Scheme for luxury flats on former hospital site is given the go-ahead
PLANS to transform the former Bristol General Hospital have been given the go-ahead by councillors.
A scheme to convert the site, which closed to patients in April after more than 150 years in operation, was turned down in August following a row over affordable housing and payments to the council.
An independent report prepared for the council had said developer City & Country should pay £1.2 million towards local projects and make 40 per cent of housing affordable – available for rent or purchase to people on low incomes – in return for permission to convert the hospital into flats, shops and restaurants.
But the developers claimed that would have made the scheme uneconomic in the current climate and insisted mistakes had been made in the report.
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The developer appealed against the decision not to grant permission and also offered to pay for a second independent report on its scheme by a different team of experts. The second report agreed with the developer and recommended that the scheme as it stood should be given planning permission.
Councils regularly draw up deals with developers, known as Section 106 agreements which see developers making payments to local authorities to help fund public schemes.
A public inquiry was due to be held before the end of the year but following last night's decision to grant permission, it is likely to be called off.
If the decision had gone against the council at the appeal it would have been liable for hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of legal fees.
City & Country bought the listed building in a deal worth an estimated £6 million at the start of the year and had been holding talks with council officials on the scheme for months.
The new planning deal means that payments to the council will be based on how much profit the development eventually makes. It is expected to be worth about £120,000.
After the council's central area planning committee approved the scheme at the second time of asking last night, chairman Alex Woodman (Lib Dem, Cabot) said: "For this particular application we had no option but to approve it but that doesn't take away our disappointment that there is no affordable housing."
City & Country managing director Helen Moore said: "This is a clear validation of City & Country's argument that the council's original decision to refuse our proposals in August was based on a fundamentally flawed and inaccurate viability report produced by a third party on behalf of the council, which made unrealistic demands as to the level of developer contribution and affordable housing required from the scheme."
The hospital site is one of the last parts of the Harbourside to be redeveloped. The main building is Grade II listed, although parts of it were badly damaged during the Second World War.