Dismay over plans to knock down vital community hub

FAMILIES using a community hub that’s been supporting people in Lockleaze for 25 years say its future could be jeopardised because of council plans to redevelop the area.

Bristol City Council wants to demolish the Cameron Centre and former police station next door, and replace them with a new community space, and 37 affordable homes.

But Lockleaze Neighbourhood Trust (LNT), which uses the centre to provide services for local families, many on low incomes, says the move has come as a surprise.

Chief executive Suzanne Wilson says the proposal could scupper its plans, and she has called on BCC to work with the Trust on the project.

She said: “The council plans have been sprung on us. They are planning to build on land where we have been for 25 years, without talking to us.”

The Trust runs a community hub in Gainsborough Square, offering families help with fuel bills, working with food banks, a Warm and Welcome Space, and a pop up café. It uses Cameron House for a library, and community activities including faith groups and family activities, and the Trust earns an income from rentals.

Suzanne said they had told BCC they were in talks with Raised in Bristol, a social enterprise nursery, which could bring 20 new jobs, nursery places and a reliable income.

LNT says it need 450sq m of space to house the nursery, and community space to rent – but the new plan only has just over 300sq m of community space.

“We know the local community and are simply asking that the council work with us as development partners with a meaningful say in the design and construction – we want to get residents involved and provide something the community wants and needs.”

“Knowing the planning system, we now face many years of uncertainty about our future.”

The Trust employs 13 staff and has dozens of loyal volunteers. Bristol City Council says the plans take into account public feedback from a consultation exercise in 2021.

It says the development will consist of 37 one, two and three-bedroom flats available for social rent, and a community space, plus parking for 40 cars.

Councillor Tom Renhard, said the development was part of the city’s plan to build more council homes to meet the growing local need.

He said the proposed public space will be at least 30 per cent bigger than the existing centre.

“We have heard from members of the community about the desire to retain library provision, hireable space for community groups and potentially a cafe. These are all ideas to be considered as part of the final planning process to deliver a mixed use community space and although the budget is tight, we will consider comments received in the consultation carefully.”

 He said Lockleaze Neighbourhood Trust will be able to apply for a Community Asset Transfer as the preferred bidder, as they are the existing user of the building. 

“We will support LNT to submit a business plan setting out how the organisation proposes to use the space, which we would expect is developed in partnership with Lockleaze residents to realise the aspirations of the community.”