*** Planning permission granted ***
The planning committee voted for granting planning permission for a classical bridge in Bristol on the 13 July 2016. The bridge will provide great improvements for pedestrians and cyclists at a busy and dangerous junction and would allow people with physical disabilities for the first time to fully enjoy the Downs.
The bridge will be a wonderful contribution to the area and become an added site of interest along the unique circular walk around the Downs. The bridge will be almost entirely hidden within the valley and natural landscape and offer a new experience of a canopy walk through the woodlands.
This is the first time that a large stone bridge has been approved for construction during the past 100 years. Granting planning permission represents a new era for masonry arch bridge construction in the UK and Europe.
The project will offer opportunities for relearning the art of building masonry bridges, create jobs, provide training opportunities, apprenticeship programmes, create local income generation opportunities and involve arts and heritage. Local community involvement will be an integral part of the construction.
The next task is to finalise the planning conditions with Bristol City Council and set up an independent charity for the construction. Fundraising can only start after that.
The initiative is not only about building a bridge over Bridge Valley Road, but about a much larger vision to leave a legacy in Bristol and be an inspiration for generations to come.
Thank you for all those who have supported the application.
Comments on the planning application can be submitted on
Planning application resubmitted
The planning application for a classical stone bridge near the top of Bridge Valley Road was resubmitted on the 5 March 2016. Once the application is registered we are planning to organise a series of public events to provide information and gather feedback. Details of the proposal are included in the ‘Proposed design’ section.
Planning application to be resubmitted early 2016
We are currently carrying out further consultation with user groups, e.g. disabilities. While the bridge would be a great help to pedestrians and cyclists, it would make an enormous difference to people using wheelchairs or have limited vision. The steep approach and difficult crossing from Ladies Mile excludes a lot of people from accessing the Downs and act as physical and mental barriers.
The application is not a commercial one, but is representing user-groups. We are planning to organise a series of information events and resubmit the planning application early 2016. Support from user groups and individuals would make a great difference for the success of the application.
In terms of funding, we will need to raise the full cost of the bridge. We believe this is possible, as the project is a highly unique one and has already received notable recognition in Bristol and further afield. We do not want any money at the moment. Funding is a story to be pursued once planning application is granted…
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Planning application withdrawn, to be resubmitted…
After the planning application was submitted to Bristol City Council in April 2015, they informed us that they were waiting for an independent report related to the Downs and were not making any decision until the report becomes available (expected towards the end of 2015). They suggested the application to be withdrawn and requested some further information.
We are hoping to resubmit the application early in 2016. We are also hoping to organise another information day and talks early 2016 to introduce updates on the proposal to anyone interested.
Planning application registered
The planning application was registered on 1 April 2015 and decision is expected by 19 May 2015.
Although we understand that not everyone prefers stone bridges, it would be good to have a few supporting comments for the planning application.
The bridge would offer safe crossing for pedestrians and cyclists at a dangerous junction at the top of Bridge Valley Road, near the Zoo. To be appropriate for the location and reflect the architectural style in Clifton, a classical stone bridge was selected. The bridge is designed to last 300+ years, require minimal maintenance, be viable to build and highly sustainable on the short and long-term.
It would be the first large stone bridge to be built in Europe during the past 100 years and would offer a whole range of exciting benefits to Bristol and the area, such as re-learning historical skills, new training and carrier opportunities, developing a new industry sector in building stone bridges, connect with history, arts, heritage and involve the local community in the construction process.
There has been no funding for developing the scheme. The plans have been put together by Dr Adrienn Tomor and professional volunteers in collaboration with the Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge (FOD+AG) over the past three years. Extensive consultation was carried out with stakeholders, community groups, professionals and the general public.
The cost of construction for the stone bridge would only can ca. 30% more expensive than a steel bridge, but the overall cost would be around half of a steel bridge on the long term. There has been no alternative design submitted for a bridge. If this application is rejected, it is unlikely that there would be a bridge at the top of Bridge Valley Road.
The project is not intended to be commercial. If the project goes ahead, the community will be invited to take part in the adventure of re-discovering long-lost skills, create a structure that is likely to last a very long time and inspire new generations.
In 1861 The Downs in Bristol was secured as a place of public recreation by Royal Assent “forever hereafter be kept open and unenclosed as a place of public resort for the citizens and inhabitants of Bristol”. The Downs and the Avon Gorge are the most visited green areas in and around Bristol and attracts people well beyond the South West of England.
The Downs extend from the Clifton Suspension Bridge to Stoke Bishop and Henleaze and comprise Clifton Down and Durdham Down. Although The Downs have constituted a single unit since 1861, They are physically divided into four main sections by Bridge Valley Road, Ladies Mile and Stoke Road (sections A, B, C, D in the map to the right). While there is relatively safe pedestrian and cycle access to and from all parts of The Downs north of Bridge Valley Road (sections B, C, D), access is hazardous between Clifton Down and Durdham Down (sections A and B). The key access point between Clifton Down and Durdham Down is the top of Bridge Valley Road (junction Ladies Mile and Clifton Down) where pedestrian and cycle access is only served through a small traffic island. It is estimated that between 700-1500 pedestrians and cyclists cross the junction every day while around 10,000-15,000 vehicles travelling up/down Bridge Valley Road, making the existing arrangement hazardous and inadequate due to the high volume and speed of traffic.
Apart from linking the two sections of The Downs, the junction at the top of Bridge Valley Road also serves as a key access point to the Avon Gorge and is only also in close vicinity to Bristol Zoo.
Difficulties with pedestrian and cycle access to the Downs have long been identified. In 1993 the need for “more protected pedestrian and cyclist movement” was mentioned by The Conservation Area Enhancement Statements and the need to “create a safe circular path allowing people to access the Gorge from the Downs” was indicated in the Management Plan for the Avon Gorge. The top of Bridge Valley Road is a key access point to the Downs and a missing link in a circular pedestrian path.
Improving the safe access of pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles at this location is however far from easy. Although installing traffic lights or a roundabout would be cheap and easy to do, it would not be possible due to the steep gradient and limited visibility along Bridge Valley Road. Stopping upcoming traffic would be particularly dangerous for large vehicles and could cause serious accidents.
While it is difficult to improve the safety of vehicles, proposals to improve pedestrian access were proposed by the Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge (FOD+AG) in 2011. In 2010-11 Bridge Valley Road was closed due to engineering works, during which marked increase in pedestrian traffic was identified through traffic surveys. Proposals to build a pedestrian bridge were suggested and were warmly supported in principle by the Downs Committee.
An engineering consultancy was approached to design a bridge over Bridge Valley Road, but no significant response was received, which is not entirely surprising as no funding was available for the project.
In 2012 Dr Adrienn Tomor, senior lecture at the University of the West of England (UWE) was approached by FOD+AG and volunteered to help put an alternative proposal together. The choice of the proposal was based directly on the unique architectural character of the surrounding area. The Promenade and Clifton Down are characterised by grand palatial villas from the Victorian (1837-1900) and Regency (1811-1836) periods and built largely of Bath limestone. To reflect the classical architecture in the neighbourhood, a classical stone arch bridge design was put forward in discussion with FOD+AG.
The Downs Committee was regularly updated about the proposed scheme and a pre-application enquiry was submitted to Bristol City Council in 2013. The pre-application response welcomed the principle of improving pedestrian access as well as the proposed form and material as a sign “of the level of quality that would be thought through the proposals and the desire to produce a long-lasting solution”.
Following the pre-application response, the Downs Committee “agreed in principle to support the request for a stone pedestrian bridge over Bridge Valley Road with a separate cycle lane” in Nov 2013. In April 2014 the Downs Committee agreed for the proposal to progress to planning application.
The scheme continued to be developed with the help of a small number of professionals entirely on a voluntary basis. Consultation, traffic surveys, ecological surveys and a wide range of public engagement activities were carried out during 2013-14 and received wide-ranging support from the local community. An open day was organised in March 2014 and 75% of the feedback indicated support for the proposed classical stone bridge.
Apart from creating safe pedestrian and cycle access, the bridge will directly implement the visions for the ‘Bristol Green Capital 2015’ programme by encouraging walking, cycling and developing a more sustainable environment.
Apart from encouraging walking and cycling, the proposed design to build a new stone bridge brings a whole range of additional benefits that no other bridge type would provide. The main advantage of stone bridges (compared to steel or concrete) is their uniquely high level of sustainability. Concrete and steel bridges require significantly higher level of maintenance (e.g. repainting, steel corrosion) than masonry and have a far lower life expectancy. New steel and concrete bridges are designed to last 120 years, but often experience serious deterioration and are replaced well before 100 years. The majority of masonry arch bridges in the UK were built during the Industrial Revolution, are now over 150 years old and are likely to last many more years. There are also several examples of masonry bridges in Europe that were built by the Romans and are now 2000 years old. Such bridges have clearly shown resilience and sustainability, unparalleled by any other bridge type. Since the 1920s steel and concrete bridges became popular and skills to build masonry arch bridges have been forgotten and died out.
The proposed stone arch bridge for the top of Bridge Valley Road would be the first large stone bridge built in Europe for the past 100 years. It would offer the unique opportunity to revive lost historical skills and create a new industry sector in Bristol. It would offer a whole range of training, apprenticeship and educational programmes, a new job sector and involve the local community and provide long-term income generation opportunities.
The idea for building a new stone arch bridge has also started to raise awareness nationally and internationally. The proposed project has been designated as a national pilot study for the new BREEAM infrastructure scheme (to be launched in 2015) by the Building Research Establishment (BRE). Notable interest for the project has been received from the USA and the proposed bridge will feature at the North America Masonry Conference in May 2015.
In summary, the proposed bridge for the top of Bridge Valley Road would create safe pedestrian and cycle access to the Downs and offer a whole range of unique social, economic and sustainability benefits to the city.
 The Conservation Area Enhancement Statements November 1993 – Bristol Local Plan Advice Note, Nov 1993, Bristol Local Plan Advice Note 2.
 A Management Plan for the Bristol Side of the Avon Gorge 2010-2015
 Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) http://www.bre.co.uk/page.jsp?id=829
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