Project On The Redeveloment Of Canon

’s Marsh, Bristol Essay, Research Paper

Project on the Redevelopment of Canon’s Marsh in Bristol A Summary

Bristol is the largest city in the South West, with a population of around 500,000. It is between Somerset and Gloucestershire and its proper name is the City and County of Bristol. Up until recently it was in a small county called Avon, named after the river. Now, however, it lies in an annexe to Somerset, called North Somerset.

Bristol lies on the river Avon, which flows out to the Bristol channel. While being right next to the water, it is also a bit inland, making Bristol an ideal place for a port. If you follow the Bristol Channel upstream, it turns into the River Severn. It is on this river, not far from Bristol, that there are two bridges crossing into Wales. As we saw from the results of the Axbridge bypass, having people come near (or through) your settlement in order to get somewhere else creates trade and income. The First and Second Severn crossings mean people from the South West no longer have to travel all the way to Gloucester to get to Wales, and pass through (or come close to) Bristol as a result.

A few miles from Bristol’s centre, two motorways meet. These are the M4 from London to South Wales, and the M5 from Exeter to Birmingham. The M4 bridges the River Severn before it becomes the Bristol Channel. The North-South M5 is on the outskirts of the city, by Avonmouth. ? A close-up of Bristol and its sur-roundings.

Position ?

of Bristol in the SW.


As a harbour on the river Avon, Bristol has a history dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. It was a Saxon town, at the merge of the Avon and Frome rivers – a good vantage point for a port. It first appeared on the map as ‘Brigstow’. The local dialect caused an ‘L’ to be added to the name, thus forming Bristol.

By the 1500s, it was a major port for the export of wool, and in the 1600s sailors set out from Bristol in search of new fishing grounds and markets. This exploration was funded by Bristol’s merchants. The most famous of these sailors-come-explorers was John Cabot, who sailed all the way to America, near Newfoundland.

In the 1700s the port at Bristol was a centre for the slave trade, and many people made their fortune out of the market. However, when the abolition of slavery came about in the 1800s, Bristol turned its attention to shipbuilding. The city created many fine vessels, thus the phrase ‘Ship shape and Bristol fashion’. The most famous ship to come out of Bristol is the SS Great Britain. When it was completed in 1843, it was the first screw-propeller driven ship. It is now in dry dock near the Cumberland basin and forms one of the landmarks of Bristol, along with the cathedral, Cabot tower and the suspension bridge. Even more famous is the ship’s designer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He built many less famous ships, and a multitude of railway bridges, as well as winning a competition to build the world-famous Clifton Suspension Bridge that spans the Avon gorge, completed in 1864.

However, two things have caused the downturn of Bristol as a working dock. Firstly, and most importantly, ships simply outgrew Bristol’s docks. The size of the newer vessels meant they could not get up the Avon. Avonmouth docks were built to replace the docks in Bristol. Avonmouth has a deep-water port that can accommodate for huge ships. It imports mainly cars, coal and animal foods. The second reason was that the export market swung round from the America to Europe. Obviously, it is better to have a dock that is trading with Europe near London, or anywhere in the South East, so ports in the South West, and the Bristol Channel in particular, were left to find another industry.

In 1976, the supersonic jet Concorde was assembled in Filton, to the North of the city. It brought lots of money to the area.

Bristol has several churches including St. Mary Redcliffe, parts of which date back to the 13th century, and Bristol Cathedral on College Green, founded in the 1140s. The Issue

Canon’s Marsh is seen as one of the best places in the whole of Britain for a ‘city centre renaissance’. While very much a part of Bristol, it is a site of unique qualities, especially with is curving harbourside. It has a very characteristic waterfront, and is much a part of the cathedral quarter of the city, whilst being close to the city centre. The entire area of the Canon’s Marsh area to be redeveloped is around 66 acres. More than £120m has been set aside for this redevelopment project, with substantial grants from the Millennium Council and the Arts Council.

The idea to redevelop Canon’s Marsh first became apparent in 1994, but the Bristol Harbourside Commission finally requested for Canon’s Marsh to be redeveloped in July 1998. Crest Nicholson won the rights. Alongside this, a Planning Brief was drawn up to set guidelines for the types of redevelopment that was to take place. ? The area in question. This is the area of Bristol’s harbourside that will be redeveloped. It has been empty for many years, with the exception of the Lloyds TSB building, and the adjoining car park (the buildings inside the red area are the ones planned by the Ferguson scheme). ? A photo of Canon’s Marsh

as it is today. After the re-development, only Lloyds TSB will remain. The Crest Nicholson Scheme

Firm Crest Nicholson won the right to redevelop the Canon’s marsh section of Bristol’s harbourside, and have signed a contract to buy the land from its current owners (Bristol City Council, Lloyds TSB and British Gas)

The Crest scheme proposes a four-acre leisure complex with a multiplex cinema adjacent to the Cathedral precinct, and an overall harshly zoned development. This included two large office buildings and four blocks of flats up to eight storeys high, with over 300 homes and apartments.

This scheme completely ignores the need for views of Bristol’s historic cathedral. It also ignored, or paid little attention to many of the guidelines set out by the Planning Brief (first issued in 1995, then revised in ‘98), including;

Incorporation of social and house-type mix. This has been contradicted by the harshly zoned plans set out.

A reduction on the reliance of the private car [and that] pedestrians will have priority throughout the area. The scheme makes no attempt to minimise traffic, other than building underground car parks. It gives no priority to pedestrians over vehicles.

A maximisation of the use of renewable energy sources. No renewable energy sources or energy efficiency have been noticed. If anything, the huge leisure complex and its multi-screen cinema will guzzle up even more electricity.

Unfortunately, Crest insisted that sketches of its scheme were to be removed from the Bristol Venice website. However, they were replaced with wire-frame models, which are believed to be correct (Crest’s architects have been asked to verify this);

??These are some of the views of the cathedral obscured by the Crest scheme.

?Wire-frame model of the entire Crest redevelopment plans. ? The only glimpse of the cathedral with the Crest scheme.

From the wire-frames, it is clear that all the buildings are rather blocky, and bulky. They are also a bit isolated. This does no justice to the curvaceous waterfront, nor to the general openness. I definitely would not want to work or live in a place like this.

There were two main issues for the refusal of the Crest scheme. The first was the blockage of cathedral views. Currently, there are four main views of the famous landmark (see below). Should the Crest scheme go ahead, the only glimpse of the cathedral will be from one fixed point on Wapping Wharf. The Planning Brief even states that Views across the area towards the Cathedral … must be retained and enhanced.

These objections are fully backed by the number of complaints received by the Bristol Planning Directorate; over 1000 letters were sent to the Directorate by people expressing their dismay at the Crest scheme, compared with only 39 in favour of it. However, most of these letter were from people who had connections with the company like shareholders, and the architects of Explore @Bristol and Wildsreen @Bristol, part of Crest’ proposed leisure complex.

As well as these letters, former Emmerdale star Norman Bowler and Time Team presenter Tony Robinson have also become open critics of the Scheme. Mr Bowler was a resident of Bristol for 30 years, and Mr Robinson lived here for over 25 years.

? Map showing the four main views of the cathedral that exist today – from the SS Great Britain, Cathedral walk and most of Wapping Wharf and its floating harbour. All these views will be retained with the Ferguson scheme (the buildings shaded are of those planned by Ferguson Mann). The broken lines of the arrows do not indicate a blocked view, but that you will see the cathedral over low buildings. With the Crest scheme, all but one of these views will disappear.

The Ferguson Scheme

This scheme for the redevelopment was devised by Bristol architect George Ferguson, of Ferguson Mann Architects, at the request of the Bristol Venice consortium after the first refusal of the Crest scheme. Expected to cost between £150 and £200m, it is an alternative to the rather unpopular scheme. Also called ‘Bristol Venice’, the new scheme was born out of an excellent knowledge of Bristol and its past.

Unlike the Crest scheme, it ensures that views of the cathedral are preserved. It also has a well-mixed environment. At the very heart of it all, there is a 250ft canal, running parallel to Anchor road. This redevelopment would include 450 houses and flats, and 100,000 sq. ft of office space, along with shops and restaurants. Although not at the centre of the redevelopment, Bristol Venice will include a large leisure complex with a health and fitness club together with a 120-room hotel, most likely a 3-star. It does not include any type of cinema .

Mr Ferguson has backing from a number of large developers. However he was not prepared to name any of his backers after both Frogmore Estates and Edward Ware Homes pulled of the project when they were named as backers. However, one backer for Bristol Venice has announced themselves as Urban Waterside Developments, responsible for the £500m redevelopment of Salford Quays in Manchester. It has been praised as one of the most successful waterside developments in Britain.

To reduce traffic and reliance on the car, Bristol Venice incorporates two concealed car parks. One is north of the planned canal, one of the first places you get to when you enter Bristol Venice. This idea behind this is that you can leave your car as early as possible within the redevelopment. The second car park will be a smaller one, in the form of basement parking underneath the office blocks which would be built on the site of Lloyds TSB’s current car park. This new basement parking will created parking for Lloyds TSB and the office blocks. These office blocks to the west of Lloyds TSB are the only ones planned. However, other offices are planned near anchor road, but these will be concealed as town houses, with their own front door etc. They could also be converted into housing, should the need arise.

?Two of the four principle views of the cathedral,

with the Ferguson scheme. Bristol Venice ? How Things Stand

On 26 January 2000, the Bristol Planning Committee voted by 11 votes to 4 not to give the go-ahead to Crest’s Scheme for Canon’s Marsh, leaving Bristol Venice the only live planning application. However, it seems that Crest have asked the council for a another year or so for them to come up with a new plan for Canon’s Marsh. Apparently the council are likely to accept this. Should this offer be rejected, or indeed their next plan, then the Council will vote for or against Bristol Venice. But there are fears that this extra time for Crest will give them a chance to copy Bristol Venice, and submit it as their own. They may make a few adjustments so they can get away with it – but I doubt very much that they would get away with copying the canal. A scheme like Bristol Venice would be good for Bristol, but I feel strongly that if Crest were to propose something similar to Bristol Venice, it would be very dishonest.

Personally, I hope that Bristol Venice gets approval – everything else aside, it is obvious what the people of Bristol want for Canon’s Marsh, and it will be they who share the end result.

I have written to the Bristol Planning Directorate expressing my views, and posted messages on Bristol Venice’s website. I have also contacted a member of the Friends of Canon’s Marsh, as well as George Ferguson himself. While Crest are keeping all information to themselves (except where they must display it by law), Ferguson Mann are openly advertising their scheme, with leaflets and information packs at many places.

Bristol Venice looks to be a good scheme for Bristol. It is very beautiful, and will see us well into the 21st century. I hope that Crest are refused approval, so that Bristol Venice can go ahead.


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