£85m St Christopher's scheme under fire

May 03 2022

MORE than 200 people have submitted comments on the final plans for redevelopment of the former St Christopher’s school site in Westbury. 

The St Christopher’s Property Company consulted residents and made some changes to the proposals before putting forward its full  planning application to Bristol City Council in March for an £85m retirement complex.

But the scheme has failed to win over opponents, who say the plan for 122 homes in four blocks are out of keeping with the area.

The St Christopher’s Action Network (SCAN) and the Westbury Park Community Association (WPCA) have criticised the plans on a number of fronts. These include the height of some of the proposed new buildings and the insufficiency of onsite parking.

Mark Ashford, from SCAN, said: “The strength of feeling is quite overwhelming. This is not just about people living close to the site in Westbury Park. Objections have been submitted from right across Bristol. People clearly feel that building these blocks of flats - up to six storeys high - will ruin the historic Downs skyline forever, will damage our heritage, destroy our wildlife, and cause road safety and parking chaos.”

SCAN noted the developers had increased the number of homes to 122 with one of the four blocks of flats having six floors and had reduced number of on-site parking spaces from 120 to just 65 in their plans when estimates suggested 200 spaces were needed.

These points are echoed by the Westbury Park Community Association (WPCA),  which lists the negative aspects of over-development, overspill parking, increased traffic and a lack of affordable homes locally  in its submission.

The national heritage organisation Historic England said it was concerned that more than 120 housing units on this site would compromise the setting of Grace House, a Grade II listed building. 

In an objection to Bristol City Council’s Planning Department, Inspector of Historic Buildings Stephen Guy said: “This is a high-density scheme that we consider to be harmful to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area.”

The Henleaze Society criticised the number of proposed buildings, their scale, mass and height, citing there were no similar sized buildings in Westbury Park.

The developers say they have consulted with the local community and ‘other stakeholders’ of their plans. In a statement on their website they write: “The site will be one of the first of a new generation of net zero in operation extra care developments, with environmental sustainability and social impact at the heart of the proposals.”

They say the development would include the restoration of the Victorian lodges and the Grade II Listed Grace House building.  The facilities are set to include a café/bistro, activity rooms and a wellness suite including a hydrotherapy pool, gym and exercise rooms with some of these facilities available for locals to use.

Other benefits, the developers say, include new gardens and planting, food growing areas and at least a 10% biodiversity net gain. They make the point the site will not be a giant retirement home but an extra care facility of which there is no other equivalent locally. And developers believe they are offering enough parking spaces.

Comments were due to close on April 27. A date has not yet been set for the application to go before councillors for a decision.