Council agrees deal for housing on Castle School sixth form centre site in Thornbury
PLANS to build homes on the site of Castle School sixth form in Thornbury have taken a big step forward.
Hundreds of homes are due to be built on pieces of land owned by South Gloucestershire Council, including the sixth form, which is relocating from the old Thornbury Grammar School buildings to the school’s main centre in Park Road, and the neighbouring adult social services site at 32 Gloucester Road.
Council cabinet members pledged to meet the needs of communities, get local people on the housing ladder and build high quality, energy efficient, affordable homes for families, couples and individuals as they formally approved teaming up with Bath & North East Somerset Council’s construction company Aequus on Monday July 12.
Councillors said those priorities would be met along with earning cash for the authority from the development of the Thornbury sites and others in Frenchay, Hambrook, Emersons Green, Filton and Warmley.
The local authority will link with Aequus to build homes on five of the sites and with Wain Homes on the sixth at Mulgrove Farm, Hambrook, next to a plot the housing firm is already developing.
The deals will be subject to planning permission and full business cases, with the council having the option to cancel the arrangement at any point during a formal three-stage process and work with another organisation.
Malmains Drive in Frenchay will be the first site developed with Aequus having submitted a planning application for 30 homes, of which 35 per cent will be affordable, with the local authority and the housing business sharing profits.
Cabinet’s decision on Monday, July 12, gives the green light for the B&NES company to draw up proposals for similar schemes at a pipeline of locations including Vinney Green House in Emersons Green, which was demolished in 2019, and Charlborough Road in Filton.
Aequus will also prepare proposals for the Castle School and social services sites in Thornbury, and The Grange former school in Warmley, which closed in 2016.
Councillors also approved an extra £400,000 for costs of securing planning permission, making land ready for sale and legal advice.
Opposition Lib Dem group leader Claire Young asked what work had been done to identify the right type of housing need in each area rather than allowing the development partner to maximise profits.
Conservative cabinet member for corporate resources Ben Burton said: “I fully agree that the council has responsibility not only to work for the largest capital receipt but that when we are working in a joint venture we have at the forefront of our minds other council objectives and aims.”
He said these included tackling the climate emergency, ensuring the types of homes met communities’ needs and ensuring the housing went to local people.
“I am pleased to see that level of flexibility which allows the council to review before it proceeds at each of those three stages,” Cllr Burton said.
“I’m very supportive of the proposal to proceed with the sale and overage agreement on Malmains Drive.
“It’s a site in my ward that I know well. It’s important to highlight we have taken on board the residents’ concerns and put forward a proposal which hopefully will meet local needs.
“We are approving funding to commence stage one on a number of other sites and it is key to get this pipeline going so we can deliver them at the earliest opportunity.
“I am pleased to see the approval to proceed separately for contractual arrangements with Wain Homes on Mulgrove Farm site.
“They have been involved in one half of that site so It is good to see a combined approach that will hopefully add to the consistency of style and type of property available, which produces more cohesive communities.”
Cabinet member for regeneration, environment and strategic infrastructure Cllr Steve Reade said: “As a council our housing delivery and affordable homes figures continue to surpass targets year on year.
“This is why we are in a position to push for a higher quality development through joint ventures, not only helping to provide better homes for people but also to benefit our other aims and goals such as ensuring homes are more energy efficient, thereby supporting our climate emergency goals.”
Cabinet member for communities and local place Cllr Rachael Hunt said: “It’s great to see we are continuing our efforts around joint ventures, giving us greater input and influence to support our goals around community shaping without over-exposing the council and taxpayers’ money to unnecessary risk.”
In December, cabinet decided not to set up the council’s own housing company but proceed with joint venture partnerships to build homes on its land.
The shortlist of six sites was whittled down from more than 100.
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service