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Bristol mayor speaks of regret over tower-scheme go-ahead

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Bristol’s architect mayor has admitted he dislikes an Origin3 Studio-designed residential tower approved by city councillors against the advice of planning officers.

Former RIBA president George Ferguson, who became the city’s first elected mayor in 2012, said the 16-storey block was not to his taste, but that he could not influence the decision of elected development control committee members.

Earlier this month the councillors ignored their own officers’ advice, instead siding with the views of an independent design-review panel in reaching their decision.

The tower is part of a 188-home scheme for regeneration specialist Urbis on the site of the St Catherine’s Place precinct in Bedminster, around one mile from Bristol city centre.

Planning officers had recommended members of Bristol City Council’s development control committee refuse architect David Rhodes’ design on the grounds of the development’s height and mass.

But independent design-review panel the Bristol Urban Design forum supported the scheme, arguing that it had a ‘level of ambition’ that was ‘appropriate for the site’.

It added: ‘This scheme has a place-making effect, which will bring a new identity to an otherwise forgotten hinterland’.

Ferguson said he disliked the scheme, but that the approval emphasised the need for increased high-street viability in conjunction with additional housing.

‘Although the architectural scale and style is certainly not to everyone’s taste, and not to mine, it is a planning committee decision over which I have no influence,’ he said.

‘It is regrettable that the scheme does not include an element of affordable housing, but I understand that this was considered and the committee received advice on the reasons why it was not possible in this case.’

Deputy mayor for planning Councillor Mark Bradshaw had supported the development, arguing that it would help drive investment in a ‘run down’ part of the city.

‘As a city with tight administrative boundaries, we must make better use of our existing urban space, rather than leap-frogging onto greenfield sites,’ he said.

‘This is often difficult to achieve and developers who are willing to work within this framework and take up the challenge should be encouraged.’

Robert Guy, partner at Bristol practice Arturus Architects, said the decision was excellent news for the city.

‘It shows that the council’s members are aware of the housing problem which we have looming in Bristol and that they need to encourage denser schemes,’ he said.

‘I hope it encourages more schemes of this nature. The city’s tall buildings policy is too restrictive and will have an adverse impact on achieving housing numbers in future years.’

Urbis’ masterplan for the wider St Catherine’s Place area includes up to 800 new homes, a district heating system, a community centre and improvements to the train station.

St Catherine's Place

Origin3 Studio’s proposals for St Catherine’s Place in Bristol.

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