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Some thoughts on St Catherine’s Place

by Andrew Brown on 2 October, 2014

During the election campaign, one issue that came up repeatedly on the doorsteps in Windmill Hill was the proposed development in St Catherine’s Place.

Understandably, many residents have concerns about the impact of a 16 storey building on their views across the city – and the impact studies showed that it would have a significant effect. When I looked into it, however, there were a number of other reasons for concern:

  • The size and scale are out of character and context at street level, quite apart from any impact on views.
  • There is no provision for affordable homes – back in May it was estimated that this would be in the region of 10-20%, whereas now it is zero. Whilst the developers claim that they will re-examine the issue for future phases within their planned developments, Council Officials are off the view that this is extremely unlikely.
  • This part of Bedminster is one of the most deprived areas in the Country – a development which has no affordable accommodation will further diminish the opportunities for local people to stay in the area, and not help foster community spirit.
  • New build flats may attract people in to the area but I have concerns as to whether these people will spend their money in East Street or take their trade and leisure spending elsewhere; as those resident in similar blocks in The Dings and Harbourside do at present.
  • The building falls short of a number of the criteria in the Council’s own guidelines for approving tall buildings.

Housing policy is an area of frustration for me: every government (and party) talks about housebuilding at a national level, but very often oppose developments at local level. NIMBYism is rife – and not helpful in developing the infrastructure we need. I was therefore concerned that any opposition should be on stronger grounds than “build new houses… but somewhere else.”

The St Catherine’s Place area undoubtedly needs redevelopment. Some of the members of the committee felt that this development offered the best chance of that. It’s a view I have some sympathy with but ultimately, I couldn’t subscribe to “something is better than nothing” especially with some many deficiencies in the current scheme.

Council Officials were clear that refusal couldn’t be made on grounds of their being no Affordable Housing – but did make a strong case for refusal on the grounds of the scale and size of the project.

The Development Control Committee looking at this has, however, given the development the go ahead. I now hope it proves me wrong and provides a spark for re-generation of this area of Bedminster.

Andrew

P.S. You can see more of my thoughts on this here. If it’s published on the Council’s website, I’ll also link to my statement at today’s meeting if it is made available. (un)Fotunately this wasn’t webcast, so you can’t see the short verbal statement I made!

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