Historic England says planned Bristol office could ‘damage’ views

Historic England has objected to plans to develop a new office block by Bristol’s harbourside, saying it would “damage” the city’s character and identity.

Plans were unveiled last month for a six-storey mixed-use building for Waterfront Square on the Floating Harbour. If approved by city planners, the property will be built between the Lloyds Amphitheatre and the historic dock shed buildings of Brodeaux Quay opposite the Arnolfini.

A planning application for the scheme proposes that it includes shops, a bar and restaurants on its ground floor, with offices on the floors above.

The application was made by Barton Willmore on behalf of the land owner, London-based property development company Railway Pension Nominees Ltd.

BusinessLive understands that the project is a joint venture between London-based investment firm Railpen and developer Bellhammer, which was behind the Assembly office development in Bristol.

On Friday (December 3) Historic England formally objected to the plans as part of the public consultation, saying it risked “blocking important views” across the docks of the grade-I listed Bristol Cathedral, “affecting people’s appreciation and enjoyment of the city.”

In advice given to Bristol City Council, the organisation argues that:

  • “the design of the proposed building is of insufficient quality for such an important site”
  • “as such, the development would harm the character of the City Docks conservation area”
  • “the proposal does not conform with either national planning policy or that of Bristol’s Local Plan.”

Ross Simmonds, acting regional director for Historic England in the South West said: “A dynamic city like Bristol needs to fully embrace development and we do not oppose change, but this scheme is not good enough to justify the damage it would cause to the City Docks conservation area, the setting of the Cathedral, and the views of some of the city’s most important buildings and spaces.

“It is possible to accommodate growth in this area without compromising valuable historic character, as many other repurposed historic buildings on Bristol’s waterfront demonstrate, such as the Arnolfini, the M-shed, the Mud Dock, and the Watershed.”

BusinessLive has contacted Barton Willmore and representatives of Railpen and Bell Hammer for comment.

Bristol City Council said that it would not be commenting on a live planning application under consideration by its planning department.

In October Lloyds Banking Group announced plans to sell off its landmark harbourside office in Bristol and move thousands of employees into a secondary building it owns in the city.

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