Unless you walk around Stokes Croft with your eyes closed, you will likely to have seen the Carriage Works building. A minor landmark of Bristol, this iconic building has been featured in many art works, an urban master piece of its own right and a prime graffiti spot. Most of you would probably recognise it by graffiti artist Cyclops’ giant skull image on the side of the taller building, and the eerily beautiful exposed staircase.

Ifyou live around the Stokes Croft area of Bristol, you may already be aware of the current debate over the Carriage Works. They consist of the derelict Westmoreland House, 4 Ashley Down and the Carriage Works; a grade II listed building that is currently on the ‘Buildings at Risk’ list due to the danger it poses in its derelict state. Designed by EW Gordin in the 1860’s, it is an example of Victorian Bristol byzantine architecture, the same style that Colston Hall was built in.

The building was originally in use by John Perry and Sons, which consisted of a showroom, fitting room, body shop and many other various components needed for the production of carriages. Ownership was then taken up by Anderson’s Rubber Company in the mid 20th Century, followed by Regional Pools, who pulled down an adjacent building and constructed Westmoreland House. When the offices were vacated in the 1960’s, they were subjected to a fire and have been open to the elements ever since. As already mentioned, the site is a big attraction for graffiti artists but, derelict buildings pose obvious danger and in 2007 a man fell from Westmoreland House, suffering from a broken back, serious leg wounds, head and internal injuries.

The land, which all together is around the size of 1.6 football pitches, has been under the ownership of the Comer Homes group since the 1980s. Various planning applications have been made over the years, including one that was approved in 1989 but never came into fruition. The local community came to an agreement over a policy for use of the land in 2006, which said that the area could be developed for residential, business and leisure facilities. The local communities of St Pauls, Montpelier, Kingsdown, and Cotham set up an action group in September that aims to work with Bristol City Council to direct the future of the site in a direction that they have all agreed on. They are currently in the process of their final push in the
campaign, after tireless weeks of handing out petitions in nearby areas and holding regular forums to allow residents to voice their concerns or suggestions. All in all, they want the land to be used to the advantage of the community and to suit their personal needs. A draft plan for the development is planned to be published in November, which will then be presented to the public and further consultations will be made before a final decision is reached at the end of the year.

Opinion is greatly mixed amongst people living in and around the area, with some locals suggesting that the whole development should be demolished.  We asked a selection of students what they would like to see for the development.

“I don’t think they need more houses or shops in Stokes Croft. It would be great if they put it to some other use for the community, such as maybe studio space, an art gallery or a community centre with a dance hall,” says Ed Tolkien, a Graphic Designer.

“It is historical, so I think they should make the site houses or flats. As it is quite cultural to Bristol, it would be a really nice place to live,” says Holly Parmenter, an English and Journalism student.

“I think that the multi-storey should be made into flats, but the Carriage Works building should be some sort of art centre that displays local artwork,”  comments Abi James, who studies Town and Country Planning.

If you would like a say on what happens to the site, you can email ideas@carriageworks.org.uk or fill in the online survey at www.carriageworks.org.uk/haveyoursay

Kelli Gallacher and Jenny Pearce