Developer’s ‘social value’ report shows its Soapworks scheme will give area £200m boost

March 18, 2021

The transformation of the landmark former Gardiner Haskins site in Old Market could generate up to £200m in long-term benefits for the area ranging from new jobs and training opportunities to improved health and education, according to a report.

First Base, the developer behind the Soapworks scheme, drew up the analysis with social enterprise The Social Value Portal to reflect its commitment to ensuring the project has wide-ranging benefits for the community. 

The report takes into account the design, procurement, construction, estate management and operation of the scheme to ensure it improves local opportunities, life chances and wellbeing over the next 20 years.

London-based First Base, which specialises in large regeneration schemes, plans to regenerate the vacant Grade II-listed Soapworks building into 150,000 sq ft of modern workspace, 242 new homes – including affordable housing – cafes and restaurants as well as public spaces.

The car-free scheme will also include new pedestrian and cycle links, providing improved connections to Bristol Temple Meads railway station and surrounding neighbourhoods as well as new trees and shrubs.

First Base has partnered with a number of Bristol organisations to deliver its social value commitments, including Cognitive Paths and Black South West Network to support diversity in the procurement process, City of Bristol College to provide skills and training opportunities for young people and 16-25 Independent People to help tackle homelessness in the city.

The social value report says the project will result in:

  • Affordable housing to help to meet the demand from local people for new homes
  • More than 2,000 new jobs, including for those not in education, employment or training (NEETS) and rehabilitated offenders
  • Skills and training opportunities for local people 
  • More than 6,000 sq m of green, open and play spaces for the community to use – equivalent to 23 tennis courts
  • Support for diversity through procurement and a ‘buy local, buy social’ supply chain
  • A diverse economy and balanced communities by carrying out commitments as a Bristol Property Inclusion Charter founder signatory and through progressive procurement processes, such as committing to supporting local BAME enterprises in partnership with Cognitive Paths and Black South West.
  • Improved sustainable transport connectivity within a car-free development, promoting walking activities such as the Old Market Walking Tour and provision of new cycling infrastructure
  • Cleaner energy and improved environment, supported by the First Base sustainability charter and more than 100 new species of plants and new trees, supporting local wildlife and opportunities to ‘grow-your-own’ fruit and vegetables
  • Improved educational outcomes through upskilling and work-place training opportunities for local people throughout construction and working with local schools and colleges, such as Hannah More Primary School
  • Reduced crime through training opportunities with the probation service and associated charities, such as Sixty One
  • Reduced social and economic isolation and improving health and wellbeing through work with local health groups, active lifestyle initiatives and wellbeing charities, such as OTR
  • A commitment to help tackle homelessness with key charity partners working in the sector such as 1625.

First Base Project Director Lucinda Mitchell said: “Embedding social value into our developments is at the heart of everything we do at First Base and the Soapworks is no exception.

“We want to ensure that tangible, long-term community benefits are maximised throughout the lifecycle of the project and that our proposals benefit wider society, whether that’s residents, workers or visitors to the site.

“We’re delighted to be contributing to Bristol’s inclusive and sustainable recovery with £200m in social value to provide a much-needed boost after the pandemic.”

City of Bristol College work placement officer Amy Archer added: “We are pleased that First Base is committed to providing great opportunities for young people to gain hands-on experience within the construction industry and help them to develop a trade for the future.”

First Base submitted its plans for the Soapworks site to the city council last year. The building, which dates back to the 1860s, was originally used by soap and candle manufacturers Christopher Thomas & Brothers before being occupied by local furniture company Gardiner Haskins.

The retailer, which was founded in Bristol in 1825, continues to trade from the nearby iconic Brunel Rooms building on Broad Plain.

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