Bristol Green Party Logo

Tuesday, 25th Sep 2018

Greens call for caution on tall buildings - response to Urban Living consultation

Bristol Council's consultation on its new Urban Living document has closed. Green Councillors have raised concerns that the Council risks being overenthusiastic in its support for tall buildings and needs to pay due care to the potential negative aspects of such development and respect the opinions of the public who responded to the consultation.

Green Councillor Martin Fodor said:

“As a Green I’m naturally keen to see better quality places to enhance urban living, and most of what’s in this document is helpful. However, what’s worrying is the overwhelming range of views submitted by residents and civic organisations which are being ignored by the council in its apparent enthusiasm to encourage more tall buildings. There needs to be much better consideration of the many downsides of these projects, for example greater cost, worse environment for children, environmental impacts, and so on. Otherwise we risk opening the door to developers to get permission and then cut corners in corporate projects that could blight our city for decades to come.”

The full response by the Green councillor group is below.

Urban Living - Bristol Green Party councillors’ submission on the formal consultation.

We broadly welcome the publication of new, draft Urban Living guidance for the city, and support the goal of high quality, denser developments to accommodate people and create communities.

Creating higher density, urban living, when done well, is a positive step for the city, to support public transport and active travel and to ensure people have the choice of living closer to work, leisure, and facilities in a healthy environment.

Provided green and blue infrastructure (natural and water-linked landscape elements such as sustainable drainage, parks and food growing land) are integrated into the city and its development, both new and existing, then the quality of life and sustainability of the city can be improved.

We have already made our case for a Green approach to urban living. As we said in our initial submission:

We do want to see high quality, well designed urban areas, with mixed uses, including employment, leisure, and play. There should be prioritisation of active travel, safe streets, healthy places, public spaces, leisure, play areas, and quiet spaces. We support a commitment to age friendly, child friendly, and all ability friendly places. 

Mid rise and low rise developments can create all these with evidence of success in achieving successful, popular, and high density areas people want to live in. The evidence for tall buildings achieving all these is much more doubtful.

At the same time we cited our concerns with the proposal for more tall buildings:

Tall buildings have extra costs and penalties for higher construction costs, slower delivery, fire safety, usable space wasted in service shafts, maintenance costs for lifts, lower recycling, higher carbon in both construction and operation eg for water pumping, the need for concierges and security, wasted land around them, and shadow and air turbulence impacts on surrounding areas.

There is limited evidence they would actually deliver more homes for a diversity residents, families and mixed communities on the same or less land, as traditional, popular low and medium rise areas do. 

The urban living policies on quality and design need to be tighter, as we know many details offered in applications get lost and negotiated away before or during construction.

We drew the administration’s attention in our previous submission to a report produced by government in 2001/2 - which doubts that tall buildings even produce higher densities (https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200102/cmselect/cmtlgr/482/482.pdf).

We now comment on the formal consultation, and point out that there seems to be an unwillingness from the Council to acknowledge the extent and depth of unpopularity across the city for the continued advocacy of tall buildings. Even in the case studies there is clearly a limitation on local evidence for the delivery of successful tall buildings in the city, with some shortcomings (cladding and entrances) being cited for the Quakers Friars tower. The absence of obvious models for successful tall buildings should add to the warning.

The consultation responses documented by the council should show the lack of viability for the policy:

Invited stakeholders said: “Guidance needs to positively say where tall buildings will be encouraged whilst setting out their limitations in terms of delivering affordable housing, using land more efficiently and delivering successful placemaking. Assessment criteria will still be required.” [quotes from Consultation report]

The Survey and consultation results quoted show:

  • Clear majority  strongly disagreed that new buildings should be allowed to be significantly higher than those around it.
  • The majority agreed that new building heights should reflect the prevailing building height of those around it.
  • Levels of public support for the locations proposed for higher density development ranged from a low 24% (local and district centres) to a moderate 58% (large vacant sites), with areas close to existing and proposed transport hubs receiving the second and third highest level of support (just 47-55%).
  • There was strong support for new residential development being primarily delivered in low and mid-rise developments, rather than high rise tower blocks.
  • There was  strong disagreement that Bristol should extensively promote high rise tower blocks to meet its housing need.

In addition: “the majority highlighting the need to expand the remit of the document to included  other UK core cities and European examples. It was also commented that the document could have included more studies of tall buildings.”

We think this is needed and must acknowledge the many down sides that can occur with these developments.

It was requested:

“The future maintenance and management of schemes should be considered at planning stage.”

Without this there could well be failing projects again – as with the 60s and 70s legacy of degraded and unmaintained buildings that became virtually uninhabitable in so many British cities.

Detailed survey results:

  • “Strong objection to the promotion of tall buildings to meet housing need from visual, social and environmental perspective.”
  • “Not enough emphasis on green and blue infrastructure within both public and private realm, concern that higher density development will fail to deliver enhancement without stricter guidance.”

Comments on quality standards needed suggest additional standards be introduced, with key themes set out below:

  • Standards related to sustainability of buildings such as insulation and use of renewable energy, passive heating, water capture
  • Standards more specifically related to the provision of green infrastructure and SUDs both in the private and public realm.
  • Standards for the provision of public open space and sports facilities to be provided off site, if it cannot be accommodated within the development.
  • Standards to apply to student flats, build to rent and cluster flats and in private residential to guide mix of units.

In summary:

We therefore ask the administration to think again regarding the proposed tall buildings policy. Otherwise we are concerned that the largest, corporate developers will see the opportunity to propose and get permission for minimally compliant tall buildings that will damage the city’s quality of life and risk the many problems pointed to. This, for instance, can harm mental health and wellbeing and stifle the ability of children to play and socialise, affect those suffering isolation, and also reduce the diversity of housing types achieved.

The Green councillors’ ambition for the city remains one of: high quality, well designed urban areas, with mixed uses, including employment, leisure, and play. There should be prioritisation of active travel, safe streets, healthy places, public spaces, leisure, play areas, and quiet spaces. We support a commitment to age friendly, child friendly, and all ability friendly places. 

Mid rise and low rise developments can create all these with evidence of success in achieving successful, popular, and high density areas people want to live in. The encouragement of tall buildings will irrevocably change the skyline of Bristol. It is not something to be undertaken lightly, but only after a fuller of consideration of many potential downsides – especially in residential blocks – and widespread public concern that needs to be carefully considered.

Green Councillor brands Council Air Quality plans shameful

Green Councillor brands Council Air Quality plans "shameful"

At at cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Green Councillors challenged the Labour Mayor's lack of detail and evidence to support new air quality proposals.

Action on Climate Emergency ACE

Action on Climate Emergency (ACE)

Bristol Green Party’s Action on Climate Emergency group, campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of climate change.

Green Councillors press for WECA to take action on Climate Emergency

Green Councillors press for WECA to take action on Climate Emergency

After launching a Climate Emergency at Bristol Council last November, the first of its kind in the UK, Green Councillors are today calling on the region’s West of England Combined Authority (WECA) to recognise a climate emergency.

Make local plan fit for a changing climate say Greens

Make local plan fit for a changing climate say Greens

More than 6 months after Bristol Council passed a Green Party motion to declare a climate emergency, Green Councillors are now calling on the Council to recognise this in its plans for the future.

Greens top Bristol election results showing Green city swing

Greens top Bristol election results showing Green city swing

Last night the Green Party topped European election polls in Bristol, contributing significantly to the re-election of Green MEP Molly Scott-Cato in the South West. Members say the result indicates a Green swing in the city ahead of the local and mayoral elections next year.

Bristol Councillors give thanks to Green Lord Mayor at final meeting

Bristol Councillors give thanks to Green Lord Mayor at final meeting

Councillors celebrated the hard work and positivity of Green Lord Mayor Cleo Lake during the ceremony that saw her step down at the end of her year in office.

Greens back Youth Climate Strike against airport expansion

Greens back Youth Climate Strike against airport expansion

Caroline Lucas spoke in support of another Youth Climate Strike taking place in Bristol this Friday 24 May, this time protesting the expansion of Bristol Airport.

Bristol Greens call for ban on dangerous pavement parking

Bristol Greens call for ban on dangerous pavement parking

Green Councillors in Bristol have contributed to a House of Commons Inquiry into pavement parking, highlighting the dangers and accessibility problems it causes and calling for a ban to be legally enforced.

Green Councillor shows flaws in plans for polluting gas plant in heart of Bristol

Green Councillor shows flaws in plans for polluting gas plant in heart of Bristol

A Green Party Councillor has hit out at plans to build a gas generator plant in Bristol, raising concerns about high levels of air pollution on a site close to a nursery.

European Election Campaign  Hustings

European Election Campaign & Hustings

The European Election campaign is underway. Learn more about our candidates and where to see them in hustings around the region.

Bristol Green Group response to Climate Change report

Bristol Green Group response to Climate Change report

“Both Conservatives and Labour are now talking the talk on climate change, but they need to follow it up in their actions. This is an emergency and it’s not enough to talk about the climate – we have to do something about it."

Council risking deaths and crime with proposed cuts to drugs programme

Council risking deaths and crime with proposed cuts to drugs programme

A Green Councillor has raised concerns about Council proposals to cut prescription services for vulnerable drug users in Bristol

Making Steps Towards Carbon Neutrality

Making Steps Towards Carbon Neutrality

Green councillors have welcomed the first steps at Bristol Council towards work for Bristol to go carbon neutral by 2030.

South West Greens launch reelect Molly European election campaign

South West Greens launch ‘re-elect Molly’ European election campaign

The Green Party in the South West today launched their European election campaign. The Party will push for the re-election of Molly Scott Cato, who has a strong track record of achievement in the European parliament and is a leading and well-respected voice of opposition to Brexit both within the South West region and nationally.

Open letter to EU citizens in Bristol

Open letter to EU citizens in Bristol

Leaders of the opposition parties in Bristol joined together today to send an open letter to EU citizens living in Bristol.

Bristol Greens welcome Magid Magid

Bristol Greens welcome Magid Magid

Green Councillors and candidates in Bristol are today (8 April) hosting Magid Magid, Green Lord Mayor of Sheffield

Green Councillors welcome landlord licensing extension

Green Councillors welcome landlord licensing extension

A cabinet meeting on Tuesday 2 April approved extension of Bristol Council's landlord licensing scheme to 12 wards in Central Bristol. Green Councillor Carla Denyer welcomed the decision.

Green Councillors condemn Mayors delay on clean air action

Green Councillors condemn Mayor’s delay on clean air action

After repeatedly missing air quality deadlines set by the national government, Bristol’s Labour administration has gone back to the drawing board. The Council now expects to submit a final clean air plan a full year after the original deadline.

Bristols twin city in Mozambique devastated by cyclone  how you can help

Bristol’s twin city in Mozambique devastated by cyclone – how you can help

After Bristol’s twin city Beira was devastated by a cyclone, a fundraising campaign has been set up by our city’s twinning association to help rebuild Beira directly and sustainably.

Green letter re Brexit shambles

Green letter re Brexit shambles

Letter re Brexit-balls

Mayor refuses to come clean on exchief executive payoff

Mayor refuses to come clean on ex-chief executive pay-off

Green councillors have said they are concerned and frustrated that Bristol's Labour Mayor refused to answer questions at yesterday's Full Council meeting about the controversial pay-off of the Council's ex-chief executive. A report into the severance package found that there was a lack of transparency over the £196,000 pay-off provided. The Mayor refused to answer questions from councillors and the public on why the administration chose to pay the full pay-off and why the payment decision did not go to the HR committee unlike other payments to departing senior officers.

Did Mayor lie about exchief executive payoff

Did Mayor lie about ex-chief executive pay-off?

Greens councillors will be asking the Labour Mayor next week why the Council’s ex-chief executive received a £196,000 severance package, half of which was discretionary, following a report that confirms their concerns over the process used and it’s lack of transparency.

Mayor must take action on fossil fuel funds

Mayor must take action on fossil fuel funds

Green Councillors have submitted a motion to next Tuesday’s Full Council meeting (19 March) calling on Bristol’s Labour Mayor to meet with the head of Avon Pension Fund and discuss divestment of funds away from fossil fuel industries within 5 years. Despite a similar Green motion passed in 2015 (1), the Avon Pension Fund continues to hold significant investments in fossil fuel industries. A recent UN study found that resource extraction industries are responsible for half of the world’s carbon emissions and more than 80% of biodiversity loss. (2) Bristol’s branch of local government union UNISON (the second largest union in the UK) also backs the campaign for pension fund divestment.

Bristol Greens back return of student climate strike

Bristol Greens back return of student climate strike

Thousands of students are expected to strike over climate action once again this Friday 15 March in Bristol. Green councillors welcomed the news and praised young people for putting the Climate Emergency on the agenda.

Job Advert Paid Campaigns Manager Wanted

Job Advert: [Paid] Campaigns Manager Wanted

The Bristol Green Party is looking for a Campaigns Manager to help elect Sandy Hore-Ruthven as the UK’s first Green Mayor. You will be an experienced campaigns manager and have a commitment to Green values. The role will build the groundwork for an effective campaign for the elections in May 2020. Deadlines for applications is the 21st of March.

Green Group Leaders letter to the Prime Minister

Green Group Leader's letter to the Prime Minister

As Bristol’s Labour administration voted through a budget which takes millions from adult social care and children & families services, Eleanor Combley, Leader of the Green Group, wrote to the Prime Minister to demand an end to the “triple whammy of cuts” hitting local authorities.

Green Councillor  Labour incompetence to blame for bin collection delays

Green Councillor - Labour incompetence to blame for bin collection delays

Over 200 streets in Bristol were recently impacted by bin and recycling collection delays of as much as two weeks due to the failure of ‘worn-out’ vehicles due to be replaced.

Greens refuse to vote for Labours no action budget

Greens refuse to vote for Labour’s ‘no action’ budget

Bristol Green councillors have abstained from voting for the Labour administration’s budget at the budget council meeting this evening. While Councillors passed successful amendments, they said the budget overall was still not good enough, lacking key action on critical areas and continuing the rollout of cuts to services voted through by Labour in the 2018 budget.

All Green amendments at todays Budget meeting

All Green amendments at today's Budget meeting

Green Councillors have proposed 5 amendments to this evening's budget meeting at full Council. They include taking action towards carbon neutrality by 2030, creating more housing and providing better bus services.

Greens scrap City Hall perks and pay foster carers more

Greens: scrap City Hall perks and pay foster carers more

A Green amendment to be debated at Bristol’s budget council meeting this evening proposes to increase allowances for in-house foster carers at Bristol City Council, funded by scrapping free parking perks for councillors and reducing the size of the budget for the Mayor’s Office.

We use cookies on our website to improve your experience, by using our website you accept the use of these cookies. Read More Close