Plymouth urban planner defends Sutton Harbour boardwalk
THE contemporary design for a proposed Sutton Harbour boardwalk has raised eyebrows among defenders of the historic waterfront.
But urban designer Neil Emery has defended the plan. "It's quite difficult to pretend that a building is the age it isn't," he said.
The best modern additions to historic landscapes tended to be contemporary designs, like the old Barbican fish market.
The Herald revealed details of the latest designs after a planning application was published by Plymouth City Council last week.
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The £4.5million scheme is less than half the size of an earlier proposal which was branded a "profiteering exercise" that would destroy the heritage of the waterfront.
The boardwalk will provide the missing link – a waterfront walkway.
Mr Emery of Clifton Emery Design has been involved in the boardwalk since its inception, as a director of the project's architects, LHC.
"It is always a challenge to insert new buildings into a historic context," he said.
"More often than not the more successful projects tend to be contemporary buildings."
He said the converted fish market on the Barbican – now the home of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop and the Glassblowing House restaurant – showed how it could be done.
"On the Barbican and Sutton Harbour you have a range of buildings from different periods.
"The boardwalk is unashamedly contemporary," he said.
"We have worked closely with Plymouth City Council and English Heritage to talk through how best to make the buildings sit within their context."
He said the boardwalk would not be a barrier but would provide a "combination of approaches" to the waterfront.
"It will enable people moving through to see the water from a different position than they did before."
He said the new buildings were given clean lines because, when seen from Cap'n Jaspers at the other end of the Barbican, there was a complicated roof line behind.
"With LHC and our historic buildings adviser we listened to all the responses from agencies and local people and took on board a lot of their concerns.
"The new scheme has been significantly pared back.
"As an urban designer there is an opportunity to increase the quality of the environment for people using this part of the harbour and link up where it does not link up now."
The public pathway around the harbour now stops at Guy's Quay and walkers must go inland along Vauxhall Street before returning to the waterfront.
The boardwalk will complete the link – but Mr Emery said the commercial element of the development was needed to pay for the boardwalk.