About the site
The site sits behind Stokes Croft, between the Carriageworks and Hepburn Road, as the red line shows. It is within the Stokes Croft Conservation Area.
Since buying the site, we have already let two empty retail spaces to Cuts & Creps and the much-loved Bristol Porridge Project. Rita’s Take-Away is under separate ownership.
The flats above the shops – which we have started to renovate – were already rented to students. These do not form part of the proposal but do influence how it has been designed.
The rear of the site was used as a windscreen repairs workshop but – over recent years – most of the space became redundant. There is a mixture of old sheds and tarmac areas. The land slopes down away from Stokes Croft, as it gets nearer the homes on Hepburn Road.
This part of Hepburn Road is currently quite a hostile environment, well known (including to the police) as a place where drug users congregate. It is also a two-way rat run for traffic, and very compromising for pedestrians.
In one corner is a locally-listed building Croft Dale, currently home to a handful of students.
Understandably, everyone we have so far spoken with wants to see this site redeveloped.
The challenges & opportunities
There are some clear constraints which restrict what can be done on this site. But there are some real opportunities too. Here are some of issues we have already considered in arriving at our draft proposals.
Getting the mix of uses right
We know there is demand for local workspaces, which we have included along Hepburn Road, helping retain and create local jobs. Of course, there is significant unmet housing need in Bristol, so we are proposing homes to rent including three-bedroom family homes. While recognising concerns about more student accommodation in Stokes Croft, the site is already home to a number of students as it is so well-located for UWE and the University of Bristol. Council officers do not object to some additional student accommodation, which we can use to cross-subsidise the workshops.
Enhancing the local built environment
Clearly Stokes Croft itself is an important historic and cultural street. So, we are only proposing to do some restoration to the frontage, including reinstating traditional sash-framed windows. We are proposing one mansard roof extension, which continues the irregular pattern already seen along Stokes Croft. Any new buildings on the rest of the site must be kept to a height which does not visually impact views along Stokes Croft, nor overwhelm the neighbouring homes on Hepburn Road.
Deciding what to retain
Aside from Stokes Croft frontages, the only building of any heritage merit is locally-listed Croft Dale. However, Croft Dale is in a poor state of repair and – in its initial response – Historic England has not objected to its demolition. Removing Croft Dale allows a much more coherent redesign of the site, that relates better to neighbouring homes and the Carriageworks.
Safety – reclaiming Hepburn Road
This section of Hepburn Road is indisputably an unwelcoming place, dominated by drug abuse. It has almost no natural surveillance and needs to be ‘reclaimed’ for the community. So, we are proposing workshops opening directly onto Hepburn Road, with apartments overlooking it. The police have advised us not to provide public access into the landscaped grounds, so we are proposing gardens that can be seen by passers-by, set behind railings and a private entrance.
A sustainable proposal
Setting aside the social and economic benefits of creating new workspaces and helping address drug use on Hepburn Road, there are other opportunities for a sustainable scheme, including onsite renewable energy generation. There is no need for any car parking, given its location. And there is clearly an opportunity to bring nature back into the site, which is currently very limited.