Happy New Year from Planning Ventures HQ, we hope all our clients and colleagues are well rested and recharged, ready for whatever the New Year brings. As we relish the opportunities of 2016, we’ve also been reflecting on some of our highlights of 2015, the things that we’ve enjoyed and that have inspired us, the things which make it great to be working in Bristol and the south-west. Here’s our top five picks:

Bristol Civic Society’s Design Awards


These are the blue plaques on buildings around the city – not the ones that tell you about which famous person lived here, but the ones awarded to Bristol-based developments that make a positive contribution to our city through design excellence.

We’re not sure how well known this award is, but having been a recipient in 2013 for Urban Creation’s residential development on Pipe Lane, we follow it with interest. Anyone can nominate a building, transport or public realm scheme for consideration, and the projects are assessed by a panel of representatives from the Civic Society, the  Architecture Centre and the Junior Chamber of Commerce. These are last year’s worthy winners, we’re keenly anticipating what comes forward in 2016:

  • The Hub, Gainsborough Square, Lockleaze – commissioned by United Communities and designed by architects Kendall Kingscott, the “Hub” comprises 28 affordable homes, a community hub and business space
  • Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre – commissioned by the Bridge Trust and designed by Alec French Architects
  • Bishop Road Primary School – designed by Batterham Matthews Design Ltd, this scheme created a new entrance, reception and library for the original Victorian school
  • Southmead Hospital – commissioned by the North Bristol NHS Trust and designed by BDP

Festival of The Future City – part of Bristol’s Festival of Ideas


This was part of Bristol’s annual Festival of Ideas programme and one of the Arts Council England supported Exceptional Projects.  It was a complete smorgasbord of talks, walks, debates and ideas about the future of cities – what works and what doesn’t, what futures for sustainability and prosperity? It was great to listen to some inspiring speakers, and challenge our own thinking about how we can do things better, we were really motivated by John Harris and Jonathan Meades (although he does seem less acerbic than he once was!)

Bristol Green Capital


We can’t really ignore this – it was a massive accolade for Bristol and presents so many opportunities for the city.  

We won this because we are energy efficient, despite being one of the hilliest cities we are amazingly accessible, we love to reduce, recycle and reuse, we have a thriving green economy and a great quality of life. But what have we achieved so far? At a local level has it made much of a difference to our daily lives? Well we’re not sure we’ve seen any tangible benefits as yet but maybe that’s the point – this is the start of a long term project, Bristol as a laboratory for green ideas, innovation and change. So good luck to Ljubljana, the city that has taken on the 2016 Green Capital solar powered, energy efficient torch. 

Sanctum and Theaster Gates


We absolutely loved this art installation at Temple Church in Redcliffe created by world renowned US artist, musician and activist Theaster Gates (who incidentally also trained as an urban planner). Gates took the lifeless remains of the church (a scheduled ancient monument) which was largely ignored within this historic part of the city, and assembled a delicate structure within its bombed out shell constructed entirely from recycled materials.  The installation was open 24/7 for 24 days during November, and provided a beautiful, intimate space to listen to Bristol’s musical world and momentarily lose yourself.

We love that someone had the vision and belief to revitalise this space, and it would be heartening to see Historic England adopt a similar approach to regeneration – our historic buildings are living, breathing, transformative places that we should both cherish and seek to evolve.  They are part of our collective community, our history and future.

Dyrham Park, National Trust


What an exciting project – who knew that by closing off the majority of the house and only allowing people to look at the restoration of the roof would be so darn exciting for kids of all ages (even those who don’t like heights) – but it was. Not only did it provide a fantastic opportunity to see parts of the building normally preserved for the birds, but it exposed previously unseen views across the beautiful Bath countryside and maintained the importance of traditional restoration skills that are in danger of dying out. This was a great conservation project by Purcell, and to quote the National Trust, it really was ‘Conservation in Action’.


Well that’s our top five of 2015 – what inspired you last year and what can we all anticipate from the Planning world in 2016? We’re gearing up for some stimulating challenges with all our clients and colleagues – look forward to catching up with you soon.