Revised design 'still tries to put quart in a pint pot'
Residents of Royal Albert Rd, Bayswater Ave and The Glen are concerned their views will be impacted by new buildings positioned close to their properties
THE design for the St Christopher's site development is still at the consultation stage but many visitors emerged from the December consultation event with questions.
Basil Demeroutis, managing partner of FORE Partnership, the developer and investor, and Lucinda Mitchell, project director, First Base, the development manager, were asked why there were not simple 3D images at the public exhibition to show the height of the low-rise blocks?
Basil Demeroutis said: “Some of the reasons why there’s no 3D model is because they are expensive and we would really want to do one when we are closer to the final design. We’ve been spending the last few months soliciting genuine feedback and have been working up our designs so that’s why some of the stuff that you will have seen will be a bit necessarily incomplete.
“There was quite a bit of detail shown - obviously we can always do better. There was some criticism about not having the actual height written on the drawings and maybe the sections weren’t through the exact right place. We’ll soon be addressing those points.”
Lucinda Mitchell added: “We will endeavour to show some images around the edge of the site, albeit, they will be blocky. They will be mass, rather than showing the detail of the nature of the stone and brick that we are proposing.”
The size of the scheme has been raised. The original design for 126 units has been reduced to 120, but could it be reduced further in size?
Basil Demeroutis: “With this type of later living property there is so much, in terms of care and also, community space. It’s difficult to make that work without a certain number of people to support it. We’re following the Bristol guidance in terms of density. If we were to sell this on to a homebuilder, they would put double the number of units there.”
Lucinda Mitchell: “We are marginally above what would be considered the absolute minimum by the Council, so there isn’t a massive amount of wriggle room. In planning policy terms, that’s the density you need to be delivering.”
Residents anticipate displaced parking locally as just 65 car parking spaces are allocated for residents, staff and visitors. Lucinda Mitchell explained: “My partners, Amicala, know from experience that the extra-care residents who have cars is much lower. Although residents can move in from age 65, the majority are over 75, and normally something has happened to precipitate that move. When it’s an extra-care facility, the vehicle movements from that site tend to be much lower than when it’s a residential site.”
Reassurance had been given that the access road from Bayswater Avenue would have minor use and wouldn’t have a route through to Westbury Park.
Lucinda Mitchell: “There is an existing route in and we have to maintain that because it is required to reach the sub-station in that corner of the site. We’ve put a small number of cottages along that boundary and the suggestion is to have four car parking spaces there to serve those cottages. The cohort of residents can’t really have their car parking spaces far from their homes.”
Basil Demeroutis added: “There are lots of other positive things that we are still awaiting feedback on as well as the lightning rod issues. We genuinely want this to be open to the community and be of genuine long-term durable benefit to all members of the community, including those most immediate to us. We’ve suggested community uses - a library, common room for events/supporting the local schools/a shop.”
Jeff Bishop, planning adviser to the Westbury Park Community Association, said: “The designs for the old St. Christopher’s site shown at the recent exhibitions had certainly moved on positively from those seen back in September but two serious problems still remain. The designs seem to be about ‘getting a quart into a pint pot’ and, as a result, there are still too many apartment blocks too high (one six storeys) and too close to neighbours' houses. And, still no certainty on whether there will be enough parking spaces to avoid spillage onto surrounding streets.
“Almost as importantly, what was shown on the drawings totally failed to show what people wanted to see – heights (which had to be written on with a pen on the day!), views, parking, etc. So there is still some way to go, and watch this space – we are pressing for two more exhibitions in mid January…and pressing for decent drawings this time!”
SCAN - the St Christopher’s Action Network which is campaigning for sensitive and appropriate development of the site - said while some of the proposals have been changed, there has only been a reduction of five units; from 126 to 121.
“Although we acknowledge the developers have made some changes, the reality is that reducing the number of units by only 4% doesn’t make enough difference. There are still too many blocks that are too high and too dense, and out of keeping with the Downs conservation area. People living nearby still fear the impact on road safety, traffic and parking as well as the loss of too many mature trees.
“The overwhelming response we have had from people since the public consultation started has been negative, about the scale of the development and its consequences for our neighbourhood, particularly parking.
“We encourage everyone to have their say and write in - because your view counts - and we look forward to seeing how developers respond to community concerns.”