News / Clifton Village

Plans to replace derelict building in Clifton Village with shops and offices approved

By amanda cameron, Friday Jan 24, 2020

Plans for a controversial block of shops in the middle of Clifton village have been approved despite fierce opposition from residents.

Described as “stark and brutalist” by opponents, the three-storey development will replace a derelict row of shops which once housed a WHSmith but has been empty for five years.

Last used as a Christmas ice-rink in 2014, the site occupies an island of land bordered by Clifton Down Road, Boyce’s Avenue and King’s Road.

It will feature a commercial block with retail outlets on all four sides, offering shops, a cafe/restaurant and offices, after Bristol City Council granted developer THAT Group permission on Wednesday, January 22.


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Members of a planning committee expressed mixed feelings about the design – from “attractive” to a “mass of glass” – but voted eight to one to approve the scheme, as recommended by council officers.

The approval follows four rounds of public consultation, during which the design evolved, and the council received a total of 278 objections and 94 letters of support.

Opponents of the scheme included Historic England, the Civic Society, the Conservation Advisory Panel, the Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society, and the Mall Garden’s Residents Association.

The derelict building set for redevelopment on Clifton Down Road. Photo from Bristol City Council’s planning documents

Chief executive of THAT Group, Peter Tisdale, told the committee he regretted so many of the neighbours objected, but the application had been “painstakingly put together”.

Eight members of the public spoke to object to the scheme, mostly to criticise the design which they said was “out of keeping” with the surrounding Georgian buildings, many of which are listed.

Opponents variously branded the design “inappropriate”, “insensitive” and “overbearing” and likened it to a “battleship” or “mausoleum”.

Some said it would block the daylight for neighbours on King’s Road while others said the plan to host big chain stores, such as Marks and Spencer, would threaten the livelihood of independent shops in Clifton.

But both local ward councillors supported the development, with Paula O’Rourke telling the committee the new shops were “badly needed” to “revitalise” the village centre.

The Green councillor also endorsed the sustainability credentials of the scheme, which will be car-free, provide an improved bus stop and taxi rank, and has “acceptable” energy efficiency according to officials.

Altogether five people stood to express their support for the scheme, including a local resident who said she thought it would be an improvement on what is already there.

A planning officer said the proposed “contemporary, high-quality building” was “appropriate” for the site and would replace a “negative building”.

“We recognise that the surrounding buildings are more historic,” she said, “but this is an island site and it can’t replicate the historic buildings that are around it.”

Following the approval, Tisdale said THAT Group was “delighted and relieved” to have finally got planning consent for the site after “many years of hard work” and “extensive consultation”.

The site has a long and complicated planning history, having been the subject of a number of planning applications from the current and previous owners since 2010.

Artist impression of the proposed development on Clifton Down Road. Image from Bristol City Council’s planning documents

Main image courtesy of THAT Group 

Amanda Cameron is a local democracy reporter for Bristol

Read more: Plans to redevelop site of derelict building in Clifton Village set for approval 

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