Jobs, not homes for Portishead’s Old Mill Road, says inspector

An artist's impression of what the new-look Old Mill Road would look like. Picture: Standard Life In

An artist's impression of what the new-look Old Mill Road would look like. Picture: Standard Life Investments. - Credit: Standard Life Investments.

An independent inspector has backed North Somerset Council’s plans for any redevelopment of Old Mill Road in Portishead to be employment-led.

Wendy Burden has examined the council’s housing plan for a number of weeks and made clear she backed the local appreciation for the industrial area.

She said: “It has been demonstrated there is a significant demand for employment uses on this site, and its loss to residential uses could be detrimental to the local economy. This is particularly the case in Portishead where the opportunities for new employment sites are limited.”

The views have been welcomed by businesses in the area who face an uncertain future.

Standard Life Investments has made clear it wishes to demolish the units in Old Mill Road and build a cinema, shops, bars, restaurants and cafés in their place, plus about 350 flats.

It feels its scheme would improve the town centre and create a ‘gateway’ to the marina.

But support from the Portishead community is scarce.

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Patrick Gardner, of T&G Woodware, said: “This (inspector’s report) is fantastic news; it shows the power of our arguments, common sense and the support of the local community and councillors.

“It is not over yet but we will wait and see how the landlords react to this turn of events.”

Councillors David Pasley and Reyna Knight said the report was a positive step.

A Standard Life spokesman said the firm notes the findings and will give it due consideration.

It was due to submit a planning application by the end of 2017 but none was forthcoming, but it says it is working ‘hard to finalise’ one.

The council’s Sites Allocations Plan – which outlines places for homes to be built between 2006-2026 – initially included Old Mill Road. Early discussions centred on about 100 homes, before being reduced to 20. A definitive figure was later omitted, but a similar figure is still being considered.

Council leader Nigel Ashton has stated some small amount of housing might be tolerated, but talk of 350 flats would not win the authority’s support.

The council has a new £100million property investment fund to purchase sites in North Somerset to make profit on to fund services. But Cllr Ashton told the Times on Tuesday Old Mill Road does not suit its criteria.