Surviving winter: energy saving support from the Centre for Sustainable Energy

Today’s guest blog is from Lisa Evans from the Centre for Sustainable Energy

Everyone across Bristol has seen a huge increase in their energy bills. With the wider national cost of living crisis, more and more people are worried about turning on their heating because they simply can’t afford it.

The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) is a charity supporting people and organisations to tackle the climate emergency and end the suffering caused by cold homes. Every day, CSE energy advisors speak to Bristol people struggling with energy bills or expensive heating systems, or in cold and draughty homes.

It’s estimated around 6.5 million households in the UK are in fuel poverty. Fuel poverty is when people must spend a high proportion of their income to keep their home warm. Expensive energy tariffs and low incomes mean people can’t afford to keep warm. In 2020, government stats found around 14% of households across Bristol were in fuel poverty but this number will be much higher now, in line with national trends.

Huge demand for energy saving advice and debt support

CSE is experiencing a fourfold demand for our services. As well as a growth in demand, there’s also been a big shift in the type of advice we are giving. We are speaking to many people whose mental health is suffering. Callers are increasingly having to make tough choices about essentials like energy, food and clothes.

Working together across the city

The CSE energy advice website is a great place to start if you need energy advice or support.

We offer a Tenants Advice (TEA) service for Bristol City Council social housing tenants and Warm Homes and Money (WHAM), our fuel poverty partnership single point of contact service.

CSE’s freephone telephone advice service supports tens of thousands of people every year. But the charity does not have funding to cover the costs of increased demand. CSE has subsidised the service using its charitable reserves for the last five years but is no longer able to sustain this. Please support our Share the Warmth Appeal.

The Centre for Sustainable Energy Office, four men working on their computers.

How to save energy in your community building

If you run, lease or own a community building you’re probably thinking about the rising cost of energy bills and how this is going to impact how your building is used. We’ve got some energy saving tips for this here.

How you can lower your energy bills this winter

Read your meter:

Keep on top of your energy meter readings and pass them on to your fuel supplier. This will make sure you only pay for what you use, and not paying an estimation. Find out how to do this here.

Save money by using your heating controls properly:


Decent central heating controls can help you heat your home efficiently and makes sure you don’t waste money or heat. Find out how to do this here or watch these videos. If you have night storage heaters, here is some information on how to use them well.

Avoid leaking heat:

In poorly built homes heat can leak through walls, windows, roofs and doors, which wastes energy and money. Insulating your whole house can be costly, but it can save money in the long run. You can install some low-cost measures yourself, such as draughtproofing to stop warm air escaping or fitting low-cost secondary glazing if double glazing is too costly or you’re not allowed to install it in your home.

The Cold Homes Energy Efficiency Survey Experts Project is a Bristol-based not-for-profit Community Interest Company that carries out surveys to see where your home is losing heat. Surveys start at £135 but are free to people who live in buildings that lose a lot of heat or can’t afford to heat their homes.

Should I turn off the heating to save money?

We don’t advise anyone to turn off their heating because this could cause complications with health conditions or lead to damp and mould. Keep your heating between 18-21°. Around 8,500 people die every year due to cold homes and this number is sadly expected to rise this winter. You can find out more about cold homes and health here.

What else could I be doing to save energy?

Activities like washing clothes, dishwashing, showers and cooking all add up. Taking steps to reduce the frequency or time spent doing these will help save money. You can find out how much energy typical appliances use here.

Look out for green deals. The Bright Green Homes scheme allows eligible households to receive up to £25,000 of funding to install a range of energy saving technologies through the government’s Home Upgrade Grant. This could range from loft and cavity wall insulation to solar panels and air source heat pumps. Find out about eligibility.

I’m in debt with my energy supplier
Don’t ignore the bills, they won’t go away. We advise people to engage with their supplier and pay what you can. All suppliers have an obligation to help their customers.

You ca also visit Bristol City Council’s money advice page or cost of living support webpage for more information on managing money, benefits and support available. Finally, you should take a look at the budgeting tool on the Citizens Advice website.

Creating the conditions for real health: the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector in Bristol

Rebecca Mear, CEO of Voscur, smiling looking at the camera.
Today’s guest blog is from Rebecca Mear, CEO of Voscur

What is health? Is it only the “absence of illness or injury”? Or is it – as the World Health Organisation recommends – “‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

However, you choose to define it, what we do know is that there is a wide range of social factors that determine whether you will experience good health. These factors include where you are born and where you live, what you do for work, and the structures around you that create “inequities of power, money and resources”.[1] Essentially, your health – and therefore your life expectancy – has very little to do with the services you receive in a hospital or GP surgery, and everything to do with the opportunities you have access to within your life and personal circumstances.

Bristol is a city full of contradictions, and one that is most stark is the differing experiences between those who are born and live in certain, more affluent areas compared to other areas where people face poverty and disadvantage.

The term ‘Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector (or VCSE sector) is used to describe a hugely diverse range of groups and organisations, some of which are crewed entirely by volunteers and some of which turn over millions of pounds a year – and every shape and size of organisation in-between. What they have in common is that they all aim to make life better in some way for people or communities.

A photo from the launch of Voscur's publication The Power of Community, a women is speaking on the stage. a man and women sit in the background.
Launch of Voscur’s publication The Power of Community

Much of the VCSE sector focuses on working with people who experience disadvantage, barriers or inequality in some form. The VCSE sector encompasses the people who are there, day in day out, year in year out, in the community centres or social spaces, bringing people together, listening to them, providing advice or support, referring people into other services to get the help they need, and following up with them. It also includes the people running activities that keep people active or give them social contact that they wouldn’t otherwise have, or the chance to learn skills or work towards employment or volunteering. These VCSE organisations offer people on the ground long-term social relationships – the funding for one project may have ended, but you can still interact with the people in that organisation, and they will still care if you are facing difficulties, and find ways to support, empower and enable you. In short, the VCSE sector is the place where real health – not health and social care services, but the conditions for a fulfilled, happy life within a neighbourhood or community where interactions happen – is made to happen.

However, it has historically been really hard for the VCSE sector to demonstrate the role it plays in improving our lives. A huge amount of organisations and groups deliver activities or services that are, essentially, preventative: the group that brings young people together regularly and in doing so prevents mental health issues being exacerbated for those young people; the English language skills programme for refugees and migrants that prevents long-term unemployment; the befriending service for older people that prevents them feeling isolated and experiencing a quicker decline in their physical health. Yet the VCSE sector has always struggled to demonstrate the long-term preventative nature of its work within an analytical framework that calls for metric-driven quick wins. The impact is over a long time period – one that requires a much longer presence and commitment than election cycles at either local or national level, and this creates a disconnect between the VCSE sector and its potential partners in the public sector.

A photo from the launch of Voscur's publication The Power of Community. In the foreground people sit on tables, in the background a man speaks on stage.
Launch of Voscur’s publication The Power of Community

Imagine a scenario where the public sector was not under pressure – again at both national and local levels – to be seen to be investing in the ‘crisis’ services such as hospitals or social care. Imagine what would happen if some of the resources at the disposal of the public sector were invested in the community-based organisations that are leading on a range of innovative services or activities that allow for both innovation and a real commitment to the people within that community to be entwined together.

There are so many solutions to problems already being delivered by the VCSE sector for communities of both interest and place across Bristol: redistributing resources away from the “burning platforms that suck in oxygen[2]” of ‘crisis’ services into the activity that will prevent people’s lives descending into those crises, could make an incredible, life-defining difference for many. To do this would take a lot of courage; public sector organisations would need to be prepared to explain to the public why the latest drug or gadget hasn’t been invested in over – for example – a community-led service that doesn’t look glamourous or in any way connected to our traditional concept of “health and social care services.” It would also take courage to invest in achieving those longer-term outcomes, many of which will not be realised in the lifecycle of that current administration or management, and many of which cannot be easily measured.

However, Bristol is a place of innovation, and we have an excellent set of foundations to take forward this type of partnership working. The abject set of challenges that the public sector – most notably Local Authorities – is facing in terms of extreme budget cuts mean that we simply have to start trying something different. The VCSE sector cannot pull rabbits out of hats; it will need investment: but it can make money go so much further by focusing on the services that have a long-term, deep – and yes, sometimes unquantifiable – preventative effect. We invite the people and communities who are already there on the ground to tell us what the radical reimagining we propose here would look like for them, and we invite our partner organisations in Bristol and nearby to work with us to make this happen.

A photo of two people chatting at the launch of Voscur's publication The Power of Community.
Launch of Voscur’s publication The Power of Community

[1] Health Equity in England: The Marmot Repot Ten Years On

[2] Greg Fell, Keynote speaker, NAVCA conference November 2022

A Christmas gift for Bristol’s foster carers

Councillor Asher Craig, smiling, with a bush behind her.
Councillor Asher Craig, Cabinet Member for

Some Bristol residents are currently having to choose between heating their homes and putting food in their cupboards. The impact of the current cost of living crisis is being felt right across the city.

Our foster carers are amazing, providing a safe and nurturing home to children in Bristol – sadly, we know the cost of living crisis is causing further anxieties for them on top of the challenges they already face.

In April we raised the allowances and fees for our foster carers, who now receive up to £458 a week for each child they look after as well as extra for birthdays and holidays.  

However, with inflation and interest rates going up, we knew we wanted and needed to do more.

We are providing foster carers with a one-off payment of £400 in the lead up to Christmas, to give them a helping hand going into the festive period.

We hope this will take some of the financial pressure off, while we explore more ways to further support our amazing foster carers.

Welcome payment to new foster carers

A carer opening a Christmas present with a young boy.

The main reason carers decide to start fostering, is because they care about and want to help children in Bristol.

Deciding to open your home to a child, or children, who need help is a huge decision to make. Financial planning is an essential part of this process.

Here in Bristol we desperately need more people to come forward to foster, helping us to keep children that need our support close to their communities, schools and people important to them.

As an added incentive, we have agreed a grant of £500 for all our new foster carers when they start caring for their first child, as a welcome to the council’s fostering community.

We understand how tight household budgets are, especially for carers. We hope this will encourage more people to consider starting their fostering journey with us.  

Budget consultation

A foster carer and young girl smiling, whilst opening Christmas stockings.

In light of Bristol City Council’s budget consultation, highlighting the need to reduce our costs and generate more income, some people might be asking if now is the right time to offer new and existing foster carers more money.

The answer is yes. Foster carers play a vital role in our city, caring for children when their own parents or family are unable to.

If fostering becomes unaffordable, we run the risk of losing our valued foster carers and letting children down who are in need of our support.

If we can’t place children with our own foster carers, we need to use more expensive, independent fostering agencies that often place children outside the city.

Our foster carers also have access to a raft of support, training and development, and are part of a wider network of local carers, giving them the right skills and support to be able to care for the children we place with them.  

We are incredibly proud of all our foster carers and so grateful for all they do. We wish them and their families a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

You can find out more about fostering with the council on our Fostering Bristol website where you can make an enquiry and order an information pack. You can also call our fostering team to have an informal chat by calling 0117 353 4200.

If you are struggling with the cost of living, visit www.bristol.gov.uk/costofliving for advice and guidance. You can also call the We Are Bristol helpline for free on 0800 694 0184, Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm.

You can give your views on our budget proposal until midnight on Friday 23 December 2022 online via the council’s website. To request an alternative format, contact our Consultation and Engagement Team by emailing consultation@bristol.gov.uk or by calling 0117 922 2848. 

Your Holiday Hub reopens for winter

Young people and parents attend a pond, with an allotment in the background. This is at Your Holiday Hub's activities club.

Lots of children and young people look forward to this time of year, two weeks off school, Christmas decorations, presents and festive food. However, the winter holidays can also be a very challenging time for many families in Bristol. This year is especially difficult due to the added financial pressures that come with the current cost of living crisis. Our children and young people are often the most affected when it comes to crises such as this.

I am invested in supporting and inspiring young people in ways that helps relieve some of these added pressures. Now, well into its second year the Your Holiday Hub programme, funded by the UK Government’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, will be returning to offer eligible children and young people access to free holiday activities and food this winter holiday.

Children and young people aged 4 to 16 years old, who are eligible, and in-receipt of free school meals will be able to access free holiday activities and food during the school holiday (19 December to 30 December). Activities this winter range from festive arts and crafts, cooking workshops and Ninja Warrior. During the sessions, young people are encouraged to learn new skills, forge new friendships and have fun in the meantime.

A young girl, smiling, holding a paint brush. This is at Your Holiday Hub's activities club.

At the heart of the Your Holiday Hub programme is food. Food should be a source of connection, and comfort. However, for many families who are struggling to afford to pay the bills, food can become a source of stress. Bristol has been working towards child equality over the school holidays since 2019 with the Bristol partnership The Healthy Holidays programme, led by Feeding Bristol and FareShare, which sought to create a city where no child goes hungry during the school holidays. As part of the Your Holiday Hub offering, with each four-hour activity, children and young people will receive a hot meal as well as learn about food, nutrition and healthy living through interactive workshops and classes.

Eligible families will also receive free school meal vouchers for the full winter holiday. These vouchers will be distributed through the schools.

Huge thanks go out to all the wonderful organisations across Bristol who organise holiday activities and food delivery for the Your Holiday Hub programme.

A full list of organisations and activities is available on the Your Holiday Hub website.  

Small Business Saturday

Councillor Craig Cheney, smiling, with trees in the background.
Today guest blog is from Craig Cheney, cabinet member with responsibility for City Economy, Finance & Performance

Businesses across Bristol were hit hard because of the pandemic, and they continue to face tough economic conditions with the national cost of living crisis. It has been encouraging to see footfall figures beginning to recover across many areas of our city, and we continue to do what we can to support the self-employed, independents, and small businesses to help them continue to recover and bounce back.

Small Business Saturday takes place today, Saturday 3 December. Now in its tenth year, the national event provides a great opportunity to further support Bristol’s businesses, who are a vibrant and key part of our city, by shopping local and shopping small. Businesses can promote themselves by hosting events and offering discounts. Information and a free marketing pack are available on the Small Business Saturday website. Shoppers can click on the Small Business Finder to search for local businesses taking part.

We have seen great success through our culture and events programme. We are working hard to deliver a programme of events through to September 2023 to bring more people into our city centre and our high streets, including the return of the Bristol Light Festival from 3 to 12 February 2023. Recent events include the lantern parade Bump in the Night, Overstory in Broadmead, Luminarium on College Green, and Little Amal walking through Old City and King Street. All of these events have successfully brought people into the area and supported businesses. We have regular, ongoing events including a number of new markets like the Better Sundays at Broadmead Market and St Nick’s Night Market is due to return again in Spring next year.

The Vacant Commercial Property Grant offers up to £10,000 of funding to help small or expanding businesses to start trading from a city centre or local high street property. Open until 31 March 2023, the scheme intends to support local businesses to open new premises and trade with confidence. Funding can be used for structural works to a property or equipment to be used in the property (capital expenditure). The funding is open to businesses, charities, community interest companies, sole traders, and arts and culture groups for both long term and temporary/meanwhile use. Visit www.bristol.gov.uk/vcpg to find out more and to see some of the organisations who have received this funding so far.

Mayor Marvin Rees, smiling in front of a large mural reading Love Local.

Our Where’s It To? campaign continues to support independents across Bristol, inviting people to explore and get to know some of their local traders. Over a twelve month period we visited our city centre and all 46 high streets across Bristol. The site now has over 400 businesses listed and continues to grow with businesses being added and promoted through the council’s social channels, including at Shop Local Bristol on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  If you run an independent business in the city centre or one of Bristol’s 46 high streets and would like your business profile added onto the Where’s It To? website, drop the team an email to arrange a visit: business@bristol.gov.uk

We are also committed to making Bristol a Living Wage City. Our aim is to significantly increase the number of employers voluntarily paying the real Living Wage, making sure their employees are earning a wage they can live on.

Paying the real Living Wage can benefit your business by enhancing its reputation and by improving the commitment and motivation and recruitment and retention of your staff.  Visit the Living Wage Foundation website to find out more about the Living Wage accreditation, or contact: livingwage@bristol.gov.uk

World AIDS Day

This World AIDS Day, I will be thinking about what HIV in Bristol could look like in 2030. 

On the 1st of December in eight years’ time, I want us to be able to come together as a city to celebrate a year where that has been no new HIV transmissions here – or anywhere in the country.

This might sound like a pipe dream, but it’s achievable. Medical advances mean that people living with HIV on effective treatment can live long, healthy lives and can’t pass on the virus to others. We also have PrEP, the prevention pill that stops people acquiring HIV. These remarkable advances put ending new HIV transmissions within reach.

The science can only take us so far though. This game-changing treatment and prevention only reaches people who know they are living with HIV or think they could be at risk. The collective memory of the AIDS crisis in 1980s means that many gay and bisexual men are often proactive about getting tested and protected. Even then, with our sexual health services at breaking point from government cuts, many people wait months to get on PrEP and even more don’t know they could benefit from it.

To get to zero, we need to also reach another group – people who don’t know they have HIV. It’s estimated that 4,400 people in England are ‘undiagnosed’, meaning they are living with untreated HIV that is damaging their immune systems and could be unknowingly passing on the virus. We can only find these people through HIV testing all across our healthcare system. Whenever someone in Bristol has blood taken, they should be tested for HIV. It has to become normal. That’s the only way we can break the stigma of HIV and get everyone on treatment.

Routine HIV testing is already happening in hospitals in London, Manchester, Blackpool and Brighton. Government funding for this ‘opt-out’ testing has supported these areas to test everyone who has their blood taken in emergency services in very high prevalence areas. The results have been phenomenal. In just 100 days, 128 people have been newly diagnosed with HIV and a further 63 were found who had been lost to care and could be brought back on to life-saving treatment. Many were already unwell but hadn’t been offered HIV tests elsewhere.

It’s no coincidence that people diagnosed through opt-out testing are disproportionately likely to be Black Africans, women or older people. All are less likely to feel that sexual health clinics are for them or to even be offered a test if they get to one. In the first trials of opt-out testing, 54% diagnosed with HIV were Black African, Black Caribbean or Black ‘other’, more than twice as many as the nationwide average of 22%.

So we know that opt-out testing works. It’s combatting health inequalities. It’s recommended by the experts (NICE, the British Association of HIV and the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV). It’s also saving millions of pounds. In fact, the £2 million spent so far on opt-out has saved the NHS between £6-8 million in costs.

That’s why the Government can’t stop here. Bristol is one of 29 places with a high prevalence of HIV that could benefit from the scheme. In February this year, I wrote to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid to ask for the funds to bring opt-out testing to Bristol. In October, I wrote again to the new Health Secretary Steve Barclay to ask for the money to start the scheme. In Bristol we are ready to get going. The Council and our hospitals have come together to make sure we have laid the groundwork. We have a business case agreed.

So why the delay? I think the four changes of Health Secretary this year might have something to do with it, but we’ll keep making the case for Bristol until we get a response.

It’s not too late – if the new Health Secretary acts now, we could be up and running with opt-out by the spring. Not just in Bristol, but across the country – from Birmingham to Milton Keynes, Liverpool to Southend. Every day that goes by is another wasted opportunity to find people living with HIV in these cities.

On World AIDS Day we stop to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS-related illness. Many of those people – who died before there was even a test for HIV, let alone treatment – couldn’t have dreamed of ending new transmissions even being a possibility. We owe it to them to seize this opportunity now.

World AIDS Day Activities in Bristol – get involved:

East Trees Health Centre: Thursday 1st December 9.30am – 3.00pm

Join Terrence Higgins Trust Bristol at East Trees Health Centre where they will be handing out ribbons and offering sexual health testing, advice and information.

Sparta: Thursday 1st December, 3.30 – 6.30pm

Terrence Higgins Trust will be offering sexual health testing, advice and information throughout the afternoon at Sparta Sauna.

University of West England, Frenchay Campus

Terrence Higgins Trust Bristol will have a World AIDS Day stand at UWE Bristol Student Union building, to hand out read ribbons and information about UNITY Sexual Health Services. They will also be offering sexual health testing and advice.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert at The Watershed

The Watershed and Terrence Higgins Trust Bristol have partnered for World AIDS Day to present a special screening of The Adventures of Pricilla, Queen of the Desert.

You can follow all these activities on Facebook, Twitter and Instragram @Unitysexhealth

Bristol is in it together

Today’s blog is by Jeff Mitchell, Founder
of Clean Slate Training and Employment

Many Bristol residents on low incomes are worrying about how they will get through the cost of living crisis. As a result, they are starting to think about finding new work, better paid work or even extra work.

The cost of living crisis, and the pandemic, brought truth to the phrase ‘in it together’. Clean Slate has been helping Bristolians on low incomes become more financially stable since 2006. We help people find ways to stretch a limited budget, find new work or better work and get online.

Quids in!, our money skills programme, includes an easy-read magazine, guides, emails and web tools. Our service users and readers are disproportionately affected by the national cost of living crisis, more so than affluent residents in the city.

In 2018, our reader survey found 48 per cent of working age people who are not in full-time employment were skipping meals on account of troubles with money. 51 per cent were turning off their heating despite being cold. 68 per cent felt frightened, anxious or depressed. This was before the pandemic, before the war in Ukraine and before the cost of living crisis. Working class people are suffering even more now than before.

In October, we launched our #ThinkBiggerThanBills campaign. We called on people struggling with bills to look at more than just cutting back. At least £15 billion of benefits are unclaimed, so we should all start by checking if there’s anything more we’re entitled to, you can do this by using our benefits calculator. People who are not online could be hundreds of pounds better off by ‘going digital’ because they’re able to shop around, find advice and access support. Finally, using our money health-check could also unlock massive savings as it uncovers the tips no-one else is telling us.

During the pandemic, Clean Slate helped over 2,000 people save roughly an average £1,000 by taking a simple money health-check. Now we’re able to offer it face-to-face from locations across the city as well as by phone. Anyone on a low income who is worried about bills can get in touch (Contact us here). Unemployed people will be put to the front of our queue.

People often just want to regain control of their finances. Throughout lockdown, people on our six-week support programme found they could start turning things around. The future seemed brighter, and they asked if we could help them find work.

There are now more available jobs than unemployed people. With the current cost of living crisis, for those who are able to work, it might now be the right time. Not everyone is ready for formal support or training, which is why Bristol’s One Front Door is so important. Every kind of jobhunting support is listed in one place. It takes a ‘horses for courses’ approach… even for horses who don’t like courses!

Clean Slate is one programme on offer and jobseekers can find out about our 7 Signs events. Here people explore their skills that could be on offer to employers, building their confidence. Attendees devise ways to present their skills in CVs that are unique and motivating. They practice personal statements, giving them a helping hand in interviews.

Our Elements scheme is for people who have experienced hardship. We are recruiting people whose life experience is more valuable to us than formal training. They are central Clean Slate’s cause.

We are recruiting people whose life experience is more valuable to us than formal training. Have you been on benefits? Are you struggling with money? Have you been unemployed for a while? We will provide training and a 12-week paid work placement as a Peer Worker. By the end, you’ll be able to be able to apply for a support worker role with us or another employer. We also have paid placements for people wanting to help older people and those who need support. Together, we can step up.

Clean Slate is at the frontline of the current cost of living crisis and Bristol needs you! We are part of a wider, joint effort across all kinds of support, advice, health, housing and financial services.

Bristol’s ‘One City’ approach to the cost of living crisis showcases that we really are all in it together.

For further cost of living support visit the Bristol City Council website or call the We Are Bristol helpline on 0800 694 0184, Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm.

Save Soil

Save Soil Bristol branch smiling in front of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Today’s guest blog is from Sumita Hutchison, Krishnapriya C.R, and Chitra Merchant, all of whom are volunteers for Save Soil movement.

Soil is dying. Across the world, 52% of agricultural soil is already degraded. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation says we may have only 60 years of agriculture left if soil degradation continues. A global food crisis would become inevitable as a consequence.

Save Soil is a global response to this crisis. This is, first and foremost, a people’s movement which aims to inspire at least 4 billion people (60% of the world’s population) to support long-term changes to national governments policies to revitalise soil.

Cycle for soul leaflet. The picture shows four cyclists names Marcello, Dorka Oscar, and Kit. Below is a brown and green background with a map of the UK. Text reads Day 1 Edinburgh - Glasgow - Follow #CycleForSoil

World Soil Day is on Monday, 5 December, and we are marking it in a big way in Bristol.

To inspire the people of Bristol, we are hosting an uplifting Save Soil Winter Fair to learn about soil with speakers, music and art on Saturday, 3 December at the Create Centre. It’s all free: the food, the parking, the workshops, to make it accessible and inclusive to all. Everyone is welcome.

It’s part of our national cycle for soil. Our cyclists are cycling 900 miles in major cities in the UK to highlight the vital nature of soil. We will greet them in Bristol at Saturday’s event.

Why soil when there are other pressing issues? 

95% of our food comes from soil and we are losing one acre of soil every second! With the world’s population growing so rapidly, we will soon be facing a food crisis unless we act now. 

Soil is the world’s third largest carbon sink and is at the heart of food systems, global biodiversity and climate change. Soil has other significance acting as drought and flood resistant sponges. 

So, the solutions for many of the issues we are facing today; climate emergency, ecological emergency, flooding and droughts and food security are found in soils. 

Who are we in Bristol? 

The Save Soil Bristol group stand together smiling, they are wearing green jumpers and have a poster reading Save Soil.

We are the people of Bristol who have been inspired to take action. We’re students, a retired teacher, engineers, an artist, a doctor, a lawyer, a postman and so on. We have pulled together to raise awareness and make stuff happen.

We are part of a global movement that has been described as the world’s largest People’s movement. The movement is supported by people and organisations from around the world. 

  • United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO)
  • United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
  • World Food Programme (WFP)
  • United Nations Environment Programme, Faith for Earth Initiative
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • The International “4 per 1000” Initiative
  • The Vatican
  • Muslim World League

Find out more about our global organisation from this video:

Why are we doing this? 

We have been directly working on creating healthy soils for 30 years and our environmental projects have been recognised globally. Guyana have pledged 100 km² to the implementation of save soil policy. 11 Caricom countries and 56 Commonwealth countries are adopting these measures. 

Because of the urgency we need to change at a national governmental level, with an enabling policy environment that supports farmers to implement sustainable land management practices to achieve food security, climate resilience, and carbon sequestration. But governments and policy makers will only change if we ask them to. Which is why we are trying to raise awareness with as many people as possible. Hence the dance, the mural, and the fair. 

A mural for Save Soil, hands clasped together holding soil. patterns surround the centre of the mural. Text reads Join the movement, #SAVESOIL, 90% of Soil degraded by 2050, SaveSoil.ORG.

How can you join us?

Please Join us on the 3 December with your friends and family! Please also share the event: Save Soil Winter Fair Tickets, Sat 3 Dec 2022 at 13:00 | Eventbrite

Talk about the importance of soil with as many people as possible. Online please use the hashtag #SaveSoil #ConsciousPlanet 

Go to https://consciousplanet.org/ to find out more and get involved.

£424m for clean energy in Bristol: 1,000 new jobs

Today’s blog is from Kye Dudd, Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology, Waste, and Energy and
Labour Councillor for Southmead ward.

Decarbonising Bristol by 2030 is likely to be one of the most challenging infrastructure overhauls in the history of our city.

City Leap will play an essential role in this, it’s an ambitious energy project that will accelerate investment in our city, moving Bristol forward on our journey to net zero.

The scale of investment that is needed to make our city carbon neutral and climate resilience will likely total at least £10 billion.

We need to transform the way we generate, distribute, store and use energy at scale across our whole city. 

£1 billion of international investment to accelerate change

The council has invested nearly £100 million in decarbonisation projects over the last five years, which includes completing the construction of Castle Park Energy Centre that houses England’s largest water source heat pump. However, we need to rapidly increase the scale and pace of low carbon delivery to be able to meet our targets.

Our City Leap Energy Partnership with Ameresco Limited and Vattenfall Heat UK will secure a twenty-year framework to enable over £1 billion of international investment into low carbon energy infrastructure such as solar PV, wind generation, zero carbon heat networks, smart energy systems, and other energy efficiency measures.  

How will City Leap keep us on track for carbon neutrality?

In the first five years, the City Leap Energy Partnership’s contribution to carbon neutrality will include: 

  • Installing over 182MW of zero carbon energy generation and delivering over 140,000 tonnes of carbon savings for Bristol;
  • Expanding Bristol’s Heat Network – a network of underground pipes that will provide local businesses and residents with reliable, affordable low-carbon heat from sustainable sources, such as taking heat from water, ground or air, reducing Bristol’s reliance on fossil fuels;
  • Installing solar panels and low carbon heating systems such as air source heat pumps at local schools;
  • Supporting the decarbonisation of the council’s social housing by introducing measures such as better insulation, solar panels and heat pumps to achieve an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of ‘C’ or better;
  • Boosting council and community-owned renewable energy projects across the city such as wind turbines and solar farms;
  • Offering decarbonisation support to public sector properties such as hospitals and schools to support Bristol’s wider efforts to be carbon neutral by 2030.

The partnership will also bring £61.5 million of social value to our city over the first five years, after we secured an initial £424 million of investment, with the creation of more than 1,000 new jobs, apprenticeships, and work placements.

Is this future possible to achieve?

Reducing carbon emissions and tackling the climate emergency is a huge challenge for everybody, but through our City Leap Energy Partnership, we’ve secured the funding, knowledge, and resources to accelerate our progress.

Collaborative action will usher a period of extraordinary innovation, investment, and growth – helping to make the just transition to net zero and securing Bristol’s reputation as a leading clean energy city for many years to come.

City Leap is a big deal for Bristol – it’s the most ambitious and exciting energy project that we have embarked on to accelerate clean energy investment and is a big step towards decarbonising our whole city and on our journey to net zero. 

Marvin and a small group of people wearing high visibility vests, stand on scaffolding in a construction site. The Bristol City leap logo is in the top right of the image, the Mayor of Bristol logo is in the bottom left.

Delivering progress on our new Local Plan

Today’s blog is by Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, Resilience and Floods and Labour Councillor for St George Central ward.

The overarching planning document that maps out how and where Bristol will develop over the next 20 years is now out for consultation. The Bristol Local Plan is being reviewed and we want people in the city to give us their views.

The Bristol Local Plan is important because it will:

• guide development across the city over the next twenty years
• update all existing policies for deciding planning applications
• deliver new development that supports net zero and helps nature to recover

Reviewing an entire city’s Local Plan is a long, detailed process. We have been working on the new plan for nearly five years, its progress held back by the challenges of planning across the whole region. Now we are ready to share our plan, working with our neighbouring councils where we need to, with the aim to get a new Local Plan in place before the end of 2024.

The new Local Plan will deliver the inclusive, sustainable growth we need by enabling new homes and new workplaces to be built. The document takes on the complex challenge of doing this in the face of the climate and ecological emergencies.

The need for affordable homes and delivering them in sustainable ways in the right places is a core priority for the next 20 years. We need to deliver more homes and regenerate our neighbourhoods to tackle Bristol’s housing crisis and make homes more affordable.

The types of homes we build, and where we build them, will be the biggest determinants of the carbon price the planet pays for our population growth – so it is essential we prioritise brownfield sites and build densely wherever appropriate to reduce pressure on greenbelt sites.

The consultation takes the local plan’s commitments to our environment a step further. It contains ideas that will result in a plan with a stronger focus on net zero and ecology than ever before. Since the current Local Plan was agreed in 2014, we now include new policies on biodiversity and proposes changes of approach at sites such as the Western Slopes, Brislington Meadows, and Yew Tree Farm that aim to give priority to nature conservation and food growing.

This latest consultation sets out drafts of additional policies that are proposed to be included in the new Local Plan. The results of the last consultation, held in 2019, have also been used to inform this next stage.

So, what’s new?

Homes

• an ambitious housing target is proposed for Bristol based on the city’s capacity to deliver new homes in a sustainable way

• a draft policy on affordable housing to set out the ideas for how new affordable homes will be delivered as part of housing developments

Ecology

• new draft policies are included on biodiversity and nature recovery to encourage biodiversity gain within developments

Strong local centres and a thriving economy

• a revised network of local centres across the city

• draft policies to support the vitality and diversification of centres and promote a thriving hospitality economy which supports shopping, city and local centres, and the night time economy

Sustainability

• new draft policies to promote food sustainability and support food growing provision

• a new suite of draft policies to address how buildings use energy and can help to deliver a net zero future and tackle the climate crisis

Other updates

• a vision and aims were included in the 2019 consultation for the first-time and these have been updated to reflect latest thinking

• a new framework for design policy is set out that details how design guides and codes will be used

• a new draft policy for advertisement consent applications

This is an important stage in making a new Local Plan for our city, so it is the ideal time to check and comment on the document: to make sure this iteration reflects our shared priorities for the city. Your input and priorities will then influence the main document that guides our partners and developers to deliver the type of development Bristol needs most.

So please do take part, think about what development means to you, and have your say while the consultation is live.

The timescale to get to our new complete local plan is as follows:

• 28 November 2022 to 20 January 2023 – further consultation on the plan’s latest policies and proposals
• Summer 2023 – plan published for representations
• Early 2024 – examination by planning inspector
• Autumn 2024 – new Local Plan adopted