Just over four years ago residents and businesses based around the long derelict Carriageworks in Stokes Croft, Bristol asked 2MD to help them prepare a Community Vision for the site. Over 1400 people got involved and by early 2012 the Vision had been published to much aclaim and adopted by the Council.
We were then asked to support the community (by then working as the Carriageworks Action Group) to engage in the Council’s compulsory purchase process and help find a developer for the site. That was all going to plan until early 2014 when a company called Fifth Capital London emerged saying they had an option to buy the site.
In an atmosphere of strong distrust we were, for a long time, fighting each other. CAG and other local groups organised over 1400 objections to their planning application which we dissected from every possible angle. So when it went to the Planning Committee in April 2015 the developer was in for a rough ride. As one Councillor described the scheme: “Only its mother could love it”! At the end of the meeting the developer was told to go off, improve the proposals and, importantly, to work with CAG.
Since then there has been a bizarre turn around. Marc Pennick, the owner of Fifth Captial, has developed a genuinely positive working relationship with CAG, we’ve enabled him to speak to way more people than he had previously, we have been suggesting and nudging him to make changes that will gain favour locally, he has listened and he has made significant changes to his scheme. We haven’t got everything (affordable and social housing is still less than we’d like) but it is so much better.
By the time the scheme went to the Planning Committee last night CAG was in support and people were praising the process and our work: “It seems like there is a will on all sides to engage in conversation for the benefit of the area, which is rare”, “CAG has done amazing exemplary work to bring the Community Vision to fruition. It really has been amazing work – the kind of stuff we should be looking at for all major developments in Bristol”, “Normally the developer comes back with only notional change. That’s not happened here. My gasp was well and truly flabbered.” On the radio this morning Marc Pennick said “we’re going to work with CAG and the local community, we’re going to keep working on these plans and we’re going to keep making them better.”
So it looks like a site that has blotted the landscape of Bristol for over 25 years is finally to be redeveloped. It’s great that positive community engagement by the developer is being credited with massive improvements to the scheme, as acknowledged by everyone involved. And it’s great for 2MD to have been at the centre of that achievement. We’re now looking forward to working on the detail and securing all the benefits for the local area. And after that…?!