Today’s blog comes from Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East.
In Parliament this week I secured a debate in Westminster Hall on Capital Infrastructure Projects in Bristol. In the spirit of ‘One City’ co-operation, I shared my allotted speaking time with my Labour colleagues, Karin Smyth (Bristol South) and Darren Jones (Bristol North West), and Conservative neighbour, Chris Skidmore (Kingswood).
We spoke about Bristol’s economic and cultural success, but also recognised the challenges. There is still too much inequality in the city, and too little social mobility. Not everyone benefits from the opportunities on offer, and that needs to change. House prices are soaring upwards, and without better public transport our city could grind to a halt. To compound this, 2020 has thrown up its own challenges: Covid-19, a looming economic recession and the possibility of reaching the end of the Brexit transition period without a deal.
I have every confidence that Bristol can still prosper. The One City approach is paying off and all around the city we can see signs of renewal. But we can’t do it alone. If we are to realise our ambitions to regenerate neglected parts of our city, to build more affordable housing, and to significantly improve our transport infrastructure, we need help from the Government.
The Government says it is keen to invest in “shovel ready” projects, as a way of trying to prevent the UK plunging into a post-Covid recession. I highlighted the fact that work in Temple Quarter – which would mean 22,000 new jobs, at least 10,000 new homes and an economic boost to the city of £1.6 billion per annum – could start in January 2021. Without Government backing it would be delayed for another 3 to 5 years. I also spoke about the University of Bristol’s new Enterprise Campus, the need for flood resilience infrastructure and Temple Meads (the last major upgrade was in 1936 – and it shows!) Other MPs talked about the 1400 new homes planned for Hengrove Park; a mass transit system, the reopening of the Portishead line and rail electrification; and the need to revitalise our high streets. We stressed to the Minister the need for better joint working: you can’t plan for new housing without also considering transport and pressures on local services like schools and GPs.
In his response the Minister said he was heartened by what he had heard about the collaborative work being done across the community and across the city. He said he’d be happy to pay another visit to Bristol to see the work of the One City partnership. He didn’t go so far as to confirm that we will be getting the investment we have asked for – I wouldn’t have expected that! – but I think we managed to impress upon him that Bristol is a city that can deliver, and a city that is worth the investment