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RFAC slams EP for its support of poor design in Bristol

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A £30 million Bristol quayside design has been condemned by the Royal Fine Art Commission in a stand-off with English Partnerships that may involve Prince Charles and the deputy pm.

Chapman Taylor's hq for Bristol & West building society, on the city's Temple Quay, was 'reminiscent of a prison', said chairman Lord St John of Fawsley. He wrote to the local council saying the scheme had little sense of belonging and contributed 'nothing of value to this part of the public realm'.

The waterfront scheme, a series of medium-height, multi-storey office blocks, will house 1200 staff. Bridges will link tree-lined walkways, and it is due for completion in 2000. The design is part of a 9ha development with English Partnerships which is negotiating with developer Castlemore Securities. The masterplan, by Fitzroy Robinson, was also criticised by the commission as 'disappointing, inadequate and unclear'.

The Bristol & West application went to the planners on Wednesday, as aj went to press. Lord St John has written to John Prescott criticising English Partnerships for appearing to support the scheme. Peter Stewart, rfac deputy secretary, said English Partnerships was 'a very important agency which claims to have aspirations of quality as set out in its Time for Design guide. We are pointing out that some of the schemes seen to be under the aegis of English Partnerships do not seem to be up to the standards it is setting itself.'

Ken Johnson, project director at ep, said it had worked with the council for two years to produce 'a high-quality development'.

Bristol Civic Society has weighed in by writing to Prince Charles. 'This is a crucial site next to Bristol Temple Meads station and would be the first impression of Bristol,' said Jim White, a self-employed architectnd chairman of the society. 'English Partnerships is committed to mixed-use development. Now it is paying lip service to mixed use; the design is simply an office block. Prince Charles is very interested in the idea of sustainable cities, and one way of achieveing this is through mixed use.'

Neither Chapman Taylor Partners nor Fitzroy Robinson was available for comment.

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