Broadwalk development denied

A planning and control meeting, as to the continuation of the proposed development of the Broadwalk Shopping centre, Knowle was held yesterday in Bristol

Photo by Tim Kent KNPG

Sian, a key member of the Friends of Redcatch Park Group attended the meeting and has provided the following update.

Yesterday, the Area Planning Development Committee voted in accord to refuse the application for Outline Planning Permission for the development of Broadwalk shopping centre in Knowle.

I was at the meeting and made a statement in the public forum. Here’s my summary about the result:

FORP accepted that this was for Outline Planning Permission and subject to an existing approval in terms of its height and mass, although we did note that the previous application was for significantly less residential units (420 v 850).

Our original comments about the application, were made after we conducted a survey about how the community felt about the proposal and purely from the perspective of the effect that a development of this size would have on the park itself.

We didn’t comment on the broader aspects of the proposed development as we were confident that Knowle Neighbourhood Planning Group (KNPG) had the correct experience and expertise for all other comments. We stayed in our lane and concentrated on the park and let them do their job of looking at the bigger picture in terms of planning regulations and the wider implications for the whole area. We knew and supported the basic premise of their argument; that the development was too high and too dense for Knowle.

How do I feel about the result?:

Given that the planning officer (Peter Westbury) had made a recommendation to approve the application, had I not been at the Planning Control Committee meeting, I would’ve been very surprised at the result. But because I was there for the whole process, I witnessed and felt the tide turn in the room. It was hard for us all to keep quiet when during the debate, the committee asked questions of the Planning Officer. They really did hold his feet to the fire. But there was a penny-drop moment when Cllr Philippa Hulme asked again what was the difference between applying for Outline Planning Permission and standard Planning Permission. After having tried to explain this point several times already to Cllr John Geater and Cllr Andrew Varney, the Planning Officer finally got the message across that a pre-application is an agreement on the principle of a development and that the principle was for up to 850 dwellings and 12 storey buildings. 

Even though Peter Westbury kept insisting the real detail would have to be agreed in the reserved matters stage, this point, apparently no longer mattered to the councillors; they were told they were voting on the principle, and not one of them could therefore support it. The dominoes then just fell one after the other.

Everyone was in agreement with the basic premise; this development was just too high and too dense. It was a unanimous decision.

Like the Residents Against the Mast campaign, it was another great example of the might of common sense and the power of the Knowle community to come together and fight for what they believe is right.

I was very proud of my community.

What did I think of the public forum statements?:

These undoubtedly also impacted on the result, the passion of the speakers against this proposal was palpable and the message was very clear and well-articulated. The voices for the development were drowned out by this passion and it was hard to disagree when the bare facts were laid out in front of the committee.

Helen Evans’s from KNPG made a stand out statement, when she pointed out that the proposed residential density of the development at 428 was 356% higher that the Council’s own policy guidelines of 120.

Laura Chapman, who led KNPG, made a very impassioned statement which, although she didn’t get time to finish, really demonstrated her commitment to the cause.

Am I glad about the result?:
I’m very happy this was the right result for Knowle and the park. We all want a new development. But it cannot be development at any cost. It has to be the right development.

The decisions made today, echo for decades to come. Today, I believe the committee got it right.

But what happens next?:

We really need a new development for the area. No one wants a derelict site. Even the most ardent of the anti-development crowd agrees with that. Broadwalk is a relic, a perfect example of a 70s shopping centre, ahead of its time then, but no longer fit for purpose. It isn’t the developers’ fault this centre is dying, it was happening long before they came on the scene. The Broadwalks of the world are dead. Retail has changed, because society has changed. We just don’t shop like that anymore. 

I truly hope that the developers can still see the potential in Knowle to become a destination in South Bristol. I hope that they will go away, regroup and come back with a new plan that we can all rally behind. That’s what we want; a development that reflects the needs and harnesses the strengths of a community like this.

What do I say to the developers?:

Come back guys, we’re worth it and this community can collaborate with you to envisage something that works for us and still make you lots of money.

So what does this decision mean for FORP?:

We’re working very hard for the park and that work doesn’t stop just because this development isn’t going ahead. We’ve got lots to do. The park needs improvements for now and the future and we’re here to fight for them.

Content By Sian ET

photos By FORP