Note: This article is being republished because a mysterious technical problem was preventing it from being read in its original position on this site and I know from emails I’ve received that people want to be able to read it. It has been very slightly revised for clarity in a couple of places.
The time and the place of the appeal hearing into the South West Quadrant has not yet been officially confirmed by the Planning Inspectorate but it looks likely it is going to be held in the hall at the caravan park in West Bay on January 26 – 28, 2010.
Disclosure: Since this piece was first published, I have started to work part-time as Secretary to the Board of Local Food Links Limited, which supplies meals to local primary schools from its base at the Centre for Local Food on St Michael’s Trading Estate, on the South West Quadrant. However, I have not discussed the future of the South West Quadrant with anybody at Local Food Links, nor have I heard it spoken about it by anybody else. It is also worth noting that my job as Secretary is not to contribute towards the formation of any policy that Local Food Links might develop about this issue; that is the directors’ job.
MORE than 200 jobs will result from the regeneration of the South West Quadrant in Bridport.
That’s the controversial conclusion reached by consultants working for Haywards and West Dorset District Council, who both own land in and around the St Michael’s Trading Estate – and who both want to see it redeveloped. Objectors argue that any benefits could be significantly less than those claimed by Haywards and WDDC.
Plans for new business opportunities and for 175 new homes (114 open-market, 61 “affordable”) have twice been rejected by councillors unhappy about what might happen to the people and buildings of a historic part of Bridport.
An appeal against the plans’ refusal will be heard by a planning inspector next year (in a three-day hearing currently due to start on January 26). Objectors are seeking funds to hire a lawyer; supporters are arguing for the scheme’s benefits and defending their motives in pressing ahead with it.
What could the benefits be?
Consultants at Goadsby Town Planning estimate “that the net number of direct and indirect jobs derived from the development will be 206.
“By applying the average wage in the District of £24,000 to the total number of direct and indirect jobs, it can be estimated that £5 million will be generated per annum in income upon completion of the development.
“Much of this will be spent within the local economy, along with the spending generated through those 175 households occupying the dwellings on the development.”
Consultants reckon that 175 households could mean 383 residents (2.19 per household). They add: “Taking the average district income of just over £24,000, the combined income (assuming one average wage per household) of those living on the development could be £4.2 million. After mortgage, rent, tax and other essential outgoings, a significant amount of additional spend will occur in the town.”
Goadsby’s report also estimates that between 70 and 95 construction workers will be employed for five years on the Quadrant redevelopment in Bridport.
One of the reasons protestors want to hire an expert is to probe calculations like those put forward by Goadsby. The consultants’ sums are based on approved methods for working out impacts on matters like jobs (for example, they use English Partnerships’ Standard Approach to Assessing the Additional Impact of Projects Method Statement, Second Edition, 2004) but objectors say that guidelines can obscure practical matters of fact.
Figures given to Goadbsy by architects Morgan Carey suggest there are 112 people working on the South West Quadrant. If you include them in the suggested total of 206 jobs, isn’t the actual total of new jobs 206 minus 112, that is 94? And 94 times the average wage of £24,000 is £2,256,000, not £5 million.
More questions. Would those 112 people actually be able to carry on working on the St Michael’s Trading Estate? If not, would they be able to go elsewhere? If there isn’t anywhere else, what then?
Kit Glaisyer, one of the 25 artists currently based in St Michael’s Studios, says: “If this goes ahead I will be thrown out of my studio.”
He doesn’t know where else he could go. St Michael’s Studios could be partly converted into 11 live-work units, but Mr Glaisyer says they’d just be “nice apartments, really”. Studio space would be reduced to a quarter of what it is now. “You can’t squeeze 25 artists into a quarter of the space there was. It’s a nonsense.”
Mr Glaisyer argues that the SW Quadrant is already an entrepreneurial area, offering small businesses “affordable incubation units”. Introduce 175 new households, and that spirit will go.
“As soon as you bring residential units onto an industrial estate, you’ve lost it for ever.”
Will West Dorset District Council make money from developing its South West Quadrant land?
In the past, the district council has made money from developing land for sale. Gore Cross Business Park, on the northern edge of Bridport, was established in the mid-1990s in partnership with Dorset County Council and the Rural Development Commission (since absorbed into the South West Regional Development Agency). The council’s main aims were to provide space for local businesses to expand and to generate returns to keep council tax levels down.
The last unoccupied plot at Gore Cross was sold last year to Top Gear for a new £250,000 headquarters. Top Gear is moving from the South West Quadrant. The company’s boss was concerned about what might happen there in the future.
The district council insists it will not make any money from the redevelopment of the South West Quadrant. David Evans, director of planning and community services, says: “There has been a huge amount of consultation on the principle of developing this site.
“The vast majority of people who took part in the consultation thought this was a good idea.
“West Dorset District Council will not gain financially from this development if it goes ahead. In fact it will require substantial public subsidy to bring this development forward.
“This part of Bridport has immense significance in terms of heritage and history as a centre for rope and net making. Some of the buildings are decaying and need sensitive repair.
“This scheme would achieve this, safeguard local employment and deliver about 60 affordable homes.
“Affordable housing is always mentioned by local people whenever we ask them what their top priorities are.
“However, the decision will now be made by an independent planning inspector.”
The level of public subsidy required is estimated to be at least £2 million.