Bristol Council's consultation on its new Urban Living document has closed. Green Councillors have raised concerns that the Council risks being overenthusiastic in its support for tall buildings and needs to pay due care to the potential negative aspects of such development and respect the opinions of the public who responded to the consultation.
Green Councillor Martin Fodor said:
“As a Green I’m naturally keen to see better quality places to enhance urban living, and most of what’s in this document is helpful. However, what’s worrying is the overwhelming range of views submitted by residents and civic organisations which are being ignored by the council in its apparent enthusiasm to encourage more tall buildings. There needs to be much better consideration of the many downsides of these projects, for example greater cost, worse environment for children, environmental impacts, and so on. Otherwise we risk opening the door to developers to get permission and then cut corners in corporate projects that could blight our city for decades to come.”
The full response by the Green councillor group is below.
Urban Living - Bristol Green Party councillors’ submission on the formal consultation.
We broadly welcome the publication of new, draft Urban Living guidance for the city, and support the goal of high quality, denser developments to accommodate people and create communities.
Creating higher density, urban living, when done well, is a positive step for the city, to support public transport and active travel and to ensure people have the choice of living closer to work, leisure, and facilities in a healthy environment.
Provided green and blue infrastructure (natural and water-linked landscape elements such as sustainable drainage, parks and food growing land) are integrated into the city and its development, both new and existing, then the quality of life and sustainability of the city can be improved.
We have already made our case for a Green approach to urban living. As we said in our initial submission:
“We do want to see high quality, well designed urban areas, with mixed uses, including employment, leisure, and play. There should be prioritisation of active travel, safe streets, healthy places, public spaces, leisure, play areas, and quiet spaces. We support a commitment to age friendly, child friendly, and all ability friendly places.
Mid rise and low rise developments can create all these with evidence of success in achieving successful, popular, and high density areas people want to live in. The evidence for tall buildings achieving all these is much more doubtful.”
At the same time we cited our concerns with the proposal for more tall buildings:
“Tall buildings have extra costs and penalties for higher construction costs, slower delivery, fire safety, usable space wasted in service shafts, maintenance costs for lifts, lower recycling, higher carbon in both construction and operation eg for water pumping, the need for concierges and security, wasted land around them, and shadow and air turbulence impacts on surrounding areas.
There is limited evidence they would actually deliver more homes for a diversity residents, families and mixed communities on the same or less land, as traditional, popular low and medium rise areas do.
The urban living policies on quality and design need to be tighter, as we know many details offered in applications get lost and negotiated away before or during construction.”
We drew the administration’s attention in our previous submission to a report produced by government in 2001/2 - which doubts that tall buildings even produce higher densities (https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200102/cmselect/cmtlgr/482/482.pdf).
We now comment on the formal consultation, and point out that there seems to be an unwillingness from the Council to acknowledge the extent and depth of unpopularity across the city for the continued advocacy of tall buildings. Even in the case studies there is clearly a limitation on local evidence for the delivery of successful tall buildings in the city, with some shortcomings (cladding and entrances) being cited for the Quakers Friars tower. The absence of obvious models for successful tall buildings should add to the warning.
The consultation responses documented by the council should show the lack of viability for the policy:
Invited stakeholders said: “Guidance needs to positively say where tall buildings will be encouraged whilst setting out their limitations in terms of delivering affordable housing, using land more efficiently and delivering successful placemaking. Assessment criteria will still be required.” [quotes from Consultation report]
The Survey and consultation results quoted show:
- Clear majority strongly disagreed that new buildings should be allowed to be significantly higher than those around it.
- The majority agreed that new building heights should reflect the prevailing building height of those around it.
- Levels of public support for the locations proposed for higher density development ranged from a low 24% (local and district centres) to a moderate 58% (large vacant sites), with areas close to existing and proposed transport hubs receiving the second and third highest level of support (just 47-55%).
- There was strong support for new residential development being primarily delivered in low and mid-rise developments, rather than high rise tower blocks.
- There was strong disagreement that Bristol should extensively promote high rise tower blocks to meet its housing need.
In addition: “the majority highlighting the need to expand the remit of the document to included other UK core cities and European examples. It was also commented that the document could have included more studies of tall buildings.”
We think this is needed and must acknowledge the many down sides that can occur with these developments.
It was requested:
“The future maintenance and management of schemes should be considered at planning stage.”
Without this there could well be failing projects again – as with the 60s and 70s legacy of degraded and unmaintained buildings that became virtually uninhabitable in so many British cities.
Detailed survey results:
- “Strong objection to the promotion of tall buildings to meet housing need from visual, social and environmental perspective.”
- “Not enough emphasis on green and blue infrastructure within both public and private realm, concern that higher density development will fail to deliver enhancement without stricter guidance.”
Comments on quality standards needed suggest additional standards be introduced, with key themes set out below:
- Standards related to sustainability of buildings such as insulation and use of renewable energy, passive heating, water capture
- Standards more specifically related to the provision of green infrastructure and SUDs both in the private and public realm.
- Standards for the provision of public open space and sports facilities to be provided off site, if it cannot be accommodated within the development.
- Standards to apply to student flats, build to rent and cluster flats and in private residential to guide mix of units.
We therefore ask the administration to think again regarding the proposed tall buildings policy. Otherwise we are concerned that the largest, corporate developers will see the opportunity to propose and get permission for minimally compliant tall buildings that will damage the city’s quality of life and risk the many problems pointed to. This, for instance, can harm mental health and wellbeing and stifle the ability of children to play and socialise, affect those suffering isolation, and also reduce the diversity of housing types achieved.
The Green councillors’ ambition for the city remains one of: high quality, well designed urban areas, with mixed uses, including employment, leisure, and play. There should be prioritisation of active travel, safe streets, healthy places, public spaces, leisure, play areas, and quiet spaces. We support a commitment to age friendly, child friendly, and all ability friendly places.
Mid rise and low rise developments can create all these with evidence of success in achieving successful, popular, and high density areas people want to live in. The encouragement of tall buildings will irrevocably change the skyline of Bristol. It is not something to be undertaken lightly, but only after a fuller of consideration of many potential downsides – especially in residential blocks – and widespread public concern that needs to be carefully considered.
Helping small businesses
Bristol Council is due to step back from levying street trading fees on businesses trading in suspended parking bays during the coronavirus outbreak. Instead of daily fees adding up to approx. £7000 per year, the council will instead request a yearly charge of just £100 for businesses that seek to take advantage of the social distancing measures imposed by the authority to trade in suspended bays. The move follows persistent pressure fro
Motion on reparations blocked as other parties refuse extra time
Cleo Lake's motion calling on Bristol Council to lobby the government over historic slavery reparations and support Bristol's black cultural centres has been dropped from a council meeting
Council to consult on planning changes to prevent overconcentration of student housing
Following three years of work by a cross party group of councillors, Bristol Council is consulting on a new housing planning policy designed to foster mixed and balanced communities
Enslavement reparations needed
A Green Party motion to be debated at next week’s Bristol Council meeting calls on the Council under the Mayor’s leadership to provide more support for black cultural centres in Bristol and to lobby the government to set up an All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry for Truth & Reparatory Justice which would discuss reparations for the trafficking and enslavement in African people.
Rebooting democracy in Bristol
Two female politicians from different parties have been working together to reboot democracy in Bristol. Green Councillor Paula O’Rourke and Labour Deputy Mayor Asher Craig are leading the ground-breaking new approach of using citizens’ assemblies to help Bristol emerge from lockdown.
Campaigning during COVID
Bristol Green Party statement on current campaigning
Drop street trading fees for local businesses
A petition is calling on Bristol Council to drop charges for local businesses trading in suspended parking bays during the coronavirus outbreak.
#GiveNTech to combat digital exclusion
Working with institutions like Avon Fire Authority and Bristol Waste, Cleo Lake’s #GiveNTech campaign to combat digital exclusion in Bristol been providing laptops to families and individuals since its launch in May.
Greens welcome 'Downs Loop' proposals
A public consultation is under way on proposals for traffic calming and turning worn paths into an accessible loop around the Downs
Citizens Assembly to steer Bristol Covid recovery
Following a motion proposed by Green Councillors in January, Bristol Council is moving forward with plans to carry out a Citizens Assembly
WECA transport plans must “walk the walk not just talk the talk” say Greens
Green councillors have said they are disappointed that WECAs cycling and infrastructure plan “lacks urgency and ambition”.
Greens welcome first steps towards addressing Bristol’s dirty air
Green councillors have welcomed the announcement that next week Bristol bridge, Baldwin Street and Union Street will be closed to through traffic and new bike lanes installed along Park Row, Upper Maudlin Street and Marlborough Street. The changes mark much needed first steps towards improving dangerous levels of air pollution in Bristol. They will also help people move safely about our city during the pandemic by making more room for walking and cycling.
Greens respond to Council licensing changes
Bristol’s Green Councillors have expressed solidarity with communities concerned about the loss of Cumulative Impact Areas, and promised to continue to support the residents they represent.
Greens support trans rights protest 18th July
Cleo Lake welcomes new statue on Colston plinth
Bristol’s former Lord Mayor and artist Cleo Lake welcomed the filling of a ‘political vacuum’ in Bristol by a black woman and black lives matter activist.
Mayor has questions to answer on investment in clean energy
Bristol’s Green Councillors say that the Mayor has tough questions to answer about the City Leap project, which was supposed to be delivering funding for clean energy across the City.
Green Budget Amendment creates more space for foster families
The first family is already benefiting from new rooms in a pilot scheme set up by Bristol City Council thanks to Green councillor Martin Fodor’s budget amendment, which pays for extra rooms in cramped council housing. Bristol has a shortage of larger council houses – the waiting list is twice as long as for smaller properties, and families needing larger homes have to wait for around 2 years.
Cleo Lake to ask Mayor to lobby government over reparations
At a Bristol Council meeting on Tuesday 7 July, Green Councillor Cleo Lake, activist and former Lord Mayor, will ask the Mayor to lobby the government to set up a commission to acknowledge, apologise and instigate reparations for the UK’s role in the Transatlantic Traffic in Enslaved Africans.
Clean air is a right not a luxury
“Our right to clean air is as basic and important as our right to clean drinking water. It’s now nearly 4 years since the Council passed a Green motion calling for a Clean Air Zone and yet despite the Council spending millions of pounds on consultants, Bristol is no closer to clean, breathable air. After four years of failure from Marvin Rees to act on clean air, I fully support protesters taking peaceful socially-distanced action to voice their frustration at the city's continuing illegal and unsafe air quality and call on the Mayor to speak with the protesters to explain just how he intends to clean up Bristol's air, with the urgency that is needed."
Good progress on homelessness but MPs must do more nationally
Green councillor and Bristol West MP candidate Carla Denyer has praised staff at Bristol City Council for their work tackling homelessness during lockdown , but highlighted that some more radical changes are still needed to fix the UK’s broken housing system. Councillor Denyer has called on the Government to do all it can to support renters, but has also made a particular plea to local Labour MP and Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire to reconsider her party’s proposals , which seem to favour landlords over their tenants.
Green Councillor Carla Denyer named one of the top women in engineering
Green Councillor Carla Denyer has been named as one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering for 2020 by the Women’s Engineering Society.
Bristol needs clean air now
As Extinction Rebellion gears up for a week of action and protests around Bristol’s illegal air quality levels, Green Councillors say clean air is now more important than ever. With growing evidence that dirty air exacerbates the impact of coronavirus and growing calls for a nationwide review on the Government’s air quality strategy, Greens say the time for talking is over – immediate action is now needed to clean up Bristol’s dangerous air.
Prevent a second wave of Coronavirus – give Bristol tools to track and trace
As lockdown restrictions are eased in Bristol, early evidence suggests the government’s ‘track and trace’ program is not reaching enough people to be effective.
Let this mark a new era for Bristol
Green Party Councillors in Bristol and the Green mayoral candidate join the voices calling for a new era to begin, now that Colston's statue, and the oppression it represents, no longer looks out over Bristol.
Safe streets needed now
As more people return to work and children return to school it is more important than ever that we have streets that prioritise pedestrians and cyclists and enable social distancing, Bristol’s Green Councillors have said.
Greens of Colour call for independent COVID inquiry to factor in institutional racism
Green Party demands independent BAME Covid-19 inquiry: The Green Party has backed calls for an independent inquiry into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black, Asian and minority ethnic people. Greens of Colour chairperson Azzees Minott said: “The government’s inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on BAME people has let communities of colour down.
Tackle rising unemployment with a Green New Deal
Green councillors have been calling for a ‘Green New Deal’ to reboot the economy, provide jobs and tackle the climate crisis. On 2nd June Bristol City Council's Cabinet meeting included the news that the Council is forecasting a funding gap of around £86 million as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. This is made up of a combination of loss of income and additional expenditure to pay for the response to the emergency. Unemployment is also forecast to rise steeply in coming months.
Bristol's carbon neutral 2030 target essential
Green Councillor Carla Denyer proposed Bristol Council’s original Climate Emergency motion – the first of its kind in Europe – in November 2018. She said: “Hidden away on page 107 is a warning that there is now a high risk of failure to deliver the Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. This is very concerning. We cannot afford to lurch from one emergency to another. Some form of Green New Deal is essential to help the city and country to ‘build back better’. A green recovery is the only way to deal with the huge economic challenges while tackling the climate crisis, creating security and leaving behind the inequality that has damaged our society for so long.”
Secrecy and concealment as Bristol Energy loses millions of pounds
Bristol Energy has lost tens of millions of pounds of Council tax payers money, so Greens ask why this week's Cabinet meeting will hold the discussion's on what has gone wrong in secret.
Cleo Lake launches #GiveNTech campaign to tackle digital exclusion
Green Councillor Cleo Lake has launched a campaign to redistribute unused IT equipment to tackle digital exclusion during pandemic