In my mind we are heading for a “sweet spot” in the development of the sites formerly occupied by St Gobain, Wellman Graham, Contract Chemicals/Rhône-Poulenc. The site is about 9.2 hectares (about 22¾ acres), the current plan can be found here the link will open in a new tab.
Currently there is outline planning permission for 340 dwellings, a mixture of houses and flats. Recently though the developers have indicated that the number of dwellings may drop to around 235 with a greater proportion of 3, 4 or 5 bedroom houses which are more saleable in the current economic climate. In addition to this there is provision for approximately .68 hectares (about 1¾ acres) of what is called employment (B1 and showroom) usage as well as 1.1 hectares (about 1¾ acres) of public open space. There is also indicative (in other words it’s just mentioned it’s not been part of the request and decision) for some community building (D1) usage (you can find out more about planing use classes at planningportal.gov.uk). This could be something like a surgery or pharmacy. What is important to realise is that outline consent is just that outline; so the final layout can be radically different to the plans submitted so far. However the usage figures for dwellings, employment etc. won’t change It’s worth noting too that the current owners have signed a legal agreement to contribute over £750,000 towards education and libraries. I’ll come back to this later!
The properties that will be most directly affected will be on Mansell Close, the end of Milton Avenue, the end of Woodpecker Road Thornhill Close, Tuffley Crescent, Tuffley Avenue between Tuffley Crescent and Newark Road, Newark Road. There are also 3 properties 235, 237 and 239 Bristol Road adjacent to the site. You can see details of the planning process here on the Gloucestershire County Council Planning site. Available are Maps, Documents and Related Items. The link will open in a new tab.
The history of planning applications associated with these sites goes back a long way. However by 2007 things started to get complicated and there have been many twists and turns on the way. Some of the complication has been that there are two owners involved. Namely Part A which is marked in blue and Part B which is marked in red on the plan here. Part A is the area that was occupied by St Gobain and Wellman Graham and Part B was Contract Chemicals/Rhône-Poulenc. Basically there was little cooperation between the two owners. In 2003 the City Council published its Planning Brief for the area; basically insisting that as the site was large and therefore had significant impact on the area, that it should be developed as a whole rather then piecemeal. Included in this plan was a requirement that the bridge on Bristol Road was removed. This was subsequently dropped as it subsequently became apparent through the application that the removal of the bridge would be unviable as a result of multiple land ownerships and the cost of relocation of the infrastructure. It’s fair to say that despite the local plan the two developers failed to find agreement as to how to proceed until now.
It’s difficult to surmise what will happen next. The best guess is that the owners will try and find a buyer to take it on as a whole. This would be a bonus for us all as there would be just one person to deal with. I would venture to suggest that this is an unparalleled opportunity for the Ward. We have 1 million pounds to invest in our local community if we play our cards right we could have a significant influence on the shape of the development and could also make it significantly more attractive to a prospective buyer. Bear in mind that the developers have signed a legal agreement that £750,000 must be earmarked for education and libraries, could we work alongside them? The land could play a central role in linking up the North and the South of the Ward and presents us with an opportunity to facilitate significant community resources.
Finally, one final thing worthy of note is that the site played a key role in WW2, A Dutch company, Impregnated Diamond Products, was the only company in the world with technology and expertise to produce equipment that could cut crystals accurately enough to be used in the new RADAR that was being developed. Just before the invasion of the Netherlands, the staff and facilities were shipped by the Admiralty to Tuffley Crescent to what was a then a redundant factory site where memorial stones were made. All through the war the factory produced this equipment thus playing an indirect but key role in our survival especially during the Battle of Britain. More of the history of Van Moppes – IDP Ltd here. The link will open in a new tab. I reckon it would be great to get some of the some of the new roads named to commemorate this history.
First published on the Podsmead Big Local website on 20th June 2013.