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Poole Streetscape Manual

Twin Sails Bridge

The provision of a second bridge spanning Poole Harbour is an issue that provokes strong feelings in the area. A second crossing is needed to relieve traffic congestion aggravated by the existing lifting bridge. During the 1990s, the government included a scheme for a new harbour crossing at Poole in their national Trunk Roads Programme, and sponsored an international competition for the design of a second bridge. However, after the general election in 1997 the new government reviewed its road building projects, and dropped its support for the Poole scheme.

In 1999 the Borough of Poole (a unitary authority since 1997) appointed two consultancies to re-examine the situation, one of these being the locally based environmental consultants Terence O'Rourke plc. The consultants recommended a second lifting bridge as the preferred option on the grounds of saving costs and avoiding environmental detriment. Terence O'Rourke undertook a study - henceforth known as the Masterplan - providing a framework for the environmental development of the centre of Poole for the next twenty years, and it formed an important part of Poole's renewed bid to the government for funding of a new harbour bridge. This document is the source of the process that has subsequently led to the formulation of the Streetscape Design Manual.

In 2001 the Government announced that they had set aside £14 million pounds from the Department of Transport's Local Transport Plan towards the estimated £28 million needed to build a new harbour crossing and regenerate Poole town centre. The remainder of the funding was to come from private developers and from the Borough of Poole. The project for the regeneration of Poole 's waterfront and town centre was designated the Full Sail Ahead project.

In 2001 the Borough of Poole appointed Geoff Wood as Public Art Adviser for the new bridge project. While he valued their enthusiasm and dedication to the project, Wood was concerned that the planning team's intention of arriving internally at an engineering-led design for the new bridge was not visionary enough.

Instead, Wood devised an appropriate 'procurement process' to seek a high quality design-led proposal for a new bridge, with an in-built 'marketing' element to ensure that a call for proposals would be seen by and attract the best designers. This procedure achieved a shortlist of proposals from four "world class" design teams, from which a specialist panel selected a spectacular design by the partnership of civil engineering and design consultants Gifford & Partners with Wilkinson Eyre Architects and mechanical engineers Bennett Associates. In December 2002 this team was formally appointed by the Borough as the design team for the new Poole harbour bridge. The bridge is estimated to open to traffic during 2008/9.

The Gifford/Wilkinson Eyre partnership has a track record of designing bridges that are "aesthetically challenging", combining functional form and simple clarity with visual excitement. Their design for the new Poole lifting bridge is intended to embody an iconic landmark which "announces and encourages" the adjacent environmental renaissance. Its 'double bascule' design comprises two steel leaves, each of which span the channel, resting on each other when closed. When raised, these form two dynamic vertical forms, echoing those of the sails of boats. Although christened 'Twin Sails', the similarity is less literal than that depicted on the logo for the project.

© Copyright David Briers, 2005.