Plans approved to open up underground river running through South Bristol

-Credit: (Image: Copyright Unknown)
-Credit: (Image: Copyright Unknown)

Plans have been approved to open up an underground river running through South Bristol despite concerns about the loss of trees. Several tall trees will be chopped down to make way for a new amphitheatre seating area, which will also help prevent floods from the River Malago.

The plans include improving the flow of the Malago in three places in Bedminster, where the river currently runs mostly underground. One place has caused particular concern, a small area of green space in between Whitehouse Lane and Dalby Avenue, known as Bedminster Green.

Councillors on the development control A committee voted to approve planning permission on Wednesday, June 5. They heard the restoration forms an integral part of the wider Bedminster Green regeneration project, with thousands of student beds under construction nearby.

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Sally Davis, director at Avison Young, said: “[This would] unlock the potential of the Malago to manage drainage and flood risk, and to create an enhanced network of public amenity spaces, planting and habitats. There are many public benefits, including reducing flood risk, enhancing the public realm and providing access to nature.”

She added that the works would increase biodiversity, after replacement trees had been planted. However, this will take more than a quarter of a century, as new trees take time to grow before they can create habitats for wildlife, like the ones already existing on Bedminster Green.

Where the restoration work will take place -Credit:Copyright Unknown
Where the restoration work will take place -Credit:Copyright Unknown

To make up for the several trees which will be chopped down, 31 trees will be planted nearby and 86 elsewhere in Bristol. Local residents criticised the plans for a “concrete ditch for flood relief”, particularly due to the loss of mature trees.

Roland Oliver said: “When I heard that the Malago river was going to be opened up, I was delighted. A gentle little stream among the crocuses and daffodils and poplar trees to enhance that little hint of countryside that is Bedminster Green.

“But that’s not the reality. The plan is to dig up the ground, chop down the trees, commandeer some public land to build a fenced-off, concrete ditch for flood relief and drainage facilities for big buildings that threaten to surround Bedminster Green.”

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The committee voted to approve planning permission. Councillors welcomed the new protections from floods, but raised concerns about the loss of trees in the area.

Green Councillor Rob Bryher, chair of the committee, said: “Clearly with mature trees, we want to protect them as much as possible. It’s really difficult in terms of the emotional connection that we all have with nature. At the same time, overall this does present a good opportunity to free the Malago. It provides the opportunity for people to see the Malago in a way that they haven’t perhaps in the past.”

Voting in favour of granting planning permission were Cllr Bryher, Labour Cllrs Katja Hornchen, Zoë Peat and Don Alexander, Lib Dem Cllr Sarah Classick, and Tory Cllr Richard Eddy. Voting against were Green Cllrs Guy Poultney, Ellie Freeman and Serena Ralston.