Thousands of people have signed a petition asking for Bristol City Council to publish all the options for making changes to the Cumberland Basin road network – including the ones Mayor Marvin Rees has already rejected as unviable.
The petition has attracted more than 3,100 signatures, as of Tuesday morning (September 7), and was rapidly closing in on the 3,500-name target needed to trigger the council to action.
If it does reach 3,500 signatures, those behind the petition can ask for the issue to be debated at a full council meeting, although there is no requirement for the council to then comply with the demand to publish the alternatives.
Bristol City Council commissioned planners Arup to consider all the possibilities regarding the future of the Cumberland Basin area, prompted by the rising costs of simply maintaining the ageing 1960s flyover road network which crosses the River Avon and the Cumberland Basin from Ashton Gate to Hotwells.
Council chiefs also want to take the opportunity to free up land in the area, which they have rechristened Western Harbour, for up to 2,500 new homes for Bristol, as the city faces a huge housing and homelessness crisis.
(Image: James Beck)
The first would see the crossing of the River Avon to the east, close to the Riverside Garden Centre, and then over the Cumberland Basin using a new bridge next to the Nova Scotia pub replacing the existing Merchants Bridge.
A second option would see traffic directed to the west, over the River Avon via a new bridge at Hotwell Road at the end of the Portway, while a third option would be a combination of the first two.
All three options would see the existing Plimsoll Swingbridge, and the associated sliproads on both sides of the Cumberland Basin removed, freeing up land for new homes.
The three options have sparked objections for different reasons. The eastern option has been criticised because it would create a four-lane dual carriageway in a historic area next to the Nova Scotia, and also cut across the car park of the Riverside Garden Centre in Ashton – the bosses of the garden centre have said it would mean they would have to close.
The western option has been criticised for creating a new dual carriageway over the north east side of Greville Smyth Park, and by Historic England for affecting one of Bristol’s most iconic views – of the Clifton Suspension Bridge from the south.
So campaigners and local residents, who packed into a public meeting in Hotwells last week, said they want to see the options the Mayor’s Office has already discounted.
The online petition was started by Suzanne Audrey. She said all three options had ‘considerable weaknesses’.
“The three chosen options all list considerable weaknesses including: environmental harm to the river and riverbank, community severance – areas being ‘cut off’ from each other by busy roads – harm to historic assets, harm to iconic views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, changing the cycle route from a rural to a heavily-trafficked area, increased heavy traffic alongside the Nova Scotia and Pump House pubs, and increased air pollution,” she said.
(Image: Michael Lloyd)
“Local residents and businesses are also fearful about the future of their homes and premises. Given the importance of this for the future of the city, we urge Bristol’s Mayor and Council to publish the full feasibility report,” she added.
Mayor Marvin Rees was asked about the publication of the already-discounted options proposed by the feasibility study at a council meeting last week.
Mr Rees said the council would reveal the full report containing details of the other options when it releases the results of the ongoing public engagement.
“We did not want to publish the report prior to the engagement process taking place as we wanted people to focus on the themes that were viable and met the objectives of the study rather than unviable options,” he said.
(Image: jon Kent/Bristol Live)
The Liberal Democrats, who have called for a “fourth option” which includes repairing the existing Plimsoll bridge and demolishing “unnecessary” on-ramps to free up space for development, were told a similar option was ruled out because it didn’t meet the objectives of the study.
Asked about the timing and cost of the proposed schemes, Mr Rees said it was too early to say with any certainty.
He said: “We wanted to come out very early at the beginning of this process so the indications of what is possible are very, very early. It’s not a consultation, it’s for early feedback.
“And I suppose part of the price you pay for coming out with an early opportunity is that you don’t put out much detail, because you haven’t done the detail. A lot of the detail is obviously to be worked up,” he added.
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