'If you must close ice rink – at least improve the area'
TRADERS and conservation groups want the city council to pay special attention to a "forgotten" corner of the city centre when they consider the planning application to turn Bristol's ice rinks into student flats.
The £20-million scheme to redevelop the 1960s building on Trenchard Street is due to be heard by the end of the year.
If the scheme goes ahead the ice rink will disappear and the building will be partly demolished and replaced by new flats by student accommodation firm Unite. The new block of flats will be built above the O2 Academy concert venue.
The plans include improved landscaping and access but local organisations are calling for the scheme to go further.
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The group includes Bristol Civic Society, the Christmas Steps Arts Quarter and the Kingsdown Conservation Group. The trio has written to the council calling for extra conditions to be added before the scheme is given planning permission.
The area around Frogmore Street has been neglected for several years and campaigners are hoping the project will be a springboard for major improvements.
Heather Leeson, the chair of Bristol Civic Society, said: "Trenchard Street in its current state is not particularly attractive, with three ugly oversized buildings, narrow pavements and a wide road that encourages fast-moving traffic.
"The scheme gives the council and Unite this not-to-be-missed opportunity to realign and reduce the width of the road which will in turn create more space for the entrance to the O2 music venue."
The group say a new road layout would give pedestrians and cyclists priority and improve the area.
Ms Leeson added: "A critical question is the amount of money that a planning condition can make Unite pay to the council to improve Trenchard Street.
"Unite's enterprise and opportunity will give it a profitable investment but the cost to the community will be the lost ice rink, which is a major and popular public service. We call on the council to make it a condition that Unite funds a Trenchard Street improvement scheme upon completion of the development.
"To improve the blank brick wall of the O2 music venue Unite proposes a new café and to cover the whole of the O2 building with cladding with saw tooth roof profile. A cafe may be unsustainable in student holidays.
"The saw-tooth cladding would be out of scale with the buildings on the other side of Trenchard Street. Our recommendation to the council is that Unite should not make a significant investment to alter the appearance of the O2 building before the council publishes a Trenchard Street improvement scheme."
Despite the opposition to the plans, the firm says that the scheme will improve an area of the city which has been neglected in recent years.
Unite believes its design for the new structure will open up the area and attract new businesses.
The land around the building will be landscaped with the aim of opening up the area for pedestrians.