At our fortnightly press conference today we had a lot of news to share:
- A bridge repair programme will start this spring
- Millions of pounds are being committed to our mass transit work
- The Portway Park-and-Ride train station construction has begun
- We’re securing 50% affordable homes within the 1,400 homes we’ll deliver at Hengrove Park
- We’re prioritising ecological sites on Western Slopes while developing the
brownfield portion of the site
- Residents are getting an opportunity to shape our plans for a pilot Liveable
Neighbourhood in East Bristol
Unfortunately, this momentum is yet to be matched by national government.
I awaited the Levelling up White Paper keenly. Over the weekend the government heralded ‘Kings Cross-style’ regeneration projects, and we have one the largest brownfield sites in the country.
Temple Quarter sits right at the heart of our city, and is, in the lingo, shovel-ready for redevelopment. Temple Quarter consists of Temple Meads, our iconic train station, that is a gateway for rail transport for the whole region, and is surrounded by land that will bring thousands of essential homes and jobs to our community. We have been promised the funding for this project repeatedly. This would have been the perfect opportunity to announce it and kickstart the biggest transport and regeneration project outside London in a generation.
I was hoping the White Paper would put forward concrete plans from the government to work with us to regenerate areas of our city, invest in green infrastructure and jobs of the future it will bring, modernise our transport system, and redress the social, health and economic inequalities that have been entrenched in Bristol over generations.
There are some things to welcome, such as the government’s acknowledgement of the economic strength of the Western Gateway. The White Paper recognises he collective power of Bristol and Cardiff and the surrounding regions, in particular the clusters in digital, aerospace and our universities, but overall there is little in it that we did not already know.
We warmly welcome the £540 million of funding to improve our local transport network, which was first announced last year. We also already knew that the government planned to move more civil service jobs from London to Bristol, but again celebrate new jobs for our city.
But what we still don’t know is when the government will bring forward the investment we have been calling for, for projects like Temple Quarter. Without these concrete commitments, and the funding and powers that we need to deliver them, levelling up will remain a work in progress for our city.
Also, there is no plan to reverse the decade of damage caused by government cuts to local communities. Government funding to councils has fallen by over 50% in real terms since 2010.
As a leader of a city, I know that just as much as physical areas, some people and communities are excluded from the economic opportunities needed to level up. If women, disabled people, or those living in poverty are not proactively included in the government’s approach then they will continue to be left behind. Bristol has 41 areas in the most deprived 10% in England, including 3 in the most deprived 1%. Levelling up is meaningless if all people do not directly feel the difference in their lives.
We continue to show our commitment to getting stuff done in all corners and with all communities in Bristol. I look forward to the government one day equalling our ambition.