New group – Bristol Against High Rise

The future we fear

Imagine you are walking one sunny summer day in Castle Park.  Soon you will be in the shadow of a 26-story tower block on the former ambulance station.html  As you look across the river, a vast 22-storey building will loom above Finzel’s reach.  To the north of Castle Park, Wine Street will soon be a solid rank of high rises.

Bedminster is about to see the approval of a 1,500-person residential complex at the centre of which will be two towers of 22 and 20 storeys respectively.  It is horrendously ugly.  It looks like East Germany.

Totterdown is reeling from a proposed 18 storey tower on Bath Road.

Please see my blow-by-blow account of the Mayor’s policy: Ferguson told me how a developer friend of his wanted to build on a site in Bedminster, and expected to be allowed 5 storeys, in view of the local context.  So he put in for 6, expecting to get knocked back to 5.  To his amazement the planning officer said:  “That looks a bit stubby!  Why don’t you put in for 11?  The Mayor wants buildings to go tall!”  This in a suburban bit of Bedminster near the Tobacco Factory.

Bristol is under threat.

We face a choice.  Historic cities on the continent like Vienna, Munich, Amsterdam, Toulouse, Lyon, Copenhagen, and many others have chosen not to go high rise, typically building no higher than 7 floors. Tall buildings are deliberately contained on the outskirts, to preserve the city’s beauty.  These are the richest cities in Europe, partly because they offer attractive life-styles as shown by their positions on quality-of-life tables.

Quality of life, liveable 19th century streetscapes full of bars and shops, attract highly skilled professionals. Do we want to sabotage Bristol’s economic future?

It is not as if these high rises are necessary.  They’re cries for attention, like Castle Park, approved despite that fact that an alternative 11-storey plan would have had the same density, or the high rise planned for the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus, clearly another way of shouting “we’re here and we’re important!”

This month we launch a Facebook group to track the sad story of the Mayor’s assault on Bristol:
Please mail back to tell us if you’d like to help.  We need:

> Ideas
> People to tell their friends
> Money for a social media campaign


  1. I have to say, that I am really disappointed with the amount of complaining that goes on South of the river. I fear that I have made a terrible mistake moving here (have lived all of my life other side of the river). It is like the ‘land that time stood still’. I would love to have something like this. Esp if it brought bars, shops etc. It is incredibly depressing and dreary the bank of industrial area between South and the city. All I hear is objections, objections. In an ideal world, give the area to artists at peppercorn rents, and watch them build something fantastic (Redfield, Easton for example). I feel I have moved from somewhere that is up and coming to somewhere that is pretty much dead. It runs on and on. I thought an Arena was being built, I thought Bath Road was being developed. Complain and keep complaining, and it will remain I fear as it has done for decades. Dead, same as it has been for so long. The rest of Bristol sees growth, this side doesn’t.

    Bristol has a housing crisis. People need somewhere to live. House prices have spiralled out of control, so that property is not affordable to local Bristolians. Seems this is more about people being precious about their views, in their expensive houses, as nothing really could look worse than the industrial area that surrounds Totterdown. I am more concerned about the roads. The dead ends (probably as a result of yet more complaining). Or that terrible ‘community’ building on Wells Road, that looks an eyesore.

    Maybe I know nothing. Have only lived here 50 years. Have a BA Hons in Housing and Development. I care about this city. My family have lived here hundreds of years. So I do care about it. A better idea would be to move the industrial buildings to the outer areas, and the housing closer to the centre where people want to live.

    Please stop complaining. I can really see why the rest of Bristol says ‘don’t go south of the river’…. I was fooled into believing the article ‘Totterdown was up and coming’… I don’t believe it is. It lacks facilities. Yes housing would need to provide facilities, that this area is very sadly lacking, schools, doctors, dentists, supermarkets (more than a tesco express that sells so little)

    Maybe I need to see something different. Every time I see yet another complaint, my heart sinks further, and I feel desperately homesick. If I could move back North of the river, I would in a heartbeat. As it is, I see businesses closing…. the place is shutting down. PLEASE just give growth a chance. It is needed.

    I don’t think it would make a difference having high rise on the old ambulance station. I think there needs to be more affordable housing and that S.106 needs to be taken more seriously. I think that there needs to be more thinking about keeping with original architecture of the city (which I appreciate is difficult with high rises) but with housing crisis, higher density housing is needed, the other option is to lose green open spaces.

    1. Hi Matt, thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      I would like to point out that the group “Bristol Against High Rise” is actually set up and run by people from north Bristol, not the south.

      Your comment suggests that people are against progress. I would disagree and suggest that people are supportive of progress but not at any cost. Most of the objections to these buildings is due to the excessive height and the long term impact this will have on the cityscape – not to development as a whole.

      You mention a housing crisis which seems to be a go to justification for increased development. I would suggest that a more efficient start would be to address under-utilised spaces within the city, then look to developments of high density, but low to medium rise. Rushing to erect high rise blocks is not a panacea for the housing shortage – I would even suggest it is simple profiteering from developers.

      I’d also suggest that the large amount of development in tower blocks only provides flatted units, of which there is already an excess. The City spatial plan identified that different styles of housing are required (such as family homes and retirement units). Many of us feel that the introduction of tower blocks is unnecessary and also without a mandate.

      I would totally agree with you that we need more affordable and social housing. S106 and CIL are not taken seriously and much of it has been sucked into the Arena project (will we get some back if that doesn’t go ahead???).

      We agree that high density is needed, just not high rise. Good examples are Wapping Wharf and Paintworks where this has been achieved. So please don’t take this solely as whinging, but an impassioned plea not to dramatically change the nature of the city without mandate, without necessity, and without reason.

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