Neighbourhood plan conflict sinks 1,500-home Bristol regeneration scheme

Bristol City Council members have rejected the authority's own 1,500-home planning application for the city's largest regeneration scheme because the proposal does not comply with a recently adopted neighbourhood plan.

An artist's impression of plans for the Hengrove Park regeneration scheme
An artist's impression of plans for the Hengrove Park regeneration scheme

Hengrove Park is described in Bristol City Council's 2011 local plan as "the largest regeneration site within the city of Bristol" and is allocated for a "major mixed-use development". 

In June 2018, the council submitted an outline application for a mixed-use development of up to 1,500 homes covering a 49-hectare site. It would include 4,515 square metres of office space, a 4,500 square metre college campus, a 790 square metre community building, 2,440 square metres of flexible commercial space, and a 19 hectare park.

Bristol planning officers recommended that the plans should be approved, advising that the development would contribute to the council’s core strategy target of providing 8,000 new homes in south Bristol, support the economy, and "enable a good quality park to be created".

Officers noted several departures from the Hengrove and Whitchurch Neighbourhood Plan, which covers an area including Hengrove Park, and passed a local referendum on 14 February.

These included a proposed density of 59 dwellings per hectare (dph), compared to the neighbourhood plan target of 70 dph, the size of the proposed park, and a lack of community facilities.

Councillors were advised that the amount and density of housing was based on "a thorough analysis of the site’s capacity" and "it is not therefore considered that an objection could be substantiated on the grounds of non-compliance with the neighbourhood plan".

However, Conservative committee member Chris Windows proposed a motion that councillors "vote against this [development] on the basis that it’s not compliant with the neighbourhood plan to which we must give sufficient weight".

The motion was seconded by Liberal Democrat committee member Mark Wright who said: "The low density leads to a park that is not big enough, it leads to the loss of category A trees, it leads to a lack of employment space and designated services."

Labour committee member Olly Mead added: "I think it also isn’t a sustainable development. I don’t think it’s long term sustainable in keeping with the ethos of the National Planning Policy Framework, particularly because it is so car-dependent."

Members of the planning committee voted eight to three in favour of carrying the motion and rejecting the planning application.

A Bristol City Council spokesman said: "We are very disappointed that this application has been turned down. A lot of hard work has gone into this proposal over the last two years, as building quality housing, especially in the south of the city, is a key priority.

"We will now consider our next steps, but we remain committed to the development of Hengrove Park."

The Hengrove Park project is the second Bristol regeneration scheme to suffer a major blow in recent months, after plans for a city centre arena were scrapped last year.

In July last year, Bristol councillors voted to approve a Bristol University campus of up to 1,500 flats, despite concerns raised by Historic England and the Environment Agency.

In October, neighbouring South Gloucestershire approved plans for 1,290 homes to the north of the city.

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