Association wins pledge of community benefits on St Christopher's site

October 26 2020

Association wins pledge of community benefits on St Christopher's site

Westbury Park Community Association has affirmed its aim to achieve community benefits as part of the redevelopment of the former St Christopher’s School.
The Association’s response to Aurora Group’s planned sale of the site, which will draw on input from all in the community, is being co-ordinated by Jeff Bishop who has considerable experience on planning matters and community engagement.
St Christopher’s School, established in 1945, provided education and care for children and young adults with severe mental and physical disabilities until it closed last year. Aurora became owners of the site in 2015, although Hyde Lodge (an adult care home) is remaining in its current use and does not form part of the redevelopment site. The site is of a substantial size running along Westbury Park road, overlooking the Downs, bordering Redland Ward.
Jeff Bishop told the Bishopston Voice: “This early stage was about establishing what Aurora might have in mind, what parameters the City Council might lay down and to do a quick, early check on the sorts of issues and ideas that local people might raise. On behalf of the WPCA Working Group I contacted Aurora to find out what they intended. I received a reply from Shay Ramalingam, Chair of the Aurora Board, who made it clear that his personal aim was to produce proposals that would secure, as far as possible, the support of the Westbury Park community and deliver positive community benefits.
“Mr Ramalingam told us that he had commissioned planning and architectural consultants to produce early ideas which have been sent to Bristol City Council in what is called a ‘Pre Application Request’ to find out from planners what might and might not be possible.”

The key points highlighted by Aurora’s consultants were:
• The site is all in a Conservation Area so high standards would apply in terms of uses, amount of development, design etc
• The Lodges fronting Westbury Park would stay, as would the Grade 2 Listed Building and all the significant trees on the rear land
• Vehicle access to the rear land (only) would be from The Glen, perhaps from Bayswater Avenue
• Uses would be either all residential for older people or a combination of that and market housing.
 Ahead of a response to Aurora’s ‘Pre App Request’ Jeff Bishop explained: “The planners may not agree with what was in the Request; they may want more or less development of a different type and they may or may not support vehicle access via The Glen.”
Jeff is confident about Mr Ramalingam’s wish to produce proposals capable of gaining the support of the Westbury Park community.
He said: “This is a much better position for the community to be in than trying to work with a landowner or developer who may be purely interested in maximising profit.”
In an open letter to Westbury Park residents Mr Ramalingam said: “It was good to meet some of you at meetings during which we discussed the testing plans for our pre-application planning assessment. These were, as we said, testing plans and they are going to change based on your feedback and the feedback we receive from planners and the Community Association.”
Mr Ramalingam said that he will be happy to present plans as they evolve ahead of any planning application and to discuss any concerns that local residents and the community, especially immediate neighbours, may have.
Any queries, comments, issues and ideas concerning St. Christopher’s can be sent to the Community Association by email westburyparkca@gmail.com. Comments will be recorded and, where appropriate, responded to.