The University of Bristol has secured planning permission to build accommodation blocks for 953 students as part of its £300m Temple Quarter campus.
Welcoming the news, professor Guy Orpen, vice-chancellor of new campus development, hailed the decision by councillors “an important stage in the evolution of plans to develop a world-leading innovation campus in the heart of the city”.
But the proposals for three buildings – of up to 20-storeys high – on Temple Island have met with objections from residents and organisations, who have raised concerns about the proposed height, design and density.
In a written statement to Bristol City Council, Historic England said the accommodation blocks will screen the views of the colourful Totterdown skyline, “a locally distinctive and well-recognised symbol of the city”.
The organisation added: “A site of this prominence demands a development of the highest design quality. Based upon the information supplied in support of the application, there is a danger that the proposed buildings may appear as sheer unrelieved monoliths with little sense of refinement in their detail.”
Windmill Hill and Malago (WHAM) planning group objected to “the inappropriate size of the scheme”, calling it out of context with anything built in the area.
The University of Bristol gained outline planning permission for the new campus in July 2018.
Its redevelopment of the former sorting office site by Temple Meads and Temple Island opposite – the latter of which was earmarked for an arena until plans were scrapped last year – is due to act as a catalyst for major regeneration of the area.
The vision is for a campus at the forefront of digital, business and social innovation that will provide teaching, research and “innovation” space for 3,000 students, plus 800 staff, business and community partners.
The student accommodation blocks will be located on part of Temple Island and will surround a central courtyard.
The ground floor of the buildings will be metal clad “to reflect the industrial heritage of the site” and will incorporate a 24-hour student hub and commercial units. There are also plans for a large communal roof terrace, common rooms, a biodiversity roof, gym and outdoor fitness spaces as part of the development.
Bristol City Council officers concluded in a report that the application “represents an important stage” in the evolution of Temple Enterprise Zone plans.
The said: “It will give rise to high-quality student accommodation in close proximity to the campus buildings that will create a high-quality development at this important gateway into the city.”
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Speaking after councillors gave the plans the green light at a meeting on Wednesday, Orpen said: “This decision represents an important stage in the evolution of our plans to develop a world-leading innovation campus in the heart of the city of Bristol.
“Our goal is to create high-quality spaces for the university community, visitors and for people in the city. The new campus is part of a wider regeneration of the Temple Quarter area that will help contribute to economic and social growth and enhance Bristol’s reputation as a global destination for innovation.
“The student accommodation, along with the new academic buildings which will replace the old sorting office and greet passengers at Bristol Temple Meads, will regenerate a long-dormant central area of the city by creating a welcoming campus in Temple Quarter to benefit the whole city.”
A public consultation on the detailed designs of public spaces and academic buildings for the campus was held in September 2019 and the reserved matters planning application for that part of the development is due to be submitted in November.