CHIS Newsletter December 2019

FROM THE CHAIRMAN

The Mayor insists that “there is more to Bristol than Balloons and Bridges”. We would add BUILDINGS – not so much quantity as quality. Despite the two great destructions by the Blitz and so much lamentable post-war development, the city is fortunate to have renowned architectural appeal, ranging from the five Grade I listed buildings to many hundreds of protected buildings in numerous conservation areas. ​So it is no surprise that CHIS is vigilant and passionate in opposing the type of development proposed by THAT Group on the former W.H.Smith site in Clifton Down Road. In response to nearly 400 objections the developer has published a revised scheme. Alas, the modifications are trivial and Historic England has for a second time condemned the design as appropriate only to the Temple business quarter and not fit for the heart of our exceptional and much-visited conservation area. More astonishingly, the sustainability standards of the project are six years out of date, a fact which of itself should result in its being rejected by Bristol City Council. ​We have presented an alternative idea which would IMPROVE the social, commercial and aesthetic nature of this vital spot. ​The current dilapidated disgrace of the boarded up site leads people to say anything at all would be better; NOT SO! An inadequate, overbearing construction will blight Clifton Village for many decades; it is worth waiting a little longer in order to ensure a welcome, fitting design. ​Members will appreciate the unremitting work undertaken by Linda Edwards and Christopher Jefferies in particular reinforced by the rigorous analyses of Michael Woodman-Smith, the Society’s architectural advisor/consultant, to fight this bad development. They have with patience and tenacity put the case to our councillors and the Planning Department for months.

BRIDGES.

  1. ​It is a comfort to be but one of many groups opposed to three variations on a theme for radical alteration of the Western Harbour (or Cumberland Basin) at Hotwells and Beyond. Our response can be seen below.

  2. ​A long-pursued scheme to erect a stone bridge over Bridge Valley Road has been refused consent at appeal by the Planning Inspectorate. Conceived as a footpath to reconnect the paths cut into by McAdam’s creation of the road in 1822, the concept grew like Topsy into a road wide enough for pedestrians, disabled access and cyclists – all debouching at a raised carousel by the Promenade opposite the Lord Mayor’s Mansion: a gruesome blot on such a rare landscape. The Inspector’s report meticulously evaluates the claimed benefits and need for such a crossingJ finding the arguments unconvincing, and stating the impact of major building-work disruption, for as many as five years, to traffic on the Bridge Valley Road. We devoted great effort and funding to resist an ill-conceived plan and welcome its rejection.

3.​At the Suspension Bridge the new toll booths are an admirable example of HOW TO DO IT, that is, how to manage in a thoughtful and responsive manner the removal of a hyper-sensitive development. The Trustees are to be commended for commissioning architects who ensured that responsible residents and groups (local and national) could see possible solutions and even offer their own ideas, having wisely demonstrated the urgent need for more adequate facilities for the toll booth officers. ​We admire the replacement booths and wish that such consideration of informed local opinion had been shown by the Clifton Down site developers.

CHIS NEWS.

More good news is the confirmation of three new members of the committee. James Simmonds is the new Treasurer, well briefed by his predecessor Roger Snary and already full of ideas. Paul Main and Stephen Grey-Harris were elected as Trustees at the AGM in October. The former is developing his responsibilities for our green plaques and traffic matters; the latter is renewing committee membership after some years’ absence and is already enlivening meetings with welcome proposals. ​Our September speaker had drawn a considerable audience - no surprise, since Professor Ronald Hutton’s lectures had always promised what we received: a lucid, panoramic address on “The Greenwood”, in social, historical, botanical and anthropological detail, all delivered with engaging ease and directness. ​The well-attended AGM briskly despatched business and was completed by a lecture on John Edwin Bush given by Professor Chris Stephens. Appropriately enough for a former medical professor, now keen local historian, the topic was the endowment of the hospital in the mansion on Knoll Hill which the Bristol-born self-made millionaire conceived within weeks of the outbreak of the Great War. His generosity was enormous and his foresight uncanny. Our speaker gave an object lesson in the skilful use of power-point presentation and commentary – a rare feat in my experience. ​Our Events season was completed in November by the popular Gordon Young’s presentation of three short films: his own clever visual record of the replacing of the Bridge toll booths plus a view of the cathedral-like interior of the vaults and then his revealing “Down the Avon”. The third film “Bristol through Maps” incorporated a brief history of urban map-making, centred on Bristol’s heritage. ​Once again, our members will be grateful to RoseMary Musgrave and Linda Edwards for another season of fascinating talks and visits. ​On Remembrance Sunday Peter Stanley laid the CHIS wreath at the war memorial in St Andrew’s churchyard and loaned his bugle for the playing of the Last Post and Reveille, as it had done in the trenches in Northern France.

OTHER MATTERS.

Information Boards. We have had in mind for some time placing information boards (interpretation boards) at key spots in BS8. We hope to have one in St Andrew’s churchyard, one on the Portway opposite the site of the Hotwell Spa and possibly one at the Strangers’ Burial Ground. A generous gift from Bristol Rotary Club will greatly help our funding for the one in St Andrew’s churchyard. We hope to get appropriate planning consent for this as soon as possible. At Clifton Library the CHIS notice board is badly weathered and needs replacing. Full information on all of these will be in the March Newsletter. Proposed new Library for University of Bristol. Mention of the Library prompts a report on the second consultation by Bristol University on the proposed new Library in Woodland Road on the site of the Hawthorns. A striking modern design (for which Bristol is not famous) is welcomed by many though some fear that it will impose itself Gulliver-like, on the surrounding buildings. ​However, an added feature – to pedestrianise the strip of Woodland Road between the Library and Senate House - shocked us and local residents into resolute opposition to it and the traffic repercussions. Trees. ​Two magnificent London Plane Trees at the western end of Pembroke Vale were at grave risk from a developer’s plan to replace a pair of garages with a two-storey dwelling on a building-line both adjacent to the pavement and a foot or so from the trees.
​We objected on the grounds on the possible damage or even loss of the trees and inappropriate development and I am happy to report that the application was refused.

The Look-Out point is dear to us since CHIS was a major progenitor of the feature. Ironically, what is looked at is more or less obscured by random tree growth, so we are asking the authorities to make sympathetic prunings.

​If only they would – a la Forth Bridge maintenance – ensure that house-owners cut back protruding hedges that proliferate on narrow pavemented roads.

On a non-parochial note, North Somerset Life magazine reports: ‘The look and identity of high street streets in North Somerset will be enhanced thanks to a new shopfront design guide. It sets out best practice recommendations to improve the physical quality, historic features and appearance of local streets to positively impact the retail and visitor appearance.’ The guide has been produced with support for Historic England through Weston Heritage Action Zone. We should commend this to Bristol City Council, to benefit the whole city not just our patch.

We hope to welcome you to the 2020 Talks and Visits.

Happy New Year!

Brian Worthington.