Community invited by charity owners to view plans and give their feedback
Revised proposals have been revealed to turn the Vassall Centre in Fishponds into an accessible, inclusive, new neighbourhood centre for multigenerational living and working, with facilities for the wider community. The plans are designed to encourage people of different ages and social backgrounds to come together to create an integrated, balanced community.
Designs for the development are organised around a landscaped outdoor recreational space to encourage interaction between everyone using the centre. Arranged around this central ‘heart’ are an accessible hub for the charities currently based at the centre; a café, nursery and gateway building with bookable community spaces; together with affordable housing for older people in need, families and smaller households.
The Vassall Centre currently provides barrier-free work and service provision space for charities, which Bristol Charities has continued to manage since it purchased the site in 2021. However, the existing buildings are at the end of their practical life-span and have very poor environmental performance.
The sustainable new centre will be designed to be accessible and inviting to all. The much-needed outdoor central space where people can gather and relax will include seating, play features and landscaped gardens. The proposed café fronts onto the landscaped heart and is also part of a welcoming reception area, with potential for an exhibition space to showcase the history of the Vassall Centre, along with current news and events. The gateway building will have a ground floor space for the wider community to use, with potential for supported housing on the two floors above.
The accessible hub building is designed to accommodate existing charity tenants that wish to remain at the centre. Meetings and workshops have been held with individual tenants to understand their needs, along with advice from a specialist accessibility consultant, to improve on current provision. Features of the new designs include central easy-to-find shared spaces, a wide central corridor so wheelchairs can pass and improving visibility with glazed ‘shop fronts’ for tenants.
Forty one-bed and two-bed flats with their own balconies will be created around a central courtyard garden for older people, all of which will be let at affordable rents. Operated by Bristol Charities, these ‘dual-aspect’ homes will be bright and airy, with a communal lounge and south facing roof terrace to encourage residents to meet and help combat loneliness. This housing will also connect to the nursery building via a garden room to encourage social interaction between different generations.
In addition, 41 high quality affordable homes will be created. The mix of two-bed and three-bed houses with gardens and one-bed and two-bed apartments with balconies, will be offered for rent or low-cost shared ownership. They will be operated by experienced charitable housing association, Brighter Places.
The development will be delivered in two phases, enabling existing tenants to remain at the Centre while new spaces are created, with the affordable homes following in the second phase. The new buildings will range from two to three storeys, to ensure the development fits in well with the local area, with density levels well within Bristol City Council’s planning guidance. Composed mainly of brick to reflect their residential surroundings, a range of building designs and recessed balconies will help bring variety to their street frontages.
Extensive landscaping across the site and around the perimeters will bring much-needed greenery, providing spaces for wildlife, promoting biodiversity and helping to soften the appearance of the new development. Sustainable materials used in the buildings themselves will provide high levels of comfort for occupants as well as reducing energy consumption and fuel bills.
The design team have adapted their proposals following feedback from stakeholders and the wider community during initial consultation. For instance, the larger hub building has been repositioned towards the centre of the site, buildings for older housing along Vassall Road and Gill Avenue have been pulled back to allow for a wider landscaped area onto the street and the apartment building for affordable homes has been reduced in size.
Specialist consultants have been brought in to advise on specific aspects on more detailed plans for landscaping, ecology, transport and sustainability, to address issues raised by neighbours and the wider public.
Local people and Vassall Centre users are now being invited to have their say on the revised proposals. Consultation is running from 16th May until 6th June with an exhibition and face-to-face sessions at the Centre and online. This will provide an opportunity for local residents and businesses to view and discuss the latest plans, give feedback and help shape the proposals before planning submission. For further information about the consultation please visit the Vassall Centre website.
Julian Mines, chief executive officer at Bristol Charities says: “We have listened carefully and our revised approach responds to the views and concerns of tenants and the local community, providing much more detail about what the proposed development will look like and how the different elements will work together.”
“The redevelopment of the Vassall Centre provides an important opportunity to retain and improve on the existing services, whilst making more effective use of the site for tenants, people with disabilities, older people and families in need of affordable housing, and local residents.”
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.
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