What's the news?


As you can see, this site has not been kept up to date for some time; but, as you may already know, little has been happening; most of the buildings were demolished some three years ago and the site has lain empty since then. There is some activity currently;  developers' agent, Meeting Point Communications, is posting news on the website www.chocolatefactorybristol.com

Community activism is important and significant; read the pages on this site to find out the impact the community has had on the planning process since 2006. There are organisations in Bristol that exist to train and support the next generation of activists, in planning policy, publicity and the like: if you want to be more involved in this group, do join the mailing list (see below) or follow the facebook group.



On 30th November Development Control A Committee met to make a decision on the amended planning application for the site.  Planning officers from Bristol City Council were recommending the application be passed but there had been a lot of publicity in recent weeks about the complete absence of affordable housing. Thanks to the campaigning by tenant's rights groups like ACORN and pressure from the local Neighbourhood Forum, there was a last-minute offer from Generator LLP.  They said they would provide 6 units out of 135 for sale to a Registered Social Landlord; a paltry 4% of the suggested 40% set out in Bristol City's own guidelines.

In addition Choc Box 2.0, local residents and local councillors had raised other material planning concerns: inadequate traffic surveys, inadequate bat surveys, poor urban design of the central square, lack of car and cycle parking, and overshadowing of nearby solar panels to name a few.  One key point they raised was whether the public consultation had been carried out sufficiently well - did residents fully understand the possible implications of retaining some of the old buildings, for instance, if this meant increased development costs would reduce affordable housing provision?

We now need to confirm the exact conditions of the deferment and clarify the new date for committee to make their decision.  We'll keep you posted!

October 2016: Amended Planning Application submitted by Generator
Notices were received at the beginning of October about amended plans for the site, with a deadline of 24th October for responses.  Generator outlined the changes they're proposing via a statement on their Chocolate Factory website:

"The majority of the development remains much the same as previously. The submitted changes to the plans include Terrace no.1 (adjacent to the Greenbank Road entrance) which has been reduced from three to two storeys, two houses removed, and a small block of two apartments added.

Block B (nearest to Turley Road) has been reduced in height, one apartment removed, and the top floor moved back futher from nearby neighbours.

Also in the revised plans, Terrace no.5 has had one of the houses removed, and the three homes nearest to Carlyle Road have had the heights reduced from three to two storeys.

Finally some smaller changes have been made to the Public Space in that cars are no longer able to pass over the cyle/pedestrian access points from the Railway Path. Access from the Railways Path itself has also been widened and improved, whilst Block E has been slightly altered only in terms of design, leaving the height and number of homes to remain the same."

March 2016: ChocBox 2.0 responds to the Planning Application
The community group has produced a full response to Generator's planning application for the former Elizabeth Shaw Factory Site, covering all the Material Considerations ('planning issues') and also making a statement in relation to the absence of affordable housing in the scheme. Download it from this link:

About Us

In April 2013 the news came that the factory site, which had lain empty for some time (see History) had changed hands. The new owners, Generator South West LLP,  commissioned an agency named Meeting Place Communications to carry out some consultation with the local community. Meeting Place is a Bath-based organisation which 'works with communities and developers to achieve successful planning outcomes'. It set up a website at www.chocolatefactorybristol.com, and this is the developers means of informing the public about their plans before the submission of an application to the City Council for planning permission for the site, which will then available to everyone via http://planningonline.bristol.gov.uk.

The following describes what local people began doing in preparation for the arrival of developers and their agents. You will find more details about who we are on the FAQs page and the story of earlier plans and local involvement in  the Chocolate Factory site on the History page.

Recent history
People from the Greenbank area of Bristol set up this website in April 2013, having heard that a company had been commissioned to consult residents on behalf of a development company. It was twelve months before we heard from them again. During that time, a variety of local people had been meeting up to discuss the future of the factory site, and set up a Community Association.

Our mailing list has grown steadily and we have been holding regular meetings. As a Community Association, we are an officially organised group, connected with the local Neighbourhood Partnership and associated with the Bristol Neighbourhood Planning NetworkWe gathered what information we can from organisations acting for the owners, from the Planning department, and other interested and helpful groups and individuals, but importantly, we also began preparing for possible developments by finding out what local people think should be developed on the site and what other ideas and opinions they have. 

The reality - the position for developers

We know that whatever is built on the site has to make a profit for anyone who owns it. Whatever is built must at least allow them to balance their books - so they will be looking for a scheme that repays them more than a few million pounds! The developers might be happy to hear about our dreams and wishes, but in the end they'll only include the ideas that are realistic given their own financial situation, the ideas that help make the site a financially viable one - and that's from their point of view. However, the planning law is on the side of the community.

The council actually requires developers to consult with local people - they have to do this work of finding out what the area needs. It is important for local people to say something about what life is like for people here and the changes we think would be useful and worthwhile.

Collecting ideas from the local community: our survey of local residents

In the winter of 2013-14 we surveyed the local community, distributing a questionnaire which people could fill in on paper, online, and over cups of tea and coffee at Open Afternoons held in a church hall.  We went on to make a summary of the ideas, opinions and aspirations of local people which could be taken into account when planners and developers met to discuss possibilities for the site. Have a look at the Community Plan we produced.

These are some of the questions that local people have talked about in the course of the last two years:

Would it be good to have a care home in the area?

Do we need more family housing? What type? How big? Is there a need for housing for larger families? How many single-person flats can the area cope with? Would it work if the development consisted of more terraced streets, very similar to the ones we know and love?

How about a school? What type of school? (The Steiner Academy expressed a preference for the Factory site, but eventually set up in Fishponds, at the St Matthias site. See their website for information)

Changes in the population of area has resulted in the need for more health care - could part of the development be a Health Centre of some sort?

What kinds of people might come into the area to use any retail or enterprise facilities that are provided?

How could the new development benefit from the fact that so many people already use the Railway Path? Are there some enterprising ideas out there that integrate the use of the path and the factory site?

Could there be a self-build scheme on the site? What other innovative schemes are there that could provide affordable housing for Bristol people?

Local people know more than others do about the flow of people in and out of the area - for example, hundreds of cyclists cross Greenbank every day on their way to or from the Bristol and Bath Railway Path, and many thousands of people a week cycle past the factory on their way into Bristol or out towards Bath - even more during the summer holidays. 

People come to the corner shops, to the Islami Darasgah, and to visit Greenbank cemetery: and they used to come to brownies, a playgroup, yoga classes, arts groups, community music evenings and more when the building known as the Lego Church had a room available for public hire.

Further back in time

Read the History page to find out what happened in 2006/7 when we managed to stop a really badly thought-out housing estate being built on the factory site. The things the community group (Chocbox 1.0) did that were effective were:
  • encouraging people to think and talk about what was going on;
  • finding out what information and which opinions the planning officers were able to take into account when deciding whether to grant planning permission;
  • making sure as many people as possible had that information;
  • encouraging people to send in their responses to Persimmon's planning application;
  • getting lots of coverage in the local press and on the web.

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Bridges between the Victorian buildings. Picture taken in 2006

The factory in operation, mid 1940s. Picture from Hartley Collection of Glass Plates, M Shed, Bristol. See maps.bristol.gov.uk/knowyourplace

The factory from Co-Operation Road. Picture taken in 2006.

Aerial view of the factory. Taken way back when...

panoramic view of Packers recreation grounds
A view from the factory roof in 1923.
Packers Chocolate Factory provided recreation grounds for its workers. Picture from the Bowling Club website www.bristolgreenbank.org.uk

The factory viewed from the recreation ground (now fenced off by the City Academy, but not without a fight from local people).

Interior. Picture taken 2010, by rigsby www.flickr.com/people/beyondthefence/ 

Interior, 2009. Picture is from 28DaysLater.co.uk Urban Exploitation Forums

Interior, 2009. Picture is from 28DaysLater.co.uk Urban Exploitation Forums

Interior, 2009. Picture is from 28DaysLater.co.uk Urban Exploitation Forums

Interior, 2010. Picture by Oxygen Thief, also from 28DaysLater.co.uk 

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