DISASTROUS FLOODS: Avonmouth hotel climate
Councillors spooked by ‘disastrous floods’ in Germany have voted down plans for a new hotel in Avonmouth.
More than 170 people died after parts of the Western European country received more than two months of rain over two days in July, shocking scientists who said it exceeded their worst expectations about climate change.
The disaster was cited by Bristol City councillors who voted against approving plans to build a new 125-bed hotel on the Avonmouth flood plain, saying it was “the last thing we should be doing” in a climate emergency.
But they decided to defer a final decision on whether to refuse planning consent for the proposals, which include shops and several large industrial and distribution warehouses.
They have asked officers to come back with more information about flooding and transport issues and to craft reasons for refusal that could withstand a possible appeal from the developer, St Modwen Developments.
St Modwen applied for full planning permission for a four-storey hotel and shops, and outline planning consent for warehousing and other commercial buildings, on a large slice of the Avonmouth levels near Bristol Port.
The 42ha of mainly flat grassland, once occupied by zinc smelting works, is bordered by Avonmouth Way, Kings Weston Lane and the St Modwen business park.
It has a “high flood risk”, is criss-crossed by wildlife corridors, and is a designated Site of Nature Conservation Interest – but it also lies in the Avonmouth-Severnside Enterprise Zone.
Officers did express a number of concerns about the plans, including the impact on traffic, but they concluded the advantages of the scheme were enough to override them.
“This proposal represents significant investment in employment opportunities in the area, and overall it is considered that the benefits of granting planning permission would outweigh the areas of concern,” they wrote in their report to the committee meeting on July 21.
“Flood risk has been addressed, and the Environment Agency has raised no objections to the application.”
Officers said as well as several flood prevention measures planned by the developer, work on a “huge” flood defence scheme for Avonmouth and Severnside was due to begin shortly after it was approved last year.
Green councillor Fi Hance was among four councillors who were reasonably happy with the proposals and narrowly lost the vote to approve them.
“I’m inclined to trust the Environment Agency on this one,” she said. “They set a fairly high bar and…they do know their stuff.
“I’d much rather there was warehousing and light industrial built there than domestic housing if there is a risk of flooding, personally,” she added.
But those in favour of the scheme were blocked by five councillors who voted against the granting of planning consent.
Labour councillor Fabian Breckels said he had “serious reservations” about building on a flood plain when climate change was producing “disastrous floods on the continent”.
“I just can’t go along with it,” he said. “I would be much happier if the proposed flood defences for the Severn were in place and we could quantify the impact that would have on this land.”
Green councillor Ani-Stafford Townsend, who chaired the planning committee, agreed. “In a climate emergency, the last thing we should be doing is…building on a flood plain,” she said. “It certainly doesn’t fit with our commitment as a council to tackling the climate emergency.
“I have friends in Germany who’ve actually lost their homes last week. And I think we often think that it wouldn’t happen to us here, but Germany should be the demonstration that it can happen to us.”
The meeting heard the floor of the hotel on Avonmouth Way would be about half a metre above the expected maximum flood level and a protective bund would sit in front of the building.
The details of an evacuation plan for guests were still being ironed out, members heard.
Officers said they were “very concerned” about extra traffic from the development clogging up roads to the east, and particularly about the safety of two accident hotspots in Lawrence Weston – Long Cross roundabout and the notorious junction of Kingsweston Lane with Kingsweston Road.
But the developer has agreed to provide a total of £2.8million toward transport improvements, including £150,000 towards work to address the risks in Lawrence Weston.
It has also promised to pay a £952,000 biodiversity off-set fee and to plant 126 trees and 939 new native woodland plants to make up for the removal of 169 trees.
Officers also expressed concerns about the possible stench from the Avonmouth Sewage Works, 200m away, and recommended that odour filters be installed in the ventilation systems of the hotel and other buildings.
They said the land was not designated for industrial use under the current local plan for Bristol but was likely to be in the next version of the plan due next year.
The committee narrowly voted against approving the application, with four in favour of giving it the green light versus five against.
They went on to vote six to two to defer their final decision. One councillor abstained from the vote on deferral.
Words: Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter
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