The solutions to the problems of the St Mary le Port site are not simple. Although it might seem easy to improve the look of the area – particularly given how bad things have become over the past 30 years – it’s not quite so straightforward to make the site work better as a safe and welcoming environment, or to make it a fitting contribution to the historical importance of the area.
The nature of the area makes improvement difficult; antisocial activities, the awkward transition between site and park; plus, the area is grim during the day and unsafe at night.
Additionally, the relationship between the existing buildings, St Mary le Port ruins and the park is a very uncomfortable one. As well as that, St Nicolas Market traders have parking problems and waste-storage issues that have never been sensibly catered for.
That said, I am reassured by the experience and creativity of the team Roz Bird at MEPC has brought together, that Castle Park, the St Mary le Port site and the centre of the Old City will improve. Importantly, without the need to encroach on Castle Park.
Although it will be necessary to redesign and landscape the eastern end of the park to improve the transition between buildings and park.
The team has listened attentively to Friends of Castle Park about our concerns and they have been receptive to suggestions.
They will hopefully create a development that will not only satisfy the needs of visitors, neighbouring residents and, conceivably, stimulate the local economy by providing opportunities for small businesses, but will also be a fitting addition to the historic heart of Bristol.
I understand that the exterior of the new buildings will incorporate historical connections to the Old City and, as a nod to the medieval history, the site could feature a bronze replica of the Bristol High Cross!
Russ Leith is a coordinator for Friends of Castle Park and a Wine Street resident
Main photo by Martin Booth