Much-needed housing project grinds to a halt
A BUSINESSMAN has accused the city council of not acting in Bristol's best interests after seeing his project for much-needed housing in St Paul's grind to a halt.
Marcus Leigh already has planning permission for the nine dwellings over a brown-field site where terraced houses once stood on Wilder Street.
But his development, which he believes will help regenerate a deprived area, has hit countless obstacles at the council where he says officers have made it as difficult as possible.
The 47-year-old from Redland is convinced that his project "ticks all the boxes" by providing more homes, developing a brown-field site and increasing the council's revenue. But he said he was at the end of his tether with the council which he claims has been standing in his way instead of helping him.
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Mr Leigh owns a 125-year lease on the site, which he has kept as a car park since he bought it.
After finding out there used to be terraced housing on the site which were bombed in the war, he approached the council to rebuild the houses. Mr Leigh said he finally got planning permission for the new development after spending around £30,000.
But things became difficult when he attempted to purchase the land in full from the council to start the building work.
"The planning application went to committee and it was approved unanimously," Mr Leigh told The Post.
"But the different departments have been making the project almost impossible from the start.
"I expected the council to be thrilled with these plans and had hoped to work together with their full support to save this dangerous state of disrepair that had become a local eyesore.
"But all the officers seem to be too pedantic to the extent that the whole project is under threat. All I hear is negativity from them."
One of the biggest stumbling blocks has come from officers concerned about the council's loss of income.
Mr Leigh disputes this. He said that he currently pays the council £3,000 per year for the lease. He told The Post his new offer was generous and said that by developing new housing the council could also claim up to £70,000 from a central government initiative to encourage home building. He added that revenue from council tax would also benefit the council.
Mr Leigh said: "I'm passionate that this scheme is the right thing to do. I'm providing homes, which is in the council's core strategy, I'm creating revenue for the council and I'm helping to regenerate a deprived area.
"It should be easier than this but it isn't. Leaders say they want a 'can-do' attitude in this city but all the departments are looking at are reasons why we can't do it.
"If a workable and sensible agreement is not reached soon it is likely the site will be abandoned once again and closed off with a two-metre security fence."
A spokesman for Bristol City Council said: "We have been working closely with this businessman for several years to help him secure his funding for this scheme and find ways of getting it off the ground in the current, difficult property market.
"This is Marcus's first development and we have worked with him to secure new homes on the site. We will continue to work with him to achieve this goal."