With Christmas just a few days away, we are reminded once again of the importance of having somewhere of your own to call home. I had the opportunity to visit a site in Horfield, the ward I represent with Councillor Hulme, where we have just started building some new, much needed, council homes for the area. Building new houses and addressing the shortage of adequate affordable accommodation remains one of the key priorities for the council, especially during the national cost of living crisis that we are all facing.
Construction work began on the former Elderly Person’s Home (EPH) site on Bishopthorpe Road, Manor Farm, at the end of last month. The development will deliver a total of 29 new council homes, made up of houses and apartments, and a new community facility for local people to come together. This building is important, as we are not just building housing, we are trying to build stronger communities. The homes on the site are being built using a “fabric first” approach that provides excellent thermal insulation, alongside the use of ground source heat pumps which will also provide heating and hot water for the development. This will result in energy efficient properties which will see household utility bills dramatically reduced.
I am really pleased to see work underway at this site, as there have been a number of challenges to overcome for us to get to this point. Our teams have worked really hard to get as many houses as possible on the site, while still complying with all relevant planning policy and making sure homes are big enough and people living there will have plenty of outdoor space. There have also been issues with contractors going into administration, rising costs associated with COVID, Brexit and the current financial crisis, and poor ground conditions. Many of these problems can be seen across a lot of the sites we are currently bringing forward.
The homes are part of the council’s New Build Housing Programme, regenerating brownfield sites, to provide new high-quality homes across the city. To date 260 new homes have been completed.
The new build programme aims to deliver more than 1,750 new homes for the city over the next five years. As well as the Manor Farm development, we are also due to start construction on a number of other sites in the New Year. Work to build 57 homes across five sites in Lawrence Weston will start in January; the former Brentry EPH will be turned into 34 new homes; and construction is set to start at the former Brunel Ford garage on Muller Road in the spring, providing an additional 32 new homes. With Bristol only constituting 42 square miles of land, building in and up on sites like these – and ones more centrally – is essential to minimise sprawling out.
All these new homes will form part of our Project 1,000 plans, our commitment to see at least a thousand much needed new affordable homes built each year from 2024. Every property we build is important to the city, and we are exploring all options to accelerate our building programme. But, we recognise that we cannot do this alone, and we are working with a range of partners and organisations to build homes across Bristol, including a number of projects on council owned land and community led housing.
More widely, this fits into the context of getting Bristol building more homes to tackle the housing crisis. Last year, a manifesto-exceeding 2,563 new homes were completed in Bristol – including 474 new affordable homes, the most in 12 years. Of these homes, 90% were built on previously developed land, and another 3,500 new homes were under construction as of 1 April 2022.
We are also further exploring the use of innovative, low-carbon Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), which can help to increase the scale and pace of the delivery of high quality, sustainable, affordable homes in the city. We have secured planning permission for 33 MMC council homes across three sites, which we hope will all start on site next spring.
To keep up to date with housing developments, visit www.bristol.gov.uk/newcouncilhomes