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In defence of Bristol's planning department

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In your news item on the Redland Planning Appeal in Bristol (AJ 16/23.8.01), George Ferguson and Edward Ware denigrate local people and the way Bristol City Council assesses planning applications.

I am surprised that Ferguson and Ware seem not to appreciate that local planning authorities have a statutory duty to consider residents' views. Bristol City Council welcomes comments from the public because they make a valuable contribution to the development control process.

In the Redland appeal case, planning officers acknowledged the aesthetic merits of the scheme, seen in isolation.

The key issues, however, were its impact on residential amenity and its relation to its context.

These concerns were shared by many local residents, English Heritage and Bristol's Conservation Advisory Panel. The article levels broader criticisms at architects and developers in the city, the nature of planning decisions and, apparently, the planning system in general.

As the system stands, planners have to respond to proposals put before them. Applications are assessed on their individual merits. Decisions are made within the framework oflocal and national planning policy.

While Ferguson and Ware might wish to privilege architectural design over the many other complex matters involved in assessing a proposal for largescale development, this would require a change in national guidance and local policy.

Bristol City Council is committed to promoting high quality, contextual design. The robust set of design policies in Bristol's local plan lay out an urban design framework. This is the basis for many major, creative initiatives, by which a vision for Bristol in the early 21st century is being implemented. Our success is acknowledged by Bristol's inclusion as an exemplar in the DETR's By Design publication and by various awards received by schemes in the city over the past few years.

Bristol is increasingly acknowledged as a very distinctive, lively, and popular city, where active regeneration is balanced with care for the city's historic environment.

Steve Perry, head of planning services, Bristol City Council

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