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Showdown over Bristol scheme

A mystery group of objectors to Arup Associates' controversial Canons Marsh scheme in Bristol is set to launch an alternative design. The group, believed to include local architects, issued a press release via pr consultants last week, claiming that its proposal is 'the scheme Bristol has asked for and will help to create'.

Meanwhile developer Crest Nicholson has submitted a revised planning application for the site. It says it will pursue its planning appeal into refusal of the original design if the new proposal is refused. The original design sparked controversy because, among other things, it placed a multi- storey car park next to Bristol Cathedral.

The revised Crest Nicholson scheme, which will have a built cost of about £10 million and a £20 million total cost, addresses a 10-point list of concerns raised about the preceding scheme, which is on a crucial waterside site. It was criticised for its scale and for obscuring views of the cathedral. 'The mix of uses is the same,' said Cawley, 'compiled within the development brief, with leisure, 360 residences, and 25,000m2 of office space. But this is a different scheme.'

The 630-car multi-deck car park has been replaced by a 430-car underground car park. The cinema has been changed from 15 to 12 screens, reducing its height and bulk. The health and fitness club has been put at ground level, reducing the height on the edge of College Green, in front of the cathedral, by 8m. In addition, the boundary of the buildings there has been pulled back by 9m, allowing for landscaping.

Views of the cathedral across the water have been reinstated by changing the massing of the residential elements.

Many of these changes were initiated as the result of 'stakeholder' meetings, initiated by the council, at which interested parties were represented: local councillors, English Heritage, those running the adjoining Exploratory and Wildscreen World, a local civic society, the Victorian Society and the dean and chapter of the cathedral. 'We were a bit concerned about attending this kind of thing,' said Cawley, 'but there was a very firm agenda.'

The new proposal has already received criticism locally. 'There are a million miles between a compromise and excellence,' said George Ferguson of Bristol architect Ferguson Mann.The mystery alternative scheme has been described as 'a very serious alternative, a total difference of approach.' But Cawley warned, 'If people are putting forward something, they have not done their homework. We were selected by the Landowners' Group (the council, British Gas, Lloyds plc) as one of four competing developers, and contractually bound to them.' In addition, he said, any development would have to have the density of the Crest Nicholson proposal to offer the returns the landowner is seeking.

l A conference called 'Quay Visions' will be held in Bristol on 12-13 September, to discuss the regeneration of Bristol Waterfront. Speakers include Ian Cawley, George Ferguson, Paul Finch and David Lunts, director of the Prince's Foundation and a member of the Urban Task Force.

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