March to save the Meadows in Brislington that the Mayor said wouldn’t be built on

People living in Brislington and Broomhill went on a protest march – against plans to build hundreds of homes on a wildlife haven the Mayor promised would never be built on.

Around 60 residents gathered in Victory Park and marched around the community, including through the fields that they are trying to protect from what could be Bristol’s most controversial development.

Homes England have plans to build 260 new homes on the fields of Brislington Meadows – the future of which became a key election issue last year for Mayor Marvin Rees.

Read more: The dilemma between the Bristol housing crisis and the ecological emergency

The residents are stepping up their campaign against the plans to build homes, after Homes England – the Government’s land and property agency – revealed they still wanted to build homes on the meadows.

The march on Saturday morning was routed through the meadows and around Broomhill. “Our local police officers popped by to engage with us and wished us well. We stopped at various key points along the way to allow people to fully appreciate the scale of the proposed development and the habitats that would be lost and where access to the meadows would be gained,” said one of the organisers Heidi Taylor, from Save Brislington Meadows.

“We made a simple ‘NO’ with bodies to illustrate our point to developers. We had great support along the route with many cars beeping and waving and shouting ‘save the meadows’ from their windows. I briefly stopped traffic by standing on the zebra crossing on Broomhill Road by the demolished Police Station to highlight the busy road that is expected to cope with the vastly increased traffic from the development.

“We then continued along to St Peter’s Church where we stopped on the corner for photos and engaged with more passers by and then ended our walk by the allotments on School Road. I am very grateful to the people who supported us and took time out of their day to come along and bringing children, dogs and banners and a great sense of community with them,” she added.

“I hope we can continue to encourage even more objections to this development to ‘save the meadows’ for future generations to come,” she said.

The land at Brislington Meadows is a designated Site of Nature Conservation Interest, and was a former farmland left over after the war as the housing estates and industrial estates of Brislington and Broomhill was developed around it.

It was earmarked for housing by the city council back in 2014 and when Labour and Mayor Marvin Rees took over at City Hall in 2016, they stepped up plans to develop it. In 2020, the council asked Homes England, the Government’s housing agency, to spend around £15 million to buy the land – mainly from a London property company – so that 300 new homes – including 90 new council houses – could be built there.

Residents of Brislington march in protest of plans to build homes on Brislington Meadows
Residents of Brislington march in protest of plans to build homes on Brislington Meadows
(Image: Oren Taylor)

But within a year, the Mayor of Bristol dramatically changed his mind. Just 20 days before the May 2021 election, Marvin Rees announced no new homes would be built there, because Bristol had declared an ecological emergency, and Avon Wildlife Trust had told him the area was too precious a habitat for wildlife to have homes built on it.

The Mayor later admitted – after the election – that he didn’t have the power to make that happen, and after taking a few months to reconsider its plans, bosses at Homes England came back with slightly reduced plans to build 260 new homes on the green fields of Brislington Meadows.

Homes England’s planning application has been submitted, and people have until this Wednesday, June 29, to make their comments – and hundreds have already lodged objections.

Read Next: As it happened, the Brislington Meadows Scandal

Local Labour councillor Tim Rippington was elected in May 2021, after he stood alongside Marvin Rees to make the announcement that new homes would not be built there. He later criticised the Mayor after he realised that pledge did not mean automatically that no new homes would be built there.

He’s now critical of Homes England and its new attempts to build homes on land it spent £15m of taxpayers’ money on. Homes England have tried to reassure local residents by stating that almost half the land at Brislington Meadows – 46 per cent – will be kept as green space, which will be ‘designed, managed and monitored with biodiversity benefit at the fore, and especially benefit for pollinators’. “This exceeds the current objective in the Bristol Ecology Emergency Strategy for 30 per cent of land in Bristol to be managed for wildlife,” Homes England’s statement said.

But Cllr Rippington slated Homes England for that claim. “This statement is grossly misleading, as most of Bristol is already heavily developed,” he said. “In order to achieve 30 per cent of land being managed for wildlife, we need to retain biodiverse, ecologically-rich green spaces like Brislington Meadows.

Residents of Brislington march in protest of plans to build homes on Brislington Meadows
Residents of Brislington march in protest of plans to build homes on Brislington Meadows
(Image: Oren Taylor)

Homes England’s planning application has been submitted, with the Mayor of Bristol publicly now stating his opposition to the plan, but the application will have to go through the planning process. If it is refused by councillors, Homes England could appeal to the Government’s planning inspector, with arguments centring around the loss of green space.

Local campaigner Dougal Matthews said he was concerned about wildlife in this corner of South Bristol. “It is a nature corridor from Eastwood Farm to Stockwood Open Space. Habitats need to be close enough to support one another. Once you break the mosaic you have islands which means species can’t replenish each other,” he said.

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