Thumbs Up for Southmead: Result Boosts Community’s Morale in Lockdown

Southmead Residents are over the moon today because their proposal for one hundred and twenty new homes has been given the green light.  Residents cheered as they watched, online, Bristol City Council’s virtual planning committee give the go ahead for one of the largest community led housing projects in the country.  The project had been led by Southmead Residents with community organisation Southmead Development Trust. The Trust’s CEO Amy Kinnear said: “Our residents had a vision to transform the centre of Southmead and we have all worked so hard on this for the last six years. It’s amazing to receive such good news during such a difficult time in lock-down – we’ve now all got something brilliant to look forward to”.

The idea to regenerate the centre of Southmead was begun by residents during a community-wide survey in 2014. Residents asked for action to address the critical need for affordable new housing and to breathe new life into Southmead’s centre. In 2015 a volunteer group of residents began the process. Group member Deana Perry has lived in Southmead all her life and through the estate’s different phases:
“Our families arrived in the 1930s when the shiny new estate was built with its spacious houses and gardens. There has always been a great sense of family life in Southmead but we need to accommodate our changing needs. Some residents are old and want smaller homes, some families are cramped and want bigger homes, and we have more young single residents now who need their own place. The thing everyone’s got in common is that they want to stay in the community, but just need a more suitable home for the way they live”.

Mike Murch is Chair of the project and was born in the oldest part of Southmead in the 1930s: “My family lived on Southmead Road which was a semi-rural area of Victorian houses and cottages. In 1938 we moved to one of the new council houses being built on the estate and I grew up during the war years as part of a flourishing community with a huge sense of pride and place. As the years have passed by Southmead has changed and a few of our areas have been left behind. At the moment Glencoyne Square is a bit neglected, under used and has attracted anti-social behaviour. The project will see the Square thrive and for local businesses around it to benefit as a result”.

Quality homes, sustainable construction and high quality design will transform the centre of Southmead on Glencoyne Square, which will attract investment and new employment opportunities to the area. Eighty five per cent of the new homes will be affordable. It is anticipated that there will be a new health centre, which will move from outdated accommodation nearby, and a new library with longer opening hours. There will be high quality open space with seating, trees, and community areas.

Bristol City Council’s Infrastructure team have been exploring and planning how the surrounding area would facilitate and support the new homes. Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “We have a huge local demand for a diverse mix of homes so I am delighted that the much needed regeneration for Southmead has taken another step forward with a plan that has the local community at its heart. This project will help us to meet our ambition to deliver new, affordable homes in Bristol.”

The planning stages of the project received £176,000 of funding from government housing agency Homes England and £100,000 from Power to Change. More than forty community events and four hundred individual conversations were held to identify the priorities and ideas of Southmead residents. Builders EG Carter have enabled the plans and have worked to support the scheme.

The project has already received recognition for its excellent standard of community involvement. The working group, with architects Nash partnership, received a ‘Highly Commended’ at the Royal Town Planning Institute Awards in January. The Judges stated that, “the nature and degree of community involvement were particularly impressive”.

The scheme does not involve private developers. With a proven track record in delivering quality and affordable community led housing, United Communities and Yarlington Homes are key partners in the project.  Stephen Lodge, Executive Director of Development and Strategic Asset Management at Yarlington said:
“Southmead is a pioneering example of how people can have a real influence and collective voice on how they want their community to look. We’re thrilled that the plans can now go ahead and we’re looking forward to creating the community’s vision”.
Anna Klimczak, Interim CEO at United Communities said: “We’re delighted by the decision today and the benefits this development will bring to the Southmead Community. Working with and supporting communities is at the heart of what we do and we can’t wait to see this project, and the Southmead Community’s hard work come to pass!”

The next steps are for contracts to be signed between partners and for work to get started early next year. Deana Perry believes it’s the most significant step the community have made in more than fifty years:
“Our families should be able to stay here if they want to, and we all deserve something new. A boost at the heart of our community is just what we need to take the place we love in to the future and hearing we can go forward now, after such an uncertain few months is just wonderful. We have worked tirelessly on this project, we have listened and talked and listened and talked and discussed every aspect right down to the colour of the brickwork. We’re all delighted with the result and can’t wait to get going as soon as we can!”