Charity says Vassall Centre redevelopment plans are accessible and inclusive

May 30 2022
Charity says Vassall Centre redevelopment plans are accessible and inclusive

THE charity which owns the Vassall Centre in Oldbury Court has unveiled its vision of how the site could look in five years' time, if a major redevelopment goes ahead.

New pictures and details of more than 80 homes, workplaces and a "landscaped heart" for the middle of the new neighbourhood have been published by Bristol Charities, as it asks for people's comments on the scheme before making a formal planning application.

Consultation meetings have been held and an exhibition, which is open to the public, runs at the centre in Gill Avenue until June 6.

People are also being encouraged to go online or drop in to the Vassall Centre reception to pick up copies of the consultation.

Bristol Charities first announced plans to demolish the existing Vassall Centre buildings – put up during the Second World War as a military hospital – and redevelop the site late last year.

It describes the proposed development as "an accessible, inclusive, new neighbourhood centre for multi-generational living and working, with facilities for the wider community".

People living nearby raised concerns over the density of the buildings, which they said could "dominate" the area and block sunlight from neighbouring homes, as well as the loss of on-site parking and ground-floor space for the organisations which currently use the centre, many of which have employees and clients with disabilities.

Bristol Charities says it has taken these comments into account in its updated designs, including moving buildings away from boundaries to preserve sunlight for neighbours and ensuring the new buildings are more accessible than the current site.

The key features of the project are:

*40 one-bed and two-bed flats for older people, to be let by Bristol Charities at affordable rents.

*41 affordable homes for rent or shared ownership: a mixture of two and three-bed houses with gardens, and one and two-bed apartments with balconies, operated by housing association Brighter Places. 

*A nursery connected to the sheltered flat development, "to encourage social interaction between different generations".  

*A café and 'gateway building' with bookable community spaces.

*Accessible workspace hub for existing Vassall Centre and new tenants.

*A landscaped central "heart", with outdoor seating and recreational space to "encourage interaction between everyone using the centre".

Announcing the latest plans, Bristol Charities said: "The plans are designed to encourage people of different ages and social backgrounds to come together to create an integrated, balanced community."

If the plans are approved, work on the site would take place in two phases, with the existing buildings on the west of the site, next to Vassall Road, demolished next year to build the hub, cafe, gateway, nursery and housing for older people.

Phase one is expected to take two years to complete, after which the tenant charities would move into the new hub.

Computer image of how the redeveloped site could look from Gill Avenue

The eastern half of the site, next to Willow Bed Close, would then be flattened to make way for the affordable housing in phase two of the development, with the intention of the entire project being finished by 2027.

Two consultation sessions were held in mid-May for existing Vassall Centre tenants and members of the public, and attended by around 30 people. Others have dropped to the Vassall Centre to look at the consultation displays.

At one of the consultations Bristol Charities chief executive Julian Mines said every organisation currently based on the site would be able to stay and have a place in the new hub if they wanted it, adding: "We would love everybody to stay."

He said the prime aim of the new hub was to ensure it was as accessible as possible, and that being on three floors would be no bar to this, with lifts and other features similar to those found in modern hospitals making access better than the existing Vassall Centre buildings, many of which have steps and need ramps to make them accessible.

Meetings with current tenants and advice from a specialist accessibility consultant have led to the inclusion of features such as a wide central corridor to allow wheelchairs to pass and improved visibility with glazed ‘shop fronts’ for hub tenants.

Mr Mines added that the number of new homes proposed for the site was lower than the number allowed under planning guidelines, which meant that the finished neighbourhood would be much less crowded than a commercial housing development.

He said: "We have listened carefully and our revised approach responds to the views and concerns of tenants and the local community, providing much more detail about what the proposed development will look like and how the different elements will work together.

"The redevelopment of the Vassall Centre provides an important opportunity to retain and improve on the existing services, whilst making more effective use of the site for tenants, people with disabilities, older people and families in need of affordable housing, and local residents."

The latest plans include separate parking for the affordable housing, gateway building and to the rear of the hub building.

The affordable housing plans include a play area, 'community growing space' and other areas with a diverse range of plants, with more greenery and wildlife spaces planned around the site.

The aim is for the new buildings to be sustainable, with high standards of insulation and use of renewable energy such as solar panels.

One of the concerns raised was the loss of buildings which residents said were of historical importance.

Bristol Charities insists the existing buildings "are at the end of their practical life-span and have very poor environmental performance".

It says it wants to "commemorate and celebrate" the centre’s legacy with an exhibition on its history – and could re-use materials from demolished buildings to make public art or raised beds in the new landscaped area.

The current consultation runs until June 6 at the centre and on the vassallcentre.org.uk website.

People can request more information by calling 0117 977 2002 or emailing info@abc-pr.co.uk.

A formal planning application is likely to be made later in June or July.

Top picture: Computer image of how the 'landscaped heart' of the development, by the hub, cafe and nursery, could look