Heritage expert calls for New Plans for New Cut

Colliers International heritage specialist James Edwards has urged authorities in Bristol to restore the  New Cut to its rightful position as a main artery through the city.
Thousands of Bristolians drive, jog or walk alongside it every day but the engineering marvel which has determined the city’s development for the past two hundred years is in danger of becoming little more than a litter-strewn backwater.
James Edwards said: “We must think positively about the New Cut’s role as one of the outstanding elements of the city’s industrial landscape, whilst also recognising the value it can have in the present day – including as a nature conservation site.
“We have some fantastic developments and opportunities along the course of the New Cut and yet the watercourse itself appears largely ignored, neglected and abused. It could be the centrepiece of  Bristol’s expanding waterside attraction.”
“Bristol City Council has made it clear they believe in enhancing the role of waterways in the city. Hopefully the Bristol Central Area Action Plan presently being drafted will support our case to boost the New Cut.”
The waterway was dug by hand at the end of the 19th century to provide an alternative course for the River Avon during the construction of the Floating Harbour. It has declined in prominence while the roads which run along its 3.2 mile length have become the main arteries in the city centre used by thousands of commuters every day.
James Edwards  said: “The size of the New Cut as an engineering feat must make it an integral part of any future plan for the city centre. The legacy   the New Cut has left is immeasurable – Bristol’s success could be attributed to the construction of the channel to create the Floating Harbour and the ensuing trade it created.
“Yet over time its role in the city appears to have been degraded and now appears little more than a backwater with overgrown river banks  blighted with fly tipping and additional flotsam and jetsam brought in with the tide.”
James said over the years several radical suggestions had been put forward regarding the future of the New Cut including creating weirs to maintain a constant water level to improve the aesthetics. But he argued there were many smaller scale improvements which could be made to enhance the status of the New Cut.
The newly established Enterprise Zone which has been created near  Bristol Temple Meads was an ideal spark to rejuvenate the waterway.
He said: “We need  to focus upon improving the public realm along its banks to ensure people are encouraged to look over the watercourse as a feature in its own right rather than looking the other way.
“We must look at how we can successfully manage and reintegrate the New Cut back into the heart of the city and be rightly proud of such an asset, which can add so much to the city if it is proactively managed.
“There is no reason why the New Cut cannot serve a multitude of uses such as a wildlife habitat, maritime channel and heritage landscape as well as making a full contribution to a revitalised public realm along this route.”
James pinpointed opportunities to enhance the New Cut close to the Feeder Canal adjacent to the now derelict Parcel Force building, Totterdown Lock and the Bathhurst Basin.
He concluded: “The locks here were infilled to protect the Floating Harbour during the Second World War and to prevent the docks losing all the water.  These could be re-opened to encourage more maritime activity along the New Cut at high tide, which in its own right creates more visual interest.”
The New Cut originally constructed at the beginning of the 19th century runs from the Cumberland Basin through the city to Netham Lock at the end of the Feeder Canal in the east of the city.  The channel was dug by hand to facilitate the creation of  Bristol’s famous Floating Harbour, which formed the original route of the River Avon.