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Bristol turns down Arup's Harbourside scheme

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Arup Associates' masterplanning scheme for the Bristol Harbourside project (aj 11.03.99) has been turned down by the city's planning committee, with the Royal Fine Art Commission trumpeting the case as one of its last major successes.

Arup's architectural director James Burland was exhibiting at mipim last week, saying that 'politics' had meant that the housing, offices and leisure masterplan was given the thumbs-down last week. In fact, Bristol council invited the developer of the scheme, Crest Nicholson Properties, to withdraw its outline application since it intended to refuse it, thereby ruling out an appeal and instead inviting a rethink. The planning officers recommended approval but the planning committee controversially overturned that recommendation last week.

rfac chairman Lord St John of Fawsley said he was pleased that the scheme, on a 'vitally important site contiguous to the cathedral', had been turned down. He called the Arup proposals 'bulky and overscale', with the potential to destroy major views of the cathedral and river. The rfac wants a scheme for the site substantially reduced in height, broken into smaller units, permeable to pedestrians and offering views. 'Bristol is one of our most historic cities, though tragically damaged in the war and brutalised in the 1960s. The mistakes made then should not be repeated now. Our success here has shown that the Commission may or may not be dead but it certainly will not lie down.'

Burland said Arups had been asked to provide extensive details for an outline planning application and had done so according to Bristol's brief. Bristol had specified it wanted large, modern buildings with quality materials, he said. 'We're designers, not politicians. The problem lies with the city - I'm slightly bemused by it all.'

On a happier note for the firm in the region, Arups has now prepared proposals for the redevelopment of Weston Airfield. The 160ha site has been largely derelict since being sold by the mod in 1974. The Commonwealth Stadium project is also proceeding apace, with Manchester City fc confirmed as the permanent occupier after the 2002 event.

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