Unanimous: St Christopher’s scheme rejected

COUNCILLORS unanimously voted to refuse the plans for 116 apartments on the St Christopher’s site, saying it would be massive overdevelopment 

The plans would have seen the historic school buildings converted into extra care flats, and several new buildings constructed too. Twenty five apartments would be built inside converted Victorian villas along Westbury Park, and 91 apartments would be in new buildings, the tallest of which would reach five storeys.

Councillors on Bristol City Council’s development control A committee voted to refuse planning permission on Wednesday, August 9.

Local people at the meeting expressed concerns over a lack of affordable housing, the loss of much-needed education provision for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and the increase in parking pressures on nearby residential streets. 

But developers told the committee that their plans would benefit the local community.

Sarah Trahair-Williams, associate director at the Fore Partnership, said: “We are proud to be delivering much needed, personally designed homes for our ageing population to live independently for longer. The project will be net zero in operation; respectively restore a listed building, Grace House; and provide a biodiversity net gain including 109 new trees.

“This large brownfield site in a sustainable urban location is a critical opportunity to provide desperately needed solutions.”

The plans included chopping down about 40 trees on the site, although the developers promised to plant more than 100 new trees in replacement. Campaigners and council officers were also concerned that some of the new buildings would damage the roots of a large veteran tree, but the developers disputed this.

Mark Ashford, from St Christopher’s Action Network (SCAN), said: “The developers have failed to listen to what the community has been saying for the last two years. These plans are a complete mess and our community and city deserve much better.”

SCAN commissioned architects to develop an alternative, with two and three-storey buildings, 75 new homes including 40 per cent affordable, SEND provision in Grace House, and a community garden.

St Christopher’s used to provide almost 50 places for pupils with complex educational needs and disabilities. The developers said they would pay £550,000 to the council to make up for the loss of SEND provision. This would have gone towards seven new places at the nearby Claremont School. Green Councillor Christine Townsend, shadow cabinet member for education, said: “It’s woeful that just over half a million pounds for seven places is replacing 45, that have been in existence since the end of the second world war “deficit, it is the biggest threat of bankruptcy. We need more 

Other concerns included parking pressures and the concentration of elderly accommodation already.

Jean Ellison, a local resident, said: “Westbury Park is abundant with care homes and residential homes and is quickly becoming Costa Geriatrica. I speak as a practising geriatric and I object to all of this, because I would much prefer to live in a vibrant, mixed-age community.”

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service