C20 Society and Historic England object to 28-storey scheme on Bristol Debenhams site

‘A similar case could be made here to argue in favour of repurposing the former Jones & Co store as a building of local heritage interest which is structurally sound and capable of extension and located in the centre of Bristol. We object to the proposed demolition of the former Jones & Co store in Bristol and urge the local planning authority to refuse planning permission.’

However, local residents and groups including The Twentieth Century Society and Historic England have opposed the designs, criticising the height of the scheme – it would become Bristol’s tallest building if approved – and the loss of post-war architectural heritage.

‘The Bristol Debenhams (formerly the Jones & Co department store) was a landmark building in the post-war reconstruction of Bristol’s shopping precinct, which was devastated by wartime bombing,’ said C20 senior caseworker Coco Whittaker.

There have been 77 objections submitted against the scheme and 13 in support, as well as responses from statutory consultee Historic England, which also voiced opposition to the plans.

The Twentieth Century Society told the AJ that the landmark five-storey building should be considered a Non-Designated Heritage Asset and be retrofitted.

AWW and Bristol City Council have been invited to comment.


The former Debenhams building was designed by local practice Healing & Overbury in 1954 for Jones & Co (which was to rebrand as Debenhams in 1973) and completed in 1957 on the northern edge of Bristol’s Broadmead shopping precinct following second world war bomb damage.

A spokesperson said: ‘We wish to draw the local authority’s attention to the Secretary of State’s recent decision (on the 20 July 2023) to refuse planning permission to demolish the unlisted Marks & Spencer building on Oxford Street in London.

Under plans drawn up by London and Bristol-based practice AWW and submitted to Bristol City Council in November, the unlisted 1950s sandstone building, once home to retailer Debenhams, would be demolished to make way for a 502-apartment tower.

The development, for AEW UK, features two new buildings with stepped massing on either side on a 4.06ha site with a new landscaped pedestrian street. Tenures are a mix of private and affordable apartments.

Planning documents said retrofitting the building would make the development ‘unviable’ and that new build involved 26 kgCO2/m², or approximately 2 per cent, more carbon than retaining the existing structure.

‘There is an opportunity here for a design exemplar, be that through reusing the existing building, or with a new structure of excellent design quality. But these proposals fail to grasp that potential.’

The city’s current tallest building is Chapman Taylor’s 26-storey Castle Park View, completed in 2022.

The government’s heritage watchdog said: ‘By virtue of the dominant visual impact of the proposed 28-storey tower and its poor-quality design, the consequent impact on the historic environment is cause for us to object to the application in its current form.

The Twentieth Century Society said in its objection, lodged with Bristol City Council, that proposals for other department stores – including the hugely controversial and later rejected Pilbrow & Partners proposals for Oxford Street’s Marks & Spencer store – showed that demolition was unnecessary.

‘Structurally sound and capable of upwards extension, this impressive building could be creatively adapted for reuse. We should not be bulldozing perfectly good buildings like this, particularly knowing the climate cost of demolition over reuse.’