The types of homes we build, where we build them and how we connect the people living in them to jobs, retail, entertainment and each other will be one of most significant determinants of what Bristol is like in the future. Our health, our community , our levels of inequality and our climate and ecological impact.
We withdrew from the Joint Spatial Plan in April, following the Planning Inspectors response to the shortcomings of the regional plan. The next step is to work collaboratively with the three unitary authorities that make up the combined authority and our neighbours North Somerset, to produce a Spatial Development Strategy (SDS).
We are currently working with our colleagues on a Memorandum of Understanding and a Statement of Common Ground to run alongside the SDS. All of this will take years to complete before we undergo the examination process again, but the revised process presents us with a great opportunity to deliver our commitment to economic inclusion, to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and make the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) explicit aims of the strategy.
The SDGs present a particularly exciting framework through which to define and approach Bristol’s economic recovery. The 17 goals set out the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Importantly, they are not single issues but work with through the interdependence of social issues (education, hunger, gender equality, decent work and economic growth and strong Civil Institutions) and environmental issues (climate change, life in the sea, life on land, and responsible production and consumption).
Explicitly committing to delivering the SDGs will help us develop a shared vision and rationale, and it will be a natural extension of what Bristol is already doing as we have aligned the Bristol One City Plan to the SDGs. Bristol was also the first city in the UK, and one of the first in the world, to undertake a Voluntary Local Review.
This strategy is important today and will only increase as we wrestle with the opportunities and challenge of Bristol growing by nearly 100,000 people over the next 25 years. We must deal not only with the challenge of today’s Bristol, but ensure the city we are building delivers equality, inclusion and has a net positive impact on climate and ecology. So a key part of our environmental challenge is to get the city region all pointing in the right direction and establishing the framework and solutions we need, programming in the output we want.
The SDGs must be embedded now in this process to acknowledge the interdependence of economic and environmental justice and to provide the framework in terms of performance and policy. Planning for homes and communities cannot happen in a bubble and strategic transport infrastructure is key to diversifying transport options and reducing car dependency.
They also enable us to be part of a global conversation with other cities, their networks and global leadership. Cities need to be able to shape what goes on inside their boundaries and to shape the national and global policies that influence city life. And for the sake of the planet, we need global governance to move into its next iteration.
National governments have failed to understand or work out how to deliver on these key aims. But where they are lacking, cities across the US, Africa, Asia, South America and Europe have been stepping up and they have been talking about their own recovery in these terms. Recently Amsterdam made the headlines through their public commitment to Doughnut Economics and the SDGs.
Up until now, we have built Bristol with little knowledge or regard to the planetary emergency that was coming on us. This has resulted in city that makes living a low impact life something that requires consciousness, commitment and often spare disposable income. We need to change that and the strategic city region plan offers an opportunity to build in social justice and sustainability into the systems that shape and determine the intended and unintended consequences of our everyday lives.
The West Of England Combined Authority’s Planning and Housing Board will consider the Strategic Planning funding and governance programme on Monday ahead of being considered by the Joint Committee in June.
Today we know what we didn’t know 30 or even 10 years ago. The time to act is now. There is no going back.
NOTE: The SDGs are detailed here.