The first that Riverside Garden Centre knew about the reconfigured road networks that could cut a swathe through their business was when the city council publicly released the plans.
Maps appear to indicate that both the eastern and hybrid proposals for the Western Harbour would see a road built through the social enterprise.
Bristol’s largest independent garden centre was established on Clift House Road in 1987 but could disappear if a new bridge is built near the A Bond warehouse
Riverside director Geoff Schofield told Bristol24/7 that he was “worried” that the proposals would have a negative impact on the business’ ability to expand and modernise while the shadow of potential development remained.
He said: “The garden centre is a social enterprise rooted in the community. We employ 50 people and a major hole will be left in BS8 and BS3 if we have to leave.
“There are mature pines behind the garden centre’s back wall and cellars from the manor house that predated Riverside, going back hundreds of years. They will all be removed if the plans go ahead.
“I’m pro-housing, but this plan is not right.”
On the other side of the New Cut in Spike Island, a number of businesses are based underneath the elevated roads which would be removed in all three Western Harbour options.
Rachel Beckinsale of BW Cycling said that she only heard about the Western Harbour plans through her daughter.
She said: “The area is a mess and needs a major reorganisation, but with the western option the view up the Avon Gorge may be spoiled by the new bridge.”
Rachel would look to relocate the business she part owns with her husband and some friends, if the plans go ahead.
Anthony Mace, a boat builder in Underfall Yard, was concerned about the possible influence of investors and the possible incursion of high rise buildings into this historic area of Bristol.
He said: “The (Western Harbour) development could be good, just like Wapping Wharf, or it could be similar to the Harbourside development, a soulless wind tunnel designed for profit.
“A four-lane bridge by the Pump House could negatively impact family days-out in the area, but the western option appears to relieve traffic pressure while maintaining public way.”
Initial maps of the three Western Harbour options also appear to indicate that a new road could be built through a row of houses on Ashton Avenue.
Jackie Brusali, a psychiatric nurse living in the row of some half a dozen houses, is hugely concerned about the future of her home.
She said: “I will chain me and my family to the house. Who cares about the swing bridge costing a lot to maintain? He (Marvin Rees) will lose the next election if he continues with this plan..”
The cost of maintaining the current Plimsoll Bridge is a reported £40m, a major catalyst for Rees’ Western Harbour vision.
Despite a do-nothing option currently not among the trio of choices, Rees has also said that keeping the current road configuration has not been completely ruled out of the plans.
Jackie told Bristol24/7 that she felt many of the plans, along with the livelihoods of local residents and business people, disrespected the rich heritage of the site.
She added: “My house in Ashton Avenue is 115 years old, bullets were stuck in the wall and everything. Tell Marvin to read about the history of the area and what happened here.”
Hotwells & Harbourside’s Lib Dem councillor Mark Wright wants to see a fourth option added to the public engagement process. This is a “lower cost and lower impact option involving repairing the existing (Plimsoll) bridge and taking down several of the now redundant on/off ramps and slip-roads around the system, which would free-up land for housing”.
Wright said: “It is a sound and deliverable option that deserves to be in the mix for public comment, but has been excluded on purely subjective grounds because it isn’t ‘transformative’ enough for the mayor.
“The refusal of the council to let the public comment on this option is unfortunately typical of how this whole project has been handled.”
Labour councillor Mark Bradshaw, who previously served in the cabinets of both George Ferguson and Marvin Rees, tweeted that the Western Harbour project “is being led by need for a highways reconfiguration rather than creating a high quality, sustainable place in which movement plays a part; overriding focus of earlier scoping. Clearly, much community angst.”
He added: “I’m afraid the unprecedented secrecy around the options, even from scrutiny, has not helped the wider engagement get off to a good start.”
A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: “We’re at the very early stages of developing a way forward and welcome this type of input to help develop plans for the future of the Western Harbour area.
“We’re hosting eight public drop in sessions for residents and businesses to share their views and talk to us about these early proposals and encourage all who have an interest, idea or concern to attend the sessions and take part in the online survey.”