Judge says Broadwalk plan saga can go to Judicial Review

Residents of Knowle gather to express their concerns at the proposed redevelopment of the Broadwalk Shopping Centre into 'Redcatch Quarter'
-Credit: (Image: Bristol Live)

The future of the Broadwalk Shopping Centre in Knowle - and the plans to demolish it and turn it into the ‘Redcatch Quarter’ development - hangs in the balance again today after a judge said there were grounds for a local resident to take the council to a judicial review over their controversial handling of the plans.

It means Bristol City Council ’s planning department will be summoned to the judicial review by local Knowle resident Laura Chapman, and the saga of what happened at City Hall with the Broadwalk plans last summer will be thrashed out in court - unless the council or the developer backs down in the meantime

Laura Chapman, one of the leaders of the residents’ group challenging the plans for the 819 new flats on the site of the shopping centre, said that she hoped the judge’s decision would prompt a re-think at City Hall on the case, and that planners decide to quash the permission given to Broadside Holdings last autumn.

Read next: Seven big decisions that will shape the way Bristol looks

Read more: 'Shock' as police name new community room after local legend

Mrs Chapman’s request for a judicial review, made in February this year, has now been considered by a judge and granted - there was a chance the appeal could be thrown out before it even got that far - and that now means the planning permission granted by the council in controversial circumstances in 2023 is in question, pending the outcome of the legal action.

Sign up to receive daily news updates and breaking news alerts straight to your inbox for free here.

Councillors initially refused permission for Broadside’s plan to knock down the Wells Road shopping centre, the multi-storey car park and the bingo hall and create a new area of Knowle called Redcatch Quarter with 819 flats and a range of community spaces, along with pedestrian streets connecting Wells Road with Redcatch Park behind.

But the same committee then voted for a second time and narrowly granted permission - it later emerged the developers and their agents had held meetings with the chair of the committee, Cllr Richard Eddy, and with the then boss of the Mayor’s Office, Kevin Slocombe, to discuss ways to get the decision changed.

Cllr Richard Eddy (inset) was the chair of the planning committee that approved plans for 'Redcatch Quarter', a development to replace the Broadwalk Shopping Centre
Cllr Richard Eddy (inset) was the chair of the planning committee that approved plans for 'Redcatch Quarter', a development to replace the Broadwalk Shopping Centre -Credit:Bristol Live

That sparked outrage among many councillors, and among the residents living around Broadwalk who had been campaigning against the plan. Those residents said that while they supported the redevelopment of the shopping centre, what Broadside were proposing was too big with too many new homes.

Local residents raised thousands of pounds to fund a legal challenge - and that has now been given the go-ahead by the judge’s decision.

Mrs Chapman told Bristol Live she hoped the council, with its new administration after the May 2 elections, would consider a re-think. That would mean the council quashing the planning permission and putting it before councillors for a decision again, or the developers amending their plans and resubmitting a new version.

“I hope that BCC decide they don’t want the effort and expense of defending the Broadwalk planning approval, so we reach an out-of-court agreement to quash it,” she said. “Given the huge changes to the political landscape over the last few weeks, we are really hopeful that there might be a realistic opportunity of this happening.”

Read next: Fury and delight as controversial Bristol shopping centre plan is finally approved

Read more: Planning chief rejects calls to resign over Broadwalk saga

Bristol Live has approached Broadside Holdings for a response to the judge’s decision this week. In February, when the request for a judicial review was first made, the developers said they wanted to work with the group of residents.

Broadside’s development manager Francis Hilton said at the time he was frustrated by the judicial review. “We acknowledge that we haven’t always got our communications right,” he said. “We reached out to Laura Chapman and Helen Evans of the Broadwalk Redevelopment Community Group (BRCG) to establish a collaborative way forward and met with them in early January, following meetings with other groups.

“We pledged to work alongside the BRCG group and other stakeholders as we commence the detailed design, including offering to work with them on the scale of the development. We are therefore deeply disappointed to learn that Laura Chapman has decided to pursue unilateral legal action, which will only result in delay and spiralling legal costs.

Artist's impressions of a proposed new Redcatch Quarter development, to replace the Broadwalk Shopping Centre at Knowle, as seen from Redcatch Park
Artist's impressions of a proposed new Redcatch Quarter development, to replace the Broadwalk Shopping Centre at Knowle, as seen from Redcatch Park -Credit:Redcatch Quarter

“The judicial review means that the centre will be stuck in limbo for the foreseeable future, which could run up to another two years depending on legal processes. Meanwhile, the Centre will remain a largely vacant eyesore, that cannot provide for the needs of the community. We understand that local people want us to move forward now and invest in their community,” he added.

“The Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has already examined the scheme and was happy for us to move forward. We are extremely worried that the case could delay and even result in a missed opportunity for regeneration which delivers a new pedestrian high street for everyone, including new shops, community facilities and jobs. We hope the judicial review can be dropped, so we can move forward to the design.

“Our message to those with concerns is that we have heard you, we want your help in delivering something great for Knowle and we are absolutely committed to trying to reduce the scale, if we can, and working with Homes England to increase the affordable housing offer,” he added.