Southville Green councillors Charlie Bolton and Steve Clarke have conducted a survey of local residents to explore their views on the proposals by a set of developers to construct over 1200 new homes in the Bedminster Green area. Over 300 people responded, mainly residents from Southville and Windmill Hill wards, and the results show a comprehensive rejection of the proposed heights of the development.
When asked if they thought the area should be developed, 60.9% of respondents agreed – compared with 19.2% who disagreed. However, when asked for their views on tall buildings, 68% were against them while just over 10% thought they were ‘good’. In other words, residents opposed the height of the various developments by a ratio of over 6:1 (the current proposal for St Catherine’s Place is to increase the height to over 22 stories).
The results also showed strong support for high levels of affordable housing, as well as concerns about air quality and the potential local impact on school places, doctor and dental provision and public transport.
Local Green Party councillor Charlie Bolton said:
"I supported the original development at St Catherine’s Place, and I have to say I increasingly regret having done so. While I believe the intentions of the original developer were honourable, the fact that we now have multiple developers has meant a substantial increase in scale. Developers seem to cherry pick the parts of applications they like, and leave out the bits I liked. What we have now is a plan which is just enormous. Essentially, I feel I have been played.”
Councillor Bolton added that the original approval included plans for a ‘green wall’, a proposal for a local market and an amphitheatre – all seemingly now gone.
Steve Clarke, the other Green Party Councillor for the area, said:
“I absolutely agree that we need more homes for people in Bristol (especially affordable ones) but I am concerned about the massing and scale of the proposed developments and also about the potential lack of social infrastructure such as schools, doctors and dentists for these thousands of new residents in our ward. In fact, it’s not proven that very tall buildings are the best way to deliver higher density accommodation – taller buildings require more land and space. Despite all its skyscrapers New York still has a lower density than cities like Paris and Barcelona.”
A government report from a few years ago found that tall buildings ‘do not necessarily deliver higher densities’. Current proposals in Bedminster are for between 1200 and 1500 units, and include 22 storey blocks, and other very tall buildings. Greens believe developers have been encouraged by supportive words from the Labour Mayor (e.g. this press release) and the Council’s ‘Urban Living SPD’ (Supplementary Planning Document) which promotes tall buildings.