Mayor’s response to campaign to save Bristol’s famous view of coloured houses

Three different plans are in the pipeline for land below the Totterdown escarpment

The mayor of Bristol has responded to fears that a proposed new neighbourhood with a 22-storey tower block could ruin the famous views of Totterdown’s coloured houses.

Marvin Rees says a careful balance is needed in delivering developments in the midst of a housing crisis and climate and ecological emergency but that if every vista in the city was protected, more greenfield sites would be needed to meet the need for homes.

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More than 4,600 people have now signed a petition urging city leaders to ensure the clifftop panorama is protected from plans for almost 1,200 flats on land at the bottom of the hill, between the River Avon and the railway line.

The homes, which have been put forward by two different developers, would be in a series of blocks up to 11 storeys at the western end with a tower twice that height at the Bath Road side closest to Temple Meads station.

Totterdown Escaprment with Mead Street and the railway In front.

In February, Totterdown residents hung bedsheets from their landmark painted houses spelling out “Save This View”, the name of their campaign to keep their own homes visible from miles around.

One of them, Miranda Walker, submitted a question to Marvin Rees at a full council meeting of Bristol City Council last month asking: “Does the mayor of Bristol feel that although there is a need for additional housing, the iconic and unique views of Bristol, including the Totterdown Escarpment, are worth preserving?”

In a recently published written reply, Mr Rees said: “It depends on what you mean by preserving. If you mean the physical city stays exactly the same, while the world changes around it, then I’d find that a challenge.

“If you mean we’re respecting and protecting the character of Bristol, while the city goes through physical change, then I agree.”

Artist\’s impression of the 900-apartment proposed development at Mead Street, in front of Totterdown.

He said arguments about where new homes should be built had to “grapple with the scale of the challenge we face”.

The mayor said the city’s 460,000 population was projected to rise by 100,000 by 2050 and there was already a housing crisis, with 15,000 people on the waiting list and 1,000 in temporary accommodation.

He said the climate and ecological emergencies meant the most efficient, high-density homes had to be built, and in the most sustainable locations.

“Totterdown is a densely populated urban area and is an appropriate place to bring forward homes that can help us alleviate the housing crisis,” Mr Rees wrote.

“Ultimately, however, cross-party planning committees will say yes or no on schemes brought forward. But they will have to do this within the law.

“Delivering development often requires a careful balancing of issues, such as the views of local landmarks.

“I will however caution that if the development of sites in the city seeks to protect every view then more greenfield sites will ultimately be needed to meet the city’s housing need.”

Three different plans are in the pipeline for land below the escarpment.

Bristol City Council had hoped to keep control of the process by launching a consultation last year asking residents and businesses what kind of development they would like on the rectangular strip of land south of the river.

But this was overtaken when developers submitted a planning application for 244 new affordable homes in blocks up to 11 storeys on the Bart Ingredients factory at the western end of Mead Street.

And then in January, different developers revealed their own proposals for 900 homes for much of the rest of the area behind the Fowlers motorbike dealership, including a 22-storey tower.

They say putting the tallest buildings at either end “protects” the famous views but objectors disagree, including Bristol Civic Society.

The applications are yet to be decided.