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Get thee behind me, casino, say Bristol clergy

Bristol Cathedral is waging war against a major Arup Associates design on its doorstep by urging the government to call it in.

Robert Grimley, the Dean of Bristol, said the plan for a 15-screen cinema with casino, 350 flats and shopping arcades is too large and too close to the cathedral in the centre of Bristol. The plan, developed by Crest Homes and Crest Nicholson Properties, went to outline planning as aj went to press. Approval was recommended by the committee after the design's height was scaled down from 28m to 20m. Planners say that the developer has done enough to protect the views of the cathedral.

The 26,000m2 development on Canon's Marsh also includes 600-space multi- storey car park, and four office blocks from 4000m2 to 8500m2 in area. The marsh was once used for grazing cattle belonging to the cathedral's canons. They would wrap around a 100m park leading to a stretch of river and take up the entire 8ha site, a former gasworks.

Grimley told the aj: 'Our only hope is if the Secretary of State calls in the project. Although it is around 130m away from the cathedral, it is 20m from its precincts, car park, public wc and trees. The development would also swamp a small square with three Norman arches and the back of a Grade I-listed library.'

Julian Bolitho, case officer for the council, said: 'It is not just a cinema but a comprehensive regeneration that will have many benefits. We feel the changes will respect its historic context. There are pros and cons but as an overall package the council is prepared to support it.'

Mark Hallett, development executive at Crest Homes, said it had worked closely with the planners to resolve disputes on size and massing. Building work on flats could start later this year but decontaminating parts of the site would take a year. Arup Associates would not comment.

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