Plans for a 15-storey tower block “monstrosity” that residents fear could be a potential deathtrap because it has just one escape route, two years after the Grenfell tragedy, are set to be approved.
About 100 objections have been received for the 152-home development at the site of the derelict former Esso garage in Bath Road, Totterdown Bridge, in south Bristol.
The complex would also include seven, six and three-storey buildings, plus 418sqm of office space and two basement floors for parking beneath the high-rise.
Bristol Civic Society says in its consultation response: “Post Grenfell Tower, this tall building only has one access column and there is a car park beneath the tower.”
But city council officers are recommending that development control committee members grant permission when they meet on Wednesday (June 19).
Totterdown Residents Environmental & Social Action group chairman Simon Hobeck said he was “shocked” and is calling on councillors to go against the advice and refuse the proposals.
He said: “The planning officer’s report confirms that building heights of two to four storeys are recommended in this part of the Avon Riverside Area, and that the proposed density of 270 dwellings per hectare is more than twice the recommended density of 120 dwellings.
“But the officer concludes the design of the 17-storey tower is of sufficiently high quality to justify ignoring those policies.
“We are shocked by this conclusion.
“The Government has been painfully slow to act post-Grenfell but Bristol’s new Urban Living planning document highlights the importance of fire safety measures.
“We hope the councillors take this into consideration and refuse this application.”
In January 2016, Grenfell Action Group warned that people might be trapped in the building if a fire broke out because the tower had only one escape route.
Following the 2017 blaze which killed 72 people and injured more than 70, the single stairwell was described as a significant obstacle to saving people’s lives.
In its submission to Dame Judith Hackitt’s subsequent review of building regulations and fire safety, the Royal Institute of British Architects recommended there should be ‘more than one means of vertical escape for new multiple-occupancy residential buildings of more than three storeys in height’ and ‘no use of compensatory features for omission of a staircase or alternative means of escape’.
The Hackitt Review identified the number of escape routes as an important consideration, stating safety requirements were greater for buildings over 10 storeys and required ‘the most stringent measures’.
Anong other objections to the plans, by Bath Road Property Developments, is the fact that only 20 per cent of the flats would be classed as affordable housing, with the expected target being 30 per cent.
They also include complaints that the 15-storey block, which one respondent branded a “monstrosity”, would be out of character with the area, the impact of extra traffic on Bath Road and overspill parking onto nearby streets
Just 40 car parking spaces, plus space for 288 cycle racks, are proposed.
The developers would be required to invest £138,725 on local infrastructure, including £20,000 to improve St Philips Greenway, under a section 106 agreement if permission is granted.
A report to members says: “It is considered that the application makes an ambitious but successful response to the site.
“It is acknowledged that the height of the tower would exceed the height of surrounding context, as well as the recommended height stipulated in the spatial framework.
“However, a tall building of the quality proposed is considered to be an appropriate response for this site.
“The site is in a sustainable location, and the scheme will bring about enhancements to the existing infrastructure networks as well as introducing valuable new public realm and opening up an access to a new river walkway.
“The scheme would provide a good standard of accommodation and would not significantly harm the amenity of residents living close to the site.
“Impact on traffic on Bath Road has been adequately modelled, and officers are satisfied that the development would not introduce severe or unacceptable impacts on the highway network in terms of congestion or parking overspill.”