Family ordered to remove LGBT+ rainbow canopy on historic Bristol view

A family must remove a rainbow painted on the canopy of their home, supporting both the NHS and LGBT+ rights, after council officials ruled it was doing more harm than good to an iconic view of Bristol.

But they hope to come up with a “Georgian-approved palette” of colours to keep the design in place on a high-rise crescent of grade II-listed properties, which forms part of the city’s skyline featuring the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The “compromise” is being discussed between the Aylmer family and Bristol City Council after the authority refused its retrospective planning application for the colourful awning painted in October last year.

Ken Aylmer made the “quick decision” on the colours after his wife, Illona, had recovered from cancer following treatment by the NHS, and because his daughter is a passionate advocate for LGBT+ equality.

But despite the planning application receiving the written support of 107 people, compared to 34 against, the council turned it down after Historic England judged the colours caused a “modest degree of harm to its [building] heritage significance”.

The colours, a council official wrote, impacted the character and appearance of the Clifton and Hotwells and city docks conservation areas, adding there was no evidence the canopies had ever been painted with anything other than the existing muted colours.

The colourful canopy can be seen on Bristol’s skyline which includes the Clifton Suspension Bridge (Alex Ross)
The colourful canopy can be seen on Bristol’s skyline which includes the Clifton Suspension Bridge (Alex Ross)

They concluded: “The introduction of the colourful paintwork to the canopy on this property is not considered to be in keeping with the listed building and fails to preserve it.”

Speaking to The Independent, Mr Aylmer accepted the reasoning on why the colours were refused. “They are quite vibrant colours that aren’t typically Georgian and it is the view of Bristol,” he said.

But he revealed discussions were now under way to keep the design in place.

He said: “As it had such overwhelming support, it is important to people and it follows the thing about heritage evolving and being part of the culture ... people also loved it.

“If we can have some kind of compromise while maintaining the historic aspect, that’d be great – a bit more muted with a Georgian-approved palette.”

The new design could include other concepts to further appease concerns, which came from individuals at the Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society. One person initially raised the matter with the council’s enforcement team before the planning application was lodged.

They said: “The bright rainbow colours are completely inappropriate and fail to blend with the colours of neighbouring properties.”

Mr Aylmer said: “They say it detracts from the view, but I personally think it attracts to the view because people now look up and say, ‘Well, look at that’. It gives another reason to look up, and that whole view is amazing.”