Vow to fight hospital plan refusal
DEVELOPERS behind a multi-million pound scheme to bring one of Bristol's most historic buildings back to life are to fight the council's decision to block the redevelopment.
The Post yesterday reported that the council's planning committee rejected the scheme to redevelop the General Hospital building in Redcliffe because of a row with developers City & Country over money.
The firm has told the Post that as well as appealing the decision, it will launch a claim for costs – which could see tax payers footing a six-figure legal bill if the council loses its case.
The developer claims that the council's rejection of the scheme signals that Bristol is "closed for business" because it would be missing out on £170 million of investment.
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And John Ashford, secretary of community group Redcliffe Futures which supported the scheme, said the council's rejection was "disgraceful".
The plan was to redevelop the hospital building and transform it into luxury flats, demolish later additions to the building and to build a new block of flats.
The scheme would also include new shops and bars overlooking the Harbourside and the creation of new public squares.
The original plans included three options for a block of flats of either 16 storeys, nine storeys or six storeys but the council said that the two taller buildings would have been out of keeping with the area.
The developers said that without the buildings, they would have to cut back on the amount of cash they were prepared to pay the council to improve areas where development is being carried out, under a deal known as section 106 agreement.
The council had requested the developers gave £1.2 million towards education and recreational facilities, as well as making 20 per cent of the properties affordable housing – available for people on low incomes to rent.
But the company had offered just £120,000 and no affordable housing for their six-storey core scheme.
A final decision on the project will now be made after a public inquiry.
Helen Moore, the managing director of City & Country, told the Post: "As well as appealing the council's decision to block our core scheme with a six-storey building, we are also appealing the decision to block our earlier plans for a nine-storey building.
"We are also going to lodge an application for costs, as we are very confident we will win the appeal.
"It's terrible that tax payers will have to foot this six-figure bill if it's found that the council has been unreasonable.
"We believe the person the council employed to look at how much the site is worth and how much section 106 money we should pay has got their figures wrong.
"We have asked and asked for the council to review the numbers but they won't – there is a fundamental flaw in the system.
"We wanted to bring in an independent surveyor to check over the figures but this wasn't allowed.
"This development will bring £170 million of investment into the city and more than 200 jobs, so we believe the council should have been more flexible.
"We're being told that Bristol is open for business, but when it actually comes to it, it seems like it's closed.
"Also, what does this say about localism? The community was asked, and there was overwhelming support for this project, but the council has not respected the community's wishes."
Mr Ashford told the Post: "The council's rejection of the scheme was disgraceful. To my knowledge every community organisation, every officer and most of the members of the planning committee supported the design of the redevelopment, which is brilliant.
"Chucking it out on the basis of an argument over section 106 money, I think, is awful. Surely some agreement could have been reached?"
A statement from the chairman of the development control central committee, councillor Alex Woodman, said: "The developer purchased the site last year, within the current market conditions, and any planning authority would expect them to reflect on their ability to deliver a scheme within the development brief before negotiating a price.
"The design of the scheme is clearly a good one, incorporating the sensitive re-use of the most important parts of the listed complex plus the introduction of well-designed new elements. But affordable housing is too serious an omission to overlook.
"The committee is very enthusiastic about the scheme as a whole.
"Ideally we would like to see a revised proposal that addresses the identified weaknesses in the current plans. However, we respect the developer's right to appeal.
"We are confident that the council's position will be supported by the inspector to be appointed by the Secretary of State for the forthcoming planning inquiry."