Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Monday, 24 February 2014

The Man in Space: down to earth with a bump.

Another day, another bog standard unimaginative bid to pack in a few semis on a brownfield site.

This one's where the Man in Space pub now stands, closed and forlorn, in Stockwood, near a parade of run-down shops. This is no depressed area, though... like most of the Stockwood 'plateau', the immediate area is filled with decent, privately owned semis. In fact the developer is at pains to assure us that this “proposal is not for high density apartments. It is for 14 family sized homes with parking and garden.“ Four pairs of semis, plus two 'triple' units, according to the indicative plans. 

Much like the rest of the neighbourhood, then, except that on this one garages won't come as part of the package; it looks like the front 'gardens' will be paved over instead. There's a playpark over the road, and the bus stops for a frequent service to town (3 or 4 miles) are under two hundred metres away. The pub will be gone, though!

All in all an unremarkable development. If it goes ahead, Stockwood will be more Stockwood still. The development won't provide local employment, it won't reduce the need to travel, it won't provide any new amenity. It could - if the planning conditions are right - include some solar panels and even some better land drainage than the present use provides, but it's unlikely to give more than a nod to such progressive ideas. 
But it would be utterly amazing if it included such innovative (though proven) standards as Passivhaus , though many of us believe this must be the norm if we're to take climate change seriously. And it won't touch the demand for affordable housing in a market that virtually excludes low earners. Nor will begin to recognise that more cars are bad news... we might expect a good 20 to 30 extra just from this 'infill' development, even though shops, library, health centre, school, and public transport are all an easy flat walk away. The notion of a 'car-free', or even low car-dependency development, won't come into the planning process.

Why not? We know about climate change. We know about homelessness and unaffordability. We know traffic on our roads is expected to increase 30% by 2030 if we go on as we are.

It's mad to just carry on as before. Small sites like the Man in Space are the big opportunity, the low hanging fruit, that can lead the change. Leaving it to the speculative market delivers only the bland, the unadventurous, and a quick and easy profit, with all the real costs externalised.


Anonymous said...

Well a look at your picture says it all!!!
Miserable type individual that lives in a different world.
Sorry Pete but cars are a necessity. As a builder I have to travel, I can't very well move to within walking distance of my latest site, (I'll be on 2 maybe 3 sites throughout the year) and even if I could, how do you suggest I get my tools to site without the combustion engine?...
These houses will be nice and modern and with solar panels!
As for affordability, 195k is quite affordable for a couple that bring in collectively 40k a year, which if you've half an education should easily be attainable.

So Pete, I beg you, please start a construction company because you seem to believe you could develop something better and more affordable that the professionals out there!

Stockwood Pete said...

I'm not sure which picture suggests a 'Miserable type individual that lives in a different world'? Commenting as 'anonymous' does hint, though, at a wish to be seen as indistinguishable from everyone else, and the content of what you say does rather reinforce that. Are you helping build on this site, perhaps?

Believe it or not, I think cars are here to stay, and they can be very useful, essential even. But that doesn't mean everyone needs one, any more than everyone needs a house with a third bedroom, a second bathroom, a stair-lift, a large garden, or any of the other things that we all regard as optional (if we can afford them). There's not the slightest reason why every house needs a garage, or space for a car on or off-road. A car may be vital to you, but not everyone needs one, not everyone can drive one, not everyone can afford to buy and run one.

Suggesting that a brownfield site like the Man in Space site could be 'car-free', or should meet the best modern insulation standards, isn't exactly revolutionary. The original post explains why such ideas need bringing forward, and of course it's on new build sites that it's easiest to do. The pity is that the building industry is so conservative and intolerant of progress.

NB There's a Passivhaus development under way in Southville – details at