Ashley Vale Self Build Development
A previous planning application for the site for residential-only development had been opposed by the Ashley Vale Action Group which developed its own proposals. These included affordable business space and a range of residential accommodation as part of a mixed-use self-build scheme.
The group undertook consultation with local residents, including a Planning for Real exercise, to explore options. Self-builders were drawn from the wider area.
In November 2000, the self-build group submitted a planning application for 22 units on 20 plots, six affordable bungalows for the elderly, and refurbishment of an existing office block on the site. The application was promoted by the Ashley Vale Action Group.
Planning permission was granted in March 2001, based on a general layout plan and preliminary plans for individual buildings, which included three-storey detached and semi-detached houses, three-storey terrace, flat conversions and bungalows, and four business units.
When determining the application, Bristol City Council said: ‘This scheme is the product of real community involvement and has the potential to be a demonstration project of city-wide importance.’
The group acquired the site with funding from the pre-purchase of plots by self-builders; receipts also covered infrastructure and other site preparation costs. The plots were sold to private individuals (and in one case a private developer). Construction began in 2002 and the development was occupied from 2004.
The community group agreed design principles, including maximum building heights, roof pitch to ensure light to adjacent plots, and a materials palette of timber, render and clay tiles. How these were to be applied to individual buildings was not specified. A process of consultation between the group and the self-builders on design and specification changes was established to maintain the principles and original vision for the site.
The layout and building design principles remain as those agreed. There have been changes to the tenure mix following withdrawal of the housing association which has initially purchased six plots, and to the amount of commercial space. There has been some wrangling with Bristol City Council over increases in building height and dimensions of individual buildings, and within the community over maintaining its aspirations for high levels of sustainable design and construction. Nonetheless, the confidence demonstrated by the community group in promoting the scheme, and by Bristol City Council in embracing its innovation and eccentricities, has resulted in a scheme that adds vibrancy and vitality to an already flourishing neighbourhood.