted a planning application?

No, not yet. They are currently in a community involvement stage. They plan to submit a planning application in September / October 2014.

What’s happened to the Knightstone scheme?

Knightstone still want to develop the site and are supported by CAG.  Knightstone are working with Bristol City Council which could ultimately compulsorily purchase the site from the current owners. However, if Fifth Capital get planning permission it could make it much harder to get the compulsory purchase approved, and that would stop Knightstone going ahead.

Is CAG working with Fifth Capital?

No, because they haven’t demonstrated to us that they will deliver the Community Vision.

What happens next?

Fifth Capital’s PR agency, Four Communications, has told us that they are having an exhibition of the proposals in two weeks time. They will then finish working up their proposals and submit a planning application in September / October. They anticipate a planning decision in January 2015.

What is CAG doing?

We still want to see a scheme that embraces all aspects of the Community Vision. At this stage we really don’t know if Fifth Capital will build anything, or if they will sell the site with planning permission to someone else, or if they will dissolve into thin air once the site value has been increased. Fifth Capital say they will build the scheme themselves but so far they have not provided any evidence to show that they or their Directors have ever done anything like it before. We will keep trying to get answers to these questions. In the meantime we continue to liaise with Knightstone and the City Council with a view to the Knightstone scheme progressing.

Knightstone confirmed as preferred developer

At our meeting on 2 December it was announced that Knightstone have been selected by the City Council as the preferred developer or the Carriageworks and Westmoreland House.

That may not sound like big news, given that Knightstone were the only contender, but in actual fact it has involved a huge amount of work on the part of Knightstone themselves in preparaing their final submission and officers of the Council in evaluating that submission, making sure not only that everything is compliant with the very lengthy procurement processes but also that the scheme will deliver what everyone wants.

The news was announced at the meeting by Jan Reichel, the project officer from Bristol City Council. Mike Day from Knightstone and Jonathan Platt the architect then summarised the proposals.

The Knightstone Proposals

The proposals are based on Option 3 which emerged during last summer’s consultation and see a linear park leading through the site from opposite the top of Picton Street, turning KproposalDec2013at a new square or market place behind the Carriageworks, and then rejoing Stokes Croft through two of the Carriageworks archways. On the ground floor facing Stokes Croft, Ashley Road and facing the linear park there will be retail and community uses. On the upper floors there will be flats, and a small amount of housing at the rear of the site. In total there will be 110 residential units with a mixture of tenures including affordable, market rent and market sale. The flats and houses will be built to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4.

The proposals retain the Grade II* Carriageworks, keeping as much of the interior as possible and adding (or replacing, depending upon how you interpret historic photos) a top floor.

No4 Ashley Road is listed but in extremely poor condition, even when viewed from a distance. A Planning Inspector has previously said that its demolition would be justifiable, and this is the course the Knightstone propose to take.

The intention for Westmoreland House, however, is for it to be retained – at least its structure will be mostly retained, the main differences being the removal of part of the rear and a raising of part of the top floor to the height of the lift and services block.

It should be noted that these proposals will inevitably change. To date no-one has been able to access the site for surveys, and this will not happen until early 2014. Also the comments of the planners have to be taken on board and viability constantly reappraised. So changes are inevitable but we will keep you informed as they emerge.

What happens next?

Early in the new year the City Council and Knightstone will get onto the site to carry out all the necessary surveys. Once they’ve got the information the architects will finalise the plans with the aim of submitting a planning application in the Autumn 2014. There will be further public consultation on the proposals in the late Spring / early Summer 2014.

At the same time the City Council will attempt to purchase the site from the owners through negotiation. If this proves unsuccessful then the City Council can seek to use compulsory purchase powers.

A new player?

At the meeting we heard that a company had approached the City Council saying that they had acquired an interest in the Carriageworks site. It’s not known what this interest is, if it relates to the whole site or part, or why they have left it until now to state their interest. But the important message is that the City Council is committed to working with Knightstone and acquiring the site to enable their scheme to go ahead. Anyone else  would have to obtain planning permission and virtually be on site before there is any change in the Council’s direction.

The oral and visual history project

To wrap up the evening, another piece of great news. Montpelier Conservation Group have been given funding by the Heritage Lottery to run an oral history project about Wesmoreland House. It is a bit of a ghost building for while its presence is clearly felt in the area, there is little recorded history about its past. So the project is wanting to the record the memories of people who worked at Westmoreland House and will be keen to see any photographs that might still exist of the building in its prime – there are stories of a boardroom panelled with exotic hardwoods and marble floors! The project will be starting in January and will be training up local volunteers who are interested in recording people’s memories. To get in touch with the project email stories@carriageworks.org.uk