Developers ‘are getting desperate’

FAMILIES opposed to a planned retirement village on the former St Christopher’s School site in Westbury Park have come to the defence of council officers.

The developers last month criticised a Bristol City Council planning report which recommended refusal of the plan for 116 flats.

They said the officers’ report was “inaccurate, unbalanced, and unfair” and failed to take into account the benefits for the community including providing much needed new housing.

But Westbury Park Community Association (WPCA) defending the planning officers and said the scheme was “a massive overdevelopment, deeply damaging to the character of the site and the area, and detrimental to the living conditions of those living close to the site.”

The proposal is expected to be decided by planners on August 9 – but it has been delayed several times this year, and at the time of going to print the date had not been confirmed.

WPCA told the Voice the criticism by developers showed they were “getting desperate”.

They said the planning report might not have addressed “all the supposed benefits”, but said: “This does not alter the fact that the benefits are totally outweighed by the overwhelming disbenefits.  Some of the benefits cited by the developers in their rebuttal are either overstated or questionable.”

 The association says claims the plans will help alleviate the housing shortage should not outweigh the impact on the local area – and in any case what is proposed would not provide the low cost or affordable housing that Bristol needs. 

In addition, WPCA rejected developers’ claims that the buildings were “leading edge sustainable”, and questioned the need for a “small and hard to access” community space.

“Hopefully a revised committee report will properly present and address all the cited benefits, but this should make no difference to the overall conclusion that what is proposed is unacceptable overdevelopment.  We trust that the planning officers’ recommendation to the committee will still be to refuse the application.”

The developers, investment firm FORE, in partnership with developer Socius and care provider Amicala, pulled the proposal just days before a planning committee was due to make a ruling on May 31.

They asked for councillors to be given more time to consider the plan, and issued a seven-page “rebuttal” in response to the committee report, which had recommended refusal.

The residents’ campaign group SCAN (St Christopher’s Action Network) has since submitted two reports on Bristol City Council’s planning portal in response to the developers’ “rebuttal”.

SCAN said much of the rebuttal was incorrect or irrelevant. In particular the group criticised the developers’ claims the plan would alleviate Bristol’s housing shortage.

SCAN’s statement to the council said: “The average price of a property on the St Christopher’s site will be approx £739,000, with prices varying from £601,000 to £880,0001. In contrast, the average price of a property in Bristol last year was £398,000; for a flat it was £228,000. As such, the average price of a St Christopher’s housing unit is more than 3 times the average cost of a Bristol flat and 86% higher than the average cost of a Bristol property.”

At the time of going to print, FORE had not responded to the Voice’s request for interview.