Only a small fraction of 850 new homes in South Bristol will be ‘affordable’

The biggest single residential development in South Bristol will see as many as 850 new homes built – but developers say only seven per cent of them will be classed as ‘affordable’ homes.

The proposal is for the Broadwalk Shopping Centre in Knowle to be knocked down – along with the car park and other buildings on that site – and for a new ‘town centre’ consisting of blocks of apartments and shops up to 12-storeys high built in its place.

The developer has now formally submitted a planning application to city planners, and has revealed that the scheme will contain only a fraction of the number of affordable homes required by council policy.

More on ‘Redcatch Quarter’: The battle for the soul of Knowle is just getting started

The developer Broadside Holdings has told council planners it wants to build up to 850 new homes in the middle of Knowle – and said they will mainly be one- or two-bed flats.

Although the planning application it has submitted is only outline at this stage, the detailed designs of all the buildings proposed for the large site between Wells Road and Redcatch Park have been submitted, along with a viability report for how many of the new homes will be classed as ‘affordable’, and therefore available to people on the council’s housing waiting list through the HomeChoice system.

Broadside Holdings’ application said that the proposal is not just for flats. There will also be commercial and community floorspace, a dentist and a cinema/theatre. The developer also revealed that the proposal to have only seven per cent of the flats – around 55 new homes – being classed as ‘affordable’ has been discussed with the council’s affordable housing team.

Bristol City Council’s policy is for any medium or large-scale development to have 40 per cent of the new homes classed as ‘affordable’ in the city centre, and in areas outside the city centre, like Knowle, for it to be 30 per cent.

In 2018 the Labour administration lowered that requirement to 20 per cent if the developers met a set of conditions aimed at getting homes built quickly, but the Redcatch Quarter proposals for the Broadwalk Shopping Centre regeneration are still less than half even that lowered requirement.

Previous owners of the site won planning permission a couple of years ago for a smaller-scale regeneration which would see around 450 new homes built around a revamped shopping centre, but Broadside Holdings has returned with bigger plans to level the whole site and build tower blocks up to 10 or 12-storeys high close to Redcatch Park, and on the Wells Road, which would see almost double the number of new homes.

In the planning application, Broadside Holdings said the 55 affordable flats was the same number that the site already has planning permission for. They would be housed in one self-contained block, which the developer said housing associations taking on the affordable flats would prefer, rather than dispersed around the development, and 77 per cent would be let at social rent levels, and 23 per cent would be sold as shared ownership schemes.

“It is likely that the affordable housing would be provided within a single block and there is an understanding that for management reasons and minimising service charges for social tenants, Registered Providers often have a preference for accommodation to be provided in a single block which enables them to derive significant management efficiencies. The scheme will be designed to ensure ‘tenure blindness’,” it said.

Local residents are being urged to have their say on the proposals, which have sparked controversy in Knowle.

Residents of Knowle gather to express their concerns at the proposed redevelopment of the Broadwalk Shopping Centre into 'Redcatch Quarter'
Residents of Knowle gather to express their concerns at the proposed redevelopment of the Broadwalk Shopping Centre into ‘Redcatch Quarter’
(Image: Bristol Live)

The Knowle Neighbourhood Planning Group of local residents have urged people living in and around Knowle to check out the detailed plans, which will see a £150 million regeneration investment in Knowle, but radically change the area with tall buildings and a new ‘town centre’.

Laura Chapman, one of the founders of the Knowle NPG, lives on Ryde Road, which will be, literally, in the shadow of the new development, if it is given planning permission.

“I think it’s time to rejuvenate Broadwalk and personally I much prefer the idea of removing the roof and creating a street rather than an indoor mall,” she told South Bristol Voice. “But the size and number of residential units is absolutely astronomical and out of keeping with the local area.”

She told Bristol Live that the group was still going through the fine detail of the plans, but initially described what has been proposed to replace the shopping centre as ‘massive and overbearing’.

Read next – Affordable housing?

Earlier this summer local residents told Bristol Live that they wanted the shopping centre to be regenerated, but the scale of the redevelopment was way too big – with too many flats and too tall buildings.

They also questioned whether the schools and health services in South Bristol could cope with an influx of 850 new homes in an already built-up area – and local MP Karin Smyth also voiced concerns, particularly about already over-stretched GP surgeries in South Bristol.

The concerns at Broadwalk echo those a mile or so away in Bedminster, where more than 2,000 new homes – more than half being student accommodation – but only a tiny fraction will be for people on the council housing waiting list.

It is understood that the developers will propose that the extra costs of demolishing the existing shopping centre, car park and other buildings, as well as the cost of providing other community facilities, will make the task of meeting the council’s 30 per cent affordable housing requirement unviable.

Artist's impressions of a proposed new Redcatch Quarter development, to replace the Broadwalk Shopping Centre at Knowle, as seen from Redcatch Park
Artist’s impressions of a proposed new Redcatch Quarter development, to replace the Broadwalk Shopping Centre at Knowle, as seen from Redcatch Park
(Image: Redcatch Quarter)

Francis Hilton, the project manager for the regeneration, said the proposed ‘Redcatch Quarter’ will provide a ‘thriving neighbourhood destination complete with a community hub- including a new library and community café, a dedicated restaurant area overlooking the park, flexible commercial and retail space, essential services such as a local supermarket, dentist and pharmacy, urgently needed new homes and the only neighbourhood cinema in South Bristol – all ushered in by a reimagined pedestrian high street with planted green areas and pocket parks’.

He said the plans were tweaked after months of consultation with local residents.

“We want to thank everyone who participated in the consultation as your feedback has been instrumental in the progression of the proposals. Following valuable discussions with local people, it’s clear that we are all united in wanting a thriving, sustainable community asset that will deliver for Knowle for years to come. Local input has led to the introduction of the cinema, wider and more attractive pedestrian areas, a reduction in massing and redistribution of buildings, and better integration with the park,” he added.

“Making the outline application is just a point on the journey and we look forward to continuing to work with the community post-submission to contribute to the revitalisation of South Bristol,” he said.

Read next – ‘Redcatch Quarter’, the story so far:

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