Broadwalk Shopping Centre to be knocked down after 'devastating' Bristol City Council U-turn

Broadwalk Shopping Centre is in Knowle, south Bristol Credit: Google

A shopping centre in south Bristol will be knocked down and replaced with 850 homes after councillors made a shock U-turn.

Just a month ago, councillors voted to refuse permission to demolish the Broadwalk Shopping Centre in Knowle, but they have now changed their minds.

Developers want to demolish the shopping centre and build a huge new mixed-use scheme on the Wells Road, known as Redcatch Quarter.

Some buildings could reach 12 storeys tall, and the development would include cinema and theatre community space and a dentist.

The Bristol City Council planning committee refused permission in May after concerns about the lack of affordable housing and the high number of homes crammed into the dense site.

But the same committee has now voted to grant permission.

This has angered campaigners who say the U-turn is an "utter subversion of democracy."

Lauren Chapman told ITV West Country: "Needless to say that my neighbours and I are absolutely devastated. But more than that, we are also furious at this total and utter subversion of democracy. 

"Had we known there was any real risk of the decision being overturned, the community would have been there in our droves once again. 

"The community have been sidelined, and a democratic decision has been trampled over for reasons that are not yet clear, but which do appear deeply undemocratic."

Artist's impressions of a proposed new development. Credit: Redcatch Quarter

The committee met last night (5 July), initially to ratify their previous refusal. But councillors heard from the developers that they plan to increase the amount of affordable housing.

Jonathan Lambert, from Savills, said: “The developer has committed to working with the council to secure a grant from Homes England to increase the [number] of affordable homes.”

The committee voted unanimously to refuse permission on 31 May, due to concerns about how dense and tall the development would be.

Other concerns included the many homes that would only have windows and daylight on one side, known as ‘single aspect’, as well as that only 80 homes that would be classed as ‘affordable housing’ — less than 10%.

However, the developers had since said that more affordable homes could be included.

They would be paid for by a grant from Homes England, the government developer, as well as housing associations.

These extra affordable homes would be “likely, but not guaranteed”, according to council planning officers.

Local residents protesting earlier this year about the proposed development. Credit: BPM Media

Conservative Councillor Richard Eddy, chair of the committee, said: “St Catherine’s Parade was recently dubbed by the tabloid media as the saddest shopping parade in Britain. My great fear was that actually Broadwalk would soon become the same.

“This mixed-use scheme is a clear opportunity to give certainty and provide the regeneration of the shopping centre with £200 million of investment.

"Plus we’re talking over 500 jobs, which is no mean feat. If we’re not successful at appeal, what would be the cost? It could be quite considerable on the planning budget here in Bristol.

“The almost 10% minimum offered by the applicant is lower than we would expect, but in view of the circumstances and the opportunities here, I think it’s worthwhile.

"And we’ve heard that three housing associations would work with the applicant to augment that further.”

Labour Cllr Philippa Hulme, added: “We think the planning balance has shifted more in favour, particularly taking into account the extant consent and that space standards are met.

"The living conditions would be acceptable even though we wish the homes could be developed with less density and fewer homes with single aspect.

“But the nature of this site would make that very difficult. Many businesses in the area are desperate to have an improved site there to regenerate the area.

"Obviously the 9.8% is not ideal and we really hope that the applicant would work very hard to increase the proportion greatly.”

Some buildings could reach 12 storeys tall. Credit: Redcatch Quarter

Not all councillors on the committee were in favour of approving the plans.

Labour and the Conservatives appeared to change their mind, while Greens and the Liberal Democrat councillor on the committee said they would still prefer to refuse permission for the plans.

Green Cllr Fi Hance said: “I’m bewildered. This was a unanimous decision we all came to at the last meeting. Nothing has changed with this application that I’m aware of.

"Our refusal was based on the over-density of the site, based on Bristol City Council planning policy. That hasn’t changed.

“My heart goes out not only to the people living around this site, but also those living within it.

"Because the quality of housing is not particularly high, it’s very limited, it’s a lot of single-aspect housing and it’s also quite small. I’m astounded today, I was not expecting this.”

Voting in favour of granting permission were Conservative Cllr Richard Eddy, and Labour Cllrs Farah Hussain, Philippa Hulme and Chris Jackson. Voting against were Greens Ed Plowden, Tom Hathway, Fi Hance; and Liberal Democrat Andrew Varney. Conservative John Geater abstained.

As the vote was tied, Cllr Eddy used his casting vote as chair in favour.

Credit: Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporter