New vision for town before opening of Portishead train station
- Credit: Allies and Morrison
A cinema, affordable housing and green spaces could be part of the 'missing link' in Portishead’s town centre after a developer’s controversial plans were withdrawn.
Aberdeen Standard Investments instead agreed to collaborate with North Somerset Council and Portishead Town Council on a vision for the wider area around Wyndham Way before the long-awaited railway line transforms the town.
Residents have already had a say on what they want to see for the largely brownfield site – calling for medical facilities, schools and nurseries, more greenery, better walking and cycling connections, sustainable development, and more and better jobs.
Alex Hearn, North Somerset Council’s assistant director of placemaking and growth, told councillors on March 10: “National planning policy and our current development plan is supportive of more development in Portishead because there’s brownfield land, much within the town centre, it’s accessible, next to where a new station is planned.
“As the station becomes more of a reality developers are going to become more motivated to develop. It’s important we walk towards those challenges.”
Aberdeen Standard Investments submitted plans in 2017 to redevelop the Old Mill Road industrial estate into 350 new homes with a cinema, café and new shops.
The proposals sparked outcry and residents marched through the town in protest.
Recognising the strength of feeling, in 2019 the landowner joined talks with councillors about creating a broader vision for Portishead, and later agreed to withdraw its application.
Now a steering group is looking at an area between the High Street, marina and planned new railway station – part of the £116million MetroWest project to restore the line between Portishead and Bristol. After numerous delays it is now expected to open in 2024.
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A vision document for Wyndham Way says the site could feature affordable housing, townhouses and higher density developments alongside 'attractive and lively ground floor uses – local, independent, meanwhile retail and leisure, but also increasingly community, cultural and arts space'.
It says: “A central location like this is an ideal place to locate space for small businesses, flexible workspace and creative spaces that can help to expand opportunities in Portishead.
“It also offers the potential to expand Portishead’s cultural and community provision, with the potential for new cinema and venue space that could either complement or replace the existing Somerset Hall.”
The report says the lack of green space in the town centre could be addressed, and a 3G playing pitch is also needed.
Portishead councillor Huw James, a member of the Wyndham Way steering group, said some reaction to the previous plans had been 'toxic' but the new approach is collaborative and will give the community a voice.
Some 200 people have already commented on a new website with details of the proposals, wyndhamway.co.uk.
Cllr James said: “This is a site that can unlock Portishead and tackle the problems we have, it can deal with the scars of previous development.
“This is one of the largest brownfield sites we have available in North Somerset. This is a really special project.”
He rejected the suggestion the project would 'kill off the high street', instead arguing it would boost footfall.
Cllr Steve Bridger said: “I can understand why in the past people have recoiled from some planning applications when there’s no vision. If people can see the vision they’re more likely to buy into it and feel part of it.”
Portishead Town Council will discuss the project on March 17.