Working together has been crucial to our city supporting one another through the pandemic. If you’ve got just sixty seconds, here’s a look at some of what we’ve delivered for Bristol, with Bristol, by working together.
This blog comes from Warren, a member of the Bristol Citizens’ Assembly which last week shared its recommendations. You can take a look at their interim report, recommendations, the speaker presentations and other information on the citizens’ assembly website.
Thanks to all the assembly members who took part in this process. Their recommendations will now be considered by Cabinet members, relevant teams within the council and by the One City Boards, with a report to be published following the local elections in May.
Our world came to a gradual halt early in 2020 with the arrival of COVID19. I think many people came to realise that we cannot collectively go on living as we have. Bristol soon became an eerily quiet place, with most of us forced to stay at home, no longer able to live in the manner we would like to. We certainly enjoyed bluer skies and newly encroaching wildlife amongst other things, but many suffered from isolation and separation from friends and family, including me. In some cases we suffered ill health and tragedy. We have had to reappraise our lives and we know that collectively we have to act differently going forward.
This was the backdrop to my volunteering to join Bristol’s Citizens Assembly and address the question ‘How do we recover from COVID19 and create a better future for all in Bristol?’. I view my city as a dynamic and progressive place and wanted to make my small contribution to its future, and I was happy to learn that I had been selected.
I have spent four weekends with 60 other Bristol Citizens looking at the issues facing us all in Bristol. We were all selected from diverse backgrounds to ensure fair representation from this multi-faceted city. It was not easy but I felt everyone was committed to this process.
Although I am not a fan of zoom meetings, this complex logistical task was smoothly handled by Involve and a team from the council. Initially we were addressed by Mayor Marvin Rees and Councillors Asher Craig and Paula O’Rourke. I was impressed by their commitment to this process and their depth of knowledge and concern for our collective future.
We face great challenges around issues such as climate change, mental health and poverty, among others. At times it was troubling to hear the evidence presented to us by the many experts who came before us, but there were also positives and it was encouraging to hear that Bristol Council is already acting in each of these areas.
On the final day of the assembly we all came together to review our recommendations. I was moved by their depth and quality and I think it would be fair to say that everyone felt this way. There are great challenges ahead but I think we can rise to them and make Bristol an even better place for everyone.
Successful cities don’t stand still. They grow and shift in response to internal and external influences, the expected and the unexpected. Our role as city leaders is to anticipate, respond and adapt to meet these challenges and grasp opportunities as they develop, while keeping our values of sustainable, inclusive economic growth.
The future role of Bristol’s city centre is crucial to our city and regional recovery from the impact of COVID-19 on jobs and businesses. We want to work with partners in the development and investment sector who understand how a reimagined city centre is vital to the future success of the city, its residents and businesses and the decisions that need to be made to achieve that.
The Debenhams site which overlooks St James Barton and The Horsefair in Broadmead is one of the most important elements in achieving our vision for a liveable, vibrant, safe and inclusive city centre where people of all ages can live, work, learn and visit — day and night.
Once a busy, popular shopping destination, the site is part of the 243 year old Debenhams chain that has closed its doors nationwide following a decline precipitated by the double blows of our changing shopping habits and the COVID-19 pandemic. Debenhams will be clearing their stock from the building in the coming months, and as the site freeholder, this gives the council a once in a lifetime opportunity to redefine how it can productively play a role in the future of Bristol’s city centre.
We are moving ahead with a City Centre Development and Delivery Plan (DDP) that will define our place-making principles for the city centre and commissioning, Arcadis, our strategic partner, to develop the DDP which will include our design and use requirements for the Debenhams site.
We want to work with a redevelopment partner who understands the potential of the Debenhams site in accordance with our place-making aspirations once the DPP is complete in Spring 2022. This can include options such as a mixed-use development featuring a range of accommodation including 40% affordable in line with our planning policy, the possible release of land around the site to extend possibilities for its future development and ground lease terms to secure a future income stream to the council. In the meantime we’ll actively look at interim uses for the site that are inclusive, support local people and organisations and reflect Bristol’s unique and diverse cultural, creative, enterprise and community sectors.
The retail crisis, the pandemic, and what it means for jobs in the retail sector is a challenge many cities face, and we want Bristol to respond in a way that puts decent jobs and a strong local economy at the front of our recovery. Rather than short term alternatives that don’t serve the future interests of the city and regional economy, we are open to a partnership with a developer who appreciates our ambitions for the Debenhams site and the role it can play in revitalising the heart of the city.
Ahead of this, the future to Bristol’s city centre is starting to take shape. Proposals are coming forward for the redevelopment of the Galleries, where we’re working with the existing developer to bring forward a range of new and alternative day and night-time uses for the site. The skyline is dominated by cranes on the striking Castle Park View site that will provide 375 new homes (including 75 affordable) in the heart of the city. Plus funds from the Community Infrastructure Levy have been ring-fenced to protect, enhance and modernise Castle Park, one the city’s most iconic and popular green spaces.
Bristol’s Shopping Quarter (including Broadmead, The Galleries, Cabot Circus, St James Arcade) remains a popular shopping and leisure destination, so please support local businesses once COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed in the coming weeks. We’re working with the City Centre and Broadmead BIDs, the Galleries, Cabot Circus, and other stakeholders to safely reopen and to develop a diverse and inclusive cultural events summer programme that will create new city centre places and destinations for people to enjoy and discover. In the coming months we’re also looking at looking at how we can increase the green environment within the city centre and interim (or meanwhile) uses for sites and buildings before they are fully developed.
The changing landscape of the city centre, its role in the life of the city and our economy may bring concern and challenge, especially for people who work in its shops and hospitality venues. We are prepared for that change, and with partners who support our vision for the area, it can have future success as an area that provides jobs and homes and places to learn, shop, enjoy and visit.
Outside City Hall, around the base of a tree on College Green, a circle of flowers has been placed in tribute to Sarah Everard and women everywhere who face the daily threat of harassment, abuse and violence.
Messages shared in the tributes include: “Enough is enough”, “HANDS OFF WOMEN”, “WALKING HOME AT NIGHT SHOULDN’T BE A DEATH SENTENCE”, “RIP SARAH. Men, please be a good part of society. We shouldn’t be scared of walking alone.”
None of this should need to be pointed out. Unfortunately it does. Many people are talking about a threat to women that is endemic in our culture.
Vigils are being planned for this weekend. In Bristol, we want to be a City of Hope. Hearing the voices of women is critical to that aspiration. And we want women to know that while we would never pretend that Bristol is perfect, we are a city that is actively working to hear and elevate that voice.
It is for our common good that we become a city in which women can thrive with streets, transport systems, homes and workplaces where women are safe – day and night. When women face harassment, abuse and violence, our support systems and justice system must be available, hear their voices and act.
I have been proud of the way our police service has operated these last 12 months. We are still in the middle of the Covid pandemic, the risk is still with us especially as the virus continues to mutate. And our local police have a duty to deter mass gatherings that go against the national guidelines. But from last summer’s BLM protests to the vigils held last week, they have shown empathy, emotional intelligence and policed without ego. That has enabled us to avoid the kind of confrontations we have seen in London.
Can we ask that if you do intend to visit one of the vigils, you keep that also in mind, engage in Covid safe behaviours and help us ensure the focus remains on the safety of women.
Our city leadership is committed to helping Bristol become a city in which mums and daughters, sisters and aunts, grandmothers and goddaughters can be free of fear.
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.
Bristolians have had a year of real loss. Children have lost education; families have lost livelihoods; many people, particularly women, have lost a sense of home as a safe place; and, ultimately, tragically, we have lost loved ones.
Recovering as a city means processing all of our losses as individuals, families, communities, and, together, as one city. This cannot be done alone, Bristolians must continue to pull together.
A proverb that has been important to me since my childhood feels more apt than ever: “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” No-one welcomes suffering, but there is an ancient wisdom that says it can be the place we discover our resilience and all that comes with that. Bristolians have – together – persevered.
Moving from suffering to perseverance was not, and is not, guaranteed. People need support. Without that suffering can lead to deterioration. But in Bristol we have stepped up: neighbours dropping round prescriptions; redeployed workers sorting PPE deliveries; hoteliers opening their doors to the homeless; councillors and football clubs delivering food to residents; and carers looking after those who need them most.
In this we have discovered or been reminded of a city character we can be proud of.
We need to continue to support one another – to be kind, and gracious, as we persevere together, so that these moments shine ever brighter as we continue to build a City of Hope.
At our Cabinet meeting last week, we approved the business plan and list of sites for development by the council’s housing company, Goram Homes.
This is an important milestone for the company and marks the beginning of an exciting period of growth and delivery for Bristol. Working closely with the council, Goram Homes will now begin to form partnerships with private developers to deliver new homes and place of great quality that will create new communities across Bristol.
The pipeline – set out in two phases and spanning ten years – will allow them to start talking to local residents and share their plans for the future. They can now begin their work to really understand what our local communities need and to build those needs into their proposals.
In their Business Plan, Goram Homes outline the values and approach that will drive all of their work. Whilst their business model ensures that Goram Homes is a strong financial investment for Bristol, what sets them apart is their commitment to building homes that respect their occupants, existing communities and the environment.
As part their journey towards achieving B Corp status, Goram Homes has set a target of seventy-five percent of their construction spend – around £250 million across all of their sites – going to local businesses. This type of investment in Bristol’s economy – post-Covid – will be crucial to our city’s recovery.
One of their first projects will be the new energy centre at Castle Park. Water pump technology is one of the greenest sources of heat available. I am proud that Bristol will soon be home to one of the largest heat water pumps in the UK to use harbour water as an energy source. This is just one more example of how Bristol is leading the way in innovation and finding sustainable solutions to secure a cleaner, greener future for our city.
Crucially, through Goram Homes, we are also able to deliver affordable homes in the numbers that Bristol needs. In some places, well above what is required by local planning policy. Their business plan lays out ambitious targets for more than a third of their properties to be affordable. These homes will be built to the same space standards as their market value homes and enjoy the benefits of quality design and, wherever possible, offer new green spaces and ecological features.
Goram Homes new pipeline of sites spans the whole of Bristol and includes the iconic A and B Bond Warehouses. With their recent success at Bristol Property Awards recognising their sustainability credentials and innovative financing deal, they are off to a good start and I am excited to see what happens next.
You can find a map of Goram Homes’s developments here.
To mark Young Carers Action Day 2021, today’s blog comes from Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Families and Homes, and Lead Member for Children’s Services.
Young carers (aged under 14) and young adult carers (aged 14-25) help to look after family members or friends who are ill, disabled, have a mental health condition or misuse drugs or alcohol. Young Carers Action Day highlights these remarkable young people and celebrates their skills, talents and strengths.
Young carers and young adult carers gain a multitude of diverse skills through their caring roles which makes them excellent candidates for higher education, meaningful employment and much more. However, they often require support to realise their full potential and achieve their ambitions.
We recognise the increased pressure that has been placed on these young people during the covid-19 pandemic. The impact of lockdown and tier restrictions, school closures, financial pressures and the threat of the virus itself on the health of the vulnerable family members/friends for which they care means that now more than ever they need our support.
That’s why this year’s theme for Young Carers Action Day is “Protect Our Futures”.
It is vital that we engage with this phenomenal group of young people in our inclusive recovery plans to ensure they don’t get left behind. For this reason, we have developed our Young Carers and Young Adult Carers Strategy 2021-25. We listened to what our young carers and young adult carers had to say – their concerns, needs and wishes for the future – and we placed these at the heart of this strategy, which is currently out for consultation.
Through this process, four main priorities for action have been identified:
- Early identification and recognition of all children and young people who are in caring roles. It is important that young carers get support when they need it and do not have to wait until the family is at the point of crisis. It is vital that everyone recognises who young carers are and the effect their caring responsibilities can have on their lives.
- Timely assessments for young carers and young adult carers which understands their education, health, social and transition needs.
- There is a range of services and activities which enable young carers and young adult carers to enjoy their childhood and move into adulthood.
- Young carers and young adult carers have opportunities to voice their opinions on services and policies which affect them.
To read more about our proposals for supporting these priorities and to let us know what you think, you can respond to the consultation here: Young Carers and Young Adult Carers Strategy 2021 – 2025 – Bristol – Citizen Space
The consultation will close on Sunday 25th April.
We are facing up to the difficult decisions on Bristol physical infrastructure which have been overlooked and ignored for too long. So much of our infrastructure is coming to the end of its lifecycle. Our roads, harbour walls, overpasses, heritage assets and utilities are being used more than ever, and that wear and tear adds up. It slows our transport network; it risks flooding of homes and businesses and can give people a feeling that the place around them doesn’t matter.
We have set out to fund and arrest these large scale challenges, such as the expansion of Temple Meads, work on the New Cut, plans for the reinstatement of Kingsweston Iron Bridge to be submitted to planning and repairing Redcliffe Bascule Bridge. The recent £2.6 million from the government’s Pothole Action Fund will further boost our ability to develop the transport network, and carry out preventative work and repairs across our 1,000km of carriageway and nearly 2,000km of footways.
But we should remember that every day we have a committed team working in all weather, across the city, to keep Bristol functioning. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, our Highways team have continued to work to ease congestion to make our highways safe for all road users, while ensuring public safety. Many other companies and agencies also work to keep transport, utilities and services operating.
Last year 2,746 pothole repairs were completed in Bristol. A quarter were completed in 10 days or under. The vast majority being concluded within the government’s target 28-day period.
These figures represent defects that do not present and immediate danger with the higher category potholes being repaired on the same day as they are identified. An example would be how today we’ve had to move quick and shut St Philips Causeway (southbound carriageway only) to repair a dangerous pothole.
We are determined to minimise the impact that works have on our transport network. At 10 days, Bristol’s turnaround on repairs is much shorter than the government’s 28 day deadline that is followed in other areas of the country and we are leading the way in the region, with our Highway Maintenance team achieving above national average across several areas including speed, performance and quality of maintenance, as we continue our work to address the failures caused by historic lack of investment in the city’s infrastructure.
Our Active Roadworks policy and zero tolerance approach can be shown in how we enforce on overrunning works undertaken by utilities companies. Overrunning Utility works fees are applied for works that overrun without authorisation. Of course, some works will overrun for legitimate reasons such as engineering difficulties which are then authorised. But if there is no viable reason, charges are applied, and because we want to make sure that companies understand our determination to keep Bristol moving we always apply the maximum charge possible for overruns.
While other authorities negotiate on charges we have a robust, structured format and we apply strict deadlines. The fees vary in value depending on the road category and range from £250 up to £10,000 per day, and between April 2019 and January 2021, we issued 486 overrun charges totalling £1.4m. In the same period, we issued 3,100 defect notices, where poor reinstatement of the highway has to be rectified at their expense after we’ve inspected roadworks.
Of course, prevention is better than cure and we’ve worked with utilities companies and their contractors to set out expectations so that Bristol can keep moving. We have quarterly performance meetings with all main Utilities and their contractors. Performance is addressed as part of these meetings and sanctions placed if required.
The same can be said for our infrastructure challenges, and while we wish decisions have been taken years ago on harbour infrastructure, cultural spaces and road and cycle network, we’re getting on top of the decades of underinvestment in the fabric of our city. We’ve committed to the restoration of the iconic Bristol Beacon, and have announced plans to work with the Prince’s Foundation to repair the Ashton Court estate. At Cabinet we approved additional funding towards the completion of works to repair, restore, and assess structures and other assets around the River Avon and Floating Harbour Future-proofing Bristol’s watersides.
anyone who spots a pothole to report it online at https://www.bristol.gov.uk/streets-travel/damaged-road-footpath or by calling 0117 922 2100
Today’s guest blog comes from Deputy Mayor Councillor Asher Craig (Public Health and Communities) and Councillor Helen Godwin (Cabinet Member for Women, Families, and Homes) who co-chaired the Mayoral Commission on Domestic Abuse. You can read the commission’s published report here.
In March 2020, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was being felt across the world, the UK was plunged into lockdown, and for the first time in living memory people were ordered to ‘stay at home.’
While this was an essential message for the nation’s public health, it was also terrifying for the many people for whom home is not a safe place. Lockdown was therefore a dangerous development for many Bristolians.
Here in Bristol we have a proud record of working in partnership, and our approach to supporting survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence – before, during, and beyond the pandemic – is no different.
In Summer 2020, with Marvin’s support , we launched the Mayoral Commission on Domestic Abuse. Through a series of virtual workshops, we engaged more than 80 people from 28 local and national organisations to help form principles and recommendations that will underpin how Bristol responds to domestic abuse and sexual violence. We extend our thanks to all our commissioners who contributed their energy, expertise, and compassion.
We are pleased to share the commission’s report with the city. The report includes 35 recommendations to help us become a safer, kinder place, where victims and survivors of abuse and violence feel supported, safe, and empowered to move forward and build new lives.
We need the whole city to take action on the report’s recommendations, building on the superb work of Bristol’s support services. We do this in order to make these seven principles a reality for our city, and for all survivors of domestic and sexual violence and abuse in Bristol. Our report is dedicated to you – we see you, we hear you, you are not alone.
- We will start with you and what’s right for you.
- There are a range of support services available and ways in which we can build safety with you. There will always be a person available to talk to you and help.
- If you have children, we will work with you to support you, to help you care for your children and keep them safe.
- It’s your home and we want you to be able to stay in your home, which means if you want the person who is hurting, scaring or controlling you to be told to leave and not return, we will take action so that you can be safe.
- If staying in your home isn’t be right for you, or you need a safe home to go to, we will do everything we can to help you to make that happen. Your physical and psychological safety are important to us.
- In every corner of our city, we will work to eliminate sexual violence and abuse, and we will support survivors to feel safe, to recover, and to thrive.
- Domestic abuse and sexual violence are everybody’s business – we all have a role to play in making sure Bristol is a zero-tolerance city where domestic abuse and sexual violence are not tolerated, and victims and survivors are supported.
If you are currently experiencing domestic abuse, help is available. You can contact the National Domestic Abuse helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 0808 2000 247. You can also find further information on local support services on our website.