Building a better Bristol for everyone

People gather at College Green's flag poles to raise the GRT flag on 1 June. The GRT flag is a red wheel on a background split between blue (top) and green (bottom).
The GRT flag being raised outside of Bristol City Hall on 1 June 2022.

Bristol built 2,563 new homes last year – exceeding our ambitious targets. The housing crisis affects everyone, and we’re determined to keep building a city where everyone has a safe place to call home.

Our population grew by 10% in the last decade, so we need to build more homes in every community, including our Gypsy Roma Traveller community. So, cabinet recently invested in a new site with six to eight permanent pitches. This will add to existing sites in Ashton Vale and Lawrence Weston/Avonmouth, which opened in the early 2000s, and one in Bedminster which has been operating since the late 19th century. These are, it’s worth clarifying, different to the meanwhile sites for vehicle dwellers set up relatively recently.

Feedback from the housing provider who manages another of our permanent sites, is that the proposed site is “perfect” for the job. But our wider, longer-term approach will go beyond utilising one vacant site in Hengrove. We will be looking at applying to a new £10 million Traveller Site Fund announced by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities and looking at other potential sites around our city.

This proposal fits with our wider commitment to reflect the contribution of the traveller community to our city, and reaffirm their rights. Its initial reception has, though, sadly shown that some people still see racism directed towards our GRT community as the ‘last acceptable form’. It’s not, and it’s right to challenge such attitudes whenever we encounter them. After all, such discrimination has fed into 91% of gypsies and travellers having experienced discrimination in the UK.

We are committed to supporting a community disproportionately affected by ill health, infant mortality, imprisonment, child poverty, domestic abuse, illiteracy, mental health issues, and suicide. And, as well as reducing isolation, we are also determined to tell more about their contribution to our city, both historically and in the present day.

Bristol has been home to the Gypsy and Roma Traveller community for more than six centuries. Irish travellers were among the workers that helped build Broadmead, many of our city’s high rises, and industrial areas. Last summer we raised the GRT flag outside City Hall for GRT History Month and plan to do the same again this June. Ian Bowen, the Council’s GRT Service Coordinator, wrote a brilliant blog to mark the occasion last year.

As we have noted more widely, such stories too often go forgotten or, worse, go deliberately untold. That’s at the heart of why we set up the History Commission. Not to talk about one statue, but to help highlight the fullness of an entire city’s story: across race, class, and gender; remembering workers, Chartists, and suffragettes; and teaching current and future generations about how war, poverty, and slavery are dyed into the fabric of Bristol. All of these people’s lives are part of why our city is how it is today.

We Are Bristol – and that includes our Gypsy and Roma Traveller community.