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Bristol landmark could be bulldozed for student flats

One of the oldest hospital buildings in the country is under threat of total demolition as part of controversial plans for a large-scale student development in Bristol town centre.

The Old Bristol Royal Infirmary Building on Malborough Street. Fripps Chapel can be seen from the adjoining Whitson Street, built onto a raised Cyclopean base.

The planning application, submitted by Rio Architects in April and due to be assessed by the council later this year, proposes the complete demolition of the Old Bristol Royal Infirmary building and the adjoining Victorian mortuary chapel, also known as Fripps Chapel, as part of a redevelopment scheme to provide a part 7, 8 and 9 storey building.

The striking frontage of the Old Bristol Royal Infirmary building faces onto Malborough Street with the raised mortuary chapel visible from adjoining Whitson Street. The Georgian infirmary building was built between 1784 and 1810 by local architects, with the chapel being added later in the 19th century.

The Italian Gothic-inspired chapel was designed by the notable Bristol architect Samuel Charles Fripp who is better known for his accomplished designs of the Bristol and Exeter building at Temple Meads and the Church of St Peter in Bishopsworth, both listed as Grade II*. The chapel is a non-designated heritage asset and lies just outside of the St James’s Parade Conservation Area so is vulnerable to damaging redevelopment.

The large complex of tower blocks would be used as student accommodation, retail units and a medical school. If permission is granted for the development, not only would it result in the permanent loss of two important local historic buildings, the incongruous group of tower blocks would also have a negative effect on the adjacent Conservation Area: both the Grade I-listed St James Priory and the Grade II*-listed Church House are less than 40m away from the development site at their closest points.

This is not the first application the old BRI building site has been threatened by: an application for conversion was rejected last year, with heritage groups and local residents voicing their opposition. Now the same architects have reinforced their plans from conversion to total demolition, and the response from local residents and heritage groups – including The Victorian Society, The Georgian Group and the Bristol Civic Society – has unsurprisingly strengthened in its opposition. We are hopeful that, as before, Bristol Council will refuse consent for this unnecessarily damaging scheme.

Wednesday 16 August

More recent item: Chance’s Glassworks in Smethwick on 2017 Top 10 Endangered Buildings list
Earlier item: Demolition of listed pump house would make a mockery of Hull's maritime heritage

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