Plans to transform a key city centre site into a high-quality sustainable development of hundreds of new homes and leading-edge offices have been recommended for approval.
The major regeneration project marks the next phase of the award-winning Finzels Reach, a new, thriving neighbourhood already created out of a derelict, brownfield, city centre site on Bristol’s harbourside.
The plans by Bristol developer Cubex for the former headquarters site of Avon & Somerset Fire and Rescue will deliver 297 homes, including 231 build-to-rent apartments and over 20% affordable homes, helping to meet the pressing need for housing in the city centre. A cutting-edge office building for around 1100 workers will help support Bristol’s growing economy and significant investment in improvements to the area around the site, including new landscaping, traffic management, pedestrian and cycle routes, will help create a more attractive area and foster a sense of community.
The site on the opposite side of Counterslip from the current Finzels Reach development now stands derelict and has been identified by Bristol City Council as an area for more dense urban development. The £140M scheme has been designed to create a strong identity with a sense of place and a high quality environment for people to live and work, whilst ensuring it connects well to the surrounding area and compliments the heritage buildings nearby, such as the Grade II* listed Generator Building, Lead Shot Tower and Temple Church.
Building on additional feedback, Cubex reduced the size and shape of the scheme by slimming the design of the taller of the buildings proposed and removing two storeys from the lower elevation along Templeback. This has resulted in a reduction of 21 private apartments.
All of the affordable homes originally proposed have been retained in the amended scheme. There will be 66 in total, over 20%, in a building to be known as Coopers Court, 60 of which will be funded by the development. All of the contemporary designed affordable apartments will be built to the same high standards as the wider scheme with each of the homes benefiting from balconies and a communal roof terrace, together with secure cycle parking. Coopers Court, like the rest of the development, will be connected to the city’s district heating system providing a more cost-effective and lower carbon energy source.
Millwrights Place contains apartments designed to help meet the needs of the emerging ‘built-to-rent’ rental market. Known as multi-family in the US, the residents will benefit from professional management on site and a concierge, a dedicated and responsive maintenance team and secure tenancies. In a rental model where residents effectively rent access to the amenities in the whole building, not just their apartment, there is a strong emphasis on building a community. Extensive, versatile communal areas will enable people to socialise, work from home, and hold events or communal activities such as games nights or yoga. Outdoor roof terraces will provide a range of spaces to relax or grow herbs and vegetables and residents will even be able to keep pets.
Halo, a new 116,000 sq ft smart, sustainable and healthy office building, has been designed to attract high profile companies to Bristol, and will be built speculatively, before tenants have been secured. An eye-catching entrance leads inside where a unique corkscrew-like staircase rises up through a glass atrium, providing natural light to each floor and leading to a rooftop terrace. Like the much-acclaimed Aurora office building opposite, Halo will offer outstanding environmental, wellness and digital connectivity credentials.
Plans for this next phase of Finzels Reach include £2.4M investment in the community and public realm, including £1.2M investment via the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), which helps fund infrastructure, facilities and services, and £1.2M investment in improvements along Temple Street, Counterslip and Temple Back. These include improved dedicated separate cycle and pedestrian routes with wider pavements, one-way traffic routes to reduce the dominance of vehicles, new ‘pocket parks’ and trees, seating and soft landscaping. Together, these are designed to make the surroundings more attractive and knit the new development into the wider area. Cubex hope the proportion of CIL contributions to be spent in the immediate area (25-30%) could be used for much-needed improvements to Castle Park.
Gavin Bridge, executive director at Cubex, said: “We are very keen to continue the regeneration at Finzels Reach by replacing poor quality, concrete structures with high quality homes, offices and public spaces. We have managed to line up both the partners and the funding to get this site moving and everything is now in place for us to start work, if we get planning consent next week.”
“It is enormously important to us to create sustainable, balanced communities that make a positive difference to people’s lives. We have been hugely encouraged by the success of earlier phases and we’ve continued to prioritise sustainability, wellbeing and digital connectivity in each of our buildings to ensure they meet the needs of the local community and wider city into the future.
“Bristol has very limited space in central areas to provide the new homes and healthy workspace the city clearly needs. Whilst we acknowledge we must avoid the mistakes of the past and that some residents are naturally cautious about proposed change in the area, we believe we have to build more densely if we’re to meet the demand for housing in the city and attract and retain the very best businesses.”
“We’ve also put considerable effort into the design of the whole development so that it fits in well with its surroundings and is of a scale that compares well to other schemes in the area that have already achieved planning consent. There are too many stalled sites in Bristol, but our focus is always on delivery and we want to get started as soon as possible so we can continue the renaissance of this long-neglected part of the city centre.”
The revised plans for the second phase of Finzels Reach will go before Bristol City Council planning committee on 25th September.
Finzels Reach is now home to a mixed, balanced community, with new homes, workspace for the likes of Channel 4, Historic England, Simmons & Simmons, Barclays, EDF and Bafta-winning BDH. It is also a fast-emerging social hotspot, with Left Handed Giant, Mission Pizza, Pacific Yoga, Café Matiriki, Spicer & Cole, and the soon-to-open Bocabar, together with the striking new Castle Bridge linking this historic area to Castle Park.
By the end of the year, 2,500 people will live or work at Finzels Reach. The plans for phase two of Finzels Reach would increase that total to 3,300 people, with an investment value of £400M in total.