Council to hand land to community for new Hillfields affordable homes

January 29 2021
Council to hand land to community for new Hillfields affordable homes

A PROJECT to build "properly affordable and good quality homes" for Hillfields residents has taken a giant leap forward.

Bristol City Council has agreed to hand over land to the Hillfields Family & Community Trust, to create new homes for social rent.

The land, next to the trust's Hillfields Community Hub, off Thicket Avenue, is currently blighted by fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour.

But HFCT aims to transform it, building ten one- and two-bedroom homes, which will be owned by the trust.

The scheme, would provide the opportunity for young people to rent a starter home or for people whose children have left home to move somewhere smaller, while staying in the area, where most existing homes are larger 3 and 4-bedroom houses.

It will also provide the trust with an ongoing income to support community activities and services.

In mid-January the trust, which has been working on the project since 2019, received the news that the city council had approved its bid for the land, which it can now buy for a token £1.

Trust community housing project manager Leah Eatwell said: "Through delivering this project we envision a strong, vibrant and healthy community created by providing housing, hope and opportunity.

"The land, which is currently disused, other than for anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping, is an eyesore not only for the Hub, but also for local residents who either back onto the site, or pass through to access the park.

"This is a great opportunity, which means we will be able to build properly affordable and good quality homes for local Hillfields residents who need them.

"These homes will be built, owned and managed by HFCT as community assets, which means that all benefits of the housing, financial and otherwise, will be given back to the local community in the form of wider social value.

"We plan that all income generated though the development will enable HFCT to extend and expand the services it currently offers at the Hub, including, at the moment, a food club and essential youth services."

The trust has aimed to ensure the community is involved with the design, and staged a competition to choose the architects last year.

Although the first lockdown meant that the event had to be moved online, more than 100 people took part, choosing and voted for Bristol-based Agile Design, which has 20 years' experience of similar schemes, to work with the trust.


The site of the new homes relative to the Hillfields Community Hub, Hillfields Park, Thicket Avenue and Gorse Hill

Eleanor Lasota, of Agile, said: "Hillfields Community Homes shall be an example of a new, improved approach to housing development, creating thriving places through community collaboration, which better suit the neighbourhood’s needs and aspirations.
She said the scheme would create "a welcoming space for all families and neighbours to enjoy," adding: "The scheme shall connect with the park and Community Hub. to provide a place which nurtures and supports local residents.

"The Hillfields design proposals will balance affordability, quality and sustainability to provide a place which is loved by the community for many generations to come."
The trust will now start work with Agile on a planning application for the project.

Residents are once again being invited to have their say on the plans, by taking part in a survey on the housing page of the website.

Everyone who takes part in the survey will be entered in a free prize draw, to win a meal at local restaurants the Olive Tree and Guru J’s.

The estimated £1.7 million cost would come through Bristol's City Funds finance scheme for community projects.

Hillfields ward councillor Craig Cheney, who is a member of the city council's ruling Labour cabinet and a trustee of HFCT, said: "Working together with the community, Hillfields Family & Community Trust have created a really exciting prospect for the future of the area, taking a part of Hillfields which is currently often used for fly-tipping and other anti-social behaviour, and bringing forward a plan to create homes for local residents and families.

"I’m really excited and proud to have worked with such an excellent, dedicated team of Hillfields residents to create such a great plan for this troubled spot within our community. It’s brilliant to hear good news in these difficult times."

Main picture: Housing project manager Leah Eatwell (right), with the letter confirming the handover, and (from left), HFCT chair Zoe Fry, treasurer Tina Hunt and trustee Craig Cheney at the site where the new homes will be built. Picture: Baz Warren.