A planning application has been submitted that would see Brunel House, one of the former Muller orphanages on Ashley Down Road, converted into homes, with a new building of flats built alongside. Brunel House is currently part of the City of Bristol College, who are looking to sell the building for development.
Given that the College is set on selling, converting Brunel House to residential use would, in my view, be a suitable and sympathetic choice for the future use of the building. There are even nice, thoughtful aspects to the proposal, such as removing ancillary buildings to provide green space for residents. However, I do not believe that the proposal to add to the site with an adjacent new building is a good idea, and I also think that there are some other problems with the plans as a whole.
Firstly, on parking, the proposed parking provision for both buildings together is simply not sufficient. The existing parking spaces around that area are already in short supply, and the proposal of approximately one space for every two dwellings isn’t feasible. There is a good amount of bicycle parking proposed, but with the lack of a wide variety of public transport in the area (there is, after all, only one bus route on Ashley Down Road), it is inevitable that residents will feel the need to use cars. There should therefore be more parking spaces. As a side note, if the proposed Ashley Hill station was to be completed before the development then this issue would be alleviated somewhat, but the current plans from MetroWest do not mean that this will be the case.
The new development, whilst it will look similar to the cricket ground development, is not in-keeping with Brunel House and so I feel that the design of the new development should be reconsidered, especially given the conservation area status. Likewise, the loss and replanting of trees in the development should be considered again as I do not believe the current proposals give the best number of possible trees.
Whilst there is no doubt that there should be more housing built in the city, I am dismayed by the fact that this development contains no affordable housing or housing at social rent. Whilst the need for housing in the city is dire, the need for affordable and for social rent housing is even worse. The developer should consider again its social obligation.
Also, it has been explained by the developers that the Brunel House conversion is not financially possible without the new building, and this has likewise been given as the reason for not providing any social or affordable housing. If these financial arguments are the case then surely the developers are paying too much for Brunel House?
Finally, with this addition of all of these residential dwellings, we will see an even larger strain on our public services such as schools and GP’s surgeries. The council should consider the effects on these services if the development goes ahead, and make appropriate allowances to alleviate the damage, either in conjunction with or acting independently of the developer.
MARCH 2016 UPDATE: Revised plans have been submitted with frankly minor changes, most notably some more parking spaces. It is our view that there is still not enough parking and, in addition to the other reasons stated above, we still don’t believe the proposal should be approved in its current state.