A city centre for everyone, day and night

Successful cities don’t stand still. They grow and shift in response to internal and external influences, the expected and the unexpected. Our role as city leaders is to anticipate, respond and adapt to meet these challenges and grasp opportunities as they develop, while keeping our values of sustainable, inclusive economic growth.  

The future role of Bristol’s city centre is crucial to our city and regional recovery from the impact of COVID-19 on jobs and businesses. We want to work with partners in the development and investment sector who understand how a reimagined city centre is vital to the future success of the city, its residents and businesses and the decisions that need to be made to achieve that.

The Debenhams site which overlooks St James Barton and The Horsefair in Broadmead is one of the most important elements in achieving our vision  for a liveable, vibrant, safe and inclusive city centre where people of all ages can live, work, learn and visit — day and night.

Once a busy, popular shopping destination, the site is part of the 243 year old Debenhams chain that has closed its doors nationwide following a decline precipitated by the double blows of our changing shopping habits and the COVID-19 pandemic. Debenhams will be clearing their stock from the building in the coming months, and as the site freeholder, this gives the council a once in a lifetime opportunity to redefine how it can productively play a role in the future of Bristol’s city centre.

We are moving ahead with a City Centre Development and Delivery Plan (DDP) that will define our place-making principles for the city centre and commissioning, Arcadis, our strategic partner, to develop the DDP which will include our design and use requirements for the Debenhams site.

We want to work with a redevelopment partner who understands the potential of the Debenhams site in accordance with our place-making aspirations once the DPP is complete in Spring 2022. This can include options such as a mixed-use development featuring a range of accommodation including 40% affordable in line with our planning policy, the possible release of land around the site to extend possibilities for its future development and ground lease terms to secure a future income stream to the council. In the meantime we’ll actively look at interim uses for the site that are inclusive, support local people and organisations and reflect Bristol’s unique and diverse cultural, creative, enterprise and community sectors.

The retail crisis, the pandemic, and what it means for jobs in the retail sector is a challenge many cities face, and we want Bristol to respond in a way that puts decent jobs and a strong local economy at the front of our recovery. Rather than short term alternatives that don’t serve the future interests of the city and regional economy, we are open to a partnership with a developer who appreciates our ambitions for the Debenhams site and the role it can play in revitalising the heart of the city.

Ahead of this, the future to Bristol’s city centre is starting to take shape.  Proposals are coming forward for the redevelopment of the Galleries, where we’re working with the existing developer to bring forward a range of new and alternative day and night-time uses for the site.  The skyline is dominated by cranes on the striking Castle Park View site that will provide 375 new homes (including 75 affordable) in the heart of the city. Plus funds from the Community Infrastructure Levy have been ring-fenced to protect, enhance and modernise Castle Park, one the city’s most iconic and popular green spaces.

Bristol’s Shopping Quarter (including Broadmead, The Galleries, Cabot Circus, St James Arcade) remains a popular shopping and leisure destination, so please support local businesses once COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed in the coming weeks. We’re working with the City Centre and Broadmead BIDs, the Galleries, Cabot Circus, and other stakeholders to safely reopen and to develop a diverse and inclusive cultural events summer programme that will create new city centre places and destinations for people to enjoy and discover. In the coming months we’re also looking at looking at how we can increase the green environment within the city centre and interim (or meanwhile) uses for sites and buildings before they are fully developed.

The changing landscape of the city centre, its role in the life of the city and our economy may bring concern and challenge, especially for people who work in its shops and hospitality venues. We are prepared for that change, and with partners who support our vision for the area, it can have future success as an area that provides jobs and homes and places to learn, shop, enjoy and visit.