Waterfront office block development will ‘damage’ Bristol’s identity, say Historic England

‘We do not oppose change, but this scheme is not good enough to justify the damage it would cause’

Historic England has raised concerns that a proposed six-story office block in Bristol’s Harbourside would ‘damage the character and identity’ of the iconic area.

The group has formally objected to the planned new building, on Waterfront Square next to the Lloyds Amphitheatre, claiming it will block views of landmark buildings such as the Cathedral while harming people’s appreciation and enjoyment of the city.

A planning application for the £60 million scheme has been submitted to Bristol City Council.

Ross Simmonds, acting regional director for Historic England in the South West said: “We are concerned about how this scheme would impact the character and people’s appreciation of this historic part of the city centre.

“It would have a detrimental effect on views from the Floating Harbour up to the Cathedral and cityscape beyond.

“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.”

If the planning application by Railway Pension Nominees Ltd is given the go-ahead, the building would boast shops, bars and restaurants on the ground floor, with offices on the floors above.

An artist’s impression of what the building could look like.

The Waterfront site sits within the City Docks Conservation Area and overlooks the meeting point of the river Frome and the Avon which were canalised when the city’s Floating Harbour was created in 1823.

The site, which is largely undeveloped with some modest scale harbourfront buildings, affords important views towards the grade I listed Bristol Cathedral and many of the city’s landmark historic buildings, including the University’s Wills Memorial Tower and the Cabot Tower.

Simon Hickman, development advice team leader at Historic England, said “We recognise the potential of the Waterfront site.

“The right scheme in this location could make a positive contribution to Bristol, but any proposal for this site must equal in quality the outstanding surrounding cityscape.

“This historic part of Bristol deserves a thoughtful development scheme which responds to and doesn’t dominate its surroundings.”

Alex Hartley, councillor for the Hotwells and Harbourside ward, has also objected to the development which he branded ‘yet another dull office block lacking any character’.

Councillor Hartley added: “We’ve gone from the potential Harbourside Centre, an interesting architectural monument that could have put Bristol on the map, to a block that is bland and offering little in the way of public good.”

Railway Pension Nominees Ltd said it was ‘hugely excited’ over the scheme.

Richard Van Lente, from the group, said: “We are hugely excited to be bringing forward these landmark plans that will provide a fantastic new office scheme that completes Millennium Square and enhances the Harbourside for the local community and businesses alike.

“As well as creating hundreds of new jobs, we are determined to make this one of the most sustainable buildings in the South West.”