£1m funding bid to make Weston police station redevelopment viable
- Credit: Stephen Sumner
A £1million cash injection could make building 100 homes on a brownfield site in Weston a viable option after “ideas of grandeur” fell flat.
North Somerset Council has applied for a Government grant to remove a fuel tank from the former police station and attract a quality developer.
Councillor Mark Canniford said the previous administration’s vision of a 14-storey block on the Walliscote Place site, also home to the listed magistrates court, was unachievable and he wanted to see plans that included some affordable housing.
The land is allocated for 70 homes but could accommodate 100.
Cllr Canniford, the authority's executive member for placemaking who signed off the application, said: “We need to bring this land forward for development. We have so many town centre sites which are undeliverable because of costs or complications.
“We have to get those sites in a position where we can get a good quality developer to develop something really decent.
“The ideas of grandeur bandied around by the previous administration about having a tower block there I don’t think are going to happen.
“Because of the land values in Bristol they can build much higher. In Weston that can’t happen. You get to four or five storeys and it’s fine but if you go to seven, eight, nine, the costs of the top storeys are very expensive.
“You can have plans that aren’t achievable, or you can put things in place which can be achieved and start to improve the town centre environment.
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“That’s a political choice. You can hold out until values go up – so far we’ve been waiting five years – or you can get on and do something.
“We’ve waited far too long in Weston for things to happen.”
After buying the site in 2015, North Somerset Council was told the now demolished police station could be replaced with a block of 52 flats standing up to 14 storeys high, with views across Weston Bay.
Offices, commercial units and up to 28 more homes were also mooted but progress stalled because of “fundamental viability concerns”.
Speaking in January 2020, Jenny Ford, the council’s head of development, said: “We’re hopefully going to go through a new commissioning exercise to bring forward new proposals.
“The work has not entirely gone to waste. There was an aspiration for a great high-rise building on that site.
“The bigger the building, the more piling you have to do, the more lifts you have to put in, fire escape issues, market attractiveness – it’s a difficult one to get right.
“The new commission would have a more open mind as to what the right development is.”
The government’s £75million brownfield land release funding was announced in April to help councils bring forward previously developed public sector land for housing, with a March 2024 deadline for the proposed works to be completed.
If the council is successful, the funding will pay for the removal of the underground fuel tank and the groundworks required due to poor ground conditions and to mitigate against the flood risk.
The decision notice signed off by Cllr Canniford says: “There is existing developer interest in this site, but viability is poor due to relatively low sales values against the costs.
“It is intended that the council will launch a procurement process for a development partner in September 2021, potentially as part of a portfolio package of sites in council ownership.”