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Planners ...don't you love 'em? | by Fray Bentos
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Planners ...don't you love 'em?

The Inner Circuit Road was a pet project of Bristol's burghers over several decades. Before the war it had already caused one planning catastrophe ...the construction of a dual-carriageway road diagonally across Queen Square. Redcliffe Way also dated from this early phase. It had smashed through the small and seemly streets clustered around the north side of St Mary Redcliffe, leaving an ugly roundabout and some car parking. I think perhaps Temple Way is also of pre-war date.

Bond Street took shape as the new Broadmead shopping centre was constructed, but dwindled away into Haberfield Street and Carey's Lane as it approached Old Market. It didn't really come into its own until the late 60s, when the Old Market underpass linked it to Temple Way. By 1970 the "circuit" was almost complete. In that year the last gap was closed when Lewin's Mead and Rupert Street were made one-way and became, in effect, the two sides of a dual carriageway. Lewin's Mead was really a completely new road, obliterating the original street whose course it approximately followed.

The Council's long-term "planning strategy" sought to segregate people from traffic. It was people who would have to accomodate themselves to traffic rather than the other way around. The cars could stay at ground level, but human beings would have to get used to being up in the air, where they belonged. There was to be a network of elevated walkways linking the City Centre with Old Market. This structure in Rupert Street, with its exciting angular lineaments, honestly unadorned surfaces and uncompromising horizontals, is a surviving fragment of the scheme ...whose abandonment at an early stage of construction was such a loss to the city. In a lifetime's acquaintanceship with Bristol I have never used it, or seen anybody else do so. People have obstinately persisted in their habit of using the pavements on either side of the street. The stairs are an obstacle to the icy, grit-laden winds that howl through this ravine of concrete, with the result that airborne litter tends to drop and collect in the sunless little alcove at the bottom. A number of discarded traffic cones ...those sentinels of our highways... may be seen among the fast-food cartons, old TV Guides and decomposing drifts of last summer's leaves. As previously mentioned I have never actually used these stairs, but they look like one of those places which our young people use as an impromptu lavatory, or as a place of seclusion in which to vomit after an evening of indulgence in the city's public houses.

Once the Inner Circuit Road had been completed I suppose life must have been a little flat and purposeless for the boffins in the Council planning department. Working on the Grass Verge and Flowerbed (Specifications and Miscellaneous Provisions) legislation wasn't quite the same. You didn't ...well, dammit... you just didn't feel so important somehow. Then somebody must have had a bright idea: what if we were to have an Outer Circuit Road as well...?

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Taken on February 24, 2007