The Society’s views on densification and tall buildings
Bristol City Council is embarking on a review of its approach to increasing the density of development in the city, which will replace its tall buildings policies. The Society has taken the opportunity to state its views on the subject.
The Society supports densification in Bristol if it is done well. Breaking the subject down into its various aspects, the Society’s views are as follows.
- Building form – It is possible to achieve higher densities using different building forms and this does not have to mean high-rise development that an earlier planning regime encouraged. Tower blocks surrounded by sterile empty space can be lower density than the surrounding low-rise housing. Mid-rise buildings are the appropriate form of densification in most areas. Terraced housing along traditional street patterns is another efficient use of land and is the most sought-after housing.
- Tall buildings – The Society is not against tall buildings in the right place. Tall buildings are appropriate in the city if clustered around transport nodes and close to employment centres. It is important to protect key views into out of and across the city.
- Public realm – High-density developments must value the public realm. High density is not perceived if well-designed residential blocks are interspersed by attractive public streets and green ‘rooms’ to provide space and light and bordered by cafes, community and leisure facilities. It is the public realm, the space between the buildings, that gives a city its character. When the design of a city centre is its main attraction, density becomes less important.
- Design criteria - Any proposal for development should be judged on a broad set of criteria, including: location; design; local and strategic context; transport and available or achievable social infrastructure.
- Associated infrastructure - Intensified land use should support more shops, better local services and social infrastructure to support a more concentrated local population. Developers of larger sites should be required to prepare a report on the coordination of investment to unlock the value arising from more intensive land use.
- Siting - Some areas can support more intense development than others. Planning policy must ensure that development is fit for purpose for its location. The factors will include:
- Levels of public transport accessibility
- How a scheme would integrate with its surroundings architecturally.
- The availability and capacity of local infrastructure, schools and pre-school facilities, medical resources and retail provision.
- Local green amenity space
A fuller statement is available – read more
John Payne and John Frenkel