- Mishti Ali
The Soapworks building has long been one of the most iconic buildings in its area in Bristol. A Grade II listed building which housed soapmakers Gardiner Haskins for over 60 years, the site measures 2.25 acres and includes approximately 165,000 sq ft of existing buildings. It was recently acquired by First Base, who intend to redevelop the site with mixed-use development, including residential, aparthotel, retail and commercial space, as well as new public open space and a new street. Considering the heritage of the site and the diversity of the local area (Lawrence Hill is the most diverse ward in Bristol, with nearly 60% of residents being BME, as well as the most deprived), sensitivity to this was key to the plans. Together with First Base, we sought to make the consultation as inclusive as possible, seeking to engage with the widest variety of groups and individuals, including launching polls on our Give My View platform in Somali. The consultations were an overwhelming success, with around 20,000 responses. Key concerns from local residents included green and communal infrastructure, space for workshops, sustainability and affordable housing. Armed with this information, First Base have been able to adjust plans in order to accommodate local priorities. This will include continuing to represent local heritage, providing open space, new local space and space for independent traders, cafes, bars and restaurants. In providing spaces for small local businesses, the redevelopment can both contribute to the growth of the local economy as well as combat gentrification, which was a key concern for residents. In response to answers which highlighted the need for affordable housing on the site, 20% of the housing onsite will be affordable, in accordance with guidelines set out by Bristol City Council. Sustainable development will continue to be at the heart of plans for the future of Soapworks. First Base’s proposals link into the Bristol Heat Network, the City Council’s own network of pipes providing low-carbon heat to businesses and homes in the city. Furthermore, improvements will be made for cycling and walking on the site, with a large amount of cycle parking for residents and workers as well as improved pedestrian routes to encourage sustainable travel. By taking into consideration the local community’s concerns, First Base have been able to adjust plans in order to make the redeveloped site one that the local community can be proud of.