Stephen Williams MP - working hard for Bristol West

Stephen Williams MP urges people to get involved in the St Mary le Port consultation

10.36.49am BST (GMT +0100) Mon 31st Jul 2006

Stephen Williams MP and Cllr Mark Wright enjoying lunch in Castle Park (photography: Tim Pollard)

Stephen Williams MP and Cllr Mark Wright enjoying lunch in Castle Park

Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West, Stephen Williams, is calling on all Bristolians to let planners know their views on the possible development of the St Mary le Port site in Bristol City centre.

The site, adjacent to Castle Park, currently contains a number of concrete office blocks erected in the 1960s, which mostly obscure St Mary le Port church. Stephen Williams would like to see this area dramatically improved to help give Bristol the 21st Century city centre it deserves.

Stephen said "For historic and contemporary reasons any new buildings proposed for the St Mary Le Port area must be of the highest architectural quality. We need a vibrant mix of uses and enhanced public space. This is not an area where compromises can be made - this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to restore the heart of our city and bring it back to life for everyone to enjoy.

"I have met with the developers in order to hear about their early proposals and to give my own comments. The scheme is still at the earliest stages of development and views expressed over the next few months will certainly influence the outcome. I therefore urge all of my fellow Bristolians to get in touch with the developers and let them know how they think the site can best be improved."

However, Mr Williams has also stressed that people should not jump to conclusions about what is on offer. "As the Bristol Civic Society has rightly said in its recent statement to the media on this issue: 'it is too early to condemn new proposals for this area before they are off the drawing board.' Contrary to some of the letters that I have received, there are no plans by anyone to "build all over" Castle Park. I urge people to find out the truth for themselves," he added.

Submissions should be sent to: Avril Baker Consultancy, 5 Lilymead Avenue, Totterdown, BS4 2BY. Stephen Williams submission is outlined below.

• Castle Park and the extent of the scheme. Prior to the war time bombing the whole of what is now Castle Park was a network of shopping streets. For decades the area was neglected. It was as recently as 1993 that the bulk of the area surrounding the ruins of St Peters Church was landscaped and some new pieces of public art introduced. The area is now a popular green space for shoppers and office workers and it is important that it is protected for future generations. Indeed, there is every likelihood that a successful development of the St Mary Le Port site will release funds for Castle Park to be enhanced. I would like to see St Peters opened up to the public and there may be scope for a new interpretation of the 'blitz' and a fitting memorial to the people who died in the war. The buildings fronting the eastern boundary of the new scheme must be sympathetic to the view from St Peters and the rest of the park. The boundary itself should be set well back from the existing path from Union Street, minimising any loss of green space.

• Public benefit - art and space. The development clearly needs to be a commercial success. However, I am determined that the maximum public benefit is extracted from the planning process. It is vital that there are new public spaces created for all to enjoy. The obvious area for enhancement is the environs of the St Mary Le Port ruins where a new piazza or garden could be laid out. I have asked for the potential for public access to the church tower to be examined. I would like to see some new public art in the area. We could perhaps also see a return of some older landmarks - the High Cross used to stand near here as did the statue of Samuel Morley MP.

• Corner of Wine Street and High Street. This is the key frontage, facing Corn Street, St Nicholas's Market and the link to Broadmead. The corner was the site of the Dutch House, a landmark building until 1940. A striking design is needed here that will attract people to the area and become iconic of twenty first century Bristol.

• Mix of uses. The ground floors of all the buildings throughout the scheme should have a range of public uses. I would prefer to see small specialist shops rather than national chains. This particular High Street should not become a clone of all others. Likewise there should be a mix of cafes, wine bars and restaurants. I would prefer the upper storeys of the new streets and buildings to be a mix of commercial and residential rather than see these uses segregated into different blocks.

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