BRISTOL: Hengrove Leisure Park housing approved
City councillors have given the green light to plans that will see South Bristol’s last cinema demolished and replaced with up to 350 new homes.
The scheme will see most of the Hengrove Leisure Park, which includes Cineworld and Buzz Bingo and the huge car park, demolished and replaced by houses and apartment blocks.
Scores of local residents objected to the outline proposal from developer AEW UK Core Property Fund, but a planning committee approved it on Wednesday (September 22), as recommended by officers.
Chief among the concerns raised by residents of Hartcliffe, Hengrove, Knowle West and Bishopsworth in 71 objections was the loss of the cinema and bingo hall.
There were only two comments in support of the scheme, which will see Cineworld, Buzz Bingo, Domino’s Pizza and the former Frankie & Benny’s restaurant demolished and replaced by up to 350 new homes, 30 per cent of which will be affordable.
The outline planning application also provides up to 1,500m2 of space for a range of uses, including a new home for Domino’s.
Left untouched by the plans are the nearby drive-through Costa Coffee and KFC and McDonald’s restaurants, the Premier Inn and Brewers Fayre’s Wessex Flyer pub.
The developers are yet to firm up what homes will be built where on the site, but an early layout shows apartment blocks up to five storeys high along Hengrove Way, with houses of up to three storeys behind.
A planning committee was asked to approve the entry and exit points to the site, as well as the overall principle of development.
Michael Shears from AEW said the developer, which owns the site, planned to submit the detailed plans by the end of the year and start work on the site in June 2022.
He said market changes, sped up by the pandemic, had left the cinema and bingo hall “unviable” and both operators intended to leave the site.
“The proposal is to redevelop an unused brownfield site into a vibrant new neighbourhood, designed to encourage walking and cycling,” Mr Shears said.
But Cllr Sarah Classick, speaking on behalf of the three Liberal Democrat representatives for Hengrove & Whitchurch Park, said: “We acknowledge the need for housing in Bristol. However, with 1,500 homes set to be built on the adjacent site of Hengrove Park, the loss of leisure facilities will have a significant impact on the new community developing in the area.”
Planning permission for 1,450 homes on the former Whitchurch Airfield site was granted in February last year.
Eight of the nine-strong planning committee approved the application. Cllr Andrew Varney, Lib Dem representative for Brislington West, abstained, saying he thought the demolition of the cinema would be a “great loss”.
Labour’s Paul Goggin, who represents Hartcliffe & Withywood, said: “It is unfortunate that South Bristol is losing these leisure facilities but these are commercial forces, they aren’t controlled by the council, so I’ll be supporting the application as it contains so much affordable housing.”
The Hengrove Cineworld has been the only cinema south of the river for many years. When it closes, South Bristol will have no cinema for the first time in more than 100 years.
Words: Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter
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