Demolishing Old Mill Road would be ‘an act of vandalism’

Campaigners march to save Old Mill Road in Portishead.

Campaigners march to save Old Mill Road in Portishead. - Credit: Archant

Developers keen to flatten Old Mill Road say big retailers want to open shops in Portishead – but the claim has been treated sceptically within the town.

Standard Life Investments presented its scheme – involving shops, bars, restaurants, a cinema and 350 apartments – publicly for the first time on October 4.

While representatives argue the development will benefit the town, it won no backing from the public or councillors last week.

Critics said the scheme would grind ‘Europe’s biggest cul-de-sac’ to a halt, stretch health services to breaking point and force preschool children to get taxis to schools in neighbouring villages.

Nick Jones, of property consultants GL Hearn which is assisting Standard Life, said: “To redevelop the site all the existing businesses will have to leave.

“There will be potential for them to come back.”

Speakers on behalf of various Old Mill Road firms criticised Standard Life for its ‘nonsensical’ plan, with others saying it is ‘resented’.

Mr Jones said it will work with North Somerset Council to find places for businesses to relocate – but town councillors said there simply is no room in Portishead for that to happen.

MORE: Protest march held in Portishead over Old Mill Road development.

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The fears of business owners were echoed by the public who warned against over-development and making the town a ‘concrete jungle’.

Resident Ken Smith said: “This is the last bit of industry we have left. To close it would be an act of vandalism.

“If it goes forward we should change the name of Portishead to Greater Bristol. We would just be a dormitory town.”

Standard Life said it wants to ‘reconnect’ the marina and High Street through its scheme.

Development manager Ron Urquhart said retail experts have told the pension fund national retailers are interested in opening in Portishead – although critics asked if that was true, why are units around the marina empty.

Cllr Marilyn Koops responded: “We have got all the Costas we need, we have got all the charity shops we need. We aren’t going to get the big players in as the internet is prevailing.”

Standard Life, when challenged, said it has scaled back its idea so no areas will be more than five storeys high and it has no plans to demolish Homebase, Argos or McDonald’s in Wyndham Way.

However, Mr Urquhart added: “But I can’t see into the future.”