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Ferguson launches rival to Arup's Bristol proposal

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A radical alternative to the official council-backed scheme for Bristol's Harbourside has been unveiled by local architect George Ferguson of Ferguson Mann. The consortium of developers backing his scheme would await public reaction to the proposals before deciding whether to proceed to planning next month, he told a press conference in the city last week.

Introducing his proposal, Ferguson quoted from Jacobo Sansovino: 'A city should be built for the convenience and satisfaction of its citizens and the great surprise of strangers.' His proposals were based on an intimate knowledge of Bristol, he said, and the desire to create a scheme which would benefit the entire community. Emphasising that his was a design- led scheme, Ferguson said: 'We will develop this part of the City Docks Conservation Area in an attractive way which is sustainable, financially viable and benefits the community at large.'

His proposals for the £200m redevelopment of a 16.5-acre vacant site adjoining the city's @Bristol millennium project, would turn Harbourside into Bristol's Little Venice, he claimed, and would match the recommendations of the Urban Task Force for design-led regeneration.

The scheme was drawn up after an approach to Ferguson by a private developer last month, who subsequently withdrew, but has been replaced by a group of backers bigger than the developer currently in the driving seat, Crest Nicholson (aj 2.9.99). Crest has submitted a revised design by Arup Associates working with Richard Burton of abk, responding to ten key criticisms of its earlier scheme launched last year. The company says that its contracts with the site landowners, including the council, British Gas and jt group have established it as the developer for the scheme. Opponents say the contracts are dependent on planning permission which may not be forthcoming.

The Ferguson proposals focus on horizontally 'layered' rather than zoned uses, which include leisure, shops and workshops with offices and apartments above. Ferguson declared himself unashamed of what he called his 'Renaissance planning'. The cathedral, of which there are a number of unimpeded views from all over the site as well as from the far side of the docks, plays an important part in the scheme. Instead of grouping housing in large blocks facing the dockside, as the Arup plan does, Ferguson Mann proposes the creation of a new canal, running across the site. This would allow most of the buildings to have views over water, whether of the canal or the docks. Flats above offices would have views of the cathedral precinct.

There is no multiplex cinema in the Ferguson Mann proposals, unlike the Crest Nicholson scheme. 'It is inappropriate to place a multiplex cinema close to the cathedral precinct,' said Ferguson. 'We will protect important views of Bristol Cathedral for everyone to enjoy from the harbour and from within the development.'

A report on a conference that was held in Bristol this week on waterfront regeneration will appear in our next issue.

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