Author Archives: marvinjrees

Supporting Bristol businesses

Cllr Craig Cheney is pictured, smiling, in a dark suit against a white background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor for City Economy, Finance, and Performance and Labour Councillor for Hillfields ward.

In July 2021, Bristol secured £4.725 million of funding to help our city centre and high streets across the city recover from the devastating impacts of Covid-19 where businesses were left reliant on national grant programmes, having been forced to close due to national lockdowns.

Supporting our high streets and city centre remains essential if we are to see them continue to recover and bounce back from recent challenges, not least the impact of the national cost-of-living crisis, which has increased prices and seen many of us cut back on discretionary spending. Our high streets and the businesses play an important role across our city, often forming the heart of the community with businesses passed down through the generations, providing services, jobs and support.

Plans were shaped by residents, businesses and community groups who live and work in the city centre and across nine priority high streets. Following engagement between September 2021 and March 2022 we have been delivering against these plans.

City Centre and High Streets Recovery and Renewal programme

Through the overarching City Centre and High Streets Recovery and Renewal programme we developed a programme of support for both new and existing high street businesses while also funding improvements in a bid to boost footfall.

Our programme of street scene and greening is underway. Concept designs are being drawn up to show our proposals for public realm and greening on the priority high streets. The focus is on improving the look and feel of our high streets by adding planters, planting trees, improving litter facilities to reduce rubbish, and encouraging people to stay with new seating for shoppers or passers-by.

To maximise what we are able to achieve, we are working with our partners across the city to make sure our proposals integrate with other programmes of support and regeneration.

Culture and events

Enhancing Bristol’s reputation for creativity and arts, we have supported the culture and events sector through the City Centre and High Streets Economic Recovery Culture and Events Programme, encouraging locals and visitors alike to use and visit these places to bring benefit to the areas and businesses there.

It’s wonderful to see the buzz and excitement return throughout Bristol since the pandemic. The variety of events and activities have encouraged Bristolians and visitors from beyond our city’s boundary to come to and experience what we have to offer. We recognise this in particular today, 27 September, which marks World Tourism Day.

We have now delivered 45 projects with 116 free events days. Whether it has been a local market, the Grand Iftar on College Green, the Church Road Lantern Parade, or Bristol’s Summer Film Takeover our unifying aim has been to celebrate the businesses, communities and cultures of Bristol’s diverse, inclusive, multicultural, multifaith city.

Importantly, all of the events and activities in the programme have been free and open to all to enjoy giving people the opportunity to explore what our city has to offer.

Analysis of 21 completed projects shows over 130,000 people have attended an event to date, generating £2.08 million of additional spend in Bristol’s businesses, and we have supported 380 paid jobs in culture and events, all from an investment so far of £498,000.

By increasing the number of people visiting and using these places we have seen the areas and businesses benefit from an increase in footfall and spend in local businesses. As a result, the number of visitors to our city centre in the last 52 weeks is up by 8.3% on the previous year.

Where’s It To?

To celebrate the uniqueness of each Bristol high street and remind people of the breadth and diversity of the independent businesses on them, we launched the Where’s It To? Bristol campaign.

Using local personalities to share their passion and knowledge of each high street, the campaign highlights the diversity of its traders and the areas of the city, to help encourage people to shop locally and to build stronger resilient independent businesses that are supported by their own communities.

The campaign website now features nearly 400 traders across 47 high streets and invites people to explore the hidden gems on their doorstep. Businesses interested in being added onto the website can email

Vacant Commercial Property Grant

Financial support through the Vacant Commercial Property Grant was recently extended to the end of March 2024.

Grants from £2,500 up to £10,000 are available to help new and expanding businesses trade from a city centre or local high street property. The amount of funding available depends on the length of lease or rental agreement, and is available for long term, temporary or meanwhile use. All organisations can apply including businesses, sole traders, charities, CICs, voluntary organisations, and arts and culture groups.

In the two years since launching, the council’s City Centre and High Streets Team has received over 450 enquiries and supported 100 new and expanding small businesses, charities and social enterprises allocating £872,000 in grants to open new shops and premises.

To date, over 100 new jobs have been created and the grant has helped to reduce the city centre vacancy rate by 2%.

Face to face support

Business Development Officers have been engaging businesses on all of Bristol’s high streets to make sure they have access to the latest business support, services and opportunities from the council and partner organisations.

Over the last year, our officers have engaged 1,001 businesses, provided tailored support to 457 businesses and made 93 referrals to partner organisations or services.

Whether you are opening your first business, looking to expand or facing financial challenges, our officers can provide tailored advice to meet your needs, including the latest information on grants and funding, training and skills, and mental health and wellbeing.

Future funding

£1.5m of additional funding has been secured through the strategic Community Infrastructure Levy (CiL) for high streets, subject to Cabinet approval next week. The new funding will allow us to continue supporting Bristol’s city centre and high streets, with a focus on three new priority high streets: Ashley Road/Grosvenor Road in St Paul’s, Crow Lane in Henbury and Oatlands Avenue in Whitchurch.

Funding would be spent on capital infrastructure projects to support growth in these areas, including lighting, improvements to cycle routes or infrastructure, and greening as part of wider public realm improvements.

Work would start on the new priority areas in October 2023 and run until September 2025, subject to community and business engagement, detailed designs, costings and contractor availability.

Fire safety update

This guest blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard,
Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes,
and Labour Councillor for Horfield ward.

Since 2012, we’ve invested around £2.5 million each year in actions across our council housing estate aimed at improving building safety for our tenants. That investment has seen us replace fire doors, carry out works in flats to improve barriers between walls and floors to prevent the spread of fire, and work to provide better information to tenants on safety arrangements.

During the past seven years we’ve prioritised practical efforts to minimise the risk from dangers posed by fire, and other threats that buildings face. Throughout this period, we’ve followed the advice and guidance from various sources including national regulations and fire service expertise, and feedback from tenants.

Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, we’ve seen changes in this advice with the introduction of new regulations in relation to inspections and new advice from fire services on building safety. This changing picture has required us to act to keep pace and ensure that council homes remain safe and the risk from threats is minimised.

In response to this changing regulatory environment, we committed to invest around £96 million over the coming years to introduce new safety measures into our high-rise blocks, alongside the 24-hour safety patrols already put in place across the blocks that need it. This investment includes installing new sprinkler systems and temporary fire alarm systems, which will be getting underway next month. 

We are also proceeding with the removal of expanded polystyrene cladding (EPS) from blocks with it installed, following new advice given by Avon Fire and Rescue in the wake of the fire at Ecclestone House last year.

Residents of seven blocks* will receive letters this week, informing them of the imminent works about to begin in their properties to install sprinklers and fire alarms. This work will begin in October, with a second batch of blocks to follow later in 2023**.

Further planned programmes are in the diary for the spring months of 2024, and by the end of this financial year we expect to see most blocks in the city fitted with fire alarm systems, and the sprinkler programme moving into phase two. These programmes are being prioritised on a risk basis, depending on the needs of their block.

During that time, we expect to complete another set of cladding removals, with four more EPS removal projects commencing in early January 2024 to have their EPS cladding removed. This follows the recent removal of cladding from Gilton House and Rowan House, in addition to Ecclestone House and Phoenix House earlier this year.

This new investment into safety measures sits alongside that commitment to annual investment in safety measures and a regular cycle of inspections to keep sight of any additional measures we may need to fund in future. This also includes a £2 million investment being made to carry out stock condition surveys of over 20,000 council homes by end of 2025.

Those living in council housing can also expect to see further information on building safety sent to them and a chance to feedback their views, in the latter months of the year. Tenants can also expect to see council officers going from door to door, seeking out views and feedback as we step up our work to inform our investment.

Our aim is to ensure that every person living in a council housing block has access to the right information, in a way they can understand, about what to do in an emergency and what action they can take to maximise the safety of their household.

As the anniversaries of the fires at Twinnell House and Ecclestone House approach, I look back on the past twelve months and recognise the difficult journey many of our tenants have been on with us. There’s been lots of passionate discussion, all of it listened to and heard as part of shaping this next phase of our building safety programme.

*The seven blocks that will form part of the first phase of the work are:

  • Croydon House – fire alarm
  • Hayleigh House – sprinklers
  • Lansdowne Court – fire alarm
  • Middleford House – sprinklers
  • Millmead House – sprinklers
  • Rawnsley House – fire alarm
  • Twinnell House – fire alarm

**The second batch of blocks are:

  • Barlands House – fire alarm
  • Barwick House – fire alarm
  • Brookridge House – fire alarm
  • Sedgewick House – fire alarm
  • Southbow house – sprinklers
  • Whitemead House – sprinklers
  • Winterstoke House – sprinklers

Supporting low-income households: Bristol’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme

Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor of Bristol, is pictured, smiling, in a dark suit against a white background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor for City Economy, Finance,
and Performance and Labour Councillor for Hillfields ward.

Our Labour administration is proud to support people across our city, no matter where they come from or where they live.

That’s why, since the Mayor’s election in 2016 and then re-election in 2021, Marvin’s administration has delivered over £325 million of support for families across Bristol. We also recently secured £8 million through the Household Support Fund to continue to support residents.

When I was growing up, my own family was support by Council Tax Benefit. This national programme was abolished nationally in 2013, since when Bristol has remained one of the last councils in England to provide a fully funded Council Tax Reduction scheme. The scheme helps people on a low-income with their council tax. This means that currently up to 100% of a household’s council tax bill can be paid for through the scheme, with 75% of eligible low-income households currently having their bills paid in full.

Unfortunately, like most councils across the country, we face an extremely challenging financial position. This is due to a number of reasons, such as the national cost of living crisis and inflation, which means a cost of operating crisis for many organisations; and more than a decade of ongoing national austerity led by this current government. In this challenging climate, the budget agreed by Full Council in February 2023 was set on the basis that the Council Tax Reduction scheme would be reviewed for 2024/25. No other parties moved amendments suggesting alternative savings or income generation in place of this review and, indeed, no opposition parties have meaningfully voted to continue the scheme in its existing form at Budget meetings since 2016.

The Council Tax Reduction Scheme provides 23,000 working age households with up to 100% off their Council Tax bills. In 2022/23, the scheme cost £43.4 million. This represents 8.9% of the council’s total annual revenue budget, which covers day-to-day spending on council services. Of this £43.4 million, working age households collectively receive £30 million of support each year. Support for pension-age households is protected nationally.

The review agreed by Full Council looks at how to make saving of around £3 million through changes to the support available. This is after collection rates and monies collected on behalf of the Avon Fire Authority and Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset are considered.

The council has launched a consultation asking for your views on the options for how low-income households in Bristol will be supported to pay their council tax in 2024/25. Ten options have been proposed in the consultation, which provides you with the opportunity to shape the final proposals for Cabinet, and then Full Council, to consider.

It is only fair that we continue to be realistic with people about the significant financial challenges that local authorities face. Difficult decisions have to be made in the current climate. If savings are not made from the Council Tax Reduction scheme then they will need to be funded from somewhere else, and the consultation provides an option for people to suggest exactly how else to save or raise the money to make this happen.

During a national cost of living crisis, when many Bristolians remain worried about their finances, it is a matter of real concern that some people are seeking to mislead people with incorrect information on this topic.

So, I encourage everyone to review the consultation materials and share their views before 25 September.

Your feedback will provide us insight into making this incredibly important decision and help us consider the future approach to take. The consultation is open until midnight on Sunday, 25 September and can be completed on the Ask Bristol website.

Tackling the root causes of homelessness in Bristol

Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Deliver & Homes and Labour Councillor for Horfield Ward.

I’m thrilled that we will be able to continue supporting some of the most vulnerable people in Bristol after a successful bid for grant funding of £886,000. This is on top of the almost £10 million that we were awarded last year, to keep vital homelessness services running.

In 2022 the Department for Levelling Up, Homes and Communities (DLUHC) confirmed a three-year funding award of £9.88 million for Bristol City Council from the Rough Sleeping Prevention Initiative (RSI) in 2022.

This money will be used to provide access to accommodation and support, improve residents health and reduce the physical and mental health impact of living on the streets.

It will fund a programme of 24 services and initiatives working with people experiencing, or at risk, of sleeping rough in Bristol, all of whom are known to services. We aim to further reduce the number of people found sleeping rough.

Our teams have worked with service users, providers, people who work with those who are rough sleeping, and central government advisors, to develop a programme of services that includes an offer for every person at risk of homelessness in the city.

There is capacity in the council’s homelessness services to work with more than 2,100 people per year across the four main groups experiencing, or at risk, of rough sleeping in Bristol. These include people a risk of rough sleeping for the first time, people returning to rough sleeping or sleeping rough longer term, people leaving prison or hospital and people without recourse to public funds – including refugees and asylum seekers.

The RSI programme will allow the homelessness teams to develop existing services that have been successful, including rationalising services set up quickly during COVID-19.

This funding will also allow the council to employ more specialists, and add new initiatives, including specific employment support for rough sleepers and an enhanced offer to help people access private rented accommodation.

We have identified areas where there are gaps in this system and added more staff in some services to respond to an increasing demand thanks to the cost-of-living crisis, the lack of affordable housing in the city and welfare benefit levels.

Other support available for specialist clients includes the Homeless Move On Social Worker Team and High Stability Housing, both working with people with social care needs at risk of rough sleeping. The Respite Rooms service offers accommodation and support to women fleeing domestic violence and the Young Person’s Rough Sleeping Navigator provides intensive support around entering and sustaining supported housing.

The additional award of £886,000 for 2023-25 provides the opportunity for the council to bolster existing services to cope with demand as more people come onto the streets.

However, while this money is extremely welcome, these factors, which are leading to the increasing levels of people coming onto the streets, will make it difficult achieve the targets as set out in the government’s Ending Rough Sleeping strategy of ending rough sleeping by 2024.

In addition to this, Cabinet also approved the decision to apply for Single Homelessness Accommodation Programme (SHAP) funding, which offers capital grants to secure homes for specific homeless groups, along with revenue grant funding to support clients in their homes.

The council will now be putting in a bid on behalf of Addiction Recovery Agency (ARA), who want to buy 15 one-bed properties, which would be used to provide a Housing First model of support for single adults with long histories of rough sleeping or complex needs.

Housing First offers homeless people a tenancy with intensive floating support. It is a model that works particularly well for people where other interventions have not worked.

The council is in continued discussion with three registered providers with a view to them submitting bids for SHAP funding, and are also currently exploring the possibility of directly applying for SHAP capital funding to acquire a number of one bed properties to use for Housing First. This proposal is being developed with a view to applying to the November 2023 SHAP round.

Existing supported accommodation is oversubscribed, increasing the use of expensive temporary accommodation. SHAP funding offers an opportunity to increase the supply of high-quality supported accommodation which is needed to help individuals recover from the root causes of homelessness and reduce rough sleeping in Bristol.

SHAP provides flexibility in how registered providers acquire and deliver homes, which can allow for greater creative delivery of accommodation throughout the city.


  • The annual snapshot count of people rough sleeping in Bristol reduced from 68 in November 2022 to 58 in November 2023 reflecting the positive impact of the Rough Sleeping Initiative funded services.
  • The RSI5 programme of services is part of wider homelessness provision including adult and young people supported accommodation pathways and Bristol Street Outreach.
  • In Bristol rough sleeping support does not finish when a period of rough sleeping ends. All services either provide or link with ongoing support during new placements to prevent people returning to the streets.
  • The design of rough sleeping services builds on the development of RSI-funded services since the launch of the scheme in 2018 and on the success of the Everyone In scheme in Bristol during the COVID19 pandemic.


  • The Department for Levelling Up, Homes and Communities (DLUHC) have launched SHAP – a new £200 million programme offering grant funding to increase the supply of high quality, specialist supported accommodation to address gaps in the existing homelessness pathways and achieve a sustainable reduction in rough sleeping.
  • The programme aims to provide an additional 2,400 units of accommodation nationally.
  • The programme is primarily aimed at funding Registered Providers (RPs) or local authorities to deliver units. However, the programme leaves the door open for other providers to deliver accommodation where explicit agreement is given by DLUHC.

Creating more space for the memory of Bristolians’ loved ones

South Bristol Cemetery is pictured, with a bench in the foreground and trees in the background. Credit for the phot goes to Bristol Live.
South Bristol Cemetery

Cemeteries are completely unique spaces in a city’s environment, combining architecture with landscape, wildlife with people, silence with reflection. They are memorials to the dead and the past, Bristolians of years gone by, that serve an essential and present purpose to the living.

These spaces touch everyone’s life in some way and serve as a constant reminder of those that they loved. Burials, and the lasting memories they provide, are landmark events for those who are grieving a loss. Everyone deserves to be able to give their loved ones a fitting burial and to have a space, if they want it, to come to remember them.

That’s why we have taken important steps to expand the existing South Bristol Cemetery and Crematorium, onto land that has been allocated for its expansion since the 1960s. This will include 1,500 adult and 260 baby burial plots, new memorial plots, associated roads, footpaths, and more key infrastructure to support this.

Arnos Vale Cemetery is pictured.
Arnos Vale Cemetery

Bristol City Council owns eight cemeteries across the city, from South Bristol to Greenbank, Canford, and Arnos Vale. They are beautiful spaces that offer a break from the busy city and time to reflect and remember. But their capacities are limited, part of the finite 42 square miles that make up our city, which has increased by 48,000 people since 2008.

Council cemeteries, including South Bristol Cemetery, need more room. So, we are acting now to ensure residents from across the city, of all faiths and none, have the space and opportunity for burials in the city.

The proposed expansion entails enough land to cover 25 years of ongoing burials in Bristol, including vital space for a diverse range of faith burials to address community needs alongside an adjacent area for infant burials. This is a necessary decision to make and the correct one.

We are able to enact this expansion now, thanks to a long-sighted agreement between the Council and Yew Tree Farm. In May 2021, council officers met with the farm, providing a generous temporary grazing agreement on the land beyond the scope of the initial expansion set to take place over ten years, in the knowledge that some of that land would be claimed back for the necessary burial expansion.

The current proposals are to use less than ten percent of the land currently used (without tenancy) by Yew Tree Farm. The Council is presently in direct discussions with Yew Tree Farm on granting a long-term lease for the remaining 90% of grazing land. The council has continued to engage the small farm during the application process.

Similarly, officers have taken steps to submit a robust set of flood monitoring and ecological assessments, including a new wetland pond habitat, new hedgerows, and tree planting. These measures will ensure a rich bio-diversity is maintained across the site, supporting local ecology to continue to thrive.

This application is vital step in the city’s future. In years to come we can be proud that the council’s foresight to protect space for our cemeteries, ensured that we could continue to meet demand. Proudly maintaining them as special places, close to the hearts of residents for generations to come. It’s important that we take decisions that look to protect the long term future of Bristol, and I hope that the Planning Committee will do so today.

My Bristol Strive internship journey

Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured second in from the right. smiling, stood alongside Strive interns.
Today’s guest blog is from Najma Ali, 2023 Strive intern for the Mayor of Bristol’s Office

I recently had the privilege of completing an internship in the Mayor of Bristol’s Office, through the Strive Internship Programme. Strive was set up in 2021, as a partnership between Bristol City Council, Hargreaves Lansdown, and the University of the West of England. It offers paid work experience placements (75 so far) to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic university students across 25 key organisations in the West of England.

I found out about this opportunity from a friend who was also applying, she mentioned there was an opportunity to work at Bristol City Council. I was interested in working at the council because of my interest in policy making and the priorities of the Mayor’s administration.

The application process was to fill out a form. Then when your application form was approved, you were allowed to pick three places that you would preferably intern at. Once you were placed at the organisation, you completed the interview process and awaited your results.

Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured, smiling speaking at the Strive intern closing event.

During my time at the office I had the opportunity to engage in a variety of tasks and projects. Every task I undertook, deepened my understanding of local governance and its impact on Bristol’s residents. Even things that I would not have given much thought to in the past. The Mayor’s Office gave me a comprehensive view on the city and where it was going, whether that was strategic planning, Full Council meetings, or liaising with external partners and key city-wide organisations.

My work in supporting the office in liaising with a business regarding a traffic regulation order (TROs) highlighted the complexities of city politics and business operating, trying to find an effective compromise. That experience it illustrated how multidimensional one situation can be. It highlighted the importance of being an effective communicator, in order to bridge the gap of potential misunderstanding.

Moreover, one aspect that struck me during my time was the office’s unwavering commitment to inclusiveness and fostering community engagement. Witnessing the relentless efforts put into various initiatives to uplift marginalised voices and promote inclusivity has reinforced my belief in the power of local government to effect positive change.

The Mayor’s Office is a true hub of knowledge and expertise, and I was fortunate to work alongside individuals who are genuinely committed to making a difference. Their mentorship, guidance, and encouragement have been instrumental in my personal growth during this internship. I leave this experience with newfound confidence in my abilities and a deeper understanding of the immense responsibilities that come with public service.

My experience with the Strive Internship programme is one that genuinely has changed my life. I know it’s the same for all my colleagues who also undertook the experience in other organisations. I recommend that anyone that is looking for opportunities to make their next career move, take a look at this amazing programme.

I am excited to continue on this journey of civic engagement, inspired by leadership and the incredible work being done here in Bristol.

The Strive interns are pictured at the 2023 Strive Internship closing event, hosted at Bristol City Hall.

City of Bristol Rowing Club

Christina de la Mare is pictured, smiling.
Today’s guest blog is from Christina de la Mare, junior bursary officer at City of Bristol Rowing Club.

City of Bristol Rowing Club (CoBRC), situated on Bristol Harbour, is working hard to become more accessible to the Bristol community. With a strong focus on diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI), it has started a junior bursary. This makes club membership more affordable to children in the Bristol area. However, the club faces many challenges in expanding its DEI programmes. On August 18, Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, came to visit us, and we were delighted to welcome him. Not only did he learn a lot more about the club, he tried out in a single, too!                                                   

CoBRC and Diversity, Equality and Inclusion

Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured, smiling, rowing on Bristol Harbour.

CoBRC may seem like an elitist club that is off limits to most. However, this is far from the truth. Not only was it started by dockers in 1952, it is entirely volunteer run, and attracts people from age 13 upwards from different backgrounds and incomes. The club has a longstanding commitment to DEI, and has run outreach programs for several years with schools in Bristol. These have given more children the opportunity to row.

More recently, CoBRC has started a junior bursary program for children from lower-income backgrounds. It covers all the costs of rowing membership in the juniors section, as well as competitive events. Our goal is not necessarily to find a future Olympian – though that could, of course, happen! Rather, it aims to provide a solid framework that supports a child’s progress, academically, physically, and mentally. One of the scheme’s first recipients, aged 14, writes about their experience of the bursary here:

“First of all CoBRC has given me an amazing opportunity. It is a great community for everyone from different backgrounds and interests, where strangers become friends, inside and outside of the club. For me personally, I have met a lot of people and have continued the friendships outside of the club. This rowing club has given me an opportunity to be active and engaged in a sport with a lot of dedication. This helps in a lot of different ways: in school and in everyday scenarios. It improves concentration and team working skills, which help in group and single activities.

Young people are pictured rowing in Bristol Harbour, they are taking part in the City of Bristol Rowing club's Learn to Row course.
Young people are pictured putting rowing boats in the Bristol Harbour. They are attending the City of Bristol Rowing Club's Learn to Row course.

Plans for the future

The bursary and outreach programs are just the beginning of CoBRC’s plans to offer more to the Bristol community. Lying in the heart of the city, it hopes to attract more people from different backgrounds and with different needs. With plans to build a new boathouse, the club intends one day to offer adaptive rowing, making it even more accessible.


The City of Bristol Rowing club's boathouse is pictured, with a mixture of rowing boats in the foreground.

No plans come without problems, not least the ever-present challenges of fundraising for DEI, a much-needed new boathouse and equipment. We really appreciated Marvin’s interest in our ethos, hopes and plans, and the help we need to make them happen. We all felt he really understood that the club has a big heart, and has the potential to reach many more people in Bristol.

Thank you Marvin

As a club, we echo the closing words of our bursary recipient:

I would like to thank the Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, once again for supporting the club and the possibility of helping us with the obstacles that we face.

And, if you ever fancy another go in a single, you’re always welcome!

Mayor Marvin Rees (left) is pictured, smiling, alongside Caitlin (right), a City of Bristol Rowing instructor.

Exciting news for Bristol: Branwhite Close development

Councillor Tom Renhard is pictured, smiling, out side City Hall, with College Green and trees in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery & Homes and Labour Councillor for Horfield Ward.

A development of much-needed new council homes in Lockleaze took a major step forward this weekend, as we secured ownership of the former pub on Gainsborough Square that needs to be demolished in order to allow work to begin.

In 2021/22, Bristol built 2,563 new homes – exceeding the Mayor’s ambitious manifesto target – and as the city continues tackling the housing crisis, we are looking to build 47 homes on disused land at Branwhite Close in Lockleaze. These will add to the 474 affordable homes built in Bristol in 2021/22.

In order to get the development site ready, we have been working hard to acquire two buildings: the former pub on Gainsborough Square and a privately owned home on Branwhite Close.

The pub on Gainsborough Square has been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair for many years and the owner of the property was recently fined after failing to take care of the site, along with two other buildings in the city that they also own or manage. Following the second round of fines, some work was finally done to address some of the issues.

The derelict Gainsborough pub is pictured, with the perimeter boarded up to restrict access.

Several approaches were made to buy the pub at full market value. However, the owners were unwilling to sell, so to progress, the council made a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) to acquire the property. The legal process is now complete, and we became official owners of the pub on August 27. The owner of the privately owned home has now relocated too and received a full compensation package.

Our housing teams have worked really hard to get this site ready for development, as we are committed to doing everything we can to tackle the housing shortage in the city.

The 47 homes that will be built on this site are part of the council’s New Build Housing Programme, regenerating brownfield sites to provide new high-quality homes across the city. To date 260 new homes have been completed.

The new build programme aims to deliver more than 1,750 new homes for the city over the next five years as part of a planned investment of over £1.8 billion in building new council homes. We are currently on site at six locations building 195 new homes, and we are also acquiring 300 new homes from developers including Goram Homes. We have a further 280 council homes on various developments due to start on site in the next twelve months.

An artist's impression of the Branwhite Close development is pictured, with cartoon people stood in front of new homes.

All these new homes will form part of our Project 1,000 plans, our ambition to see at least a thousand much needed new affordable homes built each year from 2024. Every property we build is important to the city, and we are exploring all options to accelerate our building programme further.

But it is not just about the number of new homes we build; we are committed to developing mixed and balanced communities, working hard to make sure any new homes are suitable for the surrounding local area. Lockleaze is going through a big transformation at the moment, and we are working hard to make sure all the developments complement each other, as well as developing community spaces and facilities for local residents to use.

The development will have a non-residential unit built facing onto Gainsborough Square. The exact use has not yet been decided, and we will be engaging with local community organisations and residents on potential options. We know that local people are keen to see the space used to benefit the community, which could include café or community space.

As well as enabling the housing development, the demolition of the pub will come as a relief to local people, as it has become an eye sore, and a target for fly tipping and graffiti in recent years.

Demolition is due to start on Branwhite Close later this year, and I look forward to finally being able to break ground on this site next Spring.

Councillor Tom Renhard is pictured, smiling, standing in front of the former pub on Gainsborough Square.

Supporting fish populations in Bristol so they recover and thrive

Councillor Kye Dudd is pictured, smiling, with trees and College Green in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Kye Dudd, Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology, Waste, and Energy and Labour Councillor for Southmead ward.

The Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership has just launched the Bristol Avon Fish Recovery Strategy, which sets out four main aims to ensure healthy and diverse fish populations across the River Avon in Bristol. 

It is a comprehensive strategy that outlines key improvements needed to restore fish populations, affected by the impact of climate change and human intervention on the Avon in Bristol, ensuring they are protected and able to thrive in our waterways.  

The strategy is supported throughout the region with Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, South Gloucestershire Council, North Somerset Council, Wiltshire Council, and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), all acknowledging the need to address the impacts of climate change and the loss of biodiversity in the Bristol Avon Catchment. 

Where is the Bristol Avon Catchment? 

The Bristol Avon Catchment is a special and extensive network of rivers, streams, and lakes, with its main river flowing 75 miles from its source in Wiltshire, through Bath and Bristol, to the sea at Avonmouth on the Severn Estuary. The river has been managed over the years by dredging and straightening to accommodate the building of industries and housing. Unfortunately, this has negatively impacted on the fish population as obstructions stop them reaching spawning grounds, and poor water quality and low flow affects the health and diversity of species.  

A map of the Bristol Avon Catchment is pictured.

Which fish are found in the Bristol Avon Catchment? 

The Bristol Avon Catchment supports a wide range of fish species, with coarse fish (fish species traditionally considered undesirable as a food) dominating the lower, slow-flowing reaches, and brown trout widely found in the faster flowing upper reaches and tributaries. Sea trout are recorded in tributaries of the estuary, the waters of Bristol Harbour, and have occasionally been reported by anglers further upstream.  

Twenty-two river species such as grayling and silver bream, nine marine species such as Atlantic mackerel and common sole, and six migratory species have been recorded in the Bristol Avon Catchment.   

A pilot environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis was carried out by Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART) in 2022, working in partnership with Bristol City Council. This cutting-edge technique for biomonitoring rare and difficult-to-observe species, found Atlantic salmon, an endangered migratory species, around the Harbour and New Cut in Bristol.  

Read the summary report and our previous Mayor’s Blog celebrating and protecting the heart and ‘sole’ of Bristol rivers’ biodiversity for more on the eDNA survey results. 

What needs to be done to ensure fish recover and thrive? 

The strategy for the Bristol Avon Catchment has four main aims: 

  1. Healthy populations of fish 
  2. A diversity of coarse fish species 
  3. A diverse abundance of estuarine and marine fish species 
  4. Protection of different habitats for all the life stages of fish 
A poster pictured highlights four main aims of the Bristol Avon Catchment strategy.

It also outlines the actions we need to take to reduce the impact of climate change, improve water quality, remove barriers to fish movement, and improve the river habitat. These include: 

  • No new barriers to fish such as weirs to be built, and where possible existing ones to be removed 
  • Controlling invasive plant species both in-stream and on the riverbanks to protect our native ecology 
  • A planting programme on banks with overhanging branches and tree roots to provide refuge for fish and help regulate water temperature 
  • Leaving a buffer strip between fields and the river to stop any residual run-off/pollution from reaching the watercourse 
  • Implementing nature-based solutions such as natural dams, to slow the flow of water in the landscape 
A poster that contains an image of a lake, with trees, has figures that highlights the processes at work in a natural river, that creates different habitats for wildlife.

What is already in place to support fish recovery? 

We are investing in Bristol’s floating harbour wildlife and boating community. A new floating reed bed habitat has been installed on Bristol Harbourside (Capricorn Quay) which provides around 1,000 square metres of habitat that as an ecosystem will improve water quality, support stronger fish stocks and provide haven for birds.   

Continuing to work together 

The majority of the Bristol Avon Catchment’s rivers are of poor to moderate ecological status and the status of the Severn Estuary, into which the Bristol Avon Catchment drains, is deteriorating. We need to keep working together with our neighbouring councils, landowners, farmers and the general public to respond to the challenges of our fish population. It is through our partnerships that we can collectively improve the water environment as a priority while also protecting it for years to come. 

To find out more, read the full Bristol Avon Fish Recovery Strategy and the initial set of actions set out in the Bristol Avon Fish Recovery Five Year Action Plan.  

*The Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership would like to thank the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust for leading this work and the Partnership Fish Recovery Task Group members for providing their expertise: Environment Agency, Natural England, Bristol City Council, North Somerset Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, South Gloucestershire Council, Wild Trout Trust and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. 

Three fish are pictured in a river.

Amazing line up of free city-wide events in September

Councillor Craig Cheney is pictured, smiling, with a white wall in the background.

Since the launch of our High Streets Culture and Events Programme, 45 projects with 116 free events days have been delivered or are currently underway, helping to support businesses, the local economy, and the recovery of the culture and events sector.

Analysis of 20 already completed projects shows that we have so far attracted over 134,000 extra visitors to the city, generated over £2 million of additional spend in Bristol’s businesses and supported 320 paid jobs in culture and events, all from an investment to date of £444,000.

In the final month of the current programme, September promises to build on our successes with more fantastic free events planned, for people across the city to enjoy.

For a great family way to explore St Nick’s Market head down before 16 September for a free treasure hunt! Collect your official stamp book from the main foyer, take the quiz, and find the six hidden hot air balloons placed around the market. Once you’ve collected your stamp at each balloon location you’ll receive an official treasure hunter badge and a 10% discount at selected stores.

A stamp booklet is pictured for the St Nicks Market Treasure Hunt. A white booklet is pictured with black text at the top reading: St Nicks Treasure Hunt. Below the St Nicks Market treasure hunt logo is pictured.
Stamp Booklet from St Nicks Treasure Hunt

Bristol Photo Festival have worked with over 20 community groups and 14 artists across the city to create DREAMLINES: Picturing Bristol High Streets, a series of high street exhibitions taking place from 9 to 17 September across four of our priority high streets; Filton Avenue, Shirehampton High Street, Stapleton Road, and Two Mile Hill. Picturing Bristol aims to help animate the high streets and encourage residents to explore and celebrate the places they live, making connections to each other and adding to a sense of belonging and identity.

In addition, Bristol Photo Festival is running further activities in Shirehampton including free family friendly photography workshops, talks and walks on Saturday 9 September, culminating with a tribute to the Savoy Cinema with the screening of a classic British Film from 1961, the year the cinema closed, at the Shirehampton Methodist Church.

Continuing our celebrations of Bristol’s culture and identity through film, the final events in Bristol’s Summer Film Takeover take place in September.

On 15 and 16 September, award-winning multimedia studio Limbic Cinema will present Illusions of Movement. This sensory experience takes the audience on a 45,000-year visual journey exploring how humans use technology to bring imagination and storytelling to life, from cave drawings animated by flickering firelight, to the advent of moving pictures, cinema’s golden age, TV, digital and CGI to today’s virtual media advances.

People are pictured looking at a screen, that has been projected onto a wall. For the Wall is a Screen event in Bristol's Old City.
Wall is a Screen: Secrets of the Old City

Returning on 16 September, A Wall is a Screen: Secrets of the Old City is a guided evening walking tour around the Old City, exploring hidden architectural gems and features a curated selection of short films projected onto nearby buildings to watch along the way.

Lamplighter Arts CIC will illuminate Two Mile Hill on 23 September with a magical Enchanted Forest Glow event at St Michael the Archangel Church Hall from 5:30pm. Workshops at The Hive and Two Mile Hill Primary school will bring the community together to transform the church hall with beautiful illuminated artworks creating a magical after dark experience.

At Knowle West Fest in August The People Speak brought Talkaoke – a live interactive chat show where you decide the talking points. Join them at 6pm on Friday 29 September on Filwood Broadway to hear what the people of Filwood had to say. This will be followed at 7pm by a film screening, voted for by the public, together with some special trailers of Filwood Broadway gone by. Keep an eye on Filwood Community Centre website more information and details of how to book your free ticket.

eat:Festival returns to East Street on Saturday 30 September from 10am and 4pm. Free to attend, and fully accessible, eat:Bedminster will take over East Street and Dean Street with over 50 food and drink stalls, live music, entertainment and buskers dotted throughout the market, providing a relaxed atmosphere and fun for all the family.

Three people are pictured looking at walls that have objects creating illusions of colour and light. This is for the Illusions of Movement event in Bristol.
Illusions of Movement

Two Bristol street artists have been commissioned to paint two murals along Two Mile Hill. The commissions intend to engage with local narratives to help renew a sense of pride and identity in the community. To get local people involved in the creative process, the artists have set up a short online form to collect thoughts and ideas, to help inspire their artwork.

Working with the City Centre BID, we are commissioning a permanent artwork or cohesive design for King Street that will draw on and enhance the public realm, character and appearance of the street. Once the artist has been selected and design finalised, it will go into production ready to be installed in early 2024.

Further public art projects are underway in Brislington, Stapleton Road, and in early stages of development in Shirehampton, Stockwood, Filton Avenue and Church Road. 

The city centre and community markets continue to support traders, attract visitors and bring communities together:

A person is pictured readying food at a market stall at Broadmead Sunday Market.
Broadmead Sunday Market