Council must 'restore public trust' in plans for the future of Yate

December 29 2021
Council must 'restore public trust' in plans for the future of Yate

YATE residents were “suspicious” of council plans for the future of the town and public trust must be rebuilt, councillors have been told.

South Gloucestershire Council's Town Improvement Masterplan sets out the ways the town could change over the next 20 years, the authority says it could attract up to £600 million of investment over that time.

One of the key aims of the plan, approved by the council's cabinet in December, is to make Yate a “15-minute town” where all residents can walk or cycle to work, school or the shops within a quarter of an hour, with changes to the town centre, rail and bus stations and the industrial estate proposed.

But officers who drew up the final masterplan after 12 weeks of public consultation conceded that residents were “suspicious” of council plans and said public trust needed to be rebuilt.

Initial plans to relocate the bus station and leisure centre have been dropped following feedback from the public, who also expressed fears that town centre parking could be lost – a concern the council insists is only a perception and not its intention.

Nearby villagers will also be “alarmed” over a proposed link road to the west between Badminton Road and Yate Road, a councillor has warned.

And the whole plan hinges on the future of Yate Shopping Centre, which is understood to have now been sold after going on the market for £53 million several months ago.

The masterplan sets out the changes that could take place in Yate over the next 15 to 20 years.

Changes include a new town square, upgraded railway station, modernised bus station and a new link road through the industrial estate connecting the A432 and Yate Road.

The riverbank will be widened around the river Frome, and a new cycle route would connect the park and ride to the town centre.

Health facilities, other public services and shops will remain in the town centre.

The council plans to shift car parking indoors eventually, either inside or underneath buildings, and is promising drop-off areas for taxis and charging points for electric cars, scooters and bicycles.

The plan says “urban lifestyles” will be needed to protect green spaces – but says it will keep building heights “sensible”, and has referred to “medium height” buildings of five or six storeys.

The masterplan, which the council says could see between £300 and £600 million invested in Yate, aims to make the town more “welcoming, healthy, sustainable and prosperous”.

But the cabinet report said the public consultation had made it clear that some residents were very concerned about housing and parking in the town centre. 

It said: "Concern centred on the potential height of buildings and the number of parking spaces. 

The project team sought to explain that these issues need to be considered in detail once the vision, ambition and principles for the town centre are agreed through the masterplan. 

However, there is a sense that the public were suspicious about the positive intentions of the masterplan and as we move to the next steps, efforts should be made to restore public trust in the future town centre redevelopment.”

The council has not decided how many car parking spaces will be needed, or made any decisions about the height or number of new homes in the town centre, the report said.

It has no plans to reduce the number of shops, get rid of the cinema or relocate banks, post offices or the minor injuries unit, it added.

Frampton Cotterell Liberal Democrat councillor Tristan Clark told the cabinet the proposed new link road would cross the Frome Valley Walkway and likely lead to more of it being swallowed up by an expanded industrial estate, most of which lies in the parishes of Iron Acton and Westerleigh.

Many residents in those parishes will be concerned and some alarmed,” he said.

Fellow Liberal Democrat Mike Drew, who represents Yate North, asked about the risk presented by the sale of the shopping centre, given its significance to the masterplan and the fact “we have no idea what the attitude of the new owners might be”.

Council leader Toby Savage replied: “I agree that the future ownership of the shopping centre is critical to the delivery of the aspirations the masterplan sets out.”

Cllr Savage later told BBC Radio Bristol: “We want to work with them [the new owners] to make sure we get the investment into the heart of Yate to ensure it’s a really vibrant and healthy community.”

The development of Yate is expected to be funded by a mix of public and private investment.

To find out more about the plan visit www.southglos.gov.uk/yatemasterplan online.

By Amanda Cameron & Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service

Picture: A new town square is part of Yate's Town Improvement Masterplan