Council action over eyesore
BRISTOL City Council is finally going ahead with the compulsory purchase of the city's worst eyesore – derelict Westmoreland House in Stokes Croft.
After months of threatening to take the step, the council's ruling Lib Dem cabinet is expected to approve the move next week.
The site – which includes the Carriageworks next door – has been a blot on the city's skyline for decades.
And several attempts have been made without success in the past to try to kickstart the regeneration of the site which lies on one of the main gateways into the city.
Cabinet councillor Anthony Negus said: "We've spent 25 years going down other routes which have just not produced a sensible outcome.
"This is a site which is an eyesore and one which needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
"We always said we would go down the route of compulsory purchase if we had to. We took steps to negotiate with the owners, we engaged with local people and we appointed consultants to carry out further negotiations with the owners which also failed to reach an agreement.
"We are therefore continuing along the path of compulsory purchase as we set out 18 months ago."
Compulsory purchase order proceedings are notoriously long and expensive and so the door will still remain open to negotiate the purchase of the property from the owners, Comer Homes Group.
If these fail, then the council would have to find a developer to act in partnership to regenerate the site.
Lori Streich, chairwoman of the Carriageworks Action Group, said she was "really pleased" that action was being taken at last.
She said: "We are determined to see this through because it has been going on for far too long.
"But there is a very strong feeling in the community that something really will get done this time."
She said the overwhelming message from a survey among people in the area was that they wanted to see something done.
She said the strength of feeling was demonstrated by the fact that more than 1,600 people responding to the consultation exercise.
The action group has come up with its own ideas about the site. It wants to see mixed use including homes, shops, business space and community facilities.
Ms Streich said: "We want something that will contribute to the economy, culture and environment of the area."
But Chris Chalkley, chairman of the People's Republic of Stokes Croft, warned that compulsory purchase order proceedings should only be used as a last resort.
He said: "What we want to see is something which really reflects the aspirations of the community and not just a developer coming forward with yet another housing development.
"The best way to achieve this is for the site to be owned by the community."
No one was available for comment from Comer Homes.