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Our Response to the All Hallows Hall Planning Application

If you would like to comment on the application, please click here. The deadline is Monday 3rd August.

Bristol Co-operative Gym is the first cooperatively-run gym in the country. We aim to provide a supportive, inclusive exercise environment where members of the local community can improve their health and fitness.

Since September 2016 we have used All Hallows Hall for our classes on three evenings a week, as well as for numerous weekend workshops. In this time we have welcomed more than 900 members of the local community to train with us. Our unique model means that we are run by those same members – currently a team of 19, 17 of whom live within the BS5 postcode. There are very few gyms in Lawrence Hill, and none in the country that have our model and would meet the needs of our members. We have serious concerns about the proposed development’s impact on our ability to provide this essential service to our community.

Bristol Local Plan Policy DM5 states that “proposals involving the loss of community facilities will not be permitted unless it can be demonstrated that, inter alia, the community facility can be fully retained, enhanced or reinstated as part of any redevelopment of the building or land.” Bristol Development Framework Core Strategy states that, “Existing community facilities should be retained, unless it can be demonstrated that there is no longer a need to retain the use or where alternative provision is made.” Although the community facility has not been removed as such, and there is no application for change of use, we believe that the proposed changes would seriously jeopardize the viability of the hall as a community facility for the reasons given below.

There is existing design guidance that for even the smallest hall or community centre there should be: main activity and assembly space; entrance foyer; equipment and furniture store; kitchen; toilets, including facilities for disabled people; changing provision; cleaner’s store; boiler or plant room.

Loss of Storage

In order for current uses to be maintained, there must be provision for storage of equipment and for furniture; currently the hall is used for a wide variety of art and sport forms (from trapeze to table tennis to weight lifting and anything in between). 

We store our barbells, kettlebells, weight plates etc. in what is proposed to be the “Female WC”. It may be possible that the equipment is planned to be stored upstairs but its combined weight of hundreds of kilograms would make this impractical and dangerous. Without appropriate storage, we wouldn’t be able to run our classes.

The same is true of the Ping Pong Parlour’s table tennis tables currently stored in the area proposed to be the “Male WC” and the Hoop Jam’s circus equipment currently in the “Disabled Toilet”.

Cycle parking

The majority of our users travel to our sessions via bicycle. The proposed amount of cycle parking is insufficient for our members’ needs – especially if this is to be shared with the residents of the flats – and access seems poorly thought-through.

Toilets and changing facilities

In the proposal, the facilities for toilets are minimal and poorly designed. Having gendered toilets is in conflict with our ethos of being inclusive and open to people of all gender identities.

The proposed accessible toilet doesn’t appear to meet Changing Places’ standards.

There is no provision of changing facilities, which is necessary to support and sustain use for both physical exercise and the arts. Again, the current toilet area meets this requirement.

Loss of the yard

In good weather, we can currently train in the yard. The option of training outside is even more important during the coronavirus restrictions. Under the current guidance, our indoor classes would be limited to six people rather than our usual sixteen, which has an enormous impact on our pricing and business model. In the yard we can have sixteen people and keep our prices the same while still having access to the nearby indoor storage of our heavy equipment. This would not be possible in a park or equivalent outdoor space.

Additionally, during indoor classes we often have the back and side doors open and use that and a fan to provide a through-flow of air during our sessions. This is even more important given the current government guidance of extra ventilation due to the coronavirus. The current position of the door will mean it obstructs the entrance to the flats when open and also potentially compromise our members’ privacy while training.

The loss of a second public exit to the hall also prevents us from meeting the coronavirus guidance of using a one-way system with one door for entering and one for exiting.

Access requirements

Although the argument that the proximity to train station and bus routes would mean that car parking for the flats is not necessary, there has been no thought about access by car for disabled users of the space, which at present is made possible by the side door to the courtyard with Baggator, to which access is possible if needed.

Other facilities missing

Provision for cleaning (e.g. cleaner’s cupboard) and of heating technologies have not been made.

Removal of the stage

We are concerned about the impact that the removal of the stage would have on the theatre groups and stage shows that use this rare resource at various times throughout the year. There are very few community venues in Bristol, let alone in the Easton / Lawrence Hill area, that have a stage setup. The loss of the stage appears to be being justified as necessary for the upkeep of the building but there doesn’t appear to be any economic justification of this or analysis of what the loss of the stage would mean for use of the facility.

Effect on Joint Work with Baggator

We are concerned by the lack of consideration given to our neighbour, Baggator Young People’s Project, and for the threat of the development to the relationship between Baggator and All Hallows Hall.

The flexibility for community use that has long been possible through the joint access to space and co-operation with Baggator has led to vital work that supports not just the wellbeing but also the essential needs of residents of Lawrence Hill, one of the poorest wards in the city.

Lack of proper consultation

We were not contacted to assess the impact of this proposal on our use of All Hallows Hall. As can be seen by their comments and objections, neither were the other community groups which use it and Baggator. Any development that had serious concern for preserving the community use of the hall would surely have consulted its users.

Conclusion

We are proud to be a part of the rich tapestry of community activity that All Hallows Hall provides. The proposed developments undermine the viability of our unique co-operative gym and of the community space in general in the name of producing four small units of accommodation. This development would have a negative impact that is far greater than is immediately evident.