Residents have their say on future of eyesore
PEOPLE living and working near derelict Westmoreland House and the next door Carriageworks in Stokes Croft have been given the chance to influence their future use.
Drop-in sessions were held to bring members of the community up to date with a draft vision for the site and get their reaction to ideas already put forward.
The buildings have both been branded among the worst eyesores in the city and the Carriageworks Action Group is leading moves to see them given a use that local people support.
London-based Comer Homes Group has owned the buildings and surrounding land since the 1980s and over the years there have been a number of unsuccessful and inappropriate plans put forward.
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Currently there is an application with the city council for the development of 183 flats, shops and underground parking on the site.
But Lori Streich, chairwoman of the action group, said the community was opposed to the scheme because it was out of scale with the area.
She said: "The action group was developed separately to the planning application and includes individual residents, people who work around the Stokes Croft area and representatives from all the local communities.
"We are working with the council on this and 1,460 people have already put forward their thoughts. I was taken by surprise at the response but there is huge enthusiasm for something to be done.
"We want to see the site developed and there are some very clear themes coming through of a mixed use with different activities."
There has been support for some affordable flats to be included, with other ideas including established and new businesses, shops, café, a market, art space and workshops. But the action group said whatever was decided had to be viable.
Its members will agree a final community vision at a meeting on December 15 and the council is expected to prepare a development brief in the spring of 2012.
Later in the year, the development brief will be used to invite interest from a wide range of developers.
The site must be developed either with the support of the current owner or through a process involving its purchase with commercial developer support. A compulsory purchase order would only be used as a last resort and would only be available to the council after exhausting other possibilities.
Rhodri Jones-Morris, 32, of Easton, works as an accountant in Picton Street and volunteered to get involved and offer his expertise.
He said: "Westmoreland House is such an eyesore. It's a shame it has become a landmark as it is. The potential is there to have it used by the community. Its potential benefit is immense."
Simon Lewis, 38, a builder from Montpelier, said: "It's not just what we achieve that's important but how we achieve it. I want to see the local community develop it themselves and see training and job opportunities provided, especially to tackle youth unemployment."
The Carriageworks is a listed building designed by the Victorian architect EW Godwin and currently on the "At risk" register.
Westmoreland House is a six-storey 1960s concrete frame office building last occupied by the Football Pools Company. A derelict listed house is also at the rear and with other land, the site's total size is equivalent to 1.6 football pitches.