Home News Major regeneration project at Western Harbour takes next step forward

Major regeneration project at Western Harbour takes next step forward

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The people of Bristol will be invited to contribute to a ‘place-shaping vision’ of how the Cumberland Basin might be transformed, as the next step in the biggest regeneration project in a generation is taken.

As many as 3,000 new homes, businesses and an entirely new road network could be created at the end of the Floating Harbour, which has been renamed ‘Western Harbour’ by the council chiefs behind the project.

The plans for the Cumberland Basin are controversial, and this will be the second time council chiefs have begun a consultation process on working out what should happen, and how, in the coming years and decades.

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The council initially presented their plans as a choice of how to replace the 50-year-old Plimsoll Bridge and Brunel Way flyover, the main A3029 which links the Portway with South Bristol.

But that, and especially the prospect of either a new bridge nearer the Clifton Suspension Bridge, or a new road that would close down the Riverside Garden Centre, demolish homes and put a dual carriageway past the Nova Scotia pub, sparked huge controversy among residents in Hotwells, Ashton, Southville and on Spike Island.

The Western Harbour Advisory Group, which was put together by the Mayor and includes architects, planners, business leaders and only one representative of local residents, has been meeting for two years, and asked the consultation process to start again with a ‘going back to the drawing board’ approach.

In April, Bristol Live revealed the council was spending another £150,000 doing just that, by hiring a team of different companies to work on a six month programme of community engagement.

The council said the multi-disciplinary team includes urban designers, architects, graphic designers and communications specialists will work with the council and ‘local organisations’ to develop a programme of activities and events over the coming weeks.

The feedback from those sessions and that consultation will be used to ‘create a place-shaping vision for the future of the Western Harbour area’.

“A place-shaping vision is a document that contains ideas and principles to guide change in an area, which aims to promote better urban design and re-imagined public spaces,” a council spokesperson said.

The architects firm Turner Works has been hired to lead that team.

“In a competitive application process, Turner Works’ proposed approach to engagement stood out to the panel, which included a representative from the Western Harbour Advisory Group (WHAG),” she added.

“The team has an international track record of delivering engagement programmes, as well as experience developing place-shaping visions that have gone on to inform more detailed masterplans.

“Closer to Bristol, Turner Works were the creative team behind Super Weston, creating a strategy to show how Weston-super-Mare could become a thriving place to live, work and visit.

“The council hopes that, by commissioning Turner Works to engage with Bristolians at an early stage of the project, before any detailed plans are made for the area, the views of residents, stakeholders and the wider city can help to inform the future of Western Harbour, an area with historic and cultural importance to the whole of Bristol,” she added.

The history of Cumberland Basin and ‘Western Harbour’


Tide is high at the Western Harbour

Created with the Floating Harbour and River Avon New Cut, the Cumberland Basin was always a heavily industrialised area, full of warehouses and boats, with the grand houses of Hotwells just to the north.

With the decline of Bristol’s docks, they fell into disuse, and in the 1960s, the Basin was one of only a couple of places (along with the M32 and the Old Market roundabout) which were the beginnings of a grand plan to cover Bristol in dual carriageways and flyovers.

Most of those didn’t happen, but the Winterstoke Road interchange, the Brunel Way flyover and the Plimsoll Swing Bridge did. Now, though, 50 years on, they either need millions spent to maintain them, or for this generation to replace and create something different.

In 2017, the then new Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees went to China and Malaysia with a brochure selling Bristol as an place for investment, and among the grand plans for the future was the much-talked about underground transport system, and the regeneration of the Cumberland Basin, which was described as ‘Western Harbour’ for the first time.

Among the selling points to big money investors was the promise that rents in Bristol will continue to rise, making profits for anyone wanting to build flats.

By clearing away the ageing road network, including an intricate number of slip roads and ramps, some of which are largely redundant, space would be created for new development around the basin itself, or on the banks of the River Avon nearby.

In 2018 and into 2019, the Western Harbour project was defined by the issue of how to change the road network and build a new bridge – and that sparked a fierce backlash from local residents in Hotwells and Ashton Gate.

Plans for ten different options for the road network were drawn up and three were chosen as the favoured shortlist, and none of them included keeping the existing bridge.

Faced with the backlash, those behind the project admitted they should not have started with the road network and instead should have focused on more general questions of housing and infrastructure as part of a wider consultation – that’s happening now.

What happens next?

Details of the consultation process and how people can get involved will be shared soon, and events will take place during this summer.

After that, the next phase will be to develop a ‘masterplan’ that will set out the future of Western Harbour – something that will be commissioned in 2022.

Where is covered by ‘Western Harbour’?

Bristol City Council has expanded the area covered by the ‘Western Harbour’ regeneration project, and it now encompasses the land north of the Cumberland Basin in Hotwells where the flyover ramps are, as well as around the Basin towards the Pump House, the land around the bonded warehouses and the flyover ramps to the south of the basin itself, and also south of the river in Ashton Gate, including Ashton Meadows, part of Greville Smyth Park, along House Road and including the Riverside Garden Centre.

When pressed last year, Bristol City Council refused to rule out building on Ashton Meadows as part of the 3,000 homes proposed for the ‘Western Harbour’.

What the Mayor said



The Mayor of Bristol said communities across the city would be involved in the process to draw up a vision for the Western Harbour.

Among the consultees revealed earlier this year were community groups as far away as St Pauls and Easton.

“The Western Harbour project is an exciting opportunity for Bristol, so we want to put Bristol’s citizens at the heart of a collaborative vision for its future,” said Marvin Rees.

“Turner Works will work with local creatives, city partners and communities across the city to draw together an ambitious vision for Western Harbour that reflects the aspirations voiced by local people.

“Bristol faces complex challenges: a housing crisis, post Covid economic recovery, and the threats of the climate and ecological emergencies.

“By bringing together ideas on transport, flood resilience and housing, we can respond to these challenges and unlock the potential of Western Harbour to deliver new sustainable homes in an active travel location that will future-proof this historic part of the city for future generations to enjoy,” he added.



John Savage
John Savage

The chair of the Western Harbour Advisory Group is John Savage, a prominent business leader in the city who led the regeneration of Canon’s Marsh into what is now the area around Millennium Square and the amphitheatre two decades ago.

“Bristol’s citizens have a great opportunity to have their voices heard and shape the change that is coming to Western Harbour,” he said.

“We are pleased the council has taken this open approach to public engagement. We are looking forward to working with Turner Works and their local partners on this exciting first step of the journey,” he added.

The boss of Turner Works, Carl Turner, said he wanted to create ‘positive energy’ to build consensus about what the Cumberland Basin would look like for years to come.

“We are delighted to have been selected to work with the people of Bristol to help create a shared vision for the future of Western Harbour; one that meets the aspirations of those who live close by and those across the city,” he said.

“Our aim is to create the positive energy required to build consensus with an open engagement approach starting later in the summer and into autumn.

“We look forward to working alongside our local partners and involving people in fresh conversations to hear their thoughts and imaginative ideas about what the area can offer in the future,” he added.

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