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Whose Stokes Croft? The struggle for the city centre?

Credit: Niyaz Saghari

300 met to discuss and act on corporate gentrification of Stokes Croft in the face of developers plans.

Around 300  people turned out to City Road Baptist Church on Tuesday night to a community meeting billed as ‘No Gates in Stokes Croft! An Alternative to Corporate Gentrification?

The the focus of the meeting was the long running and controversial redevelopment of the Carriageworks and Westmoreland House, in Stokes Croft, (pictured below) by London based developers Fifth Capital.

Organised by PRSC and co-hosted by The Bristol Cable, the meeting kicked off with a lecture from Anna Minton, renowned academic and journalist, exploring the backdrop of increasing takeover of public space by corporate developers in Britain’s cities and around the world.

In the case of the Carriageworks plan, the main issues are the severe lack of affordable housing units and the consequences of a large development of luxury flats in a low or mixed income area. Mrs Minton and campaigners claim the development will lead to dramatically increasing rents in surrounding areas, and a fateful next step in the gentrification and corporate control of an area that is styled as alternative and inclusive.

Of a total 118 units, just  7% are ‘affordable’, meaning just 20% less than market rates. This is despite Bristol City Council’s aims of having 30-40% affordable units per development. This, plus the prospect of a tightly regulated ‘gated’ community seems to give these concerns legitimacy.

Fifth Capital for their part seems to be doing little to allay these fears. Despite multiple meetings with the Carriageworks Action Group, Fifth Capital is declining to provide answers to many questions concerning residents. These include the final cost of the units,  and what companies will occupy the commercial units on the ground floor, presenting the possibility of corporates moving in and squeezing out the area’s much celebrated independent and local streak.

A key source of ire seems to be the fact that Fifth Capital are totally ignoring the ‘Community Vision’, a comprehensive document arising out of a 2011 consultation with over 1,600 people regarding the development.

One alternative to Fifth Capital preferred by many present is for Knightstone, a social housing company, to take up the redevelopment of the long derelict building. Knightstone had been the Council’s designated preferred partner but this process was stalled by Fifth Capital’s intervention.

With the Church hall packed out and many different views present, the discussion was at times erratic. Nonetheless there seemed to be an overall desire to ensure that a broad range of community voices are actually heard on this issue, as was raised by several people.

Suggested actions  to take were to submit a council planning objection online at the soonest possible date, write to your local councillor and MP, direct action and to attend an organising meeting of a new campaign group in the PRSC New building on Hilgrove Street 9th March, 6.30pm.

Key dates:

Submit planning objections online: ASAP

Organising meeting: 9th March, 6.30 pm, PRSC New Building

Final planning decision by Council: 8th April


Find out more about the plans at the Carriageworks Action Group and a backdrop to the story by The Bristol Cable.


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