There’s a map of Lockleaze stuck to the window of The Hub on Gainsborough Square, showing 24 sites earmarked for development. In the next ten years, some 1,500 new houses could be built in the area. Many will come far sooner: 20 of the 24 sites are in the planning process.
Lockleaze in north Bristol has been a safe Labour seat since 2013, but current councillors Estella Tincknell and Gill Kirk are both standing down. Labour’s new candidates have only been selected recently after infighting between local and regional party branches, undoubtedly affecting the campaign to keep the seat. Nine candidates from six parties will contest Lockleaze on 6 May; all have different views for how housing will shape the future of the area.
According to the Lockleaze Community Plan 2019-2024, created by Lockleaze Neighbourhood Trust (LTN), almost one in three Lockleaze residents live in social housing. Demand in the area is incredibly high: in 2017, 800 people applied to live in a single United Communities property.
Lockleaze estate’s post-war houses – once coveted for their indoor bathrooms and generous gardens – now show their age. “Inefficient and costly,” said locals surveyed for the community plan. More than half of residents said energy bills “sometimes cause them financial strain”.
Even Lockleaze’s relatively new social housing is letting down some residents: during the 2020 lockdowns, people living in flats above The Hub were overrun by rats.
Social and affordable housing features in planned developments, including Muller Road’s Brunel Ford site, and the derelict Blue Boy pub. Around half of the 185 dwellings being built on Bonnington Walk will be social rental properties, or made affordable to buy through shared ownership; all 49 houses off Shaldon Road will be shared ownership.
LNT themselves have submitted an application to build 19 affordable houses, designed in consultation with the local community. At least half will be offered to local residents, and LNT hopes it will pave the way for future community-led housing.
Losing green spaces and community buildings
The bare brown earth of the Bonnington development is visible from Constable Road, where the Concorde Way cycling and walking path is currently blocked off. Cleared of vegetation for building work to begin, it could be finished by the end of this year.
Maria (not her real name), who has lived in Lockleaze for five years, can see the development from her home. She got involved with the planning consultation, knocking on doors to encourage people to comment. “But people thought, ‘what’s the point, because it’s already been decided?’ I think that’s true, sadly.”
Worried about the speed of the development, loss of wildlife and extra local traffic, Maria describes the experience as “undemocratic”. It made her feel disempowered and frustrated: “The biggest thing is that people feel the council doesn’t really care. They do what they want.”
What does she want from future councillors? “To listen to local residents, and be open about developments, and work together on a unified vision for the community. Basically, be on our side.”
On the other side of the railway, people living near the Dovercourt depot development – which will not include any social housing – are at the beginning of their planning fight.
“There’s a concern that it’s being rushed through,” says local resident Sophie. Some 70 residents attended the first consultation via Zoom, but were “disappointed” by the “dismissive response” to their suggestions for rerouting an emergency access road, planned to cut through green space.
“This is an expensive development,” says Sophie. “The land is valuable. I don’t believe it addresses the issue of there not being affordable housing for people in the area. It feels like, with the pledges to build however many thousands of new homes, the houses are all being put in areas like Lockleaze rather than more affluent areas of the city.
“It feels unfair, if it’s not coupled with improvements and investment in the community.”
As well as losing green spaces, community buildings are also threatened. A campaign has begun to save the Cameron Centre – a busy community hall – which would be demolished, along with the adjacent former police station, for new housing.
Though the plans include a library and cafe/restaurant, which Lockleaze currently lacks, campaigner Merriel Waggoner says the space is irreplaceable: “It is a truly inclusive and affordable venue and there is no other large community space – at all – in the whole of Lockleaze.” Some of the 50 members of Lockleaze’s newly formed ACORN group also want to see the space remain a community asset, says organiser Esme Roslin.
Divisions in Labour
Lockleaze has been held by Labour for 27 of the 38 years it has been a ward. In 2016, councillors Kirk and Tincknell received 53% and 45% of the vote respectively, with the Greens in a distant third.
However, party infighting has affected the campaign to keep the seat. Alfie Thomas and Anna Lart Greene were selected by Labour Bristol members in October 2020, but were blocked from standing by Labour South West.
Labour Bristol initially requested an all-women shortlist in Lockleaze to replace the two sitting female councillors, but later decided the ward could shortlist both men and women. South West Labour’s regional director, Phil Gaskin, then overrode this decision after the candidates were selected, meaning Alfie Thomas was not allowed to stand.
After Gaskin made various decisions that were unpopular with leftwing campaign group Momentum, individuals including Anna Lart Greene – a Labour member since 2015 – tweeted #sackgaskin and were suspended for bullying. She is ineligible to stand while suspended.
Labour South West picked new candidates, but the local party’s executive committee resigned en masse. Anna Lart Greene says: “It was really just a rubber stamp – a ‘this is our decision’ meeting. When the Lockleaze Labour branch realised it was going to be that kind of meeting, they resigned in protest.” Members were then informed the candidates had been “duly elected”.
Labour South West have been approached for comment.
What the candidates say
Standing for Labour are Aadayamelika Adlam and Theresa Allain. Lockleaze resident Adlam told the Cable that, if elected, she would scrutinise how new developments are prioritised, and their affordability.
On the subject of renting, she says: “It is hugely important to me as a candidate that communities are fully informed of the difference between affordable and social rent, so we can prevent families taking on rents that are not sustainable.”
Allain told the Cable her priority was to ensure that “the much-needed new housing now coming forward is genuinely affordable and that council housing is included”, and considers lettings policies that prioritise local people “essential”.
The former doctor added: “I am especially pleased that an extra care housing development is planned for Gainsborough Square. I know many local residents would value the opportunity to live right in the heart of their community. Making sure that local people are prioritised for this accommodation will be important.”
Lockleaze resident David Wilcox stood for the Green Party in 2016, coming third. Wilcox and fellow Green candidate Heather Mack told the Cable: “Lockleaze needs homes that people from Lockleaze can afford to live in.”
They added that local people should be “consulted when land is being designated for development”, and for affordable housing to be built on derelict sites, instead of on green spaces “cherrypicked by developers”. The Greens also want all new homes in Bristol to be carbon neutral.
The Liberal Democrats held Lockleaze from 2002-2013. Neither of their candidates, Maz Choudhury and Graham Donald, have previously stood in Lockleaze. The Conservatives are also fielding new candidates Nigel Brown and George Maggs. They did not respond to requests for comment.
For the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is Roger Thomas, who stood in Lockleaze in 2014. He criticises the council’s reliance on “parasitic” private developers, whose affordable homes are still unaffordable, and advocates rent controls and compulsory landlord registrations.
“Having a home is a right not a privilege,” he says. “TUSC stands for building council homes for all, to provide homes for our young people and all age groups on affordable rents: providing security from fear of eviction and having to decide between food or rent.”
Dovercourt Road resident Sophie says whoever is elected in Lockleaze must act in residents’ best interests – “not just toeing the party line”.
“I’d like the councillors to really represent their constituents and understand people’s concerns. Our voices are as important as residents in Clifton and Redland and Bishopston.”