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Lack of detail criticised in Western Harbour ‘vision’ to redevelop Cumberland Basin

Half of the homes will be affordable, but there is little detail to engage with at this stage, say councillors.

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A key document to redevelop a huge area in west Bristol has been criticised for a lack of detail.

The Western Harbour project will see homes built around the Cumberland Basin, and the ageing road layout redesigned and rebuilt. Bristol City Council has “consulted extensively” on its 16-page vision document, which includes five pages of poetry but few details.

The western end of the Floating Harbour, stretching from Hotwells to Greville Smyth Park, is largely owned by Bristol City Council. The currently spacious area faces an increasing threat from flooding due to climate change, and the main roads running through it are deteriorating.

Council chiefs signed off plans to move to the next stage of the project at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, 12 July. Half of the new homes will be classed as affordable, but local councillors and residents said it was hard to properly take part in recently held public consultations, without being told key details about the redevelopment.

The latest vision comes after the council had to go back to the drawing board last year because of backlash against the initial plans and what local people felt was a lack of consultation. Then architecture firm Turner Works were paid £150,000 to run six months of community engagement, feeding into this new vision for the development.

Green councillor Tony Dyer, representing Southville, said: “Until there’s certainty about the proposed road layout, it’s difficult for residents to fully engage with the Western Harbour proposal. Replacing the Cumberland Basin road system will clearly have a major impact on our ward.

“Any proposal which fails to reflect the ambition towards increasing active travel and public transport would be unlikely to build a resilient community within the Western Harbour. We have seen elsewhere in the city the divisive and negative impact of major roads on communities. We hope the Western Harbour will have safe cycling and pedestrian routes.”

Local resident Mary Wildman added: “I am confused about precisely what we’re being asked to engage with, and feel that I have insufficient information to enable me to do so. Before any work on a masterplan or vision can start, we need to know where the viable land is and what it could feasibly be used for.”

Hotwells PIazza

According to a recent consultation, locals said it was important to protect heritage architecture in the area, like the three tobacco bonded warehouses. Responding to this, the vision appears to have been amended to rule out high-rise tower blocks. The next stage will see a masterplan for the project and a business case, with many more details of the project.

Deputy mayor Craig Cheney said: “The 1960s road infrastructure is reaching the end of its life and would need millions to repair. During the consultation, the key commitments to celebrate heritage and safeguard treasured assets received the most support from local people.

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“Many people sought more details of road layout and housing numbers, but these will be considered in more detail through the master-planning process still to come. The new vision for the Western Harbour can help guide and shape the masterplan later in the year, setting out where the new jobs, homes and infrastructure the city needs could go.”

The vision document did not include details on how the road layout would change, or how many homes would be built and where. The document included poems from Caleb Parkin and Tom Sastry, but little indication of what the scheme would look like.

One poem read: “A route passes through, but a place is where you stop. Wearing a mud mask of exfoliating cormorants, these horizons are carefully hand-washing the crystals of history, its pistons and cogs.”

A team to develop the masterplan is expected to be chosen this autumn. Construction is not expected to begin until 2026, and could take a further six years to be completed.

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