Bristol Charities is working on plans to create a balanced new neighbourhood centre for multigenerational living and working at the Centre. This will include accessible, sustainable work and meeting spaces for current and potentially new tenants, alongside new, high quality affordable housing for older people and families, as well as facilities for the wider community.

Having completed an initial round of consultation, Bristol Charities is now looking for ideas for the publicly accessible parts of the project, to maximise local people’s use and enjoyment of the facilities on offer. This includes the potential community uses and activities that could be included in the new building, as well as how to make these as welcoming as possible.

The charity is sending out letters and has set up an online survey to gather views, which will help inform their updated proposals to be shared with the community in the next few weeks. Suggestions so far include a café, nursery, spaces for meetings and events, a small library and outside space to meet and relax.

The project team is also looking for ideas to commemorate and celebrate the centre’s historic role and legacy within the designs, such as an exhibition or art installation. Starting life as a hospital facility for American soldiers in 1945, the Vassall Centre later became a medical limb replacement facility and currently offers affordable, accessible workspace and conference facilities for businesses, charities and not-for-profit organisations.

Anne Anketell, chief executive officer at Bristol Charities says:

“We are really interested in finding out what community facilities would work for local people and ensure the new neighbourhood centre benefits residents in Fishponds, so we’d urge people to take part in our survey, which will only take a few minutes to complete.”

Bristol Charities is committed to retaining a high level of accessibility for which the Vassall Centre is well known and has appointed an independent accessibility consultant, Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE), to provide specialist advice on developing its plans. The team is also committed to increasing biodiversity, with new trees, planting and space for wildlife, and is appointing a landscape ecologist to help with this aspect of the proposals.

There was good engagement with the local community during the first phase of consultation, which involved meetings, presentations and an exhibition at the Vassall Centre, which will remain there and be updated as the proposals are developed. In addition to lots of positive feedback and suggestions, there were some shared concerns, particularly from adjacent neighbours, about the potential impact the proposed development might have on their properties, as well as questions as to why the existing buildings could not be retained and refurbished.

Anne Anketell explains: “The existing buildings are now more than 75 years old, offer very low levels of energy efficiency and sustainability and have reached the end of their practical lifespan. Upgrading them would be prohibitively costly and would not enable much-needed new homes for older people and families to be created in the area.

“The views of local people are very important to us. We have listened carefully to the concerns of adjacent neighbours and are taking their issues into account as we further develop our proposals. People will get another opportunity to see the revised plans and comment on them in the next round of consultation in the next few weeks before we submit a planning application.”

Bristol Charities provides opportunities and support for people and communities to improve lives through grants, housing and charitable projects in Bristol. It is a UK registered charity providing a range of affordable sheltered, retirement and extra care housing facilities for older people.

For media enquiries and interview requests contact

Caroline Harris at Spirit Public Relations

[email protected] 0117 9441415 / 07966 550623