Remains of church tower surrounded by modern buildings
Tower of Church of St Mary Le Port, High Street, Bristol © Mr Adrian Exton. Source: Historic England Archive IOE01/15016/35 See the List entry
Tower of Church of St Mary Le Port, High Street, Bristol © Mr Adrian Exton. Source: Historic England Archive IOE01/15016/35 See the List entry

Development Proposed at St Mary le Port, Bristol

We are disappointed that proposals for the redevelopment of a large site around the ruins of St Mary le Port church, in the historic heart of Bristol, have not been 'called-in' by the Secretary of State for his determination.

This site was once the commercial centre of the city but largely razed to the ground due to bomb damage during the Second World War. It was redeveloped after the war with two office buildings but these are no longer used.

We objected to the proposals on the grounds that:

  • The large scale of the proposed replacement buildings would not compliment the smaller historic buildings within Bristol's Old City
  • The scheme would negatively impact the views of the church spires of St Nicholas and Christ Church, both Grade II* listed buildings
  • The scheme would cause irreversible harm to the character of the City and Queen Square Conservation Area

However, in our advice to Bristol City Council we strongly supported the principle of redeveloping the site - we all want to see this derelict area repurposed and activity brought back to this lost corner of Bristol’s Old City. We welcomed many aspects of the proposals, and recommended that the Council seek changes to the scheme.

We are pleased that the new development will recreate the pre-war street pattern, consolidate the remains of St Mary le Port as part of a public piazza, and give the medieval vaults an exciting new use. But the scheme is just too big. It will introduce large, monolithic buildings which do not respond well to their historic context.

We are disappointed that the scheme, which promised many benefits to Bristol’s historic heart, may instead harm it.

Ross Simmonds, Head of Region Historic England

We recognise that the redevelopment of the post-war buildings on this site is an important strategic objective for Bristol, and one which has proved difficult to secure. But we feel the harm resulting from these proposals is unnecessary.

The planning application was approved by Bristol City Council’s planning committee on Wednesday 15 December 2021, and we assume that this decision will now stand. We remain on hand to work with the city council and the developer to mitigate the harm to the historic environment as far as possible.

The remains of the church of St Mary le Port are a Grade II listed building and its surviving vaulted medieval cellars are protected as a scheduled monument. Its tower was conserved after the war and retained within the post-war redevelopment of this part of the city. Due to its current condition, St Mary le Port is on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.

Our response to Bristol City Council on the planning application (Application no(s) 21/03020/F) can be read in full below.