Jan 14, 2017
On 21 December, the latest chapter in the proposed Bridge Valley Road pedestrian/cycle bridge came to a close when Bristol City Council refused the planning application.
While the official minutes of the meeting have yet to be published, anyone interested in the background can read all the documentation at:
To display the full application details, key in: 16/01266/F against ‘Planning Reference’.
The purpose of the application was to develop an area of land that crosses Bridge Valley Road between The Ladies Mile to the north and The Promenade/Clifton Down to the south. The land, which is not owned by the applicant, is within the Conservation Area and has SSSI and SAC status.
It was proposed that a permanent route for cyclists and walkers should be built between Durdham Down and Clifton Down. This route would have included the construction of a 50m (170 ft) span bridge - a replica stone viaduct – above and across Bridge Valley Road.
At the southern end of the proposed bridge the grass area leading to the Promenade would have been excavated to make way for a circular structure, 30m (100 ft) in diameter. Described as a ‘Ramp’, this would have also served as a ‘Meeting Space’ and the ‘hub’ for new footpaths and cycle tracks, each with barriers that continue eastwards over the grass and across The Promenade footpath to the road kerb of Clifton Down, opposite Proctor’s Fountain.
To make way for these works, a significant number of trees would have been cut down and the historic landscape scarred.
This application, the second submitted for the development, was considered at 13 July 2016 planning committee meeting. Although Council officers recommended refusal, the committee resolved to grant consent, subject to reaching a legal agreement to ensure compensation for loss of trees proposed by the application.
On 21 December 2016, the application was reconsidered by the Committee, since it had been established that the compensation could not be secured because the applicant had not formed a charity and the land is not within the applicant’s ownership. Committee members therefore voted to refuse the application, as recommended by the Officers.
It is worth noting that the land includes Common Land. If the application had gained planning permission, it would then need consent to develop from the Secretary of State, after extensive local consultations. Such consent is separate from the planning process, so was not a relevant matter for discussion by the planning committee. However, an application to the Secretary of State cannot be made before planning consent is granted by the Council.
The Common Land is held by the Society of Merchant Venturers and it is interesting that at the planning committee meeting on 21 December, the Society’s representative stated that the applicant has not discussed the proposals with the Merchant Venturers.
It is also useful to know that for some years, the Council has been reviewing schemes to improve the existing road junction at the top of Bridge Valley Road (without the need for a bridge) for the benefit of cyclists, walkers and vehicles alike.
On a historical note, brick or stone viaduct bridges of the type proposed by the applicant, were developed during the Industrial Revolution to support railways or canals for carrying heavy loads – not pedestrians and cyclists.
If the proposed pedestrian/cycle bridge had gained planning permission, the cost of building the scheme was claimed to be about £2 million, but now estimates are that the construction costs would be substantially greater. It had been feared that local tax payers might eventually have to contribute towards this.
Furthermore, if the proposed scheme had gone ahead, it is believed that Bridge Valley Road would have been closed to traffic for over a year.
It is possible that the applicant may try again to obtain consent for either these, or modified proposals. If you would like to be kept up to date about this or other planning matters in Clifton and Hotwells, please make sure that CHIS has your correct email address.