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1 March 2002
Chairman: Don Foster M.P.
Chris Cavanagh, Project Director, B&NES and SWRDA(1)
Brian Green, Landscape Estates
David Thurlow, Council for the Protection of Rural England
Fielden, Clegg, Bradley Design
(1) South West Regional Development Agency
Victor Suchar introduced the chairman and the speakers to the capacity audience and briefly emphasised the importance of the development of Western Riverside, which is a 70-acre site of `brownfield' land, about the size of the City centre, in a world Heritage City. It may cost £1bn. to complete; it should provide hundreds of homes as well as offices, recreational and entertainment facilities, which will produce hundreds of jobs for the city.
Each speaker gave a ten-minute talk describing his organisation's position and objectives.
B&NES propose to appoint a `master planning coordinator' to supervise the design and development so that the whole site becomes a unit, although built by different developers over a period that may be as long as 20 years. They consider this is necessary because ownership of the site is divided amongst numerous parties. He called for a comprehensive development with mixed use and specifically suggested a Conference Centre, office and business village, a primary school and hotels. He concluded that a public/private partnership would best protect the public interest
Landscape Estates, who have been involved in the construction of Dublin's Temple Bar, London's Covent Garden, Brighton's Argus and Manchester's Castlefield, have a plan prepared for the development of their area with 900 houses, shops, offices and cultural centres, and predict the first houses could be ready for 2004. They wish to proceed with construction quickly.
CPRE want to ensure this brownfield site is developed with high density housing of modern sustainable design in an environment favourable to pedestrians.
Richard Feilden of Feilden, Clegg, Bradley Design acted as the commentator from his perspective as a Bath architect. He felt the site should try and redress the balance of needs of the city that were not currently being met such as the need for more accommodation for businesses, but questioned whether additional space was required for retail use. Addition retail space might have an adverse effect on the City centre. He agreed with the emphasis on sustainability and the importance of good transport links and supported the desire for progress in moving the project forward.
Contributions from the floor were then accepted. The following points were some of those noted but a recording of all the contributions and presentations was made and can be consulted.
• The need to think about provisions for children, teenagers and students e.g. bowling alley, play spaces, ice rink, etc.
• The use of the old railway line for the transport link was preferred to a route through the centre of the site
• A preference for greater housing density
• Something of outstanding architectural value on the site is desirable e.g. a World Heritage Centre, the Regional Government head-quarters, provision for public art
• Note the importance of speed in developing the site, in that delay raises costs and hence reduces the possibility of affordable housing This has been a neglected site for 20 years and thus further delay should not occur
• For transport to be viable it must be reasonably priced and be frequent, that is at least every 12 minutes
• There was praise for the CPRE scheme with its architectural order and Landscape Estate's use of water in the design
• Links with the University and other higher education institutions should be considered
• The Rugby and Football Clubs pitch should be moved to the site and shared
• Car sharing schemes should be built into the plan
• The transport system should be a network over a wide area of Bath and trams could provide it
• Transport links with Bristol should be included
• Ferry service should be considered on the river
• Capacity for internet and media as well as other creative industries should receive more attention
• Lighting and landscape features such as fountains and sculpture should be paramount and any hotels on the site should be small and in keeping with the scale of the project.
• Don Foster thanked the audience for their suggestions and said he would be meeting with the panelists at the conclusion of the session to see if a way ahead could be established in order to avoid undue delay.
• An Exhibition of the preliminary plans of the three proposals - from B&NES, Landscape Estates and CPRE - was mounted at BRLSI from Feb. 22 to March 1. It was well attended.
Betty Suchar & Donald Lovell