Carriageworks gets planning permission

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 Consultation on Stokes Croft, Dec 2011Vision 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.

communityworksIn 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.

Godwin_yard_entranceBy 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…?!

Artists are the developer’s baromoter

It’s not an original comment, but you know that an area has reached rock bottom when the artists move in.  And from there the only way is up.

The theory of course is that an area gets run down, businesses close, residents move away and property prices fall.  Some people only see the litter strewn streets, vandalised and derelict buildings, street drinkers, grime, crime and despair. But others see it as opportunity.

At the turn of the century Stokes Croft in Bristol was down on its luck. A brief renaissance in the 90s led by the club culture (notably Lakota) seemed to have stalled and it was back to being dominated by the traffic of the A38, ever more homeless hostels and ever more hopelessness.

At this same time though things did start to happen. Banksy had already used one flank wall for his ‘mild mild west’ painting and this attracted more urban artists looking for large and prominent canvases upon which to show their work. The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft took up residence and gave a new, if controversial, voice to the self proclaimed cultural quarter of Bristol. Cafes started to open, the nightlife took off again, small businesses started up and a vibe took hold.

For the last 10 years or so things have gradually improved to the extent that the Sunday Times on 8 March 2015 declared Bristol and especially Stokes Croft as one of the top ten places to live in the UK.

But maybe the pendulum is starting to swing too far.  The imminent opening of the US style dining chain Meat Liquor sets a new commercial tone in the area and recently a London developer has submitted unpopular proposals to build 118 flats with fears that this will introduce an exclusive gated community into the midst of the artists, students and urban trendies.

But what attracts the big money to Stokes Croft? It can only have been the artists.  Moving into the semi-derelict environment they have set a new tone, attracted young and adventurous people and made it the stylish place to be. That of course attracts people with more money who seek to buy their style simply through association. And that eventually attracts the property developers.  Really, the developers ought to be paying the artists a commission.

One stop shops in market towns

Just started doing some work for Grove Parish Council on plans for a new ‘community hub’.  It reminded me of a report I wrote for the Countryside Agency back in 2003 on one stop shops in market towns.  One of them, in Brandon Suffolk, was at the planning stage but similarities with Grove made me check out what had happened.  Good to see that the Brandon Centre has now opened, albeit 15 years after it was first suggested!

Also noticed that the One Stop Shop report is no longer on the interweb so here, in the spirit of community sharing, is a reposting of the Setting up One Stop Shops in Market Towns report (1Mb pdf).

Julian

Avoiding the Apple iCloud

A bit off-topic but a solution worth pointing out for Mac users who have upgraded to Mavericks OS10.9 and aren’t too happy with being forced to use iCloud (aka big computers in the USA) in order to sync calendars and contacts between devices.

In the old days it was possible to sync your calendar and contacts between your computer, iPhone, iPad etc via by simply plugging in and everything would be updated via cable and iTunes.  With the coming of Mavericks however this facility was removed.  While there’s some sense in this (Apple’s syncing system was bespoke whereas the new system  using CalDEV and CardDEV is industry standard) it does create a few issues around security of your data (not only is it held on computers in the USA where the NSA now snoops, but it’s also an exciting target for every hacker) and who has access to it.

But there’s a solution.  In a very useful blog Michael Gracie explains how to turn your Mac desktop or laptop into its own Cloud.  Having set it up (required a bit of fiddling and trial and error), whenever I’m within WiFi range my iPhone, iPad and laptop sync their calendar and contacts with my iMac.  So it’s just as good as iCloud, but I know exactly where the data is held!

Recruit a new Headteacher

A rather blatant plug to help recruit a new Headteacher for Wiveliscombe Primary School.  As Chair of Governors I’m leading the process.

After 17 years as Headteacher the current incumbent, Tony Halstead, is retiring so the school is seeking someone to replace him.  Full details are online at TES and the school website, with a closing date of 20 November 2013.

And in an innovative step designed to support the process, a group of pupils from Year 4 have made a film – Mr Stern Boots and the Mystery Laugh.  Worth a watch!

European funding 2014-2020

In June the Government announced how European regional development funds will be allocated across England from 2014 to 2020.  Money will be channelled through the Local Economic Partnerships.  In the South West the allocations are:

  • Cornwall and Isles of Scilly €592.9m
  • Devon and Somerset €118.3m
  • West of England (Bristol etc)  €68.6m
  • Dorset €47.3m
  • Swindon & Wiltshire €43.6
  • Glocs  €38.3m

The funding includes ESF, ERDF and EAFRD (was know as the RDPE).

Carriageworks: Vision to Reality

photo of Carriageworks and Westmoreland House

A developer has finally been found for the Carriageworks!

The Carriageworks and Westmoreland House in Bristol have been derelict for 27 years.  Owned by a London property company they were a blot on the landscape for many years, although more recently they have become a gallery for the many street artists working in the Stokes Croft area.

Photo of Rickshaw from Pedal Walla

In 2011 the Carriageworks Action Group was formed to try to bring the site and building back into active use.  2MD was selected to work with the local community to design and run a major consultation event that featured a branded rickshaw, voxpop and mass participation on the street, and attracted 1600 respondents.  Emerging from that consultation was the Community Vision that has been widely praised for its process and its, well, vision.

Photo of second phase of consultation on Stokes Croft

Of course, a vision alone is merely a dream so we then had to move to the next stage of turning it into action.  Since 2012 we’ve been working with CAG and Bristol City Council to go through the process of finding a developer for the site who will provide a scheme that may, if needs be, support the compulsory purchase of the site.  This has been a rather tortuous process governed by procurement law and the requirements of ‘competitive dialogue’.  Nevertheless, with everyone working together towards a common aim, we have managed to bring activism and regulations together and last night the developer going through to work up the scheme was selected.

Knightstone Housing Association is based in the area, has a track record of tackling complex inner city sites, and is committed to working with the local community to bring forward a successful development.

We’ll now be working with CAG, the City Council and Knightstone to design the next stage of consultation that will be taking place over the summer, engaging the community in the site designs and taking the Vision that much closer to final implementation.

Mike Day, Director of Development and Homeownership at Knightstone said; “We’re really pleased to have been invited to submit a final tender for this project. We’re committed to working with the local community to ensure that we can deliver a development that meets their needs. This is an exciting opportunity, which could allow us to build on the excellent work we’ve been doing with the City Council on regeneration projects in Bristol”

Lori Streich, Chair of the Carriageworks Action Group, said: “We’re very proud of this example of real community engagement. People in the community have the expertise, enthusiasm andinnovation that is needed to make a relevant contribution to a scheme.We are faced with a creatively demanding challenge around what shouldcertainly be one of Bristol’s most iconic settings.”

End Developers’ Right to Appeal say UKIP

The right to appeal against the decisions of government is enshrined in the statute and common law of the UK.  So it’s interesting to look at UKIP’s manifesto for the forthcoming County elections on 2 May.

UKIP hold themselves up to be the party of small government, of low taxation, and of local decision making.  This now goes as far as their proclamation that they will remove the “developers’ right to appeal against local planning decisions”.  So there will be no appeal against the decisions of local planning authorities, irrespective of how flawed that decision may be.  Presumably UKIP will also do away with all national planning guidance (why have it if all decisions are made locally) and remove the developer’s rights to seek remedy at law, for example the right to seek judicial review.  That will be quite a challenge to deliver!

Neighbourhood Planning Community Champions are Top Tip

Lynton and Lynmouth’s Neighbourhood Plan’s Community Champions have been highlighted as a top tip in a Government report.

Back in 2011/12 Lynton Town Council asked Julian and colleague James Shorten to come up with a process for developing their Neighbourhood Plan – one of the initial tranche of frontrunners.

Photo of Lynton and Lynmouth Neighbourhood Planning Community Champions

Underpinning our proposals was the principle of community engagement and making sure that the process was led by the community, not the planners.  One of the actions we proposed was to form a team of Neighbourhood Reps (later renamed Community Champions) to be the face of the process and to take the ideas into the community.  The Champions wouldn’t be councillors or people with official positions, instead they’d just be ordinary people with an interest in what the Plan could achieve.  In the end we recruited about 15 people, mostly by word of mouth.  We met with them, ran briefing sessions for them and over time crafted a team of people who became very influential in the overall shape of the plan.  And the great news is, they’ve now been given recognition by the Government.

The first piece of Government funded research into Neighbourhood Planning  “Neighbourhood Planning The rural frontrunners: research and case studies (April 2013)” has just been published and seeks to show what can be achieved, and what approaches could work or be considered elsewhere.  The research reports that most Neighbourhood Plan areas use “traditional methods such as exhibitions, leafleting, meetings, questionnaires, road shows, social media and websites”, but highlights the Lynton and Lynmouth Community Champions as a top tip for ‘spreading the word and encouraging involvement’.

You can find the report on the DEFRA website.  And more about the Lynton and Lynmouth plan at lynplan.org.uk

What Community Radio means to me

After nine years involvement in Community Radio last night at our AGM I stood down as Chair and Director of 10Radio, the community radio station in Wiveliscombe, Somerset that I and a few others dreamed up in 2004.  As a parting shot, I was asked to reflect upon my years in community radio.  In planning what to say I struggled to summarise the amazing programmes we’d broadcast, but then realised that, actually, what community radio meant to me was not about radio, but it was about community.

10Radio has been broadcasting full-time since January 2008, but before that we broadcast two pilots of a month each in 2005 and 2006.  It was those broadcasts, and in particular the first one, that I really remember for the huge and amazing impact we had on this small rural town.

The idea for a radio station had come from an article written about a community station in Withenshaw, Manchester.  At the time I felt inspired by what they had achieved and the incredible medium radio provided for getting people involved and sharing local information.  But it felt like a big city project, and not something that would work in a small isolated community.  For a while the idea lay dormant until I mentioned it a local teacher, Ben Elkins, who immediately saw the potential for his pupils and simply said “lets do it”.  He persuaded his Head to put in some funding and from there we grew the idea, slowly discovering the world of broadcast licences, royalties, transmitters and scheduling.  We launched the concept on an unsuspecting community in early 2005 amidst rumours that there was some big company behind the idea (clearly there wasn’t) and the concerned question “who’s in charge?”.  Our answer to that was “you are”, but it wasn’t the answer expected so it was only gradually that people opened their eyes to the full potential.

Over the coming months we managed to find ex BBC staff who ran training courses, got someone to provide all the equipment, negotiated with the Co-op to rent us an empty shop and gradually set everything up.  The month before our first broadcast was gruelling, coinciding with summer holidays when everyone was away.  But three days before the start we had the keys to the shop and in a barn-raising effort of community volunteers and trades, we built a studio from nothing, finishing off with egg trays from a local farm to provide sound damping in the studio.

We started broadcasting one Sunday morning. Standing outside with a little transistor radio, the magic of the whole enterprise came to life, as we heard our own sounds coming over the airwaves.  And although the music was none of our doing, to hear the first track burst through was a thrill I still remember.  With hastily written posters stuck up in the window we appealed for presenters, for carpets, even for old video cassettes to keep an archive of our broadcast.  And it all came flooding in.  People were amazed at what was happening, and that they could walk in and book a slot to do a show, with training on the job.  It was the talk of the town.  The school rehearsed their show on air.  We found our hearthrob DJ who just walked in one day, sat down and did 6 hours non-stop, wooing the teenage girls with his sultry tones.  Sports shows, chat shows, late night jazz, live musicians, local news, we had it all.

But it was the way we changed lives that was our great achievement.  One person later wrote: “As someone who has been out of full-time work for some years as a result of health problems, 10radio made me realise how much confidence I had lost in moving out of my comfort zones.  I knew that I had no desire to do presenting, but I was shocked to find how anxious I was about even working on reception, and initially I deliberately chose predictably quiet times.  By the end of the 4 weeks I was keen to seek out the busy times, and after being involved in one of the programmes, was even beginning to develop a taste for trying my hand at presenting!”.  Another wrote “(Our son) suffers from mild ADHD which manifests largely through his inability to concentrate or focus on tasks, particularly if they do not engage him.  You can imagine how this affects him at school…  However, 10Radio has been one activity that has fully engaged him, proving that he has the talent and application to do something well when he so wishes.  (When we broadcast our show) he not only took a full part in actually hosting the programme, he also manned the phones and took messages.  His self esteem was immeasurably boosted by the positive responses he received from friends and acquaintances who heard him”.

This was, and continues to be, our great achievement.  We opened up opportunities, we introduced the wizadry of fading out the mic, and fading in the music, we helped people find the joy of hearing their first broadcast sounds on the radio. School children who came on 10Radio in 2005 are now in their mid 20s and some have gone on to do amazing things, hopefully with a little influence from 10Radio. We brought something unique to this community.  We made a difference to lives.  That’s what community radio is about, and that’s what I look back upon with pride and great sense of achievement.