Ellis Genge, named this week in Steve Borthwick’s first England Rugby squad, has been among the Knowle Westers to today welcome brilliant progress in investing in their area. Sometimes, you need to maul, scrum, kick, and ruck to get stuff done. Filwood Broadway is a perfect example of trying everything to get things over the line.
There’s been a game plan in place for the area for some time but, for one reason or another, the projects needed to bring the plan to life have not quite got going. Because of this stagnation and lack of progress, we took the decision to start laying the foundations needed to revitalise the area and, working as a team for this part of south Bristol, has got us on a path in 2023 that will see massive leaps forward over coming weeks and months.
What’s happening? What’s happened?
Back in April last year, Cabinet approved up to £300,000 of funding to go towards building a new multi-use games area (MUGA) and providing investment towards new floodlights at Filwood Playing Fields. During that same meeting I also approved over £400,000 to deliver new public spaces and improvements in the area. Around the same time the council also allocated £90,000 of COVID recovery funding to spend on the children’s play area within the Broadway. These investments have helped kick start the regeneration work and begin laying foundations for the future.
Fast forward to this week and there have been further developments that will move our plans forward significantly.
The big news this week is the major funding we’ve secured from government following a bid to the national Levelling Up Fund. The £14.5 million we’ve secured will go a long way towards bringing new homes to the area whilst introducing better quality public realm (£2.1 million), investment in community centre (£7.6 million), creating space for improvements to local library services (£3 million), new business and commercial space, new sporting facilities, and delivering a greener and more attractive environment. This will enable us to add to the 2,563 new homes which were built in Bristol last year, including more affordable new homes than for any year in the last twelve. The benefit to cost ratio of our successful Levelling Up bid will mean a positive impact worth more than £45 million for this part of south Bristol in local employment, social value, health benefits, and cultural amenity.
The announcement comes as another major step is taken on this path with the approval of plans to build 30 new homes on the site of the former Filwood cinema on the Broadway. The approval given by the council’s Development Control Committee yesterday (Wednesday 18 January 2023), means that we now have the green light to press ahead with bringing much needed social housing and also includes nearly 600 square metres of floorspace for shops.
In the next couple of weeks we will publish an updated plan for the area for the city’s Cabinet to consider and ask to proceed with delivering this exciting vision for Filwood and Knowle West.
Transforming the derelict former cinema site
Opening its doors in 1938, Filwood cinema was arguably Knowle West’s biggest attraction for many years. The cinema could pack over 1,000 people hosting films, concerts, and boxing matches. The cinema was designed by Dennis Hurford and F. G. W. Chamberlain and was built as part of the Filwood Broadway development.
In the 1950s, cinema attendance began to fall in the UK. From the 1960s the cinema began to hold bingo on Saturdays and was sold in the 1980s to become a full-time bingo hall. Eventually, in 1994, the building closed entirely, and some of the original seats and projectors can be seen in the M Shed.
In 2023, nearly 30 years since the cinema building was last in use, new changes are planned on the old cinema site. The 20-year Knowle West Regeneration Framework, first published in 2012, has an ambition to develop and transform the Filwood Broadway area for the community – much like the original development plan back in the 1930s.
One of the most significant moments to happen this year will be the demolition of the old cinema. Planning permission to knock down the building was granted in 2019, after falling into a poor state of repair. Wring Group Ltd will carry out the demolition and have begun their site set up and preparation. The physical demolition is due to begin in February and be completed by early May.
This demolition will pave the way for the new homes and retail space approved this week. Public feedback from two separate consultations on these plans carried out in December 2019 and January 2022 helped to shape the final approach. Feedback from the consultation last year was largely supportive for redeveloping the old cinema site and positive comments were received about how it will enhance the Broadway and local area.
The social homes will comprise of 17 flats and 13 houses including 10 one-bedroom homes, 11 two-bedroom homes, and nine three-bedroom homes. 100 per cent social housing will be delivered at the site, as scheme viability was achieved without the need to include affordable housing such as shared ownership.
There will be vehicle access from both Filwood Broadway and Barnstaple Road, along the new residential street. Pedestrian and cycle access will also be available from Hartcliffe Road. This will help to make sure that for local trips, walking and cycling become the most convenient option, and for trips further afield, public transport becomes a viable option. Public and private spaces will be clearly defined, accessible and safe.
The development will also be set up to utilise renewable energy. Each home will be connected to a communal ground source heat pump system and the commercial units will be served by air source heat pumps for both heating and domestic hot water.
The new development has been commissioned and funded by the council and will make sure that the land is best used – delivering much needed social rent homes whilst helping to reinvigorate the area and provide new services for the local community.
A number of developments are in the pipeline for Knowle West and Filwood in order to regenerate the area and better meet the needs of the city and local community. Find out more.