West End, Bristol; All part of the planning

There is an intriguing post on Bristol Culture which questions the use of the terms West End and Harbourside for the city of Bristol. From where did these terms originate and why does no one seem to know to which areas they refer? It turns out I live one of the two but even I am not sure in which one.

The only signs I had seen that refer to the West End were on the car park at Jacob Well’s Road and on some signs in the city centre. The Harbourside, as editor Martin Booth points out, seemed more of a construct of Crest Nicholson, rather than a real area. However, I was wrong or more likely, just not very well informed which is half ironic and half apt as Bristol has been taking part in the Legible City Initiative in order to make such things clear.

The Legible City project began in 1996 and has so far seen the creation of over 40 projects including clear signs, maps of Bristol and i-plus talking points around the city. The aim was to connect Bristol in a way that made connections and sites of value abundantly clear to tourists and businesses.

Some success is evident as the existence of the Harbourside and the West End have started to filter through to people but the fact that they are two of the nine neighbourhoods created in 1992 has not been made as clear. They happen, however, to sit snuggly among Broadmead, the Old City, Old Market, Redcliffe, Stokes Croft, St Michael’s and Temple.

The neighbourhoods were defined in council planning policy from the 1998 publication of the City Centre Strategy. In November 2005, the Bristol City Centre Strategy and Area Action Plan 2005 – 2010 was published as part of the Local Development Framework due to requirements set out in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

Apparently the West End [see map] and Harbourside [see map] are real neighbourhoods. The regeneration, of all these varied sections of the Bristol City Centre, has been part of a strategy since the Bristol Initiative in 1988 as a way of revitalising a downturn in investment.

The latest City Centre Strategy, which is now one year out of date, provides profiles of the neighbourhoods and some clarity as to their location and existence. It turns out that the promotion of these areas is a marketing scheme but it is one pursued by the Bristol City Council rather than sole private investors. It’s hard to tell the difference when it comes to the description of the West End:

The West End can be divided into four distinct sub-areas. The shops and restaurants fronting Park Street and Queens Road give life and vitality along the principal route between College Green and the Victoria Rooms. To the west, the neighbourhood contains the attractive mature parkland of Brandon Hill, crowned by the Cabot Tower and surrounded by an established residential community. To the east lie some of the city centre’s major evening leisure attractions, part of which is one focus for the lesbian and gay community. To the south, contrasting with these leisure attractions are important cultural, civic and education institutions. College Green provides a civic focus for the city and a fitting introduction to the West End.

Who would have thought.

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