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BRISTOL: Zoo carpark housing

BRISTOL: Zoo carpark housing

Image: Bristol City Council

Councillors have approved plans for 62 homes on the site of a car park opposite Bristol Zoo, despite residents’ fears the development will be a “major scar on the landscape”.

Bristol Zoological Society, which owns the West Car Park in College Road, Clifton, said it would submit plans for housing on the car park and the main zoo site when it announced last year it would sell the land and move the zoo into the Wild Place Project in South Gloucestershire.

It promised local councillors those plans would meet the “highest conservation and sustainability standards” and would offer 40 per cent affordable housing.

But the plans that were approved on Wednesday (September 22) include 20 per cent affordable housing and no solar panels, drawing criticism from residents and councillors for failing to be “ambitious” enough to aim for zero carbon emission targets.

However, the main concern of residents – hundreds of whom objected – was with the design of the development, which those who spoke at the meeting described as “hideous”, “oversized” and “awful”.

The 160-space car park lies in the Clifton conservation area and is surrounded on three sides by housing, the meeting heard.

Most of the new homes – 41 – will be in a large apartment block on College Road, and it was this building that was the main focal point of residents’ objections, the planning case officer said.

Another 14, including all 13 affordable homes, will be in a separate block at the Cecil Road entrance.

The remaining seven homes will be in the form of mews houses behind block A.

Securing planning permission will vastly increase the value of the land when the zoo comes to sell it.

Chief executive of the Bristol Zoological Society, Justin Morris, told a Bristol City Council planning committee that the sale of the land was central to securing a “long-term sustainable future” for the society and its mission to save wildlife from extinction.

“As well as providing 62 much-needed, high-quality new homes, the sale of the West car park site will provide a vital contribution to the funds required to make the new Bristol Zoo a reality,” Dr Morris said.

Chris Booy, vice chair of the society’s trustees, said: “Only through the sale of our property assets will we generate the funds necessary to develop a sustainable new Bristol Zoo and continue wildlife conservation for generations to come.”

The meeting heard it would be a “low car” development, with 45 parking spaces for cars and 151 for bicycles, and that all amenities were within walking distance, including the nearest children’s play area.

There is no area for children to play on the site.

Glyn Thompson, who lives in College Road, said: “Everybody recognises the need for more homes but to build an oversized block of flats without any architectural merit in a prominent position in the Clifton conservation area is not the way to solve the problem.

“This is not NIMBYism. The neighbourhood would support a well designed less intensive residential scheme which has architectural merit, sustainability and outdoor space, but this scheme has none of those attributes.

“If you approve this application, you will be responsible for a major scar on the landscape.”

The planning officer who recommended the plans for approval said he found the application “difficult”, partly because of criticisms of the proposals received from Heritage England, the Conservation Advisory Panel, and the council’s own City Design Group.

Objections formed the “vast majority” of 387 comments on the applications, his report said.

Councillors voted five-three to approve the housing scheme on the brownfield site. Cllr Ed Plowden abstained.

Labour councillor for Hartcliffe and Withywood, Paul Goggin said: “All of the city needs to take responsibility for the housing crisis. In my ward we’re building lots of houses, in Hengrove there’s another 1,500 going up, I don’t see why we shouldn’t build some houses for some families on the waiting list in Clifton as well.”

Words: Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter


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