Residents in St Jude’s have been receiving notice that the regeneration project Frome Gateway, is back open for business. The community consultation process had begun at the start of 2020, but stalled due to the pandemic.
The Riverside Park area of St Jude’s is the focus of the attention, which has been earmarked for significant development.
A letter from Bristol City Council Regeneration Service Manager, Abigail Stratford, sent to residents this month says that ‘Bristol City Council is at the start of a process to co-ordinate the long-term regeneration of the area around the River Frome, known as Frome Gateway, which will bring significant long-term change to the area.’
Our video shot in May 2020, showing the area of St Jude’s currently under redevelopment focus
It says: ‘We are initiating this work in response to a range of factors, such as the housing crisis, the climate emergency, changing planning policy and growing interest to bring forward new development in this area.’
The ‘core regeneration area’ in St Jude’s has a boundary encompassing the entire length of Houlton Street and Wade Street. It stretches along Pennywell Road, around the far end of Riverside Park and back to Houlton Street by running along the outer exterior of the park and alongside the M32. As well as the large park land, the core area includes large commercial premises, some currently vacant, the Riverside Youth Project, trading estates, blocks of flats, a mosque and Logos House, a Salvation Army provision for homeless people in Bristol.
A further area including a section of St Paul’s and St Agnes’, the rest of St Jude’s and areas of Easton have also been marked as a ‘wider area of local context’. This area will not be part of the development proposals, but will need to be taken into consideration regarding how the project will connect with the surrounding area.
The council states in the letter that it is ‘important’ for them that those in the local area hear ‘first-hand’ what this may mean as well as give opportunities to ‘have a say’.
Many of the residents in the core regeneration area of Wade Street, were not informed of the ‘early conversations’ the council had with some residents and community groups back in 2020.
This time, a letter was sent to addresses, but planned community workshops are mainly taking place during the school run or the working day, leaving many unable to attend.
The Bristol Local Plan Review 2019, suggests the Frome Gateway development could include at least 1,000 new homes, workspace, up to 500 student bedspaces as well as ‘provision of community facilities required to support the residential and student development.’ The River Frome could also be enhanced’ as part of a ‘townscape feature’ – hopefully with a robust flood plan.
Whilst providing community facilities for future residents is important, it still overlooks the needs of its current residents who have been wanting community improvement for decades. There has been very little provision in the Wade Street area since the original slum clearances and further erection of large scale council flats in the late 50s.
The vast majority of homes already in the core regeneration area are social housing flats – now including more recent Housing Association properties and shared ownership – who appear to be more selective in their eligibility regarding to whom they rent.
That this many people being housed on top of each other with little in the way of community facilities for so long as well as being home to several hostels for homeless people and families, it’s little wonder St Jude’s is one of the most highly deprived areas in Bristol.
A Bristol City Council website dedicated to the Frome Gateway project mentions Bristol’s One City Plan, saying the regeneration framework will meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), by ‘addressing poverty, inequality, health and wellbeing, and the environment, in order to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.’ This will happen by creating a regeneration framework.
With so much development and housing planned for central areas, Bristol residents are still baffled at the closing of two Bristol primary schools by Cabinet a year ago, hardly benefiting educational inequalities in the city. School places in Central East, especially for secondary, has become a critical issue alongside the shortage of specialist provision for children and young people with Special Educational Needs. More housing may be needed but this will also impact on current issues with education setting shortages.
In recent years, St Jude’s has been hit by arson, high levels of antisocial behavior and drug dealing.
In 2021, Bristol City Council was forced to take action against the high rates of acquisitive crime in St Jude’s and St Paul’s, with £400,000 in Home Officer Safer Streets funding – though agencies are still failing to get to grips with drug dealing and outbursts of violence that frequently takes place on most street corners in the core area.
When posing the question about why Frome Gateway is being developed, the main answer given is the ‘housing crisis’ saying that there are over 16,000 people on the housing wait list or in temporary accommodation.
Papers to Communities and Scrutiny Commission, show numbers have increased from 12,181 in January 2020 by around 4000 applicants over the last two years. The Housing Lettings Review at the time showed that over 50 per cent of applicants were in the lowest priority banding (Band 4) with most unlikely to ever be offered social housing.
The review also said: ‘Disabled people, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities and those who have declared a religion or faith are over represented on the register,’ which is already in keeping with the Lawrence Hill Ward profile of which St Jude’s is part of.
Whilst sensible regeneration and sensible housing – which also meets the needs of disabled people over represented on the register – is welcomed, gentrification is not. Neither is the current trend for Central Bristol to go taller and denser – which 1000 new homes and 500 student spaces on an area this size would suggest. We already have that in the core area and it’s not been supported with necessary community infrastructure nor enough for support services to meet the complex needs of some of its residents.
If St Jude’s does not already provide ‘an attractive entrance to central Bristol’ it’s certainly no fault of the residents after some seventy years of neglect and the dumping of people into preexisting unsuitable housing. So if Bristol City Council is genuine regarding an attempt to ‘define the spirit of Frome Gateway’, it needs to have a word with itself about making consultation accessible at times residents can attend.
St Jude’s residents desperately want better for the area, but they don’t want to be pushed out and they’re not going to stand for poor doors carving up of the neighbourhood.
For more information about the development, visit: https://fromegateway.co.uk