The first of our Toll Booth Consultation events took place this evening. Representing Purcell Architects, Niall Phillips and Luke Brennan talked about their thoughts on the project so far and invited questions from Clifton Suspension Bridge volunteers, local residents, members of the Leigh Woods Society and representatives of Bristol's tourism partners and North Somerset Council.
Nial Phillips introduced Purcell as the company who had recently installed the glazed walkways on Tower Bridge and said that the purpose of the consultation events was to gather opinion about the design of the new toll houses before design work began. "This bridge is owned by everybody" he said. "Whatever happens at the bridge has to be with public consensus."
The architects explained that they have already spent almost 3 months on the project trying to understand the toll houses and their function, working with the Bridge Attendants and reviewing the history of the buildings. Nial Phillips said that "the process of talking to the staff is really illuminating and is used to deveop a working brief."
Although the toll houses are relatively recent constructions, they are listed as they are a part of the bridge, and as such any work undertaken has to be treated with due consideration. Planning permission has to be granted by North Somerset Council (Leigh Woods) and Bristol City Council (Clifton) as well as being passed by bodies such as English Heritage and Historic England. Consultations will also take place with interested stakeholders, the general public - and even schoolchildren, who will be asked to come up with their own designs. As the process continues, more will be added to the exhibition. The consultations are scheduled to have been completed by Christmas 2015, with the planning applications placed in early 2016.
The architects said "we don't want to create something that will compete with the bridge, but we do want to produce something that will work with it and that everyone can enjoy." They then opened the floor to questions.
Will the new toll booths be bigger than the existing ones?
Niall Phillips: We don't evisage increasing the size, although we might change how they are planned - for example having a large building on one side of the road in Clifton and a smaller building on the other. The square footage would be the same. We anticipate keeping to a single storey to preserve views of the bridge for visitors.
What's inside the toll booths?
David Anderson, Bridgemaster: We have monitors for 32 CCTV cameras, monitoring equipment for the weighbridge and automatic barriers, a kitchette, space for wet weather gear, spare parts for the toll machines, administrational equipment and so on. At Clifton there is also a Quiet Room and toilet and the original booths at Leigh Woods are used as a toilet and signage store.
Does the CCTV show all of the cameras at once?
David Anderson: We have recently upgraded to a state-of-the-art system with motion detecton but we have found that we need at least 12-16 of the cameras to be on display the whole time whilst the rest scroll through or can be changed by the Bridge Attendants.
Who uses the toll booths?
David Anderson: There are 13 Attendants, 12 male and one female.
Will the toll system become cashless?
David Anderson: London Transport have set a precedent, but the bridge is unlikely to become cashless for at least the next 5-10 years.
Are the public toilets in Clifton part of the bridge?
Niall Phillips: No, they are operated by Bristol City Council and not a part of the bridge or the consultation project.
The symmetry of the the original bridge structures is important and this ought to be reflected in the new design.
Niall Phillips: Where possible we shall seek to compliment the bridge but we also have to consider functionality. "However, it is dangerous to start doodling before you know what all the issues are."
Will Long Ashton Parish Council be involved in the process? We would like to be!
Angela Norris (North Somerset Council): The Council have a pre-application process which involves a number of organisations and Long Ashton Parish Council would be first on the list!
How will planning applications be submitted as the bridge is in two authorities?
Niall Phillips: "We must think about both sides of the bridge as a whole as what happens at Leigh Woods may reflect on what happens at Clifton and vice versa.
Angela Norris: "North Somerset Council would like to see both sides of the bridge included in planning applications so the project can be considered as a whole."
Should the Attendant at Leigh Woods use facilities in the Bridgemaster's yard?
David Anderson, Bridgemaster: The toll booths are intended to be manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Leigh Woods is often staffed by a single Attendant who must have facilities close at hand in order to effectively help the public.
Will the Leigh Woods toll booth be expanded?
Niall Phillips: The Leigh Woods booth must be designed in a way so as not to compete with the original toll houses. A conservation study on the original toll houses has been carried out and will be taken into consideration.
Francis Greenacre: The Leigh Woods toll booths were designed by Hawkshaw and Barlow and installed in 1864. They must be treated as an original part of the bridge.
Can the Leigh Woods toll house be moved closed to the Visitor Centre? Could it be extended into the rockery?
Niall Phillips: The new facility may be moved one way or the other. A key finction is visibility of the bridge - a line of sight is needed. "Location is definitely something we need to look at."
It would be nice to see the orignal toll houses replicated at Clifton.
Too much similarity to the original toll booths may draw focus from the originals in Leigh Woods.
It would be good to see a number of alternative designs.
Niall Phillips: We expect to draw up three or four designs based on the consultations which will be submitted for further discussion.
Will there be one way traffic or bridge closures during the construction of the new booths - and when will this work happen?
Niall Phillips: It is too early to look into this but this and other issues will be considered in depth once a design has been decided. It is likely that off-site fabrication and modular construction will be employed to minimise any disruption.
Will there be space to market the Visitor Centre in the new Clifton Booth?
Niall Phillips: We shall have to consider the placement of operational signage and so forth in the design so this is something that shall be considered.
Details of the next consultation events shall be anounced soon. The exhibition can be viewed in the Visitor Centre free of charge from 10am to 5pm daily and also online.