A Bristol Post article claiming our fears had been ‘allayed’ by the developers was greeted with anger by everyone who read it. Read the article, and then scroll down for our response, also published on the Bristol Post website.

‘A BRISTOL private school and developer have moved to allay residents’ fears over plans to create homes on a playing field they claim is a floodplain and wildlife habitat. People living close to Colston’s School in Stapleton have raised objections to proposals to build 12 luxury houses on part of the school’s playing field off Welsford Avenue.

At a public meeting last month, residents said the field was home to a vast array of wildlife including bats, badgers and kingfishers. They announced their intention to apply to have the land registered as a town green, which, if approved, could render it off limits for developers.

Campaigners have set up a group called the Protect Frome Valley at Stapleton Community Association to battle the plans. Chris Gibson, the association’s campaign organiser, told the gathering of 50 locals that the field was part of a conservation area and designated important open space, as well as being a flood plain which had been submerged in recent years. 

But the school and Bristol-based developer Woodstock Homes have now addressed residents’ worries. They say the site is located in the Environment Agency’s Flood Zone 1, which is at the lowest risk of flooding and “perfectly acceptable” for development. Despite the low risk, the homes have been moved up the slope away from the flood plain on the plans. The school and housebuilder say professional ecologists have surveyed the site and do not believe there to be an active badger sett on the field, as suggested at the meeting. They say a full ecological survey will be submitted with any planning application.

Jeremy McCullough, head master at Colston’s School, said: “We are very sensitive to the views of the local community and particularly those living in the vicinity of the proposed development site. The school has always sought to maintain good and positive relationships with its neighbouring residents, and the current project is no exception. It was partly for this reason that Woodstock Homes was selected as the preferred developer. We have been impressed by the quality of their housing schemes to date, and the sensitivity of those schemes to their location.”

Woodstock Homes’ managing director Martin Newman said: “While new housing proposals often concern local residents, Bristol still needs more homes. This could mean more city centre developments, it may even mean greenbelt development. But it is certainly important to build new homes within existing communities. We believe this is a good place to build new, quality homes.
“We will do our very best to minimise the impact on the existing residents and will try and take on board any concerns.”
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Our response:

‘On behalf of the ‘Protect Frome Valley @ Stapleton’ Community Association I wish to make it absolutely clear that we have not, in any sense, had any ‘fears allayed’ by the developers. We do not accept the assertions made in the statements you have reported in this article and we will be issuing a full press release in due course.

We note that the developers have not addressed any of the actual planning issues, including the land’s official planning designations of ‘Important Open Space’, ‘Historic Park & Garden’ and ‘Conservation Area’.

We dispute their assertions regarding wildlife habitat, and note they originally described the location as ‘unused wasteland’, betraying a woeful lack of understanding and respect for the environment and local wildlife.

Long standing residents remain adamant that a badger sett has existed on the site for many years, and we still believe that an offence under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 may have been committed by clearing the land without a licence.

We reject the developer’s attempt to justify the the proposals on the grounds that Bristol needs more homes: we also recognise this need but do not accept that valuable public amenities such as this should be sacrificed for luxury housing being built purely for profit. The Bristol Local Plan identifies over 670 new homes within a 2-mile radius of this site, none of which are on green open space.

We dispute the assertion that the land is entirely Floodzone 1 and note that when we first raised this issue the developers appeared totally unaware that any of the land flooded.

We totally reject the frankly ludicrous and patronising assertions that the school is seeking to maintain ‘good and positive’ relations with its neighbours, and would point out that this has provoked such anger that, sadly, the relationship with Colston’s School may have been irreparably damaged.

Nor do we accept the fatuous statement that this is a good place to build because it is within a community. We remain of the opinion that this development is wrong in principle, and is an example of the insidious urban creep that threatens all our open spaces.

If allowed, this will make a mockery of all protective planning designations in Bristol, and we remain resolute in our determination to fight it – statements of the kind being made in this article only serve to fuel that determination.

Christopher Faulkner Gibson, ‘Protect Frome Valley @ Stapleton’ Community Association’

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