Debt Awareness Week 2023

Jordan Thomas is pictured smiling, with moantains and trees in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from
Jordan Thomas, Project Coordinator
at Citizens Advice Bristol.

Citizens Advice Bristol is part of a network of advice agencies and services in the city who have been working together to coordinate our response to the national cost of living crisis.

As we mark DebtChange’s tenth Debt Awareness Week since its launch in 2014, many of those affected by debt will be under increased financial pressure as the national cost of living crisis continues. Energy price hikes, the rising cost of food and stagnant wages are not just creating debt for millions of people in the UK, but making it more difficult for those with existing debt to make repayments. Debt can affect anyone, and it is increasingly important to be aware of the services and support available to help manage debt, as well as the help available for managing food, energy, and benefit entitlements. 

While we cannot solve all of the challenges facing many Bristolians, we, together with other advice agencies, mental health workers and community groups are working together to put additional support in place for those who are most affected.

Across the UK, Citizens Advice alone is currently helping more than two people every minute with access to crisis support, like food bank referrals and charitable grants. This year more than 137,000 people have been referred for this type of support – a 50% increase on the same period last year, and a 167% increase on the same period in 2019. We’ve also helped 50,000 people with energy debts, and almost 15,000 people who couldn’t afford to top up their prepayment meter. This is over three times higher than the same period in 2021.

As part of our response, we have trained cost of living advice assistants who are currently working in some of the 100 Welcoming Spaces across the city bringing advice services into community spaces where everyone can access the support they need, in a place that is comfortable and safe.

They can provide help and support around welfare benefits, managing money, debt and discretionary support (food bank vouchers, energy vouchers and grants). They can also refer citizens onto other services or dedicated caseworkers for people with complex situations. Advice assistants are also available for several evening sessions in some Welcoming Spaces, to ensure access to the service for those working in the day who might otherwise be unable to access the same support. Please visit our website to find our current drop-in locations, days and times.

As Project Coordinator for our cost of living project, I have seen many citizens facing debt for the first time this year, many of whom were unaware of the help available to them. It can be just as important to understand the resources available to help avoid incurring debt, as it can be to manage existing debt. This is why we are drawing attention to advice and services that can help you navigate the cost of living crisis, as well as resources for dealing with debt. 

If you are worrying about the cost of living crisis you are not alone and there is support out there. The support you can get will depend on your circumstances but you can read helpful information and guidance from Citizens Advice and find out how to contact Citizens Advice Bristol on our website.

For advice on managing debt:

See our comprehensive debt and money webpage for advice on managing debt, as well as bankruptcy, IVAs, debt management plans or debt relief and administration orders. You can also find guidance here on budgeting, mortgage problems, rent arrears, creditors, borrowing, banking, pensions, tax, financial advice and gambling problems

Other organisations we recommend:

Benefits:

  • Use Bristol City Council’s benefits calculator to find out whether you’re eligible for financial help
  • WECIL – benefits advice with a focus on those who have a disability or health condition
  • Age UK – benefits for anyone aged 55 years or over
  • Macmillan – benefits advice for people living with cancer or their loved ones
  • Carers UK – for people looking after a friend or family member

The council’s Welfare Rights and Money Advice Service can support with benefits-related issues for a range of eligible clients, services and organisations in Bristol, including vulnerable people on low incomes, Disabled people and full-time carers. Support workers in services commissioned by the council can refer eligible individuals for money and debt advice.

Don’t forget you can also speak to one of our advice assistants in various Welcoming Spaces.

If you need advice on any other cost of living-related issues you can also get in touch with:

Bristol City Council’s cost of living support webpage has plenty of additional guidance and signposting on food, benefits, housing, employment, or mental health and emotional wellbeing. As well as information on the Welcoming Spaces in Bristol.

Bristol’s grazing goats take on a new job

This week will see the arrival of a small herd of goats who are moving into their new home at Hengrove Mounds and there will be a chance to say “hello” at a Meet and Greet session this Saturday, 25 March.  

We are thrilled to welcome these furry, four legged grazers on site as part of a partnership project between urban goat farming collective Street Goat and Avon Wildlife Trust’s My Wild City.

My Wild City, working with Bristol City Council, focusses on eight Local Wildlife Sites across the city, including Hengrove Mounds and Hawkfield Meadow. These wildlife havens will see improvements for nature and visitors, and help reconnect communities with the nature on their doorsteps.

My wild city map poster. There is a map of Bristol with 8 locations highlighted. Text on the left reads: Hengrove Mounds and Hawkfield Meadow, Hengrove mounds is a hidden gem nearby the popular Hengrove playpark. Continue around the path and youll discover a wildlife haven that has developed over an old landfill site. The naked doughnut shape of the mounds provides a circular walk amongst wildflowers and scrub that provides a circular walk amongst wildflowers and earth that provides a habitat for many butterflies, bees and insects. Hawkfield Meadow is a valuable patch of rensant countryside home to rare bees and many butterflies. Location Hengrove Mounds - https://w3w.co/softlyrefuseclinic. 

On the right of the image text reads: The Northern Slopes are made up as three great spaces near to Knowle and Bedminster in South Bristol. Welcome Vale and Glyn Bale are designated local nature reserves home to many species of birds, slow worms, badgers and hedgehogs. There are wildflower meadows and woods with streams to explore. and if you make it to the top, beautiful views over |Bristol to the suspension bridge.

Why are the goats at Hengrove Mounds?

Without grazing animals, grassland habitats like the Mounds become overgrown with brambles and trees. As the goats munch away, they are encouraging a greater biodiversity of wildflowers to grow through in the late spring. Goats are excellent at tackling brambles and scrubland. The way they browse, not eating right to the ground, leaves a mosaic of vegetation, providing perfect over winter protection for a range of insects and small mammals. They also live happily with foxes, badgers, and deer, and are quite light on their cloven hooves so don’t trample much underfoot.

Bristol City Council, with the help of Street Goat and the local community, maintain wildlife areas like Hengrove Mounds for the benefit of its wild (and human!) visitors through natural methods. 

Bristol's grazing goats are pictured as a group in Purdown, there is a tv tower and trees in thebackground.

We’ve seen the benefits of having grazing goats as part of our strategy for managing our green spaces for nature  with the goats currently at the Gun Battery in Stoke Park Estate. They’ve been successfully maintaining this area for the last 3 years each spring, increasing the numbers and diversity of flora and fauna found there.

In a recent survey by Street Goat Most residents commented on about how the goats brought the local community together, noting that they chatted to people they otherwise would not have. Children encouraged parents and carers out to see them, both learning about the care of animals and the landscape around them.

Ian Barrett, Chief Executive of Avon Wildlife Trust who worked with us to set up the Wild City Project says,  “Grazing animals, like Street Goat’s goats, are brilliant at maintaining scrub and grassland areas in a way which promotes biodiversity and allows wildflowers to thrive. This will support the incredible species which call Hengrove Mounds their home, such as the nationally scarce carrot mining bee.”

Looking after the goats

Our Hengrove Mounds goat herd will be cared for by Street Goat volunteer goat herders (they need more volunteers so if you are interested- apply here) who will be on site regularly to check on them. The goats have shelter and water provided for them. If you have any concerns about their welfare, there are telephone numbers on site you can call.

Saying hello to the goats

The goats are there to do an important job but we are keen for visitors to learn about how they help to improve our green spaces in an ecologically sound way and so you are welcome to walk through the fenced enclosure, just make sure any dogs are on short leads and shut gates behind you, just like for the goats along the Avon Gorge. Please don’t feed the goats as we want to make sure they are peckish enough to nibble on the brambles and saplings!

You can follow the progress of these and other Street Goats across Bristol on Street Goats Facebook page.

English Tourism Week: visit Bristol!

Kathryn Davis, managing director at Visit West, smiling, with building in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Kathryn Davis,
Managing Director at Visit West

Yesterday marked the start of English Tourism Week, designed to raise the profile of the visitor economy and celebrate our people, places, and businesses. Traditionally, this marks the beginning of the tourism season, but a city like Bristol is a big destination for visitors throughout the year.

2019 was a record breaking year for Bristol’s visitor economy, valued at an estimated £1.1 billion. In 2021, this was £776 million, and we will know the results for 2022 later this year but it is clear that business has returned in a very different way after the pandemic, and that we are still missing some of our international visitors.

Whether people come for a day, a week, or longer, and whatever the reason they come, the investment into high street shopping and dining is quite phenomenal: spending almost £500 million during 2021, when the industry was only open for eight months. That’s supporting our amazing places, benefiting local people and communities.

Our aim is to ensure that the benefits of the visitor economy are distributed across Bristol. You will see boats, bridges, Brunel, and Banksy splashed across travel articles and social media, often being the hook inspiring new visits. However, there are some incredible walking tours outside of the city centre, that I guarantee will teach you something you didn’t already know. Boat trips, bike rides, museums, galleries, escape rooms, breweries, distilleries, cooking classes, clubs to dance in, sport to watch, and play, axes to throw, and music and food from every corner of the world.

Our local communities are critical to the success of our economy, so get involved. Use English Tourism week to do something different, discover a new place, see a new exhibition, and live like a tourist for a day. There are loads of ideas for all budgets at VisitBristol.co.uk for you, your family and friends, for now or to plan ahead.

There is a very particular term for this type of travel – Visiting Friends and Relatives or VFR. It’s really important and often overlooked, so every time you welcome someone to Bristol, you are doing your bit. Where do you take your family and friends?

Also often forgotten are those coming for business events.  Even in the zoom world, we see people desperate to bring together teams whether locally, nationally, and globally, whether corporate, association, academic, or social. Often delegates will make the most of their stay by adding extra days to make the most of their time, getting to explore our local culture and heritage. Some bring their families too, turning a work trip into a holiday.

People visit Bristol for many reasons, and in this year of major anniversaries, not least 650 years of Bristol being an independent county, why not make the most of the incredible experiences on our doorstep and live life like a tourist.

For More follow @visitbristol on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or go to www.visitbristol.co.uk

Bristol Financial Resilience Action Group: Hargreaves Lansdown

Jack Hall, responsible business manager at Hargreaves Lansdown, smiling.
Today’s guest blog is from Jack Hall, Responsible Business Manager
at Hargreaves Lansdown

In 2023, Hargreaves Lansdown are launching Bristol Financial Resilience Action Group, aimed at making Bristol the most financially resilient city in the UK and providing employers with the tools they need to help their employees who are struggling financially. The free initiative brings together employers, from a variety of industries across the city, to work towards a shared vision and mission of ensuring the community they exist in thrives.

The work stems from Hargreaves Lansdown’s leading research into Financial Resilience, our Savings and Resilience Barometer. This analysis scores households up and down the country for their financial resilience across five key areas: controlling their debt, protecting their family, rainy day savings, planning for later life, and investing to make more of their money.

The results show a mixed bag across the nation with, for example, as many as one in three households not having enough cash in the bank to cover three months of their essential spending, and only four in ten households being on track for a moderate retirement income, with a similar proportion with adequate protection for their family if they pass away. 

Overall, Bristol stacks up a little better than the nation as a whole but there is huge room for improvement to make us more financially resilient.

A table shows figures comparing Bristol to the national average on 5 different factors. These factors include Control Your Debt, Protect Your Family, Rainy Day Savings, Plan for Later Life, and invest.

When we initially launched the work in January 2022 we posed the question, what can Hargreaves Lansdown do to help? The idea of Bristol Financial Resilience Action Group was born. The initiative encourages employers to sign up to 3 commitments through the action group:

  1. Financial education for employees: a free financial education guide created by Hargreaves Lansdown providing foundational knowledge distributed amongst colleagues
  2. A set of 6 internal initiatives: a series of aspirational initiatives we are recommending that employers implement if they do not do so already. These include incentivising pension contributions to 12%, sorting payroll errors within one week, and increasing sick pay above statutory minimum
  3. Financial resilience webinars: a free course of 12 webinars (one per month) covering financial education ranging from understanding debt, saving for a rainy day, understanding your pension, and investments.
A chart shows three commitments from the Bristol Financial Resilience Action Group. These are: Financial Resilience Webinars, Financial Education, and Internal Initiatives.

The objective of this initiative is to bring together employers from a range of industries and sectors, utilising each other’s skills and expertise, to raise the overall level of financial resilience in Bristol. This fits with the One City approach, bringing together a range of people, demographics, ideas, motivations, skills, and experience. The programme aims to consolidate the movement towards improved financial resilience in Bristol, and consequently people’s ability to respond to society wide and individual crises.

At the time of writing, 14 employers have signed up, totalling over 15,000 employees in the city. The prerequisite to be part of the programme is to be a Bristol based employer or have a large employee presence in Bristol.

The programme officially launches on the 11 May at Hargreaves Lansdown with Chris Hill, CEO of Hargreaves Lansdown, and Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, speaking before by a series of roundtable discussions. Bristol Financial Resilience Action Group has lofty ambitions to grow, perhaps becoming an accreditation whereby employers can be proud that they have ‘financial resilient employer’ status: signifying they have a commitment both to financial education for their employees but also a series of internal structures that aid their financial resilience.

At a time where we seem to swing from one crisis to another, that inevitably tests our finances, the need for this action group will not diminish. If you are an employer interested in the programme, please complete this form.

100 Welcoming Spaces open in Bristol

It was around this time last year that the idea of Welcoming Spaces was first discussed with community partners. Facing escalating fuel prices and the worsening national cost of living crisis, we had to work out what we could do as a city. As it turned out Bristol was at the forefront of what quickly became an approach adopted by other areas to tackle the national cost of living crisis. I could not have imagined at that time that Bristol would go on to build a network of 100 Welcoming Spaces. This achievement is even more incredible because of the very challenging times we are in. 

Mayor Marvin Rees, smiling, standing on the left of volunteers from Henbury and Brentry Community Centre.
Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured with volunteers who run the
Welcoming Space in Henbury and Brentry Community Centre.

We have taken a One City approach to the national cost of living crisis, bringing together the community and voluntary sector, public sector, and private sector partners to support citizens and communities most impacted. Together we have mobilised our city-wide network of spaces for Bristol residents, located in a range of venues including community centres, places of worship, and leisure centres.

Welcoming Spaces have helped people through the difficult winter months by providing a warm welcome and bringing people together through community meals, film nights, and a wide range of other activities for all ages. By joining up with Citizens Advice and Changes Bristol there has been practical support on hand as well.

First and foremost, my thanks must go to all the community venues that have put themselves forward as a Welcoming Space. I know the past three years have been tough, on top of what people have had to deal with after a decade of austerity: there has been no respite between the pandemic and the national cost of living crisis. What people across Bristol have done through Welcoming Spaces has not gone unrecognised.

While what our communities have achieved is commendable, many of us can’t quite believe that this is something we are having to do in this day and age. People are still forced to choose between putting food on the table and heating their homes, which is an incredibly challenging place to be in. Foodbanks are now a common sight in many communities and the growing numbers of families relying on their support demonstrates how far national policy is failing low-income households.

The Welcoming Spaces have certainly played a part in supporting people through these difficult times, but we need to be seeing more support from national government. They urgently need to be doing more to support people, particularly those who are struggling most in our communities.

Our community development team has been regularly engaging with Welcoming Spaces to understand the impact Welcoming Spaces are having in local communities. It is great to hear more about the difference the organisations involved are making:

“People are coming to meet each other. It’s been lovely to see new friendships and connections.” 

“All age groups have benefited from using our space, from toddler groups to retired/senior social groups and a teen youth group. The space is always warm and inviting.”

“We are seeing more people who are keen to talk and benefit from social interaction.”

“The centre remains very busy with visitors from all walks of life and coming for different reasons.”

The Welcoming Spaces have also been receiving some really heart-warming feedback from residents about their experience:

“Was great today. I was feeling really low so I just thought I’d pop in and see everyone, now I feel much better.”

“You just feel comfortable to stick around.”

“I’ve just been taking it all in. It’s lovely, I feel really at home.”

There are some criteria all Welcoming Spaces must meet, for example they must all be accessible to Disabled people and have access to somewhere to charge things like laptops, phones, and scooters. What happens at each Welcoming Space varies but could include access to Wi-Fi and electrical charging points, activities and community meals. Citizens Advice Bristol is also running drop-in advice sessions at many of the spaces, providing practical guidance around benefits, money, debt and energy.

To find out where your nearest Welcoming Space is, or if you need cost of living advice and signposting, visit Bristol City Council’s website. You can also call 0800 694 0184 between 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Making time for young carers this Young Carers Action Day

Joss Tagg, looking at the camera, smiling.
This blog is by Joss Tagg, Young Carers Service Manager at Carers Support Centre

This Young Carers Action Day (15 March), we want to celebrate the incredible work done by young carers every day. These young people juggle caring responsibilities with school, hobbies, and friendships, all while trying to look after their own health and mental wellbeing. This year’s theme, ‘make time for young carers’ is a call to action for us all to prioritise the needs of these unsung heroes.

Young carers in Bristol have been sharing their experiences and thoughts on the importance of making time for them and what this could look like. Here at Carers Support Centre, we recently conducted a survey to better understand how our young carers were feeling and how we can make more time for them.

The survey found that more young people are taking on caring responsibilities than ever before, with 60 per cent reporting an increase in their caring duties in the past year. This increase has also led to higher rates of depression, anxiety, stress, and loneliness. Shockingly, 21 per cent of young carers reported self-harming, highlighting the urgent need for more support. Other health issues that young carers had reported include difficulties with sleep and problems with their relationship with food, with one third of young carers feeling they lead an unhealthy lifestyle. Caring duties also significantly impact young carer’s schooling, with ten per cent missing school and almost half reporting a need for more learning support.

Improved access to mental health resources, better help in schools, financial support, and breaks from caring duties were identified as key areas where more support could make a difference.

At Carers Support Centre, through our Young Carers Service, we are dedicated to making time for young carers. The service has registered 342 young carers. Last year alone, we conducted 93 young carers assessments and provided one-to-one support to 87 young carers. This support takes a blended approach using online, phone, and face-to-face methods to ensure that young carers receive the care they need in a way that works for them. With 382 breaks provided – including fun activities such as music, screen printing, cookery, kayaking, trampolining, and trips to Legoland, Go Ape and the pantomime – the Young Carers Service is committed to giving young carers the chance to relax and have fun.

The impact of our work is clear; 47 per cent of respondents said that our service was instrumental in reducing their sense of loneliness and isolation, a 19 per cent increase from the previous year. However, we understand that more still needs to be done to improve the lives of our carers. We must all make the time to listen to young carers and provide the support they need to balance their caring duties with their own needs.

The Young Carers Action Day, let’s remember the incredible work done by young carers and commit to making time for them.

See all the Young Carers Action Day videos on our YouTube channel.

Carers Support Centre:

Website : Help for young carers | Carers Support Centre

Tel: 0117 958 9980

Email: youngc@carerssupportcentre.co.uk

Twitter: @youngcarers

Facebook: @youngcarersbsg

Bristol’s City Gathering: working as One City

Think about the organisations and institutions you interact with in just one day while living or working in Bristol. What influence do they have over your life and choices?

Ines Lage, is pictured speaking at Bristol's City Gathering.
Ines Lage, South West Regional Secretary of
the TUC, speaking at Bristol’s City Gathering

Bristol, like any city, is a complex system of people and institutions, working together or in isolation – sometimes in opposition. Institutions and organisations focus on their own operations and services, their workforce and their goals, no matter if they employ 10,000 people or two, and consequently the awareness of other organisations can be minimal. This can result in repetition of effort and wasted time undertaking projects already explored by others, or unnecessary costs to organisations already challenged with rapidly changing policies and circumstances.  

The One City Plan, first launched in 2019, mapped the strategic intent of many of Bristol’s institutions and organisations in Bristol to showcase the opportunities for synergy, bring others into the fold, and minimise duplication. Structured around six themes that represent the sectors in our city, the One City approach connects the different elements of the city system. It also presents priorities that partners can work together on to create a positive impact for citizens, as well as better outcomes for their own operations. This approach seeks to build on positive action and show that, despite the complexity of the system, we are all part of One City and can combine efforts in perhaps unexpected ways to build a better Bristol benefit. 

Mayor Marvin Rees, is pictured speaking at Bristol's City Gathering event.
Mayor Marvin Rees speaking at Bristol’s City Gathering

Twice a year, we host a City Gathering which provides partners with the opportunity to meet, have conversations, and present Offers and Asks to the city. On Friday, partners from key institutions such as the hospital trusts and universities met with community groups and voluntary, community, and social enterprise organisations, learning about Bristol through multiple lenses.

These events are a great opportunity to recognise the reach and impact in the room – in the city – and the ability to have positive impacts on life here. Through these meetings, we started to map activity by partners and see the spaces that will benefit from collaboration and sharing of experience.

Throughout the pandemic, the Gatherings moved online for safety, and, while they were well-attended and effective, nothing beats the impact of hosting around 300 people in City Hall, where every attendee is passionate about their work in the city and keen to work in partnership. During this time we had success tackling period poverty across the city and on digital exclusion that restricts residents’ access to opportunities. Alongside this, the Homes and Communities Board have had great progress with Goal 23 and housing associations and Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance accreditation.

Eugine Yafele, Chief Executive of University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, is pictured speaking at Bristol's City Gathering.
Eugine Yafele speaking at Bristol’s City Gathering

The City Gathering held on 10 March was no exception, with excellent chairing from Eugine Yafele of UHBW NHS Trust and 30 speakers from across all sectors in the city system. The overall theme was ‘Bristol: What Is Happening Right Now?’

Attendees were given the opportunity to put faces and names to organisations, while hearing about the current key challenges and opportunities in Bristol. There were presentations on the Integrated Care Board, financing the decarbonisation of our city, and moves towards the Committee System. The day provided a great chance to meet and discuss new opportunities with partners they across all the One City themes. We’ve put everyone’s Offers and Asks online – if you want to know more or contribute, email us: city.office@bristol.gov.uk

Bristol continues to go from strength to strength, together as One City. 

A new chapter for Jacobs Wells Baths

A graphic with Jacob Wells Baths building in the foreground. The Mayor of Bristol's logo is top left of the image. In the top right of the image, text reads: Chance For Community To Transform The Former Jacobs Wells Baths.

At the turn of the year, with costs rising, Fusion Lifestyle decided to withdraw from their project at Jacobs Wells Baths. They had planned to restore the swimming pool as part of a leisure, dance and arts, and community centre. We shared the disappointment of local people, as it has always been our ambition to see this Grade II listed building, first opened in 1889, and asset of community value restored to its former glory and back in active use.

Councillor Craig Cheney is pictured, smiling.
This blog is by Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor for Finance, Governance, Performance, and Culture, and Labour Councillor for Hillfields.

Our administration created the time to consider next steps for the site by deferring officer proposals to dispose of it – removing it from the list of other surplus council-owned properties which we have decided to sell on the open market. In the meantime, we have received some initial expressions of interest from a few parties, sharing their ideas for the future of the site on Jacob’s Wells Road.

Having considered their submissions with the property team and the Mayor’s Office, including the beginnings of funding plans, and after visiting the site, we have decided to open up a public expressions of interest process to formally select a preferred bidder to transform the former baths.

Organisations will have until 9am on Tuesday 2 May to send us an outline of their viable proposals (short of a fully-costed and detailed business plan). These will be scored out of 60 by the Community Asset Transfer board using the following criteria:

  • Track record of managing community assets and understanding of all legislation applicable to managing the building (10);
  • Financial viability of the proposal: capital, future revenue streams, running costs (10);
  • Ability to preserve and restore a prominent, historic, listed building (10);
  • Clear vision for the building (5);
  • Range and level of local community and social benefits (5);
  • Ability to engage the diverse communities that make up Bristol (5);
  • Ability to make a significant contribution to the arts, culture and leisure offer in Bristol (5);
  • Capacity and capability to manage the asset to a high standard (5);
  • Track record and commitment to working in partnership (5).
The interior of Jacobs Wells Baths is pictured, showing some of the rotten floor pulled up and holes in the ceiling.

Interested parties can see from the previous guide to the site, and other documents from when we undertook a full Community Asset Transfer process in 2017, that the site remains in need of significant work. The former dance studio’s floor is rotting, and the roof in particular needs a lot of attention.

To submit an expression of interest, ask to visit the site, or enquire for further information, please contact community.buildings@bristol.gov.uk

Investing in Bristol’s infrastructure

Councillor Donald Alexander, smiling with trees and College Green in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Donald Alexander, Cabinet member for Transport and Labour Councillor for Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston.

Keeping Bristol’s roads in good condition is essential to create a well-connected city, that is easy for people to travel around. That’s why I’m pleased that the council is investing over £9 million to continue our important highways improvement work and help keep the city moving.

We’ve secured over £8 million from the Combined Authority to carry out essential maintenance and deliver transport schemes, and we’ve allocated a further £1 million towards these projects.

This work will help to drive growth and productivity in the city by improving highways connections, ensuring that everyone in Bristol can get to where they need to go. Part of this package includes the Pothole Action Fund, which totals £1.4 million for important road repairs and surfacing works.

I know that potholes are a pain for any for any road user, so I’m happy to share more detail about how we’re taking action before potholes become a problem.

What have we done so far to reduce potholes?

Our teams work hard throughout the year to keep our road surfaces in good condition, making sure that Bristol’s streets and footways are safe for everyone to use. Between 2016/17 and 2021/22 the number of potholes on Bristol’s roads were reduced from 4649 to 1838, this is a 60% decrease. Over the last 12 months, the highways team have repaired over 2,500 potholes on our roads, footpaths, and bridges and we’ve averaged an impressive 691 total defect repairs each month.

This is vital to ensuring our streets are safe and accessible for all road users, to prevent accidents and make sure journeys are pleasant for everyone whether walking, cycling, or driving.

But despite this great progress, I know that keeping our roads healthy is a constant undertaking that’s made harder in the winter months when the weather is worse and challenged further by historic under-investment both locally and nationally.

The funding we have secured for highways works will help us face this challenge head on and ensure the people of Bristol have the safe roads that they need.

Tackling the problem early

We take a preventative approach to maintaining our streets to make sure that we carry out repair works at an early opportunity to avoid the state of the road surface from worsening further. This is recognised as industry best practice and can also reduce the carbon emissions involved in highways maintenance.

We collate reports of potholes and road defects received by members of the public as well as analysis from detailed surveys and inspections carried out by staff. Issues that have the risk of deteriorating if left untouched are prioritised for repair first to prevent further damage.

Over the next year, work will be carried out to repair road or path surfaces that have been damaged by busy traffic and wear. Weak spots will be strengthened to manage structural issues in the road surface ahead of surface dressing where the road is sprayed with a hot, tar-like material called bitumen and will then covered with stone chippings and rolled flat.

Anyone can report a pothole or any other road damage on our website to help us fix it. So, if there is a pothole problem on your street, I would encourage you to report it as soon as possible.

Building homes for everyone in Bristol

Councillor Tom Renhard, smiling with trees on College Green in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard,
Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery & Homes
and Labour Councillor for the Horfield Ward.

We’re building a Bristol where everyone has access to a safe, secure, and warm home, but this isn’t simple to achieve. Housing has become increasingly unaffordable, with renting and purchasing a house out of reach for many.

We continue to utilise brownfield sites, while ensuring we meet our ambitious housing targets, deliver on our climate objectives, and secure investment in social infrastructure. We want people to be able to access green spaces, local shops, health services and schools near their homes. The redevelopment of Whitehouse Street is an example of us moving forward with this work for Bristol, building much needed homes for our communities.

Cabinet recently approved Goram Homes’ new development pipeline, including 15 brownfield sites that will be transformed into new homes. The use of these sites is an example of our commitment to affordable housing across the city. This will only add to the 2,563 new homes Bristol built in 2021/22. 90% of these were on previously developed land; 474 affordable homes were built, the highest number in over a decade.

The full pipeline of sites which cabinet has approved is now 15 strong. It includes One Lockleaze (Formerly Romney House) and Baltic Wharf that were both approved in 2018. Castle Park, Dovercourt Depot, New Fosseway Road in Hengrove, Novers Hill in Filwood, St Ursula’s in Westbury Park, Portwall Lane Car Park, SS Great Britain Carpark, Spring Street, A & B Bond were all added in 2021. In 2022 we transferred Hengrove – which now has a consultation on detailed plans. And now, with this paper, we’ll add the Grove & Prince Street Car Park, as well as exploring the full potential of Western Harbour Masterplan area.

To start tackling the national housing crisis, we need to keep using brownfield sites effectively. Global estate consultants, Knight Frank, have released a report which states that over 2,000 homes could be built on government-owned car parks in Bristol and, while they won’t all be possible, this is a clear indicator that building more affordable homes is possible, if we look in the right places. Just look to Hope Rise, our award-winning project pioneering this concept in Bristol that many other areas of the country are now adopting.  

Our Whitehouse Street regeneration is another excellent example of brownfield land use, creating much needed housing and providing communities with amenities and work opportunities within the development. Since 2021, Bristol City Council has been working in partnership with The Hill Group, Galliard Apsley, Goram Homes, and the local community to develop a plan for Whitehouse Street in Bedminster which will inform the future transformation of the area into a genuinely mixed-use community of new homes, employment, and community spaces.

The photo is an Arial shot of the area for the Whitehouse Street regeneration.

For local people, the Whitehouse Street plans will deliver:

  • Around 2,000 new homes
  • Up to 15,000m2 of employment space and the potential for jobs growth
  • Employment opportunities that will complement the existing businesses on East Street and Bedminster Parade
  • Increased footfall to support the high street
  • New and improved public space incorporating pedestrian public spaces
  • Planting of new street trees
  • Sustainable urban drainage
  • Active travel routes connecting Bedminster to Temple Meads and the city centre
  • Improvements to Victoria Park
A sketch of the Whitehouse Street regeneration, this image represents the new look St. Luke's Road.

The Whitehouse Street area was historically a dense and active neighbourhood that combined homes and industry. The vision for the future is to create a new vibrant and sustainable neighbourhood which incorporates a mix of uses including homes, employment space and community space, new active travel routes along with improved public realm. 

The potential for new homes and the provision of high-quality workspace as part of this development means the Bedminster area will grow as a mixed-use development and inclusive community. This is possible due to a diversity of land uses providing opportunities for living, working, and for leisure. There will also be a temporary secondary school on land at Spring Street, whilst the new secondary school at Silverthorne Lane is built, demonstrating our commitment to building more than just homes.

A sketch of the Whitehouse Street regeneration, this image represents the Plaza View.

Our work on Whitehouse Street sits alongside our Bedminster Green/River Malago work, which sees new and inventive ways to heat homes, utilise the space available, and work with the local community to develop the area for their needs. This regeneration includes work on the River Malago, including creation of natural habitats, building new public and green spaces and restoring the existing character of the area, while reducing flood risk.

Our development pipeline includes plans across the city to use previously developed land and utilise the space to build new homes. We’re building in the majority of wards, including Portwall and Grove car parks and Baltic Wharf.

We will continue to work with local community groups, the combined authority and businesses, to improve bus links and metro bus links into South Bristol, alongside building affordable homes, supporting the provision of space to allow for the growing health infrastructure needs and green spaces. 

We are on a journey, with an ambitious vision for Bristol’s future. We will continue to work together with residents to build a better Bristol, so we can all share in the city’s future prosperity.