Community centre featured in BBC's The Outlaws could be knocked down for council flats

Bristol City Council wants to knock down the community centre and use the site for new social housing.

The community centre featured in the hit TV programme The Outlaws could be knocked down and replaced with council flats.

Sea Mills community centre in Bristol closed in 2019 and suffers from structural defects and asbestos.

The building has recently been used by television crews to film BBC series The Outlaws series, starring Christopher Walken and Stephen Merchant.

Now Bristol City Council wants to knock down the community centre and use the site for new social housing. One council officer said a small community space could be included on the ground floor of the new building, although there are currently few details of the plans.

One local resident said: “The community has put in a lot of investment, time and energy into the building, and they don’t want to see it go. The council will be up against an uphill struggle.”

The future of the site was discussed at a meeting held on June 28 at the Sea Mills library, next door to the community centre, organised by volunteers from the Sea Mills and Coombe Dingle Together community group. The group initially planned to discuss what residents wanted for the site, but a council officer attended to give details about the housing scheme.

Tim Huntley, from the council’s housing delivery team, told the meeting the site could potentially be used for about 15 new homes. He said any new development would likely not be taller than two storeys, saying further details about the planned scheme would be published in about two to three months when a formal consultation is due to be launched.

He said: “We have been asked to look at the redevelopment of the community centre. We’re at the start of this process. There’s quite a high level of asbestos in there, and that asbestos has to be handled, it’s expensive to strip out.

Christopher Walken filming for The Outlaws in Bristol Credit: BBC/Amazon Studios/Big Talk/Four Eyes

"The building wouldn’t be fit to repurpose and it’s probably not an efficient building to run, not energy efficient.”

He said there were structural problems with the roof and cracking foundations.

Building housing on the site could also help to fund the construction of a new community space but residents at the meeting expressed strong views the current building should be refurbished, made safe, and the community centre reopened.

Many asked about the money given to the council by The Outlaws production company, and argued it could go towards the refurbishment. Others raised concerns about new housing adding to parking problems.

One resident said: “The film crew did a lot of work to allow them to use it. They produced two series. They must have paid a lot of money to use it, and that money could be used to fund the rest of the repairs.”

Residents also raised concerns that any housing on top of a new community space could scupper plans to hold noisy events there. The community centre used to regularly be used for children’s parties, choir rehearsals and band nights, which some feared might cause noise complaints if people lived above a redeveloped building.

It’s unclear how much money would be needed to refurbish and reopen the building, although residents said a survey carried out before the pandemic and The Outlaws was shot estimated the figure at about £85,000.

Some residents mentioned rumours that The Outlaws production company fixed up the building as part of the shoot, making it safer than it previously was.

Another resident added: “They were to fix it up and make any areas they were using to make it safe. Insurers wouldn’t allow Christopher Walken into that building if it were a death trap.”

Credit: Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporter