Spanish-style boulevard is planned for Redcliffe Way
A RADICAL plan has emerged to transform Redcliffe Way in Bristol into a Barcelona-style boulevard.
And the idea would also provide the final piece of the jigsaw for the Brunel Mile – a link between the famous engineer's railway station at Temple Meads and the ss Great Britain in the docks.
The Brunel Mile was first suggested by city mayor George Ferguson in the 1990s, to celebrate the iconic genius's achievements as well as provide a thoroughfare for pedestrians and cyclists between the station and Harbourside.
The Redcliffe Way plan has been taking shape as a result of residents in the area looking at ways to improve their neighbourhood.
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At this stage, none of the ideas are set in stone and the scheme's backers are keen to get city-wide comments on how Redcliffe Way could be improved.
But one of the suggestions is to rip out the carriageway nearest the church to create a square and public open space. Traffic would be reduced to two instead of four lanes, which would open up council-owned space for redevelopment.
Another suggestion is to create a boulevard along Portwall Lane, which could be lined with cafes and other facilities.
Melissa Mean, convener of the Redcliffe Forum, said: "Our neighbourhood is currently sliced in half by a four-lane highway that goes nowhere.
"The centre of our neighbourhood is the middle of a car park, which was created as a temporary measure in 1962.
"One of our finest buildings, St Mary Redcliffe Church, was described by Queen Elizabeth I as 'the fairest and goodliest' in England – yet it is penned in by tarmac.
"All along the Redcliffe Way corridor, roads and car parks dominate so that this key gateway to Bristol resembles a bypass rather than an important part of the city centre's fabric."
Of the 12 acres of land around Redcliffe Way, eight are currently roads and car parks.
Ms Mean, a mother of young twins who lives in the area, said: "We would like to flip this ratio so two acres remain for roads and car parks and the rest are used for public open spaces, environmental improvements and economic development."
Ms Mean said there was enough room to build shops, offices and homes.
The existing dual highway carries about 9,000 vehicles a day, which is not considered a high number. Two- thirds of that is through traffic.
Consultants have already told the council that if two lanes were removed there would be enough spare capacity on Clarence Road, which runs alongside the river Avon, to take any extra traffic.
The dual carriageway was first built under plans by the council to create an inner ring road, which was never finished.
Mr Ferguson told The Post: "I have always supported the regeneration of Redcliffe and downgrading Redcliffe Way to help create a thriving community.
"The whole point of the Brunel Mile is to symbolise Brunel's vision to travel between London and New York via Bristol."
He said it would also provide a route for people to walk or cycle between Temple Meads and the Harbourside.
Mr Ferguson will be one of the key speakers at a free event at The Arnolfini on January 22 at 6.30pm, to talk about city planning and regeneration hopes for Redcliffe.
Other speakers will be Jan Gehl from Copenhagen and David Mackay from Barcelona, who will present their recommendations and observations on improving the area.
A public exhibition will be held at The Architecture Centre on Narrow Quay from February 20 until March 3, so people can see what is being suggested and put forward their views.
Rob Gregory, the centre's programme manager, said they regarded it as vital to support the regeneration project.
He said: Our biggest priority is to put Redcliffe Way into the consciousness of as many people as possible, so that as plans emerge, more and more people expect and want it to happen."
There is also a website, www.redcliffeforum.org which is due to go live next week and where people will be able to post their comments. The twitter feed is @moreredcliffe
After a plan has been agreed, it will be put before a planning inspector at a public examination – hopefully later this year – to see if it meets all the planning guidelines.
If approved, then a referendum would be held so people could vote on the scheme.
If the answer is yes, then the council would adopt it as part of their official blueprint for the city.
Ms Mean said the scheme was being drawn up in a pioneering way which could become a template for projects in other cities throughout Britain.
Mr Ferguson said he was hoping to get the Enterprise Zone, which centres on Temple Meads, to be extended to incorporate Redcliffe.
This would open the way for the area to benefit from business rate funding.