Councillors urged to support 'secret house' on Avon Gorge rock face
COUNCILLORS are being urged to give planning permission for a controversial “secret house” built on the rock face of the Avon Gorge.
The five-bed home, which would lie just below the terrace of the Avon Gorge Hotel, has been designed so that it would be virtually invisible from the Portway, 160ft below.
The developer who has put forward the plan has said that it was deliberately intended to be discreet and would help to put Bristol on the architectural map.
But the scheme has split the community in two, with half believing that the site should never be built on while half have given their support.
Developer Satyen Joshi who manages Abingdon-based Chest Properties, bought the site which used to be part of an orchard and garden belonging to a property in Hotwell Road, four years ago for £135,000.
If built, the house would be worth an estimated £1 million.
Mr Joshi has worked with award-winning architects 3W who are behind the Airpoint apartment building which transformed the former Mail Marketing headquarters in West Street, Bedminster.
The new house would have flat, landscaped roofs and the material used would be similar to existing walls of sandstone and limestone rubble.
Access would be from Prince’s Lane which is privately owned by the Avon Gorge Hotel and mostly used for hotel parking.
The council’s planning officers have examined the scheme and are recommending approval in a report to councillors who will consider the issue on Wednesday.
They carried out three consultation exercises with residents and interested bodies and organisations.
This led to a total of 35 objections and 27 responses in support.
Those against claim it would have a negative impact on one of Bristol’s most famous beauty spots and landmarks.
But those in favour say it is a unique scheme which reflects the city’s architectural and engineering heritage.
One of the main objectors is the Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society which said they were against the house in principle.
They said the site was unsuitable for any building and should therefore be restored as a garden and orchard which it had always been.
But English Heritage, the national body which was set up by the Government to protect buildings and the environment, said the plan was highly unorthodox and reflected the rugged nature of the existing terraces.
It said: “This proposal does not cause us any harm with regard to its impact upon the historic environment.”
The city’s Conservation Advisory Panel opposed the scheme and said: “The public inquiry in 1971 on the hotel extension established the importance of the hillside.
“A dwelling would inevitably have domestic paraphernalia that would damage the view.”
But the Bristol Urban Design Forum said the principle of camouflaging the building into the existing landscape was a well-considered approach.
In their report, the planning officers accept in principle that the site could be used for residential development.
They say: “The building has been carefully designed to blend into the existing landscape and it is not considered that it will harm the two key views from Clifton Suspension Bridge and the tow path.
“It is further considered that the proposal will help the progression of the landscape types from the bridge by reconciling the terraces with the built forms, through appropriate design.”
They say: “There will be no significant harm to the character or appearance of the Clifton and Hotwells Conservation Area, listed heritage assets or the wider Avon Gorge setting including the Grade I Clifton Suspension Bridge.
“There will be no significant harm to the amenity of neighbouring or future occupiers.”
In 1971, outline planning permission was granted by the city council for a 260ft-long, eight-storey hotel next to the suspension bridge.
But an outcry led to a public inquiry and the scheme was eventually turned down.