27days until
next meeting 7.30pm upstairs at The Greenbank BS5 6DP

What's the news?

The site of the former Elizabeth Shaw Chocolate Factory now belongs to Generator South West LLP.

In April 2014 we heard that Generator South West LLP had acquired the site from the Clydesdale Bank, and that we should expect to hear from Meeting Place Communications, a Bath-based organisation which 'works with communities and developers to achieve successful planning outcomes'. Read on to find out about the reality for developers and what a 'successful planning outcome' means in practice, who we are and what we have been doing in preparation for the arrival of developers and their agents. More details about who we are, and the history of plans and planning for the Chocolate Factory site on the FAQs and History pages.

About us

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 been growing steadily and meetings have been taking place twice a month. As a Community Association, we are an officially organised group, connected with the local Neighbourhood Partnership and associated with the Bristol Neighbourhood Planning NetworkWe have been gathering what information we can from organisations acting for the owners, from the Planning department, and other interested and helpful groups and individuals, but also 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. 

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. During the Spring of 2014 we will be developing the responses into a report. For more information, read the page on this website entitled Choc Box 2.0 becomes a Community Association.

The reality - the position for developers

Unless we can find a very rich person to buy the factory site and donate it to the community, we can expect 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. Read on...

Ideas and more ideas

Our plan is to use the survey that we have carried out as the basis for a community plan, which could be taken into account when planners and developers meet to discuss possibilities for the site. 

Our survey is not the only opportunity for people to have a say; the council actually requires developers to consult with local people - they have to do this work of finding out what the area needs. So, when the developers consult, it will be 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.

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 are likely to develop 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?

We 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.

The bottom line

Big developers are good at getting what they want, and their main aim is to make money. They are unlikely to be really and truly interested in the wellbeing of Bristol people, or in the health of the local economy. If it weren't for the legal powers the Council has over what gets built where, they could just do what they want. Many developers see the council's requirement to consult with the community as a minor irritation rather than an opportunity to do something new, interesting, and helpful for the area. We don't know whether these developers are going to twist what we say (see the Ideas page for a description of the information people gave to Persimmon in 2006; you'll see an honest summary of what people came up with and the summary that Persimmon produced. They turned our words round to suit their own purposes).

We are NOT powerless, though; local people can influence what happens on the site. 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