Firmstone responds to officer’s report recommending refusal of planning application
“We are deeply disappointed that after 24 months of comprehensive negotiations, officers are recommending the application for refusal and we’d urge members of the planning committee to support our proposals.
“We believe we have created a balanced, well-designed mixed-use scheme which will not only transform St Catherine’s Place but will accelerate the regeneration of this part of Bedminster. We will invest £50M to create over 200 much-needed homes, overhaul the shopping centre, improve public spaces and connections to the surrounding area and provide a real focus for the local community.
“The shopping centre is very run-down and requires major investment to provide the step-change that’s needed to transform the East Street area, which is known to be struggling. That’s why we’ve got the firm backing of the Bedminster BID, which represents 350 local businesses, who can see the wider impact of what we’re planning.
“Despite the hugely challenging retail environment, we’ve managed to attract strong interest from a whole host of businesses – from the independent Scott Cinemas and Bristol Loaf, to a local food retailer, coffee shop, delicatessen and a well-known gym – who can all see the potential of what we’re proposing. But their interest is dependent on our investment and there’s a real danger they will go elsewhere if we lose momentum.
“We are planning to create homes for a mixed community of people, from first time buyers to couples and families. We have identified 34 homes (17%) for affordable social rent and are in advanced discussions with Bristol City Council and social housing landlords about delivering these.
“We plan to invest £5M to upgrade the shopping centre, create new pedestrian routes to connect better with East Street and the park opposite, provide social spaces for residents including balconies and roof terraces and make major improvements to public areas. Together, these will make St Catherine’s Place a much more attractive and safer place to live and visit – where local people can congregate and socialise – fostering a strong sense of community.
“Our plans, including the density of the new homes, are now in keeping with the Bedminster Green Framework, which has been endorsed by the Council. We’ve spent over two years developing our proposals, listening to feedback from local people and stakeholders and making significant changes. We’ve taken six storeys off the height of the tower and slimmed it to reduce impact on views, losing over 70 homes in the process.
“We have addressed all the major transport issues needed to enable the development of St Catherine’s Place, including gifting land for a Metrobus lane, and have agreed, together with other developers in Bedminster Green, to provide a bus stop in the vicinity. We have committed to future funding contributions to complete the Strategic Transport Assessment and any wider parking arrangements needed for residents.
“Recognising the importance of sustainability, we have put in cycle lanes and cycle storage and the development has been designed to be connected to the Council’s low carbon district heating system.
“We are a Bristol developer with a strong track record of brownfield regeneration, especially in Bedminster. St Catherine’s Place is a particularly difficult site, with major contamination issues and archaeology to address, but the proposals we’ve developed are a potential game-changer for this area of Bedminster.”
Francis Firmstone, director of Firmstone Developments, owners of St Catherine’s Place