Controversial 1,400-home development at Hengrove Park approved – despite objections

controversial 1400 home development at hengrove park approved despite objections - Controversial 1,400-home development at Hengrove Park approved - despite objections

Bristol City Council has approved a controversial housing development in south Bristol in what residents say is a breach of the authority’s own planning policy.

They plan to ask the government to overrule last night’s decision on the Hengrove Park development because they believe the plans produced by the local authority do not comply with those drawn up by the community and adopted by the council in May. 

A planning committee granted outline planning permission for more than 1,400 homes on the 49-hectare site after hearing detailed comparisons between the council’s plans and the “neighbourhood plan” on Wednesday (October 16).

They approved the plans by eight votes to three despite an objection from statutory consultee Sports England, which means the decision must be considered by the housing secretary.

 

The approved plans will see up to 1,435 homes built and a “high quality, destination” 22-hectare park created on the site of the old Whitchurch Airport.

Thirty per cent of the homes will be affordable.

 

Nearly 4.5 more hectares of open space will also be provided as well as a new sports pavillion, Scout hut and new cricket pitches and running tracks alongside buildings for community, office, commercial and educational use.

But the neighbourhood plan would have seen up to 1,400 homes more densely packed to allow a bigger, 30-hectare park and more building space for community and employment use.

 

The council’s first attempt to get its plans past the planning committee in February failed because it did not comply with key elements of the plan voted for by the community in a referendum earlier that month.

A planning officer acknowledged that some differences remained last night but said that the council’s revised plans “broadly complied” with those key elements, and that the six reasons its previous plans had been refused had been “overcome”.

controversial 1400 home development at hengrove park approved despite objections 1 - Controversial 1,400-home development at Hengrove Park approved - despite objections

The regeneration would see much of Hengrove Park turned over to 1,450 homes (Image: bristol Post)

Those reasons related to housing density, the size and quality of the park, the loss of a row of mature poplar trees, and the amount of employment and community space. The development was also seen as “overly”  car dependent. 

But residents and councillors who spoke against the second application said the council had made “minor” concessions only and that their revised plans still did not “match” the neighbourhood plan.

 

A petition signed by 1,251 residents and presented by local councillor Tim Kent called on the authority to withdraw its plans and the committee to reject the new application.

controversial 1400 home development at hengrove park approved despite objections - Controversial 1,400-home development at Hengrove Park approved - despite objections

Liberal Democrat councillor for Hengrove and Whitchurch Park, Tim Kent

Cllr Kent, who represents Hengrove and Whitchurch Park, stressed that residents were not opposed to the principle of building houses in their neighbourhood: “We are for development, but not this development.” 

The new application was “basically the same” as the one rejected in February, he said.

Resident Liz Beth said there had been “so much consultation” with the community throughout the process but that “hardly anything ever changes”.

Ray Andrews, who is a member of the Hengrove and Whitchurch Park Neighbourhood Planning Forum, called the consultation “poor and dismissive” and said the process had become “shameful and disrespectful”.

But the cabinet member for housing, Cllr Paul Smith, told the planning committee that they had the opportunity to approve the “most sustainable housing development…this city has ever seen”.

controversial 1400 home development at hengrove park approved despite objections 2 - Controversial 1,400-home development at Hengrove Park approved - despite objections

Cllr Paul Smith (Image: Copyright Unknown)

Jeremy Bladon, who worked on the application, said it was more deserving of approval than any he had seen in his 30 years as a planning agent in Bristol.

It was “not in conflict with the neighbourhood plan”, complied with planning policy, and “in many ways” went above and beyond what was required, he said.

How different are the approved plans from the plans that were rejected?

The officer said the council had cut the number of homes by 65 and packed them in more tightly, increasing the housing density to 66 per hectare – closer to the 70 per hectare set out in the neighbourhood plan. 

It had also made the park bigger – from the 19 hectares in its first application – and improved the quality by adding “a lot of items” stipulated in the neighbourhood plan, she said.

Fifteen of the poplar trees would now be kept and only seven would be cut down, she added.

 

No more office space was provided, but there was “considerably more” community space.

The amount of car parking was “roughly” the same as before and would reach the maximum allowed by car parking standards, but measures were in place to encourage alternative modes of transport, she said. 

Those measures include walking and cycling routes and a road through the development which will eventually be able to take a Metrobus.

The council had also added a new sports pavillion, Scout hut and new cricket pitches and running tracks, and were “optimistic” that Sports England would drop its objection as a result of ongoing discussions, the committee heard.

The development will see the loss of former sporting facilities, and Sports England requires what is provided instead to be as good or better, and is not yet convinced that is the case based on the details in the application.

‘We’re very disappointed’ 

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Kent said: “We’re very disappointed at the response of the committee. We are thankful that, actually, three members voted to uphold the policy of the council and the neighbourhood plan and looked to reject it.

“It’s a great shame the others did not.

“We are still buoyed up. There is still the Sport England objection.

“We ourselves are going to write to the Secretary of State [Robert Jenrick] and ask him to call this in, because the council has actually breached its own planning policy by breaching the neighbourhood plan. We will be asking the Secretary of State to call in the decision and overrule it.”

‘This is a really exciting step’

In a statement released after the meeting, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said:  “This is a really exciting step towards building one of Bristol’s largest housing developments in decades. It demonstrates our commitment to addressing one of the city’s most pressing and urgent priorities – making sure enough affordable homes are being built.

controversial 1400 home development at hengrove park approved despite objections 3 - Controversial 1,400-home development at Hengrove Park approved - despite objections

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol (Image: Bristol Live)

“It’s also enormously positive for existing residents and businesses in south Bristol, because as well as delivering well designed, high quality new housing with a mix of affordable and market sale homes, the development will include significant investment into the local community.”

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