Businesses fear going bust as firm wants to build 350 homes in Portishead

Jane Lewis (Fitness Hub), Andy Wilkinson (A Dog's Day Out), Amy Schools and owner Claire Cleeves (Fi

Jane Lewis (Fitness Hub), Andy Wilkinson (A Dog's Day Out), Amy Schools and owner Claire Cleeves (Fitness Hub), Phil Ford (Ryan's Rentals), Ryan Peake (Ryan's Group of Companies) and Patrick Gardner (T&G's Woodware). - Credit: Archant

Portishead will be left bereft of jobs and key services if successful businesses are knocked down for new homes.

That is the view of campaigning company owners who are fighting their landowners’ desire to turn Old Mill Road into a residential area.

About 230 skilled workers are employed in Old Mill Road but firms have leases up until March 2019 and will seemingly need to find somewhere else as Standard Life Investments (SL), which manages the land for Phoenix Life Ltd, seems keen on building homes.

North Somerset Council earmarked 20 homes for the area in its sites allocation plan, with the majority of space afforded to businesses. Planning officers wanted to permit 100 homes, plus businesses, but that idea was scrapped following a well-backed petition.

Claire Cleeves, who runs The Fitness Hub, said crucial services will be lost under SL’s plan and the town’s economy will be ‘crushed’.

Cllr David Pasley and other councillors met with SL six months ago and he was told it wanted 20 dwellings and retailers such as M&S to ‘extend the High Street’.

But Ms Cleeves feels councillors were ‘naïve’ to believe SL would accept building just 20 homes. She said their backing this week is welcome but not enough has been done to help companies like hers relocate.

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She said: “Where are the 700 extra people and vehicles going to get their services from when they are being pushed away?”

Council officers have produced a report looking at SL’s project feasibility.

The public can comment until August 21 before the council’s executive will decide how it will respond to the inspector looking at the robustness of its housing plan for the next nine years.

Cllr Pasley said it would be ‘horrific’ to lose ‘important’ Portishead firms and wants the council’s and residents’ wishes to be respected.

He said: “Residents will be wondering ‘what the hell is going on? Who is running this town?’

“The last thing we want to see is Portishead become a dormitory town.”

However, some fear that has already happened.

Ryan Peake, owner of Ryan’s Garage in Old Mill Road, said for too long housing has been permitted and no new infrastructure coming.

He said people are increasingly having to commute out to work and it will be worse if Old Mill Road is destroyed.