How do you solve a problem like Cumberland Basin?

It is the 1960s and a new futuristic elevated road network has opened, at the western gateway to Bristol, in Cumberland Basin. It is part of huge rebuilding effort that is seeing a dizzying array of modern concrete tower blocks spring up around the city, propelling Bristol into the future following the destruction wrought on the city during the Second World War. Fast forward to 2019, however, and the once heralded road network is in urgent need of significant investment and is “ugly” according to the Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees. This is important as Cumberland Basin’s road network is a key link in Bristol’s transport infrastructure, joining Hotwells and Spike Island to the A4 and the A370, as well as providing links to the M5 and Bristol Airport further afield. What is being proposed then to solve this problem?

Bristol City Council has forged ahead with plans over recent months for the regeneration of the entire Cumberland Basin area which, upon completion, would create an entirely new quarter of the city. The new ‘Western Harbour’ will include 2,500 new homes, shops, offices, green space along with walking and cycling infrastructure, if Mr Rees’ £40 million vision is realised.

The council’s Labour administration has put three separate plans out to public consultation, all of which would apparently see a simpler, less intrusive road network. There is limited scope here to go into the detail of the plans but they can be examined on a dedicated website. Unsurprisingly, however, this opinion is not shared by all. The Liberal Democrats have wasted no time in lambasting the Mayor’s plans as disruptive, costly and harmful to the views of the Avon Gorge and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Instead, the party has proposed an alternative fourth option which would be ow lower cost and would see less wholesale change. Former Mayor, George Ferguson has been equally critical, opining that his successor’s plans do nothing to help Bristol attain its goal of carbon neutrality by 2030 as they encourage greater car usage.

Those familiar with the current administration will know that it is often supportive of ambitious and large-scale projects such as he redevelopment of Temple Island, the proposed underground railway, and now Western Harbour. Indeed, Labour are keen to press on, with Phil Jardine, Hotwells and Harbourside candidate in next year’s local election, saying that the plans represent “an exciting chance to get new affordable homes, improved community facilities, better transport links, and more green and open spaces while maintaining historic views of the Gorge and suspension bridge.” Mr Rees will be hoping that there is a positive reception to the Western Harbour plans from stakeholders and members of the public, as he can ill afford too much negative press when seeking re-election next year. We will be watching closely as the plans progress over the coming months.

Matthew Roberts - Senior Account Executive