Both as an immediate neighbour, and as a champion for its local community, Windmill Hill City Farm has a keen interest in how the spaces at Bedminster Green are developed. The development is an opportunity to create a place that is owned and loved by the current, and future, local community.
The city farm is putting itself forward as an ‘honest broker’ advancing the cause of a good development. Lend your voice to the cause, share your ideas with us, be part of making this happen.
We want to see creation of a lasting, well-designed place that delivers real quality of life. The development should bring people from elsewhere to the area, increasing footfall for local businesses, complementing and enhancing East St and the surrounding neighbourhood. It should provide additional amenities and a central hub for a range of services to the neighbourhood and the city.
It must create an environment that encourages wildlife, incorporates nature and is enriching of people’s wellbeing. Bedminster Green needs to enable community cohesion, volunteering, social interaction, and a sense of belonging – particularly given the prospect of 1200 student units being a central part of it.
Imagine an urban village, based around a central green, which is a natural landmark and community meeting place: a place with a mixture of community businesses, childcare, a youth club, library space, a well-being centre, cultural and commercial activity.
Many people have in interest in development of this space. Community groups, local residents, land owners, developers, local authority officers and elected members, as well as future residents, owners and managers of the space developed. We have worked with them to develop a ‘Charter for Bedminster Green‘ that articulates a shared vision of the spaces and calls for some of the space to be community owned. This was developed by community groups and refined in open meetings with all stakeholders represented.
The site has a complex mix of owners and developers as well as stakeholders in the community (residents and commercial businesses), officers in different departments of the local authority and local politicians. Gaining buy-in from each of them for an agreed path forward will be complicated and piece-meal. The city farm is well-placed to be a neutral facilitator playing the role of ‘honest broker’ in advancing a good development.
Identifying tools and levers for change will be key. Mechanisms such as Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 negotiations will be needed. Planning policies and the local elections in May 2020 will also play a part.
The physical spaces themselves are also in play: the Malago stream brings flood constraints as well as an opportunity to create a green space for both people and wildlife. The presence of Bedminster railway station and proximity of Metrobus routes has potential to make it a transport hub, though the road infrastructure generally is cramped.
Our proposal focuses on public realm and ground-floor spaces that are as yet in the early stages of design. We aim to be part of an iterative process that can match potential community use to the footprint of the spaces as they emerge through design phases.
The success of the space is dependent on a well-designed and interactive interface between the public realm and the built spaces to create a community hub – in a similar way to how the city farm itself currently works. It requires a partnership and collaborative approach with the support of the local authority (investing to generate social value); developers (investing to gain amenity value around their commercial assets, and increase property values by creating an attractive and popular community and destination); and the community (creating social value in a shared space). The presence of large numbers of students, in blocks built in partnership with the University of Bristol, makes them a central partner in the development.
We envisage a community-sector organisation managing the spaces, holding the values and vision for the place. It would draw income from a core set of tenants with aligned aims and channel the investment of time and effort from the local community into caring for and enlivening the spaces, through a combination of contracted and voluntary action.
The declaration of a climate emergency by Bristol City Council in November 2018 and the subsequent action plan of the Mayor in summer 2019 give impetus to the need to ensure that both the buildings and public realm address environmental concerns. The adoption of high BREEAM standards for the buildings developed is implicit in the underpinning of this proposal.
An additional opportunity exists in the design and remodelling of the path of the Malago stream which runs through the site. We envisage this feature becoming a wildlife corridor as well as an enriching environment for people. The recent designation of strategic CIL funding to this space will be helpful in making that a reality.
A recent report highlighted how community ownership of the ‘high street’ can be a key tool for regeneration and success. The report argues that “high streets are places for us to congregate, to interact, to do business but also to live our lives together”.
We aim to develop a plan to deliver community-led social investment alongside commercial success, to realise a vision that brings sustainable benefit to people living in the Bedminster Green developments as well as those nearby and in the city as a whole.
The following are ideas at varying stages of development.
The current library in Bedminster is very well used and has insufficient space to meet current demand. The library service would like more space and they are open to the idea of a shared model of library and community space working together (there are examples of this model in Canning Town, West Sussex, Hartlepool, Wigan, Market Harborough and Warrington among others).
The presence of so many students also opens the possibility of working with the University to create a study space for students in the same development. The University is very keen to provide places for students to study together outside of their own rooms. They need more ‘social’ learning spaces to go alongside the more familiar individual desks.
The city farm already experiences high demand from community organisations that want space on site that we can’t accommodate. There is potential for the farm to act as a ‘property agent’, attracting like-minded organisations to create a space with a unique local vibe. This could be a combination of singly occupied spaces and co-working space for micro-scale local business.
There are most likely to be over 1200 students living in the Bedminster Green area. The University of Bristol is keen that they have somewhere to study outside their bedrooms. They are also keen to encourage local young people to apply to the university – particularly those traditionally less likely to do so. There is potential to create a space for students and local young people to mix bringing the university and its students closer to the community.
This is a community group with origins in the Bear Pit. They are setting up in Bedminster with ambitions to create a space operating a food outlet and other activities to demonstrate a circular economy.
There is considerable investment currently moving in public health contracts with new providers who are open to looking at new premises in community contexts. The outdoor spaces of the development provide an opportunity to undertake training or volunteer activity linked to health and wellbeing initiatives or work-placements.
Other community and cultural offerings remain to be explored: gallery, theatre space, a festival base, creative studios, café and food offerings.
The presence of the Malago gives an opportunity to create a wildlife corridor from the city farm to the railway line with a real water feature that would benefit the wellbeing of people at the same time as creating a habitat for wildlife.
More information about the Bedminster Green development is available at the websites of groups interested in it.