Sisters Uncut at Cheltenham Road Library

 Funny business at the Cheltenham Road Library site. The library building, occupied by Sisters Uncut last month, was recently FLOGGED by Bristol City Council to MD Homes for an unknown sum, somewhere in excess of £2.5 million. Some say it may even have been sold for as much as £9 million.

The council advertised the site for sale to developers claiming it had PLANNING PERMISSION for the “erection of 36 self-contained flats over an underground parking area”. But has it?

Permission for the flats was originally granted to the council’s development partner,  Chatsworth Homes, in 2008. They were given the prime Cheltenham Road site in exchange for a new library they were supposed to deliver in Bishopston as the developers of the notorious BRISTOL NORTH BATHS site on Gloucester Road.

Alas, Chatsworth went BUST in 2015 owing Bristol City Council £3.4m in loans and leaving us to pay a further £1.5m to complete their BOTCHED and BANKRUPT development. We’ve therefore paid £4.9m for the new library that Chatsworth were supposed to be giving us for “free”.

Now it gets murkier … Chatsworth only managed to get planning permission for luxury flats at Cheltenham Road WITHOUT any affordable housing because they were providing a library as a community benefit instead. Since the new developers, MD, AREN’T supplying a library shouldn’t they have to meet affordable housing commitments instead?

That’s notwithstanding that the planning permission for the site granted in 2008 was only for THREE YEARS. Although MD Homes have quickly applied for “a non-material amendment” to this out-of-date permission requesting minor changes to the windows on the property. This amendment was conveniently waved through in a matter of weeks in February by council Planning Officer, Thomas Wilkinson, who forgot to mention anywhere that the permission was SIX YEARS out of date!

What’s going on here? Are we about to get another luxury development of flats with no affordable housing courtesy of our dubious planning department working alongside the council’s notoriously bent Property Services department?


  1. TM

    The real smoking gun here is not held by Mr Wilkinson, who was no doubt “carrying out orders”, but rather by Peter Westbury, Planning Coordinator, Development Management.
    Under the Non-Material Amendment application (ref 17/00856/NMA) on the BCC website there is a letter from him to the applicant confirming that the development was implemented “on the basis of work undertaken on 12th October 2011”. This letter effectively says that sufficient work had been carried out within the period of validity of the application to allow it to proceed without further consent being required.

    This is odd, because as far as I can recall the building was still operating as a library at that point.

    Another chapter in the old story of BCC giving planning permission to increase the value of something they want to flog off. Is that the Ombudsman I see on the horizon?

    1. TM

      PS: 2 points I forgot to mention above:
      1. the “work” was said to have been undertaken on 12th October 2011, which happens to be one day before the planning consent expired, so it was informed by BCC’s relationship with Chatsworth
      2. The letter from Peter Westbury was written in 2011, when the property development industry was in meltdown, and BCC were desperate to get stuff built. A whole raft of undesirable planning applications were given a fair wind at that time.


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