Vassall Centre redevelopment would replace 'community asset' with high-density housing, say opponents

December 30 2021
Vassall Centre redevelopment would replace 'community asset' with high-density housing, say opponents

PEOPLE living near the Vassall Centre in Oldbury Court have raised concerns over plans to redevelop the site.

Owner Bristol Charities wants to demolish the existing single-storey 1940s complex, which provides accessible work spaces for businesses, charities and non-profit organisations, and replace it with a variety of two and three-storey homes, with new workspace and community facilities.

The charity – which is carrying out consultations ahead of a formal planning application – says it wants to create a "vibrant new neighbourhood centre for multi-generational living and working".

But people living in nearby Vassall Road, Little Hayes, and Willow Bed Close have formed a group aiming to save the Vassall Centre – and say the plans would "take away a hugely valued community asset, replacing it with a high density residential development".

They said: "The buildings on the site are of historical importance." 

The group said the building provides "unique open access ground floor space and services", has won awards and "shown the way forward in disability provision to the rest of the country". 

Members say the Bristol Charities plans would leave less than 10% of the current amount of ground floor work space available to tenants and have called for ways of saving the current buildings to be explored.

They have also raised concern over the scale of the replacement buildings.

The group said: "Most buildings are proposed to be three-storey, completely out of character with existing neighbouring housing.

"A building of that height will dominate the entire area, blocking light and invading privacy." 

They said the proposals would reduce the on-site parking by over 50%, which would "increase competition for existing street parking by local residents and visitors". 

The group is encouraging people who share their aims to email them at savevassall@gmail.com.

Bristol Charities chief executive officer Anne Anketell said: "Plans and designs are still at an early stage and we had lots of ideas and comments at the first sessions held before Christmas, which we have been reviewing in detail in order to help shape and inform the next stage of our designs.

"There will then be further opportunities for local residents to review and discuss designs before they are submitted to the local planning authority."

She said the new Vassall Centre would be "highly sustainable and accessible" and an independent accessibility consultant was being appointed to work on them.

Frome Vale ward councillor Amal Ali said the centre needed refurbishment and she welcomed the opportunity for new funding and "sorely-needed supported and affordable housing".

But she said that as well as residents, current tenants had raised concerns over space and rent.

Cllr Ali said: "I will be in frequent contact with Bristol Charities, the current tenants, and local residents to ensure all their concerns are taken into account and addressed."

Picture: Bristol Charities' initial plan for the site, with replacement work spaces in yellow and housing in brown, green and blue.