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KCG’s response to the City Centre’s Tall Buildings

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Feb 162024
 

Debenhams Site Application – 23/04490/F (Tower to the left)

Premier Inn Application – 23/02827/F (Two towers to the right)

The Kingsdown Conservation Group has objected to both applications and would encourage individuals to do the same.

These applications are the first of an intended number of tall buildings encircling Broadmead.

Grounds for objection include:
Unsustainable design, particularly in light of the climate crisis
Tall buildings embody far more embodied carbon that medium height buildings of the same size.
The principle that existing buildings should be refurbished or repurposed rather than demolished

Scale, height and bulk of the buildings
Failure to respond to context, inhuman environment at ground level and overshadowing of nearby buildings

Significant impact on the setting of historic buildings
Grade 1 St James Priory, The New Rooms, Portland Square and other listed buildings in the centre of the city

Impact on Conservation Areas (City and Queen Square, Kingsdown, St James Parade, Portland Square and Stokes Croft 

Historic views across the city are embedded in Conservation Area Character Appraisals as being important and should be protected. Tall buildings will destroy these views and diminish historic buildings in the skyline.

Over intense development and poor external provision

Very high density housing, single aspect flats contrary to planning policy (Debenhams site) and inadequate external provision for residents

Cumulative impact

The negative effect on the city caused by cumulative tower blocks

Housing targets

These objections are not anti-housing but simply against the built form proposed. Other solutions, as for instance at Finzal’s Reach and early phases of Wapping Wharf, allow high density housing at a human scale that make a positive contribution to the city.

 Posted by on February 16, 2024

KCG’s Objection to City Centre Planning Application

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Jan 112024
 

Planning Application  23/04490/F  Proposal to demolish former Debenhams building and build a mixed use development with 28 storey tower.

The Kingsdown Conservation Group strongly objects to this application. The proposal significantly fails to meet the standards of good design set out in the National Planning Policy Framework and the government’s National Design Guide. Due to its bulk, scale and height, the proposal shows a complete disregard for the surrounding context, resulting in a building that is not grounded in its locality. It fails to acknowledge the existing coherent pattern of development that runs along The Horsefair, consisting of a string of buildings from Cabot Circus to Primark, all of which are relatively consistent in height.

The development is also significantly over what is deemed an acceptable number of homes per hectare. Although the “Urban Living SPD” does not specifically define a maximum number of homes per hectare, it does refer to the report “Superdensity 2015” for guidance.  This report was written in response to concerns that “we are sleepwalking into hyperdense development without proper regard for the long-term consequences”.  The report recommended the adoption of “mid-rise development to meet London housing needs: apartment blocks of between five to eight storeys” and to “resist hyperdensity” with a “presumption against hyperdense  development over 350 houses per hectare (hph)”. The point is that anything over this density makes sustainable housing communities difficult to achieve and encourages housing types alien to our cities. This proposal, however, proposes a massive 715 hph, more than double the maximum recommended (according to the Planning Statement, which gives a site area of 0.72 hectares) or possibly even 1120hph if the site area is only 0.46 hectares as stated in the Application Form. This surely has to be unacceptable and likely to cause problems in the future

The SPD also discourages single aspect dwellings and recommends avoiding any that are North facing, yet over half (55%) of the proposed homes would be single aspect, of which 9% are North facing, a fact that becomes particularly important as they would overlook an extremely busy road.

In terms of the impact of this development on heritage assets, listed buildings and conservation areas, the visualisations make abundantly clear how significant this would be. The impact on the setting of St James’s Priory, John Wesley’s New Room and Portland Square, all Grade 1, would have a highly negative impact on their setting   The effect upon adjacent Conservation Areas would be no less. The Kingsdown Conservation Area Appraisal states that “spectacular citywide views enjoyed from Kingsdown are fundamental to its special interest”,  and that to the “South Kingsdown’s streets and precipitous lanes give unique views of the city and beyond. The preservation of Kingsdown’s views is vital in protecting the areas, character and special interest”. The applicant’s own Heritage Statement gives Kingsdown a rating of a designated heritage asset of high significance. Yet the view down Montague hill shows views across the city would be completely obliterated by the enormous bulk of the proposed development.

Nor is the proposed development sustainable. Tall buildings are known to have a far higher level of embodied carbon when compared to buildings ten storeys or less. If Bristol is serious about its net-zero targets it should not be supporting tall buildings. Instead it should be encouraging the reuse of buildings wherever possible. We would prefer this were the case with the Debenhams building which is an asset to the area.

The recreation of Barr’s Street, while superficially appealing, is, in our opinion, neither necessary nor desirable.  Opening up Broadmead to an extremely busy roundabout just when it is proposed to make Broadmead traffic-free seems counterproductive. The public realm created would not be of high value, being taken up completely by steps and ramps. It would also have the effect of pushing up the height of the adjacent blocks. Far better to lose the height of the tower by infilling between the blocks and creating a covered arcade, echoing the arcade that at one time ran to the side of this site. Better still, a direct link from the Bearpit to Broadmead would negate any need for steps and help rejuvenate the Bearpit.

In terms of design it is important that any building of such impact should be well designed and contribute positively to its urban setting. Sadly this is not the case. The detailing is generic and uninspired, too few flats are given balconies and the impact at street level is wholly negative.

We should make it clear that we fully accept that there is a need for new homes in Bristol but do not believe this is the solution. The Superdense 2015 report shows that high density housing schemes are possible without sacrificing the integrity of a city’s urban fabric. Given the environmental crisis facing the world, Bristol has a chance to encourage more sustainable housing solutions.  Please refuse this application

 Posted by on January 11, 2024

Debenham’s proposed 28 storey tower block

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Dec 272023
 

Planning Application  23/04490/F

Demolition of existing buildings and erection of a mixed use development comprising residential (Class C3) and commercial (Class E) floorspace, together with amenity space, landscaping and public realm works, car parking, vehicular access, and servicing arrangements.

(Former Debenhams & Building To West) 33-47 (odds) The Horsefair, 6-10 (consec) The Haymarket, St James Barton & 29 – 31 (odds) The Horsefair Bristol BS1 3JE

This is a “residential-led mixed use development” including another 28 storey tower, ( the first being the proposal of the Premier Inn)

Closing date for representations is  3rd  January 2024.

Please write in with your comments

 Posted by on December 27, 2023

City Centre Proposals & KCG’s response

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Oct 052023
 

Bristol City Centre Development and Delivery Plan

This plan describes the vision and strategies for the future of Bristol’s City Centre, in particular Broadmead and Castle Park.  To see the whole document, look at :-

https://www.ask.bristol.gov.uk/hub-page/city-centre-ddp

The Kingsdown Conservation Group has serious concerns about the “City Centre Development and Delivery Plan” and cannot support it in its present form.

Many of the aspirations seem admirable and the case of road closures to traffic long since overdue. The scale of development envisaged on Page 57 “Approach: Height and Microclimate”, however, shows that if enacted these aims will become impossible. The proposal map shows a ring of possible tall buildings encircling Broadmead. If this policy were to stand, the Tall Building Strategy is insufficiently robust to resist developers pushing for tall buildings on these sites.

This would have a disastrous effect on other developments within the city centre and render the centre an unpleasant place to be; exactly the opposite effect to that which the delivery plan is hoping to achieve. Unlike buildings of amplified height, tall buildings have a blighting effect on a city. Their impact, both on their immediate surroundings and the wider realm, is hugely detrimental to their environment and they are not sustainable.

Given the current climate crisis and Bristol City’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030, a policy that gives support to tall buildings is completely unacceptable. The embodied carbon of tall buildings is significantly greater than buildings of ten storeys of a similar size, so there is now no justification in allowing tall buildings. It has also been shown that it is perfectly possible to build to a high density without resorting to tall buildings. It, therefore, cannot be argued that they are necessary in order to meet housing targets. Good quality examples in Bristol include Finzel’s Reach and Wapping Wharf which create environments to a human scale that site comfortably within their surroundings.

We are also concerned that there is no reference to the idea of repurposing buildings, rather than demolishing them. Many of the buildings identified are not so old that they should be demolished, as for instance the Galleries. For Bristol to be meet the climate challenge it will have to accept that the reuse of buildings must be considered first.

As representatives of Kingsdown we are also concerned that there is not mention of long-distance views across the city. These are an important feature of the character of Bristol and views to and from the escarpment of Kingsdown are identified as being important in the Kingsdown Conservation Area Character Appraisal. What happens in the centre could have a significant impact on these views and should therefore be addressed within this policy.

With regards to Castle Park we would question whether it is really necessary to have quite so many paths running through it, or that they should be quite so wide. It is not a large park and the sacrifice of green areas to more paths should be resisted.

What Bristol needs is a new vision for the city, not one that has long since been discredited. There is no need for Bristol to follow the example of other cities in foolishly damaging their city centres. It is not too late for Bristol to do things differently, to take the climate change seriously, to really try to create environments that put people, not developers, first and to leave a legacy of buildings of which the city can be proud. Sadly with the policy as it is now that will be nigh on impossible.

 Posted by on October 5, 2023

AGM

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Feb 082023
 

Wednesday 15th February 2023

The AGM of the Kingsdown Conservation Group will take place at Cotham Parish Church, Cotham Road, on Wednesday 15th February. Doors will open at 6 for a meeting at 6.30 pm to 7.30 pm

There will be the formal business of the election of committee members; report on the work of the committee and presentation of accounts. This will be followed by a general discussion of what lies ahead in our locality planning-wise, such as the developments of the Hospital on Marlborough Hill.

 Posted by on February 8, 2023

Planning Application for 5G Mast [now REFUSED]

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Oct 052022
 

Planning Application for a 5G Mast Adjacent to Redland Grove Park

Members may want to comment on a controversial planning application 22/04215/Y, which proposes locating a tall telecoms pole, and various associated cabinets, on the pavement diagonally opposite the Grade II* listed Main Entrance Gates to the separately listed Grade II* Redland Court, on Redland Road.

The application can be seen on Bristol City Council’s website via the link below.

https://pa.bristol.gov.uk/online-applications/simpleSearchResults.do?action=firstPage

Kingsdown Conservation Group objects very strongly to this proposal.

ADDENDUM 23 October ’22: We are pleased to say that this application has now been REFUSED. It is also encouraging that a very similar application near the tennis courts at Kings Drive, Bishopston was also refused earlier this month

 Posted by on October 5, 2022

Kingsdown Sports Centre Update

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Mar 012022
 

There will be a meeting in the White Bear, St Michael’s Hill on Wednesday 16th March to discuss the process for saving the Kingsdown Sports Centre. Below is a communication from the High Kingsdown Community Association, the group organising the resistance to the closure of our local Sports Centre.

UPDATE :

Following on from the first Public Meeting organised by High Kingsdown Community Association in October 2021, a small Steering Group of local residents and Sports Centre users has been exploring the options for keeping the centre open as a major asset in our community.

The focus of attention until now has been to try and make the case for the centre to remain part of the Council’s portfolio of leisure centres when it re-lets the contract for their operation over the coming year.

Unfortunately, the Mayor re-confirmed his decision not to include the Sports Centre in the leisure centre contract at the Cabinet meeting on the 8th February. However, at the same meeting he also made clear that he was not taking a decision to close the Centre, and that the next year would be used to find another operator who could run the facility at no net cost to the council. As there have already been some expressions of interest in doing this, he was optimistic that this outcome can be achieved.

The Centre now faces a year of uncertainty, with a risk that an operator won’t be found, or that the extent and access to the facilities at the centre by the local community may become more restricted or costly, or both.

An alternative view would be to see this decision as a positive opportunity for a community led (or backed) proposal to come forward. There are plenty of inspiring examples of this nationally and locally, and within our own local community we already have talented individuals who have the experience and drive to help make this a reality.

In fact, the centre could become a more vibrant, inclusive, and welcoming community facility than it already is, if we can work on a new vision and secure new investment in its facilities.

The way the centre is currently operated means that is does not quite cover its running costs, so this would need to be addressed, and any plans for an expansion of facilities at the site would also need investment: but the site has clear potential to become an even more valuable community asset for a much wider number of people than it is currently able to do.

High Kingsdown Community Association are holding a second Public Meeting to discuss the options for the future of the centre and to see if we can establish a clear community-backed set of proposals to be discussed with the Council.  We would like to either enable the community to take on the running of the centre, or to influence the plans of like-minded partners so the best outcome is delivered for the community.

Please register your interest in attending the meeting which will be at the

The White Bear, St Michael’s Hill, High Kingsdown at 6.30 – 8.00 on the 16th March 2022

Please register to attend by emailing : briony.waite@gmail.com

 Posted by on March 1, 2022

Dove Street Flats

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Aug 262021
 


Evidently discussions have taken place recently about the future of some of the city’s high-rise residential buildings, in particular Dove Street Flats. This Bristol Cable article https://thebristolcable.org/2021/08/high-rises-under-scrutiny-as-council-considers-rebuilding-social-housing/ makes interesting reading.
There has been minimal communication with the residents of Dove Street Flats in the past. Any such proposals would need much better involvement and consultation.

 Posted by on August 26, 2021
Mar 042020
 

Today, 4th March 2020, is the formal closing date for comment to be submitted in response to the University’s planning application to build a new library on the site of The Hawthorns. However, it is likely that comment lodged in the coming few days will continue to have an effect.
Residents are encouraged to read Kingsdown Conservation Group’s letter of comment, which is on both this website and the Bristol City Council website, along with comment from Historic England, the Victorian Society and others.

 Posted by on March 4, 2020
Feb 252020
 

Kingsdown Conservation Group has objected, as follows, to the University’s planning application to build a new library on the site of The Hawthorns, at the corner of Woodland Road and Elton Road, opposite the Grammar School. 

Residents are encouraged to view the application on the Bristol City Council website and act accordingly. Comment should be submitted by 4th March.

Planning Application 20/00433/F. Proposed new university and associated road closures.

Kingsdown Conservation Group strongly objects to the proposed closure of Tyndall Avenue to two-way motor traffic. The ramifications of such closure would severely interrupt traffic’s ability to navigate the city. Traffic volumes would increase elsewhere. St Michael’s Hill, Park Row and other streets are virtually intolerable as it is. Meanwhile, the streets in which many university buildings are located would become increasingly quiet parking lots, utilised largely by those university staff members allocated residents’ parking permits and busy only during weekdays in term time, otherwise horribly empty of life, particularly at night. It is extraordinary that the University’s governing body is insensitive to this issue. 


Bristol University is favoured for not being a campus university. Its buildings and landscape should celebrate the fact that the university is intertwined with the city as a whole.


The Group feels the same argument applies St Michael’s Park, which should also remain two-way. The current proposal to split the road so that one half is one-way while the other half two-way is confusing and, given the proposal not to separate the cycle route in the one-way section, potentially quite dangerous.


To turn to the library, the size of the proposed building demonstrably exceeds that determined by SPD11. The Group regrets it is unable to support the height, scale and mass of the current proposal. It would be against the grain of the conservation area and of the immediate context. It would overwhelm the nearby buildings of Bristol Grammar School, the former Baptist College and the Victorian villas of Woodland Road and Elton Road. 


In addition to the sheer size of the proposed library, its demanding architectural character would be discordant with the wider cityscape and, when seen from more distant viewpoints, the design would exacerbate the building’s immense scale. The unsettled, cubic forms of the proposed building would cause it to appear ill at ease both with its location and with itself.


The Group recognises the University’s ambition to continue to expand but feels what has been asked of the Hawthorns site should be reconsidered. The brief has asked too much of a finite location. 

 Posted by on February 25, 2020