Got a minute?

Working together has been crucial to our city supporting one another through the pandemic. If you’ve got just sixty seconds, here’s a look at some of what we’ve delivered for Bristol, with Bristol, by working together.

Recommendations from Bristol’s Citizens’ Assembly

This blog comes from Warren, a member of the Bristol Citizens’ Assembly which last week shared its recommendations. You can take a look at their interim report, recommendations, the speaker presentations and other information on the citizens’ assembly website

Thanks to all the assembly members who took part in this process. Their recommendations will now be considered by Cabinet members, relevant teams within the council and by the One City Boards, with a report to be published following the local elections in May.

Our world came to a gradual halt early in 2020 with the arrival of COVID19. I think many people came to realise that we cannot collectively go on living as we have. Bristol soon became an eerily quiet place, with most of us forced to stay at home, no longer able to live in the manner we would like to. We certainly enjoyed bluer skies and newly encroaching wildlife amongst other things, but many suffered from isolation and separation from friends and family, including me. In some cases we suffered ill health and tragedy. We have had to reappraise our lives and we know that collectively we have to act differently going forward.

This was the backdrop to my volunteering to join Bristol’s Citizens Assembly and address the question ‘How do we recover from COVID19 and create a better future for all in Bristol?’.  I view my city as a dynamic and progressive place and wanted to make my small contribution to its future, and I was happy to learn that I had been selected.

I have spent four weekends with 60 other Bristol Citizens looking at the issues facing us all in Bristol. We were all selected from diverse backgrounds to ensure fair representation from this multi-faceted city. It was not easy but I felt everyone was committed to this process.

Although I am not a fan of zoom meetings, this complex logistical task was smoothly handled by Involve and a team from the council. Initially we were addressed by Mayor Marvin Rees and Councillors Asher Craig and Paula O’Rourke. I was impressed by their commitment to this process and their depth of knowledge and concern for our collective future.

We face great challenges around issues such as climate change, mental health and poverty, among others. At times it was troubling to hear the evidence presented to us by the many experts who came before us, but there were also positives and it was encouraging to hear that Bristol Council is already acting in each of these areas.

On the final day of the assembly we all came together to review our recommendations. I was moved by their depth and quality and I think it would be fair to say that everyone felt this way. There are great challenges ahead but I think we can rise to them and make Bristol an even better place for everyone.

Completed it, mate

Today, 21 March, is Census Day: a day when a snapshot of households across England and Wales is captured. It’s our chance to be counted:  

The Census takes place every ten years and has done so since 1801, with the exception of 1941. The information that is gathered from the census helps a range of organisations plan for the future. Bristol City Council uses the information to help plan services, and anticipate the need for childcare, housing services, and skills training. Data from the last census in 2011 has even helped us to plan for our response to the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses use it to decide where to set up, which creates job opportunities, and  charities  use census information to help get the funding they need.

So its really important you fill your Census out to make sure there is a true representation of Bristol and people get the services needed.  I can assure everyone that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is independent from the government, and all personal information is completely confidential for 100 years.  The information you provide will not be used to identify you for things like benefits, immigration, your income, taxes, and housing. Neither your landlord or anyone else will  be able to see any of your personal information either.

Bristol is a diverse city with many different ethnicities, languages spoken with newly arrived residents such as students who also need to be counted. Bristol City Council has been working with the ONS to make sure that everyone is aware of what the Census is and how it benefits everyone in Bristol. We have been reaching out to homeless people, minority groups, students and the digitally excluded to ensure that everyone has  the chance to be counted. There is information on the Census in over 40 languages and local community engagement staff have been delivering presentations in Somali over Zoom. Our equalities team has been working in partnership with the ONS making sure information and support is available to as many Bristol people as possible.

Today is the day to be counted, you can fill yours in online or request a paper copy, it only takes around 10 minutes to complete. If you have lost your code, don’t worry you can request a new one.

You can find all the information and support you need to complete the Census here, including about local support centres who can help you fill it in here in Bristol.

A city centre for everyone, day and night

Successful cities don’t stand still. They grow and shift in response to internal and external influences, the expected and the unexpected. Our role as city leaders is to anticipate, respond and adapt to meet these challenges and grasp opportunities as they develop, while keeping our values of sustainable, inclusive economic growth.  

The future role of Bristol’s city centre is crucial to our city and regional recovery from the impact of COVID-19 on jobs and businesses. We want to work with partners in the development and investment sector who understand how a reimagined city centre is vital to the future success of the city, its residents and businesses and the decisions that need to be made to achieve that.

The Debenhams site which overlooks St James Barton and The Horsefair in Broadmead is one of the most important elements in achieving our vision  for a liveable, vibrant, safe and inclusive city centre where people of all ages can live, work, learn and visit — day and night.

Once a busy, popular shopping destination, the site is part of the 243 year old Debenhams chain that has closed its doors nationwide following a decline precipitated by the double blows of our changing shopping habits and the COVID-19 pandemic. Debenhams will be clearing their stock from the building in the coming months, and as the site freeholder, this gives the council a once in a lifetime opportunity to redefine how it can productively play a role in the future of Bristol’s city centre.

We are moving ahead with a City Centre Development and Delivery Plan (DDP) that will define our place-making principles for the city centre and commissioning, Arcadis, our strategic partner, to develop the DDP which will include our design and use requirements for the Debenhams site.

We want to work with a redevelopment partner who understands the potential of the Debenhams site in accordance with our place-making aspirations once the DPP is complete in Spring 2022. This can include options such as a mixed-use development featuring a range of accommodation including 40% affordable in line with our planning policy, the possible release of land around the site to extend possibilities for its future development and ground lease terms to secure a future income stream to the council. In the meantime we’ll actively look at interim uses for the site that are inclusive, support local people and organisations and reflect Bristol’s unique and diverse cultural, creative, enterprise and community sectors.

The retail crisis, the pandemic, and what it means for jobs in the retail sector is a challenge many cities face, and we want Bristol to respond in a way that puts decent jobs and a strong local economy at the front of our recovery. Rather than short term alternatives that don’t serve the future interests of the city and regional economy, we are open to a partnership with a developer who appreciates our ambitions for the Debenhams site and the role it can play in revitalising the heart of the city.

Ahead of this, the future to Bristol’s city centre is starting to take shape.  Proposals are coming forward for the redevelopment of the Galleries, where we’re working with the existing developer to bring forward a range of new and alternative day and night-time uses for the site.  The skyline is dominated by cranes on the striking Castle Park View site that will provide 375 new homes (including 75 affordable) in the heart of the city. Plus funds from the Community Infrastructure Levy have been ring-fenced to protect, enhance and modernise Castle Park, one the city’s most iconic and popular green spaces.

Bristol’s Shopping Quarter (including Broadmead, The Galleries, Cabot Circus, St James Arcade) remains a popular shopping and leisure destination, so please support local businesses once COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed in the coming weeks. We’re working with the City Centre and Broadmead BIDs, the Galleries, Cabot Circus, and other stakeholders to safely reopen and to develop a diverse and inclusive cultural events summer programme that will create new city centre places and destinations for people to enjoy and discover. In the coming months we’re also looking at looking at how we can increase the green environment within the city centre and interim (or meanwhile) uses for sites and buildings before they are fully developed.

The changing landscape of the city centre, its role in the life of the city and our economy may bring concern and challenge, especially for people who work in its shops and hospitality venues. We are prepared for that change, and with partners who support our vision for the area, it can have future success as an area that provides jobs and homes and places to learn, shop, enjoy and visit. 

UN Anti-Racism Day

20 March’s guest blog comes from Alex Raikes, Director of Bristol charity Stand Against Racism & Inequality.

Alex Raikes (second left) at the Mayoral Breakfast with change makers – May 2017

What an honour to be chosen as the Mayor’s guest blogger to mark UN Anti-Racism Day 2021 and what a year to be tasked with this!

Firstly, the history – “International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid pass laws. Proclaiming the day in 1966, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.” This year’s theme is ‘Youth standing up against racism’ to recognize all that’s brought to the international fight against racism by our younger generations.

The barbaric killing of George Floyd in May 2020 led to a resurgence of anti-racist activism but this must not be a temporary drive.  The case shocked the world.  A Black man killed, in broad daylight, by an officer meant to uphold law and order; hands in pocket; seemingly relaxed while his colleagues looked on. This Black life worthless to them.  Effectively a public lynching in 2020s USA.  But the brutal reality of racism is that Black men are killed on a daily basis by its evil.    

Yes, people of all colours and backgrounds have marched, mobilised and spoken up about the responsibility we must personally and professionally take to see meaningful change.  Employees throughout the UK have spoken out.  Some leaders (but sadly not all) of organisations have renewed their pledges for race equality.  But to be true to these vows, all must persist for the long term and not just when Black Lives Matter reaches centre stage.  Otherwise, steps towards elimination of the institutional racism that caused the Slave Trade, Apartheid, the brutal shooting by police in South Africa 61 years ago, will just be another vicious circle back to the taking of more black lives.

Batook’s blue plaque – 2016

In Bristol, Stand Against Racism & Inequality (SARI) – – founded by race equality campaigner Batook Pandya MBE DL in 1991, still works round the clock to tackle racism.  Annually, we respond to over 700 referrals.  In June 2020, we took on the case of a racist murder in Weston Super Mare – the police did a brilliant job of bringing the offenders to justice – the main protagonist is now serving a life sentence.  In July 2020 we saw the racist hit and run of K-Dogg – a 21-year-old Namibian man – as he left work at Southmead Hospital.  He now has lifelong scars – physical and psychological. His family is traumatised. His attackers remain at large.  These are 2 out of hundreds of lives we saw scarred by the scourge of hate crime last year. 

Marvin Rees at the unveiling of Batook’s blue plaque – January 2016

I joined SARI 30 years ago because of my experiences of racism as a mixed-race child growing up in the 70s and 80s.  I was light skinned.  But my brother and father weren’t.  They got the physical brunt of racism; the negative police and authority attention.  I just got verbal when people found out I was related to them.  This story is common to many mixed-race people of my generation and sadly today’s generation too.

Bristol is a City of contradictions.  It has a dark history of wealth inextricably linked to the Slave Trade, but also stands proud of pioneering acts to ‘eliminate racial discrimination’ such as the 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott, run by Roy Hackett MBE and Paul Stephenson OBE alongside Owen Henry, Audley Evans, Prince Brown and Guy Bailey.  One of the first black-led campaigns against racial discrimination in the UK which over-turned the colour bar of the Bristol Omnibus Company and preceded our first race relations legislation in 1965.  Bristol boasts the UK’s first directly elected Black mayor, Marvin Rees, first Black female Lord Lieutenant and Black High Sheriff, Peaches Golding MBE and has a Cabinet with Deputy Mayor Asher Craig and Cllr Afzal Shah making history for Bristol’s Black and Asian communities.  The toppling of the Edward Colston statue in June 2020 pre-empted a global challenge about historic artefacts with links to the Slave Trade.  Universities, cathedrals and authorities are seriously reflecting on who stands on their pedestals to celebrate history for our future generations.

Turbo Island, Bristol – 2021

And yet Bristol is cited by the Runnymede Trust’s ‘Drifting Upwards or Sliding Back report as the 2nd worst authority in England and Wales for Ethnic inequalities for Black men and 7th worst for all Minority Ethnic residents in education, employment, health and housing.

White privilege and racism are a pandemic that, unlike Covid, has no vaccine.  Racism remains inextricably woven into the fabric of our society meaning frameworks meant to protect us, too often present a disservice to ethnic minorities.

So, the answer?  According to the UN Website, “The United Nations General Assembly reiterates that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and have the potential to contribute constructively to the development and well-being of their societies. In its most recent resolution (in December 2019), the General Assembly also emphasized that any doctrine of racial superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous and must be rejected, together with theories that attempt to determine the existence of separate human races”. 

We need to see racism as big a threat to our planet as the Climate Crisis. The fight for race equality and human rights must be compulsory if we want safety for our children and our children’s children.

To end with hope, Kamala Harris has just become the first female, Black, Asian-American Vice President and the beautiful, young Black phenomenal Amanda Gorman delivered her awe-inspiring Poem for Biden’s Inauguration, ‘The Hill We Climb’.  What better way to end my blog – given the UN’s theme of ‘Youth Standing Up Against Racism’ than with her line: “When day comes we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Walkabout with Mayor Marvin Rees, Police Commissioner, and community leaders following terror attacks – 2017

A safe city for everyone

Outside City Hall, around the base of a tree on College Green, a circle of flowers has been placed in tribute to Sarah Everard and women everywhere who face the daily threat of harassment, abuse and violence.

Messages shared in the tributes include: “Enough is enough”, “HANDS OFF WOMEN”, “WALKING HOME AT NIGHT SHOULDN’T BE A DEATH SENTENCE”, “RIP SARAH. Men, please be a good part of society. We shouldn’t be scared of walking alone.”  

None of this should need to be pointed out. Unfortunately it does. Many people are talking about a threat to women that is endemic in our culture. 

Vigils are being planned for this weekend. In Bristol, we want to be a City of Hope. Hearing the voices of women is critical to that aspiration. And we want women to know that while we would never pretend that Bristol is perfect, we are a city that is actively working to hear and elevate that voice.       

It is for our common good that we become a city in which women can thrive with streets, transport systems, homes and workplaces where women are safe – day and night. When women face harassment, abuse and violence, our support systems and justice system must be available, hear their voices and act.

I have been proud of the way our police service has operated these last 12 months. We are still in the middle of the Covid pandemic, the risk is still with us especially as the virus continues to mutate. And our local police have a duty to deter mass gatherings that go against the national guidelines. But from last summer’s BLM protests to the vigils held last week, they have shown empathy, emotional intelligence and policed without ego. That has enabled us to avoid the kind of confrontations we have seen in London. 

Can we ask that if you do intend to visit one of the vigils, you keep that also in mind, engage in Covid safe behaviours and help us ensure the focus remains on the safety of women.  

Our city leadership is committed to helping Bristol become a city in which mums and daughters, sisters and aunts, grandmothers and goddaughters can be free of fear.

Homes for the people, by the people

Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet Member for City Design and Spatial Planning.

Across the city, proposals for new homes to ease Bristol’s housing crisis are underway. Early in March, we announced our vision for the transformation of Temple Quarter and St Philip’s Marsh, which could see as many as 10,000 new homes built in the next 25 years. At the same meeting, Cabinet approved the list of sites for development by the council’s housing company, Goram Homes, over the next 10 years.

At the other end of the spectrum, much smaller scale proposals to build innovative new and affordable homes, like at Hope Rise in St George, show what is possible at smaller sites. Hope Rise is a working car park which now provides 11 one and two-bedroom homes above the car park, built using a modular panel system which is quick to construct and energy efficient. 

We know how important housing is to people. Just last week, the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) released the results of their “Future of the Region” survey. The top priority of those who responded to the survey – around 50% of whom came from the Bristol area – was for the provision of quality homes that are affordable.

It isn’t just building houses that is important – it’s how they and their supporting infrastructure, jobs and community spaces are created that is important. Recommendations from the recent Citizens’ Assembly include the need to rapidly reduce the impact of our homes on climate change and to make changes to neighbourhoods that make traveling easier, healthier, and better for the environment.

Wherever we are delivering or proposing new housing, we’re working hard to ensure that local people can have their say and that their ideas and feedback can influence what shape the much-needed new housing and other development takes. Community involvement takes different forms.

In Southmead, the community is actively involved in developing a scheme for 120 homes, 85% of which will be affordable, on Glencoyne Square. The project is led by the Southmead Development Trust and the United Communities housing association and is delivering on what local people said they needed from housing in the area.

As part of very early regeneration proposals for the area around Whitehouse Street, just south of the New Cut in the Southville ward, we’re working with Action Greater Bedminster to ensure we hear what is important to local people and businesses, and what they might like to see happen in the area. This should help us find the right balance between the homes that Bristol needs, and the thriving community and cultural spaces that make these areas liveable, as well as retaining jobs and employment spaces in the area.

As part of the work at Whitehouse Street, as well as at smaller sites in Hengrove, Lockleaze and Knowle West, we’re using new ways to engage with local people within the confines of COVID-19 restrictions. By using innovative platforms like the Participatr website, which features interactive maps where comments can be left and viewed, as well as community survey for residents to give feedback directly, we are making it easier for people to share ideas on the future of housing and regeneration in their area.

Whether it is organising roundtables with businesses in St Philip’s Marsh to hear their concerns and ideas for the future, or working closely with the city on Western Harbour, we are committed to continuing our work with communities and businesses as plans for new housing across the city come forward. In this way, I hope we can tackle the housing crisis in a way that meets the needs of local people and delivers sustainable, high-quality new homes for Bristol’s citizens.

I also hope that the passion and interest shown by people in Bristol spills out into, and is reflected by, the broader strategic planning in WECA’s Spatial Development Strategy when that first and crucial step in delivering new homes is taken.

Bristol Remembers

We Are Bristol‘s latest film, Bristol Remembers

Bristolians have had a year of real loss. Children have lost education; families have lost livelihoods; many people, particularly women, have lost a sense of home as a safe place; and, ultimately, tragically, we have lost loved ones.

Recovering as a city means processing all of our losses as individuals, families, communities, and, together, as one city. This cannot be done alone, Bristolians must continue to pull together.

A proverb that has been important to me since my childhood feels more apt than ever: “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” No-one welcomes suffering, but there is an ancient wisdom that says it can be the place we discover our resilience and all that comes with that. Bristolians have – together – persevered. 

Moving from suffering to perseverance was not, and is not, guaranteed. People need support. Without that suffering can lead to deterioration. But in Bristol we have stepped up: neighbours dropping round prescriptions; redeployed workers sorting PPE deliveries; hoteliers opening their doors to the homeless; councillors and football clubs delivering food to residents; and carers looking after those who need them most.

In this we have discovered or been reminded of a city character we can be proud of. 

We need to continue to support one another – to be kind, and gracious, as we persevere together, so that these moments shine ever brighter as we continue to build a City of Hope.

Giant ambition

At our Cabinet meeting last week, we approved the business plan and list of sites for development by the council’s housing company, Goram Homes

This is an important milestone for the company and marks the beginning of an exciting period of growth and delivery for Bristol. Working closely with the council, Goram Homes will now begin to form partnerships with private developers to deliver new homes and place of great quality that will create new communities across Bristol. 

The pipeline – set out in two phases and spanning ten years – will allow them to start talking to local residents and share their plans for the future. They can now begin their work to really understand what our local communities need and to build those needs into their proposals. 

In their Business Plan, Goram Homes outline the values and approach that will drive all of their work. Whilst their business model ensures that Goram Homes is a strong financial investment for Bristol, what sets them apart is their commitment to building homes that respect their occupants, existing communities and the environment. 

Illustration of Romney House plans

As part their journey towards achieving B Corp status, Goram Homes has set a target of seventy-five percent of their construction spend – around £250 million across all of their sites – going to local businesses. This type of investment in Bristol’s economy – post-Covid – will be crucial to our city’s recovery. 

One of their first projects will be the new energy centre at Castle Park. Water pump technology is one of the greenest sources of heat available. I am proud that Bristol will soon be home to one of the largest heat water pumps in the UK to use harbour water as an energy source. This is just one more example of how Bristol is leading the way in innovation and finding sustainable solutions to secure a cleaner, greener future for our city. 

Crucially, through Goram Homes, we are also able to deliver affordable homes in the numbers that Bristol needs. In some places, well above what is required by local planning policy. Their business plan lays out ambitious targets for more than a third of their properties to be affordable.  These homes will be built to the same space standards as their market value homes and enjoy the benefits of quality design and, wherever possible, offer new green spaces and ecological features. 

Goram Homes new pipeline of sites spans the whole of Bristol and includes the iconic A and B Bond Warehouses.  With their recent success at Bristol Property Awards recognising their sustainability credentials and innovative financing deal, they are off to a good start and I am excited to see what happens next.

You can find a map of Goram Homes’s developments here.

Protect Our Futures #YoungCarersActionDay

To mark Young Carers Action Day 2021, today’s blog comes from Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Families and Homes, and Lead Member for Children’s Services.

The Young Carers Development Trust works with young carers from Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucester, Wiltshire and Bath & North East Somerset

Young carers (aged under 14) and young adult carers (aged 14-25) help to look after family members or friends who are ill, disabled, have a mental health condition or misuse drugs or alcohol. Young Carers Action Day highlights these remarkable young people and celebrates their skills, talents and strengths.

Young carers and young adult carers gain a multitude of diverse skills through their caring roles which makes them excellent candidates for higher education, meaningful employment and much more. However, they often require support to realise their full potential and achieve their ambitions.

We recognise the increased pressure that has been placed on these young people during the covid-19 pandemic. The impact of lockdown and tier restrictions, school closures, financial pressures and the threat of the virus itself on the health of the vulnerable family members/friends for which they care means that now more than ever they need our support.

That’s why this year’s theme for Young Carers Action Day is “Protect Our Futures”.

It is vital that we engage with this phenomenal group of young people in our inclusive recovery plans to ensure they don’t get left behind. For this reason, we have developed our Young Carers and Young Adult Carers Strategy 2021-25. We listened to what our young carers and young adult carers had to say – their concerns, needs and wishes for the future – and we placed these at the heart of this strategy, which is currently out for consultation.

Through this process, four main priorities for action have been identified:

  1. Early identification and recognition of all children and young people who are in caring roles. It is important that young carers get support when they need it and do not have to wait until the family is at the point of crisis. It is vital that everyone recognises who young carers are and the effect their caring responsibilities can have on their lives.
  • Timely assessments for young carers and young adult carers which understands their education, health, social and transition needs.
  • There is a range of services and activities which enable young carers and young adult carers to enjoy their childhood and move into adulthood.
  • Young carers and young adult carers have opportunities to voice their opinions on services and policies which affect them.

To read more about our proposals for supporting these priorities and to let us know what you think, you can respond to the consultation here: Young Carers and Young Adult Carers Strategy 2021 – 2025 – Bristol – Citizen Space

The consultation will close on Sunday 25th April.

Carers Support Centre are proud to share a short film produced in collaboration with 3 brilliant young people who started caring at a young age: Abby, Kai and Carina