Potential nursery expansion update

Regular visitors may be aware that a proposal was brought to the farm by Bristol City Council to expand the nursery provision on site. This would require a new building. Over the last few months we have been exploring (with Skanska, the City Council’s preferred contractor for education buildings) various options for where that building might be sited, including on the existing games pitch.

The board of trustees met on Monday evening (17th July 2017) and discussed the options for taking forward the proposed expansion of the nursery. The following decisions were made.

Option 4 (which involves building on the Woodland Paddock) is not an acceptable option. This option would go against the strategy of the farm to focus on food, farming and the environment as its principal purpose. This option means that the farm would have to reduce the number of animals on site, which would be contrary to our strategy and would not be supported by our members and users. The additional cost of this option (as determined by Skanska) is over £200,000. If that level of funding is available then there are other mitigation options that should be explored.

Option 1 (which involves building only within the area of the pitch) would be an acceptable option provided that:

  1. Bristol City Council puts in place good mitigation (eg provision of an alternative pitch) to compensate for the loss of the sports facility. The mitigation will need to be off, but nearby, the city farm site. Mitigation is required both from a principled position (continued provision of a long-established community facility) and from a practical perspective (the planning risk, should no, or inadequate, mitigation be afforded, will be too high to support taking it forward). The board noted that Victoria Park is a possible location in which a pitch may be placed. It is within 500m of the site of the existing pitch. The Victoria Park Action Group (user group for the park) have been approached and are open to exploring locations and management of such a facility.
  2. Bristol City Council puts in place a robust plan, including a timetable of activities, that gives confidence that the project can be delivered well. The board is aware that there was, in the initial approach from Bristol City Council, a very tight deadline imposed on the funding for the project (that the facility be operational by Sep 17). Trustees are concerned that no formal approach has been made or approved to extend this deadline, which seems an existential risk to the project.

The board is alive to the benefits that the proposed expansion can bring to the organisation and to the local community that it serves. It is also mindful to preserve an existing sports facility that is enjoyed by many people. The trustees believe that sufficient time has now been invested in exploring the various options for achieving both aims and are keen to bring about a conclusion as to whether the expansion is going to go ahead.

The board also noted a proposal that has been received from two users of the existing pitch to invest in its refurbishment and management. Should the nursery development not go forward the board will examine options for the future of the pitch, including this proposal. At present the board agreed that it would be best to resolve the situation with the potential nursery development before looking into other options.

I’m hopeful that we can get a clear response from BCC on this and move it forward.

Steve Sayers
Chief Executive