News and views from north Bristol's urban village

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Falcondale Road Development

After a lengthy application process and opposition from some local residents, the detached house on the corner of Falcondale Road and Henbury Road is finally being turned into flats.

On the one hand, I understand why some local residents are unhappy about this decision. The presence of low rise flats in a neighbourhood does change its feel and does make it easier to apply for changed usage in the future. Furthermore, the loss of a prominent and attractive detached family house is a shame on aesthetic and historic grounds. I also appreciate concerns about the extra traffic that a development of flats will generate at the already congested junction with Henbury Road.

Having said all that, I also recognise that Britain is suffering a chronic shortage of affordable housing and that the South West is a particularly difficult area in which first time buyers can
get onto the property ladder. I've seen work colleagues face the struggle of buying their first home and the lengths many have to go to just to afford a starter property.

Furthermore, if we need to build new homes, which seems an essential fact of national life, I would rather they were built on brown field sites than on farming land in the middle of the countryside. This type of development has a far greater environmental impact than turning a house into flats.

The fact that Westbury on Trym has historically been an area with a lot of family homes - which I'm sure will remain the case for decades to come - does not change the reality that Britain is changing. Families are smaller than they were, the number of household units is increasing and the type of properties such households need is changing. This is the big picture. Personally, I'd much rather see less divorce, more stable families and larger households. If this were the case, I think housing needs would reflect this social reality. Since the trends are going in the opposite direction, I just don't think we can deny single people the chance to buy a home.

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