Vassall Centre redevelopment plans approved

PLANS to demolish the Vassall Centre in Oldbury Court and replace it with a new community hub and 90 homes have been approved.

Bristol City Council’s development control committee voted unanimously to grant permission after being told that the scheme’s positives “far outweighed” the negatives.

A total of 91 objections were received, with concerns raised including the scale of the proposed three-storey buildings, loss of privacy, parking and a lack of public transport after buses through the area were axed.

But councillors have given the go-ahead to site owner Bristol Charities’ plans for the first phase of the project, after agreeing that they would be a great improvement on the current Second World War-era buildings, which provide affordable and accessible working areas, a conference centre and café for disability charities and non-profit organisations.

The decision was originally due to be made at a meeting in April but was deferred until May 31 after opponents including the Vassall Centre Neighbours group called on committee members to visit the site in Gill Avenue before deciding its future.

Objections to the plans, from residents and some centre users, also included concerns about overdevelopment, new buildings overlooking and overshadowing neighbouring homes, as well as increased traffic, noise and pollution.

The councillors were told the current centre was outdated, having been built in 1945 as a military hospital.

The plans are split into two phases, with consent now granted for the first comprising 40 apartments for older people and five for people with learning difficulties, new office space for charities that currently use the centre, a community centre, nursery and cafe.

A second later phase involves 41 new affordable homes for families.

Committee chairman Richard Eddy (Con, Bishopsworth) said: “Everybody has to accept that we are talking of an adapted 1940s building which isn’t environmentally, or practically, friendly.

“Bristol Charities should be congratulated for coming forward with an imaginative scheme, which will provide the community uses for charities and not-for-profit organisations.

“Because they are phasing the scheme, no one will be evicted – they can carry on and be relocated in due course – and it will provide affordable social housing, so that has to be positive.

“As we’ve heard from the neighbours, there are genuine concerns.

“I am reassured that the impact of any overshadowing will be exceedingly minor.

“Overall this is a scheme which demands our support, but clearly the (travel and transport) conditions need to be followed through to ensure the community is safeguarded.”

Andrew Varney (Lib Dem, Brislington West) said: “I have a great deal of sympathy for the neighbours.

“When you live in a community for a long time, big change is often difficult to accept, but a three-storey development in an urban context is not unacceptable.

“It is a brownfield site, a sustainable location, it’s replacing outdated buildings, improving community facilities and providing much-needed elderly and specialist accommodation.

“In many ways it is an exemplary development.”

Tom Hathway (Green, Clifton Down) said: “There is a lot to like about this application.

“The fantastic positives far outweigh the limited impact.”

How Bristol Charities says the square and hub building could look

Chris Jackson (Lab, Filwood) said: “It’s a much-needed improvement in the area.

“There will be some disruption with the building of it and there will be some people who won’t be happy at the end of it but overall it’s a really good development.”

He said he shared concerns about parking and buses, so sorting that out through conditions and developer financial contributions would be “greatly appreciated by residents”.

Afterwards Bristol Charities chief executive Julian Mines said there would now be a period of “detailed negotiations” with council planning officers over conditions attached to the formal approval of planning permission, amendments and arrangements for moving tenants into temporary work spaces, before any work could start.

He said: “A significant part of the redevelopment is to provide a range of community spaces and greatly improved office and meeting facilities for voluntary and third-sector organisations, including our existing tenants.

“We would like to thank all the tenants and local residents for your engagement with the formal consultation process and we are keen to explore ways for you to remain engaged.

“Whilst I appreciate this was not the outcome that everyone would have wanted, we are keen to keep people informed about and involved in managing the next stages in the process. 

“Please be assured that we will try and keep you up to date with any developments as they are happening and are keen to collaborate through the next stages of the development.

“In the meantime, the work of the Vassall Centre continues with an exciting range of services, activities and events being developed with and for the community.”

Mr Mines said anyone with queries or concerns could email him at