Image of Mary-le-Port-Street

St Mary le Port: update January 2022

In December 2021 Bristol City Council’s planning committee, on a split vote, resolved to grant planning permission for the redevelopment of this significant site. The Civic Society had voiced grave concerns about the proposal and the manner in which the planned monolithic blocks would dominate Bristol’s historic heart and townscape. Historic England, the government’s statutory adviser on the historic environment, objected to the proposal saying that the “character and appearance of the City and Queen Square Conservation Area would be irreversibly harmed, as would the setting of several highly-graded listed buildings.”

View from Bristol Bridge today and that proposed.

Following discussions with Historic England and other concerned organisations and individuals, the Society has made a formal request to government to “call in” the scheme and to establish a public inquiry to examine the proposals independently. The Secretary of State in charge of planning will call in a planning application if he considers it raises issues of more than local importance and he should take the decision. In deciding whether or not to use his call in powers, he will consider whether the proposal conflicts with national policy in important ways. National planning policy puts great emphasis on achieving well-designed and beautiful places, and conserving and enhancing the historic environment.

The Civic Society is keen to see an appropriate redevelopment of this important city centre site which is a longstanding eyesore. However, our strong view is that the wish to see it redeveloped and brought into productive use, should not be at ‘any cost’. In line with government planning policy, we want to see “The creation of high quality, beautiful and sustainable buildings and places”.

Simon Birch

Full Civic Society response

Previous Civic Society views: May 2021 and July 2021


9 thoughts on “St Mary le Port: update January 2022”

  1. It is indeed a ‘long standing eyesore’. Far too long. This area has been carbuncle ugly for over a decade. It’s shameful. The overall scheme proposed may be a compromise to some degree, but manifestly it is not ‘at any cost.’ Those who now seek to cause further delay should take credit for the good work they have done. No doubt the plan is better for their previous imput. But please – let’s get on now and make the best of it.

  2. Kieran O’Shea

    Having read your full report, I think that your stance is incredibly balanced and pragmatic on this proposal.

    St Mary Le Port has the opportunity to be the centrepoint linking harbourside/ the old city, with Broadmead/cabot circus and temple meads. And I also agree that the landscaping proposals around the monument and the mixed use nature of the scheme certainly lend itself well to this and am impressed with the quality of this.

    However, I have to agree, the building heights and massing (certainly the greedy overhangs of building A) are not the way forward. I personally like the architectural style, I even like the colours chosen, I just feel the heights, overhangs and sheer mass of the buildings is inexcusable and unnecessary in this important and historic part of Bristol.

    I am very appreciative of the civic society for opposing this scheme in its current form. I do believe that if the developers are willing to listen and work alongside your proposals, we could create a scheme that works for everyone.

    1. The building heights in the MEPC proposal are within the height limit for Old City and any other developer will want to build up to that limit and, or attempt a land-grab of park space…as we saw in 2006 with the Deeley Freed proposal. In 2018, GVA tried to get away with a 16 story building on the same site. 
To date, I have not seen a better proposal than MEPC’s, it is of course a compromise, no proposal is going to appeal to everyone, or satisfy all aspirations of the various interest groups. Any proposal will likely result in loss of asset, amenity, charm, picturesqueness, trees, sky, land, aesthetics or all of the above. The challenge for a design team is to strike a balance and I believe MEPC have achieved that…the bigger risk is doing nothing.

  3. The proposed development in this area in no way enhances it.
    I would like to see the area rebuilt to reflect the character as this was the original centre of Bristol can we not have it back?
    The block of flats is far too high dwarfing the surrounding buildings and making a mockery of the War damaged church which has been left as a memorial to those lost in the blitz.

    1. If only the present buildings didn’t make a mockery of the war damaged church and deteriorating ruins. I cannot believe that anyone would think the Norwich Union or Bank of England buildings enhance the area…or ever did for that matter.

  4. I agree that the long standing eyesore has been slowed to deteriorate far too tong and it is not only shameful, but embarrassing…what tourists think of Old City is not difficult to imagine. However, I do not agree that, “Those who now seek to cause further delay should take credit for the good work they have done.” Quite the contrary.

  5. If BCS are prepared to wait indefinitely for a “better” proposal, then I believe Old City is condemned to an ever-increasing crime rate, deteriorating environment around the site, loss of St Mary le Port ruins, declining trade and business opportunities, disappointed tourists and a growing residential population that have to suffer the consequences of living in a severely damaged neighbourhood.

    If BCS cannot wait for an indeterminate amount of time, then how many more years are they prepared to wait for a perfect proposal? And, if that time passes without progress, what then? A CPO perhaps?

  6. Thomas Corbett

    Get on with it Bristol, embarassing really. The sites a complete eyesore. New development is far far better.

    Get on with it, how long you going to wait lol its been decades now.

  7. Diane Broadley

    Do we really have to replace one eye-sore with another?! I’d love to see the site redeveloped, but not like that – its hideous…Surely there must be an architect around with some decent taste. They’ve over-thought this.

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