A council planner reminisces

My name is Peter Floyd. I worked for Bristol Council in its Urban Design Section in the 60s and 70s, an unusual resource for a city to have at that time. We were next door to the powerful highway designers who often asked our assistance and this as I recall is what happened – but I haven’t checked!

The engineers had designed the Inner Circuit Road with 6 multi-level junctions of which St James Barton was to be one.

Phase 1 of the section from Union Street to Bond Street was at ground level with a roundabout at St James Barton and with a vehicular underpass to Stokes Croft planned underneath it for Phase 2.

Curiously therefore at Phase 1, the pedestrians were taken under the roundabout, which might have worked if the levels had been taken through to the lower levels in Broadmead. The pedestrian underpasses were at first shown as cuttings across the roundabout, much as those at Lawrence Hill roundabout, and the Urban Design Section was asked to make them more attractive.

We suggested shops as a link to Broadmead, but this was out since the roundabout was planned to have a vehicular underpass through it.

However, the public lavatories part of the shops scheme did get built and have always looked a bit odd as a result!

We then suggested that it would altogether more encouraging for pedestrians if the roundabout were to be designed as a park.

To spend so much money on a temporary arrangement was unusual, but we argued that temporary could last a long time and so my colleague John Totterdill designed the imaginative hexagonal layout, with planters at different levels, to avoid the cost of retaining walls all around; with trees in the middle and with lawn around the high edges . We even planted Virginia creeper along the surrounding road barriers to screen out as much of the traffic as possible.

Parks Department did a grand job; looked after it with care and all the planting grew (the 1981 aerial photo shows it well)

But without the shops there was no human oversight of this isolated spot and it became a sad and dangerous place.

Thank goodness volunteers have at last been able to work with BCC to give it the attention and the investment it needed.

BTFEAT June 2 Bearpit 09 1981

Bearpit, 1981 Bristol Post

Bearpit, 1973 Bristol Post

Bearpit, 1973 Bristol Post