Community-informed vision for Western Harbour

A photo from the Western Harbour shows a bridge in the foreground, with a red-brick bonded warehouse behind, and part of the Clifton Suspension Bridge in the background. Hanging branches and leaves obscure the top of the sky. The Design West logo is seen in the bottom right corner.
Credit: Matt Whiteley

To the west of our city centre, the landscape is framed by two very steep hills either side of the river Avon. Just before the river sweeps into its dramatic gorge heading towards the Bristol Channel, there is a natural amphitheatre of fairly flat land surrounded by the steep cliffs of Ashton and Clifton.

For much of Bristol’s history the area at the base of these cliffs has acted as a natural gateway. And this area has seen near-constant change as the needs of the city and its people have transformed. In fact Bristolians have been reshaping and adapting the space ever since the harbour was first built, utilising its basin-like nature over 200 years ago.

But what next for this ever-evolving gateway to the city?

Next week’s Cabinet meeting will consider a new enhanced vision for Western Harbour that emerged from public consultation earlier this year. Drawing on the area’s heritage and identity, the new vision sets out commitments that can transform the area’s roads and concrete into a thriving neighbourhood once again.

The vision is inspired by and largely supported by local communities and is the result of an extensive programme of public engagement carried out in the second half of 2021 and also during a six-week consultation that was open to the public in spring earlier this year.

The vision looks to balance local and city aspirations and addresses some of the biggest challenges Bristol has ever faced, such as the housing crisis, climate change and biodiversity loss. 

Bristol is a growing city, and we are ambitious for its future. The new vision for Western Harbour can help to guide and shape masterplanning later in the year, which will set out in detail where the new homes, jobs and infrastructure that the city needs could go.

During the consultation, the key commitments that celebrate heritage and safeguard treasured assets received the most support from local people. And many people sought more detailed proposals in terms of road layout and housing numbers but these aspects will be considered in detail through the masterplanning process still to come.

However, this new shared vision, can make sure that the masterplan recognises the importance of historic, cultural and community uses, like the Bonded Warehouses, Riverside Garden Centre and pump track, and accommodate them within the regeneration area.

The vision can be used to guide the brief to appoint a masterplanning team later this year. The masterplanners can then use the vision and further discussions with the community to craft more detailed proposals for the area, as well as develop a strategy that will consider how the plan could be delivered and funded.