Friday, 8 August 2008

Spot the difference

A tide of greenwash is lapping at the gates of the Packers Chocolate Factory site in Easton. After original developers Persimmon were seen off by local opposition, the site was bought by local 'regeneration company' (hmmm) Squarepeg, self-styled saviours of the site. In true Bristol style, words like community and sustainability featured heavily. Seven months on, it's shaping up in a depressingly predictible way.

As Chris Hutt points out, the much hyped 'cycle houses' are little more than conventional three bedroom noddy boxes, complete with integral garage, with added bicycle storage and direct access to the cycle path. Yes, the cycle houses have a built in garage. That's right up there with carbon neutral Land Rovers.

Since Chris's post, architects Acanthus Ferguson Mann have published more detailed plans and drawings. What's striking is how closely the 'cycle houses' (top picture) resemble the nondescript new build housing a stone's throw away on Greenbank Road (bottom picture).

On the sustainability front, the plans are equally unimpressive. One might have expected the developers to go from the the carbon neutral gold standard level 6 (which is due to become mandatory in 2016). In fact, they are 'aiming' for the substantially lower level 4/5. If these are really 'some of the most energy efficient in the UK', then heaven help us.

Perhaps the planners have been focusing on the issues that really matter most, like 'mak[ing] sure parking... can be maximised'.

And as for community consultation, Jenny Gee, who heads Squarepeg's 'consultation team', has taken to ticking people off for daring to express a view without visiting their exhibition (which ran for all of two days).

Needless to say, the Evening Post is printing Squarepeg's press releases verbatim demonstrating its usual critical flair. Never fear, I'm sure we can trust (as ever) in Bristol City Council to do the right thing when it comes to the planning application.


Rowland Dye said...

I'm very concerned about the proposal for a row of twenty or so houses right alongside the Railway Path as part of the Chocolate Factory redevelopment in Greenbank.

1) HEIGHT - The houses appear to be three stories high (plus apex roofs) and will be built right along the edge of the factory land facing the Railway Path. This height will be very intrusive and will dominate the Path. Just imagine cycling or walking along a narrow street lined with three story buildings?

2) LOSS OF GREEN CHARACTER - The present factory buildings are set some way back and the Path presently retains a rural and green atmosphere with some calm & tranquillity. This will be lost if the housing scheme goes ahead and the atmosphere will be distinctly urban instead.

3) EXPOITING THE PATH - nowhere else in the city would a developer be allowed to build right up to the edge of a public park and use it for access. Yet that is what is being proposed here. The new houses will use the Railway Path green verges as their "front gardens and walkways". Is this right?

4) MORE CONFLICT - The plan shows direct connections to their front doors for cyclists from the Path. Sound nice in theory? But the reality is this will lead to more movements, conflict and danger to users of the Path.

5) SAFETY FOR THE PATH - The developers are spinning the value of the houses to improve security on the Path. But in this age that people are glued to their televisions behind closed curtains, this is probably overstated.

5) PR and GREENWASH - The reality is the developers are desperate to make money out of an otherwise useless narrow strip of land between the factory buildings and the edge of their land. By spinning the novelty of the "first cycle-homes" in the UK they are diverting attention away from the drawbacks to the proposal and taking us all for a ride!

Petition sheets available from Pete Taylor, 25 Camelford Road, Greenbank, BRISTOL BS5 6HW Tel: 0117-951-2610

See the plans

Complain to your City Councillor via or

There’s only a month or so when this application goes to the Council in September.

So lets get active now to save the Path from this threat.

Rowland Dye, Easton.

Anonymous said...

Hi everybody, some local residents have now set up a blog with the aim of promoting discussion on this issue.

Martyn Whitelock said...

Rowland - Thanks for providing an excellent synopsis.

People can also make their thoughts and objections known direct to the planners here:

May I briefly mention the photographic competition on the Railway Path; an apolitical event celebrating the environment and our use of this iconic greenway: