Work to start at last on square redevelopment
WORK is finally due to get under way on a £2.5 million scheme to redevelop a forgotten and run-down square in Bristol.
The plans to revamp Gainsborough Square in Lockleaze have finally got off the ground following years of negotiations between developers, the council and the local community association.
Land and property agents CJH Land brokered the deal which will see the Bristol Community Housing Foundation and Knightstone Housing Association push ahead with the long-awaited project.
The site, which is a mixture of flats residential and shops, was abandoned in the 1960s and has become something of an eyesore. It was recently named as a key project by Bristol's mayor George Ferguson.
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After months of negotiations Bristol City Council has finally approved the scheme to build 15 new houses and 14 apartments along with assorted commercial and retail units on the Gainsborough Square site.
And Lockleaze Community Association will use proceeds from the sale to fund an ambitious refurbishment of their club building off Romney Avenue.
CJH Land director Matthew Hiles said the aim was to redevelop the key site opposite Lockleaze Day Centre as a smart new hub for the entire area.
He said: "Lockleaze residents and councillors have been trying to push ahead with the redevelopment of this site for years but the various schemes put forward hit a number of obstacles, not least access issues and the effects of the recession.
"It has taken a lot of hard work but we have finally put a deal in place which will not only clear an eyesore in the centre of the area but also allow the community association to completely revamp their existing clubhouse next to St James Church."
The community association called in CJH Land to sell the Gainsborough Square site back in 2006 and negotiations were held with several developers over the years.
Lockleaze Community Association chairman Alan Richards said the development would give the entire area a much-needed shot in the arm.
He said: "We have been trying to clear this eyesore site for years as it is central to the wider regeneration of Lockleaze.
"To keep the costs down as far as possible community association volunteers have already begun work clearing the building ready for the first phase of the refurbishment programme to begin."
Mr Richards said the proceeds from the sale will be used to fund a two-phase refurbishment of the club house beginning with the function room and entrance followed by the social club itself.
He added: "The community centre represents one of the only public facilities in the area. We are hoping this development will be the catalyst for the widespread regeneration of Lockleaze which has got too used to going without since the district was developed during the 1960s."
CJH Land Limited, which is based in Flax Bourton in North Somerset, specialises in the sale of residential development land. The firm said it has been extremely encouraged with the upturn in the property market in recent months.
Mr Hiles said: "The last 18 to 24 months have been very busy for us and we have been involved in a number of significant land sales.
"All of the house builders and developers we work with are seeking new land opportunities as the housing market in this part of the country seems pretty stable."
Plans for the makeover of the square have already been drawn up with the backing and support of local residents.
Lib Dem councillors Guy Poultney and Sean Emmett have been working with residents over the last five years to draw up a community plan called 'Lockleaze Vision'.
This includes a multi-million-pound makeover for the square as well as the redevelopment of the derelict community centre site, which was levelled some years ago and where the new shops, offices and homes would be built.
Phase 2 of the regeneration project, which involves £2.5 million being spent on public spaces, includes improving parks and open spaces in the neighbourhood, upgrading roads and pavements and bringing empty buildings such as the derelict Gainsborough Pub back into use.