Landmark Somerdale factory in Bristol to be demolished
BUILDING company Taylor Wimpey has revealed that the historic Somerdale factory is unlikely to survive if its redevelopment of the site goes ahead.
As reported in the Evening Post, the firm has agreed to buy the former Cadbury factory site at Keynsham as part of a £50-million deal which will see 700 homes, a school, business park and hotel built on the site.
Although the firm is keen to stress that the plans are still in their early stages and nothing will be decided until local residents have been consulted, Taylor Wimpey has started the process of putting together a master plan for the development. American firm Kraft Foods bought Cadbury just over two years ago in an acrimonious deal worth £11.5 billion. The firm was roundly criticised for its abrupt U-turn on a promise to keep the factory open. However it has now emerged that Kraft has made a pledge to build a new clubhouse for the Fry Club and transfer land to the club.
The Evening Post understands the iconic 1920s factory is to be demolished with the possible exception of one of the buildings, known as the Boiler house.
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The famous Fry Club and the main pitch in the centre of the Somerdale site known as the Recreation Ground, which the clubhouse overlooks, is likely to disappear but there is money in place for new facilities.
Under the terms of the deal, the ownership of the sports fields and land to the west of the factory known as the Keynsham Hams will pass to the Fry Club. A multi-purpose clubhouse will be built at a cost of around £2 million to £3 million on the site.
The club, which has more than 600 members, 13 football pitches, four cricket pitches and a nine-hole golf course, is expected to be relocated to its new home within four years of the deal going through.
The development will be a mixture of family homes with an average price of around £180,000 but there will also be some four bedroomed homes on the new estate.
Nigel Holland, managing director of Taylor Wimpey in the Bristol area, said: “The main thing that we want to stress is that these plans are still in the very early stages and we will not decide anything until we have held consultations with local people.
“The feeling has been in the past that Somerdale was separate to the rest of the town and what we want to do is completely turn that around. What we are looking to do is create a new part of the town, we want to reconnect the Somerdale site with the rest of Keynsham.”
He added: “This is a landmark project for us and the Somerdale site is an iconic landmark site so whatever we do there has to be right. We are well aware of the importance of Somerdale in the area and we want to do the site justice. However, as a company Taylor Wimpey is not in the business of creating exclusive, up-market developments – we build quality affordable homes. Everyone would love to live in huge properties but sadly not all of us can afford to do so.”
Despite the tough economic conditions and problems obtaining mortgages, Taylor Wimpey is convinced there will be huge demand.
Mr Holland said: “Bristol is one of our best performing cities in the country. Out last development in the city – the flats at Meridian – was a huge success. We couldn’t build the flats quickly enough to keep up with the demand. Obviously there are problems at the moment with the mortgage market but we are very confident about being able to market the development.
“There is still a lot demand in Bristol for decent quality but affordable homes.”
He added: “At the end of the day Taylor Wimpey is a business and if we did not think this scheme was viable, we would not be interested in it.”
The firm is planning a consultation process which will last several months before a planning application is drawn up. There is a feeling of quiet confidence about the project and Taylor Wimpey is aware its scheme ties in with Bath and North East Somerset Council’s planning strategies.
Mr Holland added: “As I said the key thing for us is that there is a dialogue with local people, it is vital that we get their views on what is a major development for Keynsham.”
Despite assurances, some Conservative councillors in the town have already raised concerns about the number of houses proposed for the site and the low amount of land given over for full-time employment.
Charles Gerrish, the Conservative shadow cabinet member for resources and councillor for Keynsham North, said: “What’s most important now is for the developer to engage with the community to ascertain their aspirations for the site and ensure any plans meet with these.This is a historic and important site for Keynsham, so it’s vital that the town’s residents are engaged in a full and open consultation before detailed plans are put forward. It’s positive that the initial proposals retain and improve the sports facilities at the site and would mean the creation of a new Fry Club, which is much valued by local people.
“However, we are concerned these proposals plan for 700 houses, a very large number which would be difficult to accommodate on the site and have a significant impact on nearby roads. The amount of land given over for employment also appears too low given the need to create new and sustainable jobs for the local area.”
Mr Hale said some residents had been unhappy with the firm over another recent project in the town, but added: : “Clearly some local people will be concerned that Taylor Wimpey didn’t listen to residents’ concerns over another development at the other end of the town, which makes genuine public engagement all the more important here.”“We hope that as the plans progress and develop further these points, and many others from the public, are taken on board before any plans are finalised.”