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.