Bristol religious sect plans to move house

Evening Post, Bristol/August 20, 2009

A religious sect has won planning permission to demolish its meeting hall in Bristol and develop the site for new homes.

But it is unlikely that the Exclusive Brethren, who use the metal warehouse-style premises in Bath Road, Brislington, will move in the immediate future.

Councillors yesterday gave consent for a total of 51 flats and homes to be built on the site near Wick Road.

Members of the sect have held meetings at the site - their national headquarters - for more than 30 years.

But councillors were told the site was blighted by plans to build what was known as the Callington Road Link Road to ease traffic congestion on the A4 Bath Road near West Town Lane.

Planning consultant Andrew Beard said it was not possible for the new road to be built and the meeting hall to remain. He said afterwards that the homes scheme would mean that the trustees could sell the site and move to alternative premises if the new road ever went ahead.

Simon Baker, who is understood to be one of the trustees, said afterwards: "We are very pleased there has been a successful outcome after negotiations which have lasted a few years. This is just a strategy in place in case we have to move."

It is understood the sect is looking for alternative premises in the Bristol area in case the new road is built.

The homes plan is to tear down the meeting hall and build three main blocks which would be positioned in a U-shape and provide 17 one-bed flats, nine two-bed houses and two one-bed houses.

Another block, which would be nearest the access onto Bath Road, would provide 18 two-bed and five one-bed flats.

The site includes Lynwood House, a Grade II-listed building which has stood empty for years and fallen into disrepair. This, together with an outbuilding, would be converted into six flats.

Planning officers consulted with more than 100 residents in the area but received only five responses, none of which were against redevelopment in principle. Some minor issues were raised by the Brislington Conservation and History Society and Bristol Civic Society.

The Conservation Advisory Panel "strongly objected" to plans for Lynwood House which they said "did not preserve the setting of the listed building".

Part of the site is woodland with many mature trees but the council's landscaping team say they are happy with the management plan for future maintenance.

Councillors were disappointed that there was no provision for social housing within the scheme.

But they agreed that on balance, the plan should really be approved.

Committee chairman, Labour councillor Sean Beynon said: "I don't think it is a particularly exciting scheme but equally there is nothing which justifies me opposing it."

The committee voted by seven votes to two in favour of consent, subject to conditions and a Section 106 planning agreement, which would oblige any developer to pay towards public works if the scheme went ahead.

The consent lasts for three years after which it would have to be renewed.

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