GRANTED PERMISSION: 268 homes approved despite objections
Aerial View of Romney House, Image: LDRS
Plans for 268 homes, including 55 per cent affordable, at the Romney House site in Lockleaze have been approved despite dozens of objections.
Neighbours, councillors and MP Darren Jones raised concerns about the “overbearing” height of the new houses, along with parking and the impact on Grade II-listed Stoke Park.
But Bristol city councillors granted permission for what will be the first estate created by the local authority’s housing company Goram Homes, which has teamed up with Vistry Partnerships for the development.
Planning officers told the development control committee that while some harm would be caused to nearby properties, this was outweighed by the public benefits, including a new community park forming a wildlife corridor from Stoke Park to Concorde Way, social rent homes for local people and an estimated £30million boost to the local economy.
There were 69 objections, including both Lockleaze ward Green councillors Heather Mack and David Wilcox who said the two-storey houses were “unnecessarily high” at almost two metres taller than normal and would “tower” over nearby homes in Cheswick Village and Hogarth Walk.
In a letter, Bristol North West Labour MP Darren Jones said: “While the development is welcomed and there is support for the building of new homes at the site, the neighbouring community do have concerns about the height of the proposed buildings and the impact that construction will have on green spaces and the environment.
“Residents raise concerns about these new dwellings blocking the light and privacy of pre-existing homes.”
Stoke Gifford parish councillor Andrew Shore said the proposed shortening of the Romney Avenue bus gate could generate general through-traffic and become a “getaway route for criminal activities”.
Cllr James Arrowsmith, South Gloucestershire Lib Dem Cllr for Stoke Park and Cheswick, where six of the homes will be built in the corner of the site that straddles the council boundary, wrote: “Although developers have stated they have listened to residents’ concerns, and some positive changes have been made, residents have felt ignored and even mocked by this submission.”
He said some of the new properties were too close to existing homes.
Sport England objected because of the loss of a playing field, although officers said this issue could not be revisited as it had been dealt with when the outline planning application was approved by the committee two years ago, which established the principle of housing on the land.
City council Labour cabinet member Cllr Don Alexander told members the “amazing development” would be “transformative for Lockleaze”.
An officer told the meeting at City Hall on Wednesday, September 1, that screening would prevent any harmful impact on Stoke Park.
He said: “It’s a big site and we have to make a balanced judgement, and the judgement we have reached is that its relationships with its surroundings will be acceptable overall.
“I am not persuaded that lowering ceiling heights would have any great impact on the amenity enjoyed by existing residents.”
Head of development control Gary Collins said there should be at least 21 metres between neighbouring homes’ windows but that this was only a rule of thumb and that the nearest distance of 18.7 metres was “acceptable in an urban context”.
Committee member Labour Cllr Fabian Breckels said: “It’s an urban setting. It’s normal to have houses back to back.
“The fact we have 55 per cent affordable homes is unheard of.
“We have thousands on our waiting list and if we are to build homes, we need to be using brownfield sites, and this is one.”
Members agreed with officers’ recommendation to grant consent with conditions, including being satisfied with the new land levels when they are finalised, although they were told they could not require the developers to change the buildings’ heights and had to consider the plans as submitted.
The site was the former location of Lockleaze School and then council offices which have been demolished.
There will be a mix of homes from apartments to four-bedroom houses, with 147 of them for social rent and shared ownership.
Cabinet member for housing Cllr Tom Renhard said afterwards: “The development at Romney House is exactly why Bristol City Council set up Goram Homes – to build high-quality homes for Bristol that add value to the area and help us to address the ecological emergency we are facing.”
Goram managing director Stephen Baker said: “It is fantastic news that Goram Homes can now start work on our first homes.”
Words: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter
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