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The Bristol Cable

People of Bristol to be consulted on future of housebuilding in the next 20 years

In November, Bristolians will be invited to have their say on the local plan, which sets out how the city will grow over two decades.

Image of housing in Bristol

Bristol’s citizens will get to have their say this autumn on a crucial 20-year plan setting out how many new homes should be built in the city and where.

The new local plan will shape how the city grows over the next two decades, including a huge variety of developments like housing, offices, GP surgeries and solar farms.

A public consultation will launch in November to find out Bristol’s priorities for the next 20 years.

The exercise follows the collapse this year of a proposed regional masterplan – the West of England spatial development strategy (SDS) – after disagreements between local council leaders and the metro mayor Dan Norris.

At the heart of the row was the question of how many homes South Gloucestershire would have to accommodate on the city region’s behalf.

With the demise of the SDS, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset councils will instead each be focusing on their own needs.

That leaves Bristol, with its geographical constraints and dependence on brownfield sites – which are harder and more expensive to build on – facing a particularly tough challenge as it looks to the future.

The high-rise living debate

Bosses at Bristol City Council believe developers should focus on building tall, dense apartment buildings rather than houses on the city’s outskirts, to protect the green space around Bristol and reduce the incentive to use cars.

That approach is only likely to be intensified now that neighbouring authorities are much less likely to be offering any extra capacity to ease the city’s acute housing crisis.

“Many rapidly growing cities, when faced with the challenge of where to build, decide to spread outwards which can lead to the destruction of their nearby greenbelt land and fragile local ecology,” said Nicola Beech, the cabinet member for strategic planning, in a guest post on the mayor’s blog earlier this month. “So how do we decide where to put our children’s and our grandchildren’s homes and workplaces? How can we provide for ourselves and future generations yet still build sustainably for Bristol?”

Beech added that the city should focus on building affordable homes “close to where there are jobs, shops and sustainable travel routes”.

“This will likely mean building more densely and this will sometimes mean taller buildings,” she added. “We have little choice but to build sustainably upwards on available brownfield land close to the rich culture and entertainment hubs of our city centre.”

But campaigners have long pushed back against the council’s focus on high-rise living, arguing that such developments are detrimental to the city’s character, do not create sustainable neighbourhoods, and are not the only way to deliver the high-density housing the city needs.

Carbon considerations

Besides housing numbers, the local plan will likely include rules for developers on energy efficiency, affordable housing, environmental protection, wheelchair accessibility and more.

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“The new plan will promote the most sustainable forms of heat and power,” Beech added in her blog. “It must not just consider the carbon emissions associated with each new development, but the carbon emitted during construction and manufacture, also known as embodied carbon. We also intend to revise our plan so that it will support new health infrastructure close to new planned developments.”

After the autumn consultation, the council will publish its draft new local plan in summer next year. Then in early 2024, government planning inspectors will examine the plan, before it can be adopted and signed off by the council in autumn later that year.

More details about how residents can take part in the consultation are expected to be made clear in November.

In the coming months, the Cable will be publishing a series of in-depth reporting looking at future solutions to the housing crisis in the city. Sign up here to get the first story straight to your inbox.


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  • As stated, high density can be achieved by squeezing houses together. The popular Victorian terraces that characterise much of Bristols residential area, allow for services and amenities (shops, parks, public transport, workspace) to be located within walking/cycling distance.
    High-rise has been found to be more energy consuming than low/medium rise, in construction and throughout its life. It is also difficult to adapt high-rise to changing needs and lifestyles, which terraces have enable really well.
    Social studies carried out in the last century found a litany of problems in them such as crime, isolation, maintenance issues, etc. There appears to be nothing good about high-rise compared to high density low-medium rise. In fact more dwellings per hectare can be achieved with the latter.
    The low density suburban estates offer great opportunity for “densification”. We now have some good prototype examples of this in Bristol. Once sufficient density appears public transport becomes viable, as do local shops and amenities. I don’t claim to be an expert, but Bristol has more than the average number of urban design, planning and architectural experts and an excellent university school of architecture and planning (7th best out of 53, according to the Guardian). It would be beneficial to include these experts, whom I am sure love their city too, to inform the debate


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