The importance of public consultation to planning George Ferguson complains about the 'vociferous middle classes' who objected to his plans for flats in Redland, Bristol. (AJ 16/23.8.01). This is the same George who was happy to join objectors to the plans of Arup Associates for the Bristol Harbourside redevelopment and to welcome our support for his competing scheme for the site. Come off it, George, or we will get cynical and think that you believe that public concern should have less value when it is in your back yard - not a NIMBY but a NOMP - 'not on my project'.
This society's objections were not about redevelopment of the site or 'modern architecture' but the impact of the building form, which surprised those of us accustomed to his sensitive approach on previous projects.
The principal 115m-long, fivestorey (16m) block is wholly out of context with the grain of this largely two- and three-storey Victorian suburb. This fortress wall of flats will obstruct views and be obtrusive within a valuable landscape, including the adjacent public park. It was basically these aspects that also drew objections from English Heritage, Bristol Civic Society and the (architect-supported) Conservation Advisory Panel to Bristol's planning department.
Regrettably, the appeal inspector rejected these views.
With regard to the time taken at planning, there is a problem with inadequate staff resources, particularly at boom times like these. Lack of time to prepare the site specific guidance commended in PPGs is a particular concern.
Our group, currently two architects and a planner, looks at all planning applications on behalf of the society. Many, like this one, are lodged without adequate information for proper consultation and assessment.
Some also, presumably under instructions from developerclients, are submitted with a 'sacrificial' element. This scheme, and another big one by the same developer, were both some 20 per cent larger when first lodged. It is hardly surprising that these practices, requiring revised drawings and consideration, extend the development-control timescale.
Of course, architects believe good design - their design - deserves to be built, but it is worrying to see them kick planning departments and denigrate the role of public consultation.
Government, obsessed by speed, wants to 'streamline' planning and is pressed to do so by businesses for which local public opinion is a pain. These are some of the same business interests that brought us the character-destroying town centre, the out-of-town superstore and still want more roads to be built. But even well-intentioned developers do not get things right all the time and no scheme should be 'fast tracked' at the expense of public participation.
Roger Mortimer and Alison Bromilow, Planning Group, Redland & Cotham Amenities Society, Bristol