A council-owned housing developer has been accused of ‘underhand tactics’ by a group of locals over plans to build 140 homes in Lockleaze. Goram Homes, which is owned by Bristol City Council, are planning to build a new housing estate on the Dovercourt Road depot in the north Bristol suburb.
But locals have raised questions about a consultation which was paid for by Goram Homes, which saw nine people submit comments of support to the application. The Dovercourt Road Residents Group (DCRG) has canvassed locals for several months because of their concerns over the housing project, including the proposed access points and the height of the buildings.
And by April 7, more than 180 people had objected to the plans on the council’s planning website, while there was only one letter of support, from the Bristol Civic Society. But on June 28, nine comments of support were submitted by consultancy firm MPC, which were collected on behalf of Goram Homes.
A spokesperson for Goram Homes said this was done in order to “widen engagement with those who hadn’t been included in the consultation so far”. But a statement issued by the DCRG accused Goram Homes of “underhand tactics”.
“While the Dovercourt Residents Group are fully behind affordable homes being built we question the methods being deployed to try and create a false impression of support,” the statement said. “We are of the opinion that the current development proposals are unacceptable and that the opinions and knowledge of local residents have not been fully taken into consideration.”
Residents in the Filton and Horfield area responded to a flyer given to them by MPC, which outlined the proposal and asked them whether they would like to support or object to the plans. But the DCRG has pointed out that eight of the nine comments of support were taken from people living more than a 25 minute walk away from the development. And they have also questioned why all of the comments of support are “one line responses”.
One of the comments says only “I support new homes”, while another one-line response says “we would like to see more affordable homes in the area”. The outline proposal for the Dovercourt Road houses says that at least 30 per cent will be ‘affordable’, but the developer wants to increase this to 50 per cent.
However, the DCRG says it has raised a number of concerns with the council over the proposal. Rich Dinham, who is a member of the group, previously told Bristol Live that he thinks the proposed access points to the site are unsuitable and could create more traffic and increased pollution. However, the council said that alternative access points have been investigated, but that they are unfeasible due to the constraints of the site, including on ecological, planning, transport and cost grounds.
As well the access point dispute, residents are also concerned that the four-storey buildings which are being planned would overlook the mostly two-storey buildings in the area. They have also criticised the proposal for a lack of community facilities such as space for local cafes.
Goram Homes did not respond when asked how much they paid MPC for the consultation. A spokesperson for Goram Homes said: “Goram Homes is committed to ensuring that as many people as possible are included in shaping the proposals for any new homes at the Dovercourt Depot. We know that the complexities of the planning process can be a barrier to engagement and speaking directly to residents is part of our commitment to making the system more accessible.”
“MPC was appointed by Goram Homes and Keepmoat Homes to help widen engagement with those who hadn’t been included in the consultation so far. They visited residents close to the proposed development to explain the plans and the next steps in the process.
“A flyer with details of the proposals was given to everyone who was spoken to. We found support for new homes in the area, as well as some concerns that will be explored further and responded to as the project progresses.”