News / Western Harbour

Councillors grill Rees over Western Harbour plans

By amanda cameron, Thursday Sep 12, 2019

The Bristol mayor faced tough questions over controversial plans for Western Harbour on Tuesday.

Marvin Rees answered councillors’ concerns over the cost, timing and the availability of information around options to transform the Cumberland Basin.

Last month, Bristol City Council revealed three options to transform the “ugly road network” and turn it into a housing development called ‘Western Harbour’.

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Read more: Three options revealed for Western Harbour development

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All three approaches include demolishing the Plimsoll swing bridge and the elevated sections of the road network. Building a new bridge and creating new roads all form part of the possible options known as Western, Eastern and Hybrid.

The existing road system, which links Hotwells and Spike Island to the A4 and the A370, features bridges and flyovers built in the 1960s, which the council says is now in need of significant investment.

The council has estimated that the maintenance cost of refurbishing the existing structure would be in the region of £40million.

Plimsoll Bridge could be removed as part of the Western Harbour plans

But the alternatives put forward for public engagement have proven controversial, and opposition councillors took the opportunity to question the mayor about them during member forum on Tuesday, September 10.

Many of their questions focused on how the three options were chosen, by whom, and why seven other options considered have not been revealed.

Rees said the three options put forward were the proposals that scored highest against pre-agreed objectives, and were chosen by the mayor’s office in discussion with officers from a feasibility study carried out by design consultants Arup.

Richard Eddy, a Conservative councillor for Bishopsworth, asked what the mayor was “afraid of” if he was not prepared to share the other options until the engagement was “done and dusted”.

Rees said the council would reveal the full report containing details of the other options when it releases the results of the ongoing public engagement.

“We did not want to publish the report prior to the engagement process taking place as we wanted people to focus on the themes that were viable and met the objectives of the study rather than unviable options,” he said.

Residents have until Sunday, September 15 to give feedback on the three “concepts” that were put forward.

The Liberal Democrats, who have called for a “fourth option” which includes repairing the existing Plimsoll Bridge and demolishing “unnecessary” on-ramps to free up space for development, were told that a similar option was ruled out because it didn’t meet the objectives of the study.

Asked about the timing and cost of the proposed schemes, Rees said it was too early to say with any certainty.

He said: “We wanted to come out very early at the beginning of this process so the indications of what is possible are very, very early. It’s not a consultation, it’s for early feedback.

“And I suppose part of the price you pay for coming out with an early opportunity is that you don’t put out much detail, because you haven’t done the detail. A lot of the detail is obviously to be worked up.”

Amanda Cameron is a local democracy reporter for Bristol

Read more: More details revealed about Western Harbour plans

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