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Council approves plans for new Bristol Uni Hawthorn Road Library

In a Council meeting this afternoon, Bristol Councillors voted six to four in favour of the University’s planning application for the new library.

By Filiz Emily Gurer, News Editor

The vote this afternoon follows a previous Council meeting on 26 February, which had deferred the decision until today.

In a Council meeting a short while ago, Bristol Councillors on the City Council’s Development Control Committee voted six to four in favour of the University’s planning application for the new library.

Prior to the vote, Councillors heard presentations from Professor Judith Squires, the University of Bristol’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, and Jo Elsworth, Director of UoB’s Cultural Collections.

Bristol City Council's Development Control Committee Meeting | Bristol City Council Live

Cllr’s were today presented again with the site development plans for the new library, with explanations of some amendments designed to address concerns expressed at the last meeting regarding potential traffic impact.

The proposed building has previously been called a ‘Marmite’ project. Dissatisfaction with its size and appearance was expressed in today's meeting, with the building being described variously as  ‘overbearing, ugly and intrusive’ and ‘a big, ugly block.’ A Cllr who voted in favour of the application however stated, ‘It is imposing, but it is imposing for all the right reasons.’

Other Councillors expressed that they felt the proposal is an opportunity for a much needed library facility for students and at the same time a building that will serve the citizens of Bristol, by providing public access to cultural collections and events.

The new library space, originally planned to be completed in 2023 - 2024, is set to create 2,000 new study spaces and house approximately 420,000 books and 70,000 journals.

In the meeting this afternoon Councillors discussed the merits and demerits of the proposed project, in respect of heritage and design aspects, and traffic issues.

Speaking on the committee meeting, Jo Elsworth, director of cultural collections (library services) and the Theatre Collection said: ‘Collections are relatively hidden within non public facing buildings and so the potential value to the city is fundamentally unrealised.

‘The vision is to create cultural capital, to democratize access to these collections enabling them to be used for education, enjoyment and inspiration for learning, for free for everyone.

‘Our application represents a once in a generation opportunity to open up these remarkable collections to the city and provide transformative learning opportunities for people of all ages from Bristol and beyond for decades to come.’

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, Professor Judith Squires said:

‘This new University library will become a landmark cultural destination for Bristol offering free public access to an inspiring programme of high quality events and exhibitions.

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‘Crucially the freely accessible events and facilities will increase access to our significant cultural collections for local residents, schools and colleges. This will support our work with the city’s schools to provide alternative entry routes into university for local students.

‘By incorporating a new civic square the proposals will deliver an enriched public space. The civic square will make the surrounding streets safer for all, while offering a new public realm for university staff and students, and local residents and visitors alike.

‘A strong research University with global standing is of huge benefit to the city, and a world class library, as set out in these proposals, is of vital importance to the University’s future. Libraries are the beating heart of a university campus.’

Featured Image: Grant Associates

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