Arup Associates' masterplan for the troubled £300 million Bristol harbourside project at Canon's Marsh is to be scrapped and the practice replaced with a new urban designer.
Developer Crest Nicholson will begin the search for a new masterplanner immediately and intends to make a new appointment in June. The move comes after a planning application for the housing, commercial and leisure scheme was rejected for the second time at the end of January. Crest Nicholson has now been granted an extra year to develop the site. Richard Burton of London-based abk was also working on the project but has yet to be told that he is off the job.
The scheme won the broad backing of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment but faced disapproval from local residents. It is also thought that the diminishing power of the Labour Party in Bristol City Council contributed to its downfall. Early on, Labour had given strong support to the scheme but this waned as seats were lost to the opposition parties.
'We had no problem with Arup Associates' work,' said Crest Nicholson project director, Ian Cawley. 'We just needed to start with a blank piece of paper.'
Partner at Arup Associates Mike Lowe said that the practice had not yet been asked to formally resign, and that relations between it and the developer remained good, with the two continuing to work on a scheme for Gloucester docks.
Although Arup had drawn up a masterplan and some detailed designs for commercial, housing and leisure use on the city centre site, it expected to hand over some of the design work to other architects and so played down the potential loss of fee income. 'We are happy with whatever is appropriate for Bristol. We're quite relaxed about the situation,' Lowe said.
This new development will give a major boost to an alternative £200 million scheme by local practice Ferguson Mann and a consortium of developers, which is due to be considered by the planners in June or July. Ferguson Mann partner George Ferguson said: 'We now have the only scheme for Canon's Marsh. All the indications are that we will get planning permission. My strong feeling is that these schemes should be design-led. Theirs [the Crest Nicholson scheme] was driven by commercial agency advice.'