Author Archives: marvinjrees

In photos: ship shape and Bristol fashion

Yesterday, Bristol welcomed the company of the HMS Prince of Wales (R09) for a parade in our city centre. Around 300 Royal Navy personnel marched through Bristol, led by the Royal Marines Band, cheered by crowds.

A crowd is pictured, behind metal barriers, on College Green. Many are holding phones and cameras. Trees and part of Bristol Cathedral can be seen in the background.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured on College Green. One group of three (left) includes someone holding a flag. The second (right) are marching in a larger group. Trees and part of City Hall can be seen in the background.
The Royal Marines Band are pictured, holding their instruments, with Royal Navy personnel pictured in the background with City Hall behind.
The Royal Marines Band is pictured alongside College Green. They are holding various instruments, including drums, and buildings and trees can be seen behind them.

The Queen-Elizabeth class, fifth generation aircraft carrier has been affiliated with Bristol since 2016, an honour shared with our fellow port city of Liverpool. Since then, I have been lucky to visit the ship in Rosyth, Scotland, as part of the half-century relationship between ship and city which sees the ship’s crest displayed in the foyer of City Hall.

The crest of HMS Prince of Wales is pictured on the wall of the foyer at City Hall in Bristol.
A member of the Royal Navy is pictured, looking out at College Green. Large Union Flags can be seen, with a crowd beginning to form.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured, standing in rows, with College Green behind them.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured, standing in rows, looking out over College Green, which can be seen in the background.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured, assembled on the ramps outside City Hall (left), alongside the ornamental lake and large Union Flags (right).

In March, we awarded the HMS Prince of Wales and its company with Freedom of the City. This, the highest civic award we can bestow, gives military units the right to parade “with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed”.

The Council Chamber in City Hall, Bristol, is pictured during the Freedom of the City ceremony for HMS Prince of Wales (R09). Councillor Helen Holland, Bristol City Council’s Armed Forces Champion, is speaking, stood up, from the Labour benches on the left of the image. Other councillors can be seen seated.
A member of the Royal Marines Band is pictured, with their music sheet visible. Other members of the band can be seen, with large Union Flags and a crowd on College Green in the background.
A member of the Royal Marines Band is pictured, standing. Royal Navy personnel can be seen, with large Union Flags and a crowd on College Green, in the background.
Royal Navy personnel from the HMS Prince of Wales are pictured, assembled on College Green in Bristol. One (centre) is carrying a sword. The others are holding guns, with bayonets fixed. More Royal Navy personnel can be in the background, behind large Union Flags, on the ramps in front of City Hall.
The Royal Marines Band are pictured, marching, with a crowd, large Union Flags and City Hall behind them.

This weekend they assembled on the ramps of City Hall and on College Green, which was decked out with large Union Flags as during His Majesty King Charles III’s Proclamation last September. We then saw a rare civic occasion in that parade. It was another perfect chance to celebrate our the Armed Forces who serve our country. Many of the ship’s company are from the wider south west region so, in many ways, this was a homecoming before the aircraft carrier returns to full service later this year.

Royal Navy personnel are pictured. One (left) is holding a box, with more seen in groups in the background in front of City Hall.
Three people are pictured on a dais, with a crowd on College Green behind them. Councillor Paul Goggin is seen in the Lord Mayor's robes (centre), with Captain Richard Hewitt from the HMS Prince of Wales to his right.
Councillor Paul Goggin, Lord Mayor of Bristol, is pictured, alongside Captain Richard Hewitt from HMS Prince of Wales, speaking with Royal Navy personnel assembled on College Green. Trees, large Union Flags, and more Royal Navy personnel can be seen in the background.
Councillor Paul Goggin, Lord Mayor of Bristol, is pictured, speaking with members of the Royal Marines Band assembled on College Green. Royal Navy personnel can be seen in the background, in front of City Hall, as well as the City Sword Bearer (right).
Royal Navy personnel (centre) are pictured, marching down Deanery Road, into the distance, with people taking photos on either side.

I was proud to welcome Captain Richard Hewitt OBE as part of our city’s civic party, which was led by Councillor Paul Goggin, the Right Honourable Lord Mayor of the City and County of Bristol, and Robert Bourns DL, the Vice Lord Lieutenant. Alongside us on the daises on College Green and, on the parade route, opposite the Hippodrome to take the salute were: Councillor Helen Holland, our Armed Forces Champion and Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and the Integrated Care System; the City Sword Bearer; Royal Marines Brigadier Jock Fraser MBE ADC, Naval Regional Commander for Wales and Western England, based at HMS Flying Fox, the Royal Naval Reserve Unit on Winterstoke Road in south Bristol; and Colonel Jane Thompson TD DL PhD APFS, Deputy Lieutenant for the County and City of Bristol and the first woman to command the Bristol City and County Army Cadet Force.

Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured, smiling, infront of City Hall, with large Union Flags either side.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured, marching on their Freedom of the City parade, in groups through Bristol City Centre. Crowds can be seen on either side, along with food outlets.
The Royal Marines Band are pictured, marching through Bristol City Centre (left). A civic party are taking the salute (right), including the Lord Mayor, standing on a dais, and Captain of HMS Prince of Wales.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured, marching through Bristol City Centre (left). A civic party are taking the salute (centre), including the Lord Mayor, standing on a dais, and Captain of HMS Prince of Wales.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured, marching through Bristol City Centre (left). The first person in the group is saluting, with a crowd seen behind them.

We then joined the ship’s company at a blessing in Bristol Cathedral, followed by a reception for them and their families at City Hall.

The entrance to Bristol Cathedral is pictured, with four people stood in the doorway, flanked either side by veterans in uniform holding flags.
Veterans are pictured, with one (centre) taking photos during the HMS Prince of Wales' Freedom of the City parade.
The Lord Mayor (right) is pictured, speaking to a member of the clergy at Bristol Cathedral (left).
Councillor Helen Holland and Councillor Kye Dudd (centre) are pictured, seated, in Bristol Cathedral.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured, seated, in Bristol Cathedral, from above, with the building's columns.
Two Royal Navy personnel (centre) are pictured, speaking, smiling. More personnel are visilbe in the background.

All images: Mayor of Bristol’s office

Supporting Bristol’s children and families

Councillor Asher Craig is pictured, smiling, with trees behind her.
This blog is from Cllr Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor for Children Services, Education, and Equalities and Labour Councillor for St George West ward.

In Bristol we are ambitious for our children, families, and young people. Children’s services and education in Bristol are a complex set of services that provide a diverse offer of support across all communities. These services are united by our ambition to support all children, families and young people to thrive.

Achieving our ambitions means overcoming challenges at every level. From overcoming failing national policy in these areas, to securing the funding needed to balance increasingly challenging budgets and ensuring the right skills, knowledge and experience are in place locally to deliver – though the list of challenges is lengthy.

We believe the effort is worth it and we are fully committed to putting in the work needed to build sustainable, child focused, diverse, responsible and enterprising services.

This week at cabinet, with the Mayor and colleagues, I approved a plan that outlines the major programme of work we are delivering that is seeing us transform Children’s and Education services from top to bottom. This programme, made up of tens of smaller projects, across all services, is ensuring the needs of children, families and young people are identified and can be met whilst balancing the ever challenging financial strain on the local government system.

To achieve this we are listening to what parents, carers and young people tell us they need for themselves and for their families to thrive, and we use this valuable insight to inform the plans and strategies that will help deliver the best possible outcomes.

While focus groups, engagement sessions, and co-production are by no means an exact science, they are baked into every new plan and strategy we develop. Alongside input from our partners in health, education, and social care, this helps to ensure that that we are always considering the voices of parents, carers, and young people.

Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured having an arm wrestle with a pupil at Compass Point Primary school.
Mayor Marvin Rees arm wresting with a pupil at a recent visit to Compass Point Primary.

Two key areas of focus for us, alongside the wider programme of work, were highlighted when the new special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) Accelerated Progress Plan (APP), and the updated Children’s Services Improvement Plan 2023-25, were approved at Cabinet this week.

Parents and carers tell us that improving trust and relationships across the local area goes hand-in-hand with developing SEND services. Therefore, our APP has been informed by three focus groups with parents and carers, alongside colleagues from education, health, and care.

This plan sets out our vision for improvement in SEND provision and the values that will drive the required change, strategic oversight of improvements and the actions we will take to address the weaknesses identified by inspectors. With the recent announcement that Bristol now has a formal Parent Carer Forum, as well as our Community of Groups representing over 20 different community and parent organisations, we are already on track alongside the Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) Integrated Care Board (ICB) and our local area partners to jointly deliver this plan.

Although the Government’s much anticipated new SEND and alternative provision (AP) plan published in March did not go far enough in either funding or ambition, and with the current national SEND system needing a reset to make it work better for all children and families, with its compass set firmly towards inclusivity, right now, we will continue to drive change and make the improvements that parents and carers tell us will make a real difference.

Equally important in the development and provision of appropriate services is the voice of the young person. That’s why our overarching Bristol’s Belonging Strategy for Children and Young People 2021-24 was informed by and co-produced with the young people of Bristol. In the recent Ofsted inspection of Children’s Services (January), inspectors noted that ‘children in care have a strong voice, both as individuals and collectively’, and that ‘issues raised by children about the things that are important to them are addressed’. Three out of five key areas of the inspection found that we required improvement to be good, and in response to this we have developed a new Children’s Services Improvement Plan 2023-25. The plan reflects the strategic intent of the Belonging Strategy vision which also underpins the Council’s Corporate Strategy.

The main purpose of the Improvement Plan is to deliver Ofsted’s recommendations and the required improvements from the inspection findings, of which a key area is the voice of children and young people. To do this we will review our current co-production, engagement, and participation arrangements. This will help us to improve our strategic understanding of the experiences of children. By listening to children and young people we can adapt our service design to better meet their needs. The themes of the plan reflect a child’s journey through our services and highlight the leadership and system-wide arrangements necessary to deliver good services and outcomes for children.

Overarching and informing all of this work is the new Our Families Programme (Children and Education), a £21.4 million whole-system transformation project that was also approved by June Cabinet, with an immediate spend of up to £4.78 million to support its delivery.

The premise of the programme is that it will design effective and sustainable services with, and for, children, young people, and families through a whole system change process. By addressing the challenges across major council portfolios, including Children’s services and Education, we can achieve better outcomes and have a positive impact on our children, young people and families.

Greater stability and resilience will not be achieved by focusing on one area alone.

As I stated at the start of this blog, we are ambitious for our children, families, and young people in Bristol. This is an exciting time and opportunity to be working together, with children, families and young people, and partners, to shape the future, make further progress, and create equitable opportunities.

The One City Plan: Bristol to 2050

Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured, standing, speaking to a seated audience, at the One City Plan launch event.
Mayor Marvin Rees, speaking at the One City Plan launch event.

When we launched the first One City Plan in 2019, we did not know how it would be received but it is clear that there is an energy in our city to continue to work together to secure a better, more inclusive, and more sustainable future for Bristol.

We have been able to capture this energy over and again through ongoing collaboration from partners across our city. Yesterday, this culminated in the launch of its fourth iteration, which you can read below ahead of it being published on Bristol One City’s website. The One City Plan is not the council’s plan or my plan, but it is a combined effort from all key organisations that signals Bristol’s intent up to 2050. It is written by and for our city.

City partners and One City board members gathered to celebrate the launch of the new One City Plan and the hard work of colleagues in pulling this together at pace. It is always great to see Bristol coming together with a renewed energy to map out and deliver ambitions for our city. 

Rebecca Mear, CEO of Voscur, speaking at the One City Plan launch event.
Rebecca Mear, CEO of Voscur, speaking at the One City Plan launch event.

The plan has evolved to reflect the change facing our city. In 2020, our goals focused on the 2030 carbon neutrality targets and the climate emergency. In 2021, our focus was on covid and how we recover from the social, health, and economic impacts. This year’s refresh of our shared goals has been developed in the context of the national cost-of-living crisis.

In this version, we have included more details of how we track delivery of the goals and also how we measure them against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) using the SDG indicators. Within the plan we have set out which boards are contributing to which SDGs. We also provide clearer information on how One City operates and the definitions that are used.

The event also gave an opportunity to reflect on some of the successes of the One City approach so far. We heard from Christina Gray, Director of Public Health, who reflected on the mobilisation of support through the national cost-of-living crisis, with 105 Welcoming Spaces opened for Bristol’s residents over the winter. We also heard from Stephen Peacock, Bristol City Council’s Chief Executive, on the future of One City; Rebecca Mear, CEO of Voscur, shared perspectives from the voluntary, community, and social enterprise sector; Victoria Matthews, Business West, offered the business sector perspective; and Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes, reflected on the work of the Living Rent Commission, ahead of its report being published, as another working example of city-wide collaboration through our One City Approach.

A big thank you to all of our city partners and board members for contributing to the plan and working collaboratively to deliver this refresh. I would also like to thank Andrea, the outgoing Head of the City Office, for leading the process to refresh the plan, as well as Allan and Sarah who have also been pivotal in supporting work to deliver on shared goals as One City.

Under One Roof

Councillor Tom Renhard is pictured smiling, 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.

Under One Roof is a new monthly support session that will provide people who are rough sleeping or at risk of homelessness, expert advice on a range of subjects in one location, as we continue to work to end rough sleeping in Bristol.

The service will be launching at its first session, today. Sessions will take place on the first Wednesday of each month at The Salvation Army Citadel in Montpelier. There is no need to book as people can just turn up on the day.

These sessions bring together specialist organisations providing advice and support in relation to:

  • Education, training and employment
  • Welfare Benefits
  • Housing
  • Health issues including support with drugs and alcohol

Ella and Julian, officers from the council’s Welfare Rights and Money Advice Service (WRAMAS) will be on hand to provide advice and assistance to people who are struggling to access their correct benefit entitlement.

Ella and Julian’s posts are funded by the Rough Sleeping Initiative, and these sessions build on the work WRAMAS has been doing to help people who are rough sleeping to resolve problems with their benefits.

People who are rough sleeping, often face additional barriers to claiming benefits. Our link workers help them to claim health and disability benefits, resolve difficulties getting their identity verified, resolve problems that might be blocking benefits and assist people who have difficulties providing evidence to support their claims.

These sorts of issues can prevent people from accessing accommodation in the first place and will stops those that are in accommodation from paying rent.

By having multiple services in one place, Under One Roof provides a holistic service, where those who need support can be introduced to the full range of services they require.

The project has been developed by the Department for Work and Pensions. The sessions will be hosted by the Salvation Army who are one of the main delivery partners alongside Bristol City Council, St Mungo’s, Shelter, Bristol Drugs Project and Second Step.

A young person is pictured, wearing a blue and black jumper, holding a carboard cut out of a house, with street art in the background.

Reforming Bristol’s Residents’ Parking Zones

Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Don Alexander,
Cabinet Member for Transport and Labour
Councillor for Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston ward.

Residents’ Parking Zones (RPZs) came into effect in 2013 under the former mayor as a headline transport intervention. They were introduced amid substantial controversy, to cover central Bristol and surrounding areas. The zones are an attempt at managing our city’s limited parking space while striking a balance with connectivity.

Controversies have included that they provide benefits to those able to afford the permit(s), and to people living in central areas to the detriment of residents living in outer wards. One point frequently made against the schemes is that nobody owns the road outside their house and that RPZs effectively extend the boundaries of homes in central areas.

RPZs were primarily intended to reduce commuter parking and therefore car journeys. There is no evidence that they have contributed to reduced car use, although it is difficult to precisely measure its impact. What is clear, is evidence that they have contributed to increasing short term car journeys inside the zones. Given this evidence, I do struggle to understand why self-styled environmental campaigners and some councillors consistently advocate for the convenience of private car ownership when they insist that they want an RPZ for their areas. Worse still, they regularly ignore the housing crisis and try to block planning applications for new homes in the name of parking pressures.  

What is certain is we all need to improve our attitude to our often-crowded spaces, for pedestrians, cyclists, e-scooter users, and motorists. Our streets also need space for street trees, sustainable drainage systems, electric vehicle charge points, cycle hangars, and other features. Single issue campaigners often struggle to see the bigger picture.

Since coming into effect, the zones, the charging structures, and their operation have remained largely unchanged without any review of their operation or effectiveness. Meanwhile, over the past decade, we’ve seen major changes in how Bristol operates alongside advances in national ideas about how we could better maximise the use of limited space available in growing urban areas.

After almost a decade of the zones being in place, it’s important we take the opportunity to revaluate the role they play. Most RPZs are in areas of higher density, older housing with limited parking space. The schemes have had some success in reducing anti-social parking, and we’ve been open-minded about where councillors work with communities to build and demonstrate overwhelming support for the introduction and/or expansion of zones.

That same year, along with our neighbours and the West of England Combined Authority, we adopted the Joint Local Transport Plan (JLTP) which, among other policy areas, set out the following commitment: “Through the development of local parking strategies, we will continue to manage parking to control future traffic demand, including policies for on-street parking, off-street parking and residential parking schemes where appropriate. The design and location of new developments and at workplaces, as well as the numbers of spaces, will help to manage demand and reduce the dependency on the private car. All day parking will be controlled in a way to discourage users who could transfer to lower carbon travel choices.”

This passage from the JLTP recognises the need to move away from a one-size fits all approach to parking, traffic, and transport issues to encourage the adoption of schemes that fit the local context and need. In this spirit, the Mayor set out in his 2020 State of the City Address that: “Rather than expand the simplistic and outdated Residents’ Parking Zones, we are working with communities towards liveable streets, improving the public realm, enhancing public transport and active travel.”

This commitment to review the structures already in pace and take action to better listen to the needs of communities was clear in the manifesto which saw us re-elected. That process has seen the community design the city’s first Liveable Neighbourhoods trial in East Bristol across Barton Hill, Redfield, and parts of St George. A second scheme is in the early stages of being developed in BS3.

These new schemes are light-years ahead of the RPZs and aim to counter the growing tendency within these zones for short, local trips by car when active travel should be considered.

The next stage of the process will be brought to our next Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, 6 June, where I will present a paper that aims to bring the RPZs up to date with the change the city’s going through and align with evolving national policy.

The proposals I will set out in this meeting include:

  • Removing reductions provided to low emissions vehicles, currently free below 100g CO2 and half price between 101 and 110g CO2, to align with an existing government policy change to remove many of the reductions offered to lower emissions vehicles through Vehicle Excise Duty, since parking is about space, not emissions.
  • Doubling cost of secondary permits, from £112 to £224, and raising the cost of third permits from £224 to £560.
  • Increasing Central Parking Zone (CPZ) permit fees from £50 to £250, to reflect the premium on space in our city centre.

These proposals will be followed later this year by additional potential measures to comprehensively further review the effectiveness of the RPZs.

Exciting developments for Bristol’s historic harbour

In February I gave an update on some of the projects in and around our harbour, about how we’re making it a more accessible space for everyone and financially self-sustaining. I’m pleased to be able to share more news on some exciting projects, after reflecting on the end of the harbour swimming pilot at the start this week while also touching on the recovery from the fire at Underfall Yard.

On 23 May, the High Court refused permission to apply for a Judicial Review of our decision to bring the Harbour fees and charges into line with other comparable harbours. We’re pleased that the judge found in our favour. This now means we are able to cover the costs of maintaining this important city asset, which had been taking half a million pounds a year from council services. The revised fees and charges for boats using the harbour have now been updated for the first time in two decades.

It also means we can introduce 70 new live aboard licences for those who want to stay on boats in our city’s harbour all year round. These will be issued annually to people who pay and agree to the license terms and conditions, on a first come first served basis. Some people had already expressed an interest through our survey of harbour users, so we’ll contact them. Others can reach the harbour office at This will help give boat dwellers much more security and let them access services, while keeping control to manage the harbour for everyone with the Harbour Authority.

More good news is that the Capricorn Quay project was granted planning permission at the start of May, meaning we can move ahead with plans to install another 32 new berths for boats and other new facilities. A contractor will be sought for this work as well as planting the new reed bed which will be another fantastic boost for ecology in the harbour.

The Western Harbour project will be tabled at the combined authority committee meeting in June to secure funding for the detailed masterplanning. This is a huge opportunity to move forward with the vision to protect heritage and ecology in this important area, while modernising transport and flood infrastructure. It will look to bring forward hundreds of homes in the spaces released by removing the flyovers in a city centre, sustainable location.

Finally, I can share that the Harbour Revision Order cabinet paper was paused so that the team could have more time to engage with people and let them know about the project. We’ll be writing to leaseholders and neighbours in the coming weeks. There is a statutory consultation period built into the process. Cabinet approval would just be the start of the 18 month long project to work with the Marine Management Organisation to update the last Order, which was completed in 1998.

The Underfall Yard Sluices have been providing Bristol with a means of regulating the water levels within our harbour since 1840. They are integral to how the harbour manages itself. In April’s cabinet meeting, we were able to approve £1.75 million worth of funding to refurbish the sluices, so that they can continue to protect our city for many years to come.

We’re getting the harbour’s governance arrangements ship shape and Bristol fashion so that it is financially sustainable, accessible and contributes to our wider aims of climate resilience and biodiversity.

Construction work to begin on multi-million pound highways improvements

Councillor Donald Graham is pictured smiling, with trees and College Green in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Donald Alexander, Cabinet Member for Transport and Labour Councillor
for Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston ward.

Two construction projects are set to get underway in June that will improve journeys across Bristol Bridge and around Cotham Hill.

The first project that will have spades in the ground is at Bristol Bridge, where work will take place to install a segregated two-way cycle lane and remove the traffic signals to replace them with pedestrian crossings. The work falls under the A37/A4018 strategic corridor project to improve the reliability of the number 2 bus service and make walking and cycling easier and safer. 

We’re bringing the Bristol Bridge section of the works forward as its traffic signals are old and could fail if we don’t replace them soon. The £1.4 million project is being funded using investment secured through the West of England Combined Authority’s allocation from the Transforming Cities Fund and the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement. We’re also progressing the plans for the other phases of the number 2 bus route, including extending the Bristol Bridge cycle lane along Victoria Street, which could get started next year.

People are pictured walking and cycling in pedestrianised Cotham Hill.

The second set of construction works to get started this June is over at Cotham Hill and surrounding streets. This follows on from our popular trial of the pedestrianisation scheme, which saw Cotham Hill close between Whiteladies Gate and Hampton Lane and between Hampton Park and Abbotsford Road, in 2021.

Workers will be on site to improve the pedestrian crossings and pavements, carry out changes to junctions and some resurfacing within the pedestrianised areas, add new one-ways and loading and disabled parking bays, and install cycle stands, benches, bins and planters and trees. The new additions will not only make the streets more attractive and easier to walk and cycle down, but they will continue to support local businesses to trade outside and will hopefully boost footfall as more and more people enjoy this traffic-free zone. The £645,000 scheme is being funded by Active Travel England and via the West of England Combined Authority through the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement set aside for Liveable Neighbourhood projects in Bristol.

White flowers are pictured on the road of the Old City.

We’re aiming to have both of these schemes completed by the end of the year, which will be great for boosting sustainable transport and active travel in Bristol. These projects are just two in a series of schemes across the city we’re working on that will make getting about local streets easier and improve our neighbourhoods. 

This summer will also see the start of work on Castle Street’s junction with Tower Hill to install a segregated cycle route and widen the crossings so they’re safer for pedestrians and cyclists. We’re also gearing up to start construction work on a package of improvements throughout the Old City and Queen Charlotte Street as well as improving connections to King Street later this year. Work is set to include creating a new segregated cycle path and footpath along Queen Charlotte Street and improving access for pedestrians to Queen Square. There will also be improved pedestrian access from the Bristol Bridge junction to Baldwin Street and Castle Park and other improvements, such as dropped kerbs, improved crossings and raised tables, to make walking, wheeling and cycling more accessible and safer across the area.

With all these schemes, and more on the way, it shows we are continuing to invest in our streets to make sure people can embrace more sustainable ways to move around the city, which will not only help reduce congestion, but will help to cut pollution and meet our climate pledge. 

A concept image of Old Market gap is pictured.

What’s next for open water swimming in Bristol Harbour

It’s been remarkable to see the positive response to our Harbour swimming pilot, which came to a close over the Whitsun bank holiday weekend. These swim sessions have been immensely popular, all selling out in advance even when additional spaces were made available.

We began with 80 swimmers per session and gradually increased spaces to 150 in response to demand, and to accommodate those who missed out after the swim sessions on the 6 and 7 May were cancelled due to the impact of the fire at Underfall Yard.

I know many of you will have seen the images of the devastating fire at Underfall Yard earlier this month. Although works are expected to begin soon, with a crane due on site next week to lower the burnt overhead beams and allow for a structural survey to be carried out safely, Underfall Yard Visitor Centre and Café remain open as usual to visitors and customers. Most of the businesses based at the yard are still trading and events are being planned to take place throughout the summer.

Over the five weeks, we ran eight two-hour swim sessions with a total of 653 swimmers taking a dip in Baltic Wharf. We took an amazing 920 bookings for sessions, not including the 200 for the cancelled sessions. The water quality was tested throughout the pilot and consistently met Excellent Bathing Water Standards. We also monitored costs, popularity, and any impact on our ability to maintain a safe environment​ and will be reviewing this information along with feedback from participants and the wider public.

Two people are pictured swimming in Bristol harbour.

I’ve really enjoyed hearing people’s stories of their experiences and the vibrant, uplifting atmosphere in Baltic Wharf during the swimming sessions. It’s been a great activity to bring to the city. We’re continuing our work and discussions with our partners, Uswim and All-Aboard Water Sports, to look at the possibility of providing a designated open water swimming area in the Harbour on a regular basis.

Feedback received so far has been very positive, with swimmers commenting on how well organised the sessions were, the friendly and supportive staff on hand and how great an opportunity it was to swim in the Harbour with the picturesque views of Bristol beside you.

Initial survey responses show that the majority of swimmers:

  • were very satisfied with their Harbour swimming experience
  • strongly agreed or agreed that the pilot was good value for money
  • rated the location in the Harbour used for the swimming pilot as a very good place to swim
  • are keen to return once a week or more if we make swimming sessions a permanent feature in the Harbour

We’re keen to hear from people who swam during our pilot sessions to find out more about what they thought of their Harbour swimming experience. Your feedback will help us understand how we might adapt the swim sessions and facilities (including for changing and storing belongings) to best meet swimmers’ needs, if the decision is made to continue swimming sessions beyond our pilot. So, I’d encourage anyone who has received a link to our online survey to complete it and submit your answers.

A huge thank you goes out to everyone, especially to the volunteers, who made sure that those taking part had a safe and enjoyable Harbour swimming experience, and in doing so contributed to the success and positive response to our pilot.

Swimmers are pictured, waving, in Bristol Harbour, with safety equipment in the background.

Please do remember, and continue to share with others, that, without prior consent from the Harbour Master, it remains unsafe and against the bylaws to swim in the Harbour, Cumberland Basin, or other waterways in Bristol.

Our city’s Harbour is a working one, with boats and other watercraft of varying sizes moving up and down the surface throughout the day. Without professional safety supervision and direction, there are a number of significant dangers associated with entering Bristol’s waterways. These include cold water shock, getting hit by a boat, hazardous or discarded objects under the water and occasional very strong currents due to tides.

Please stay out of the water and continue to use one of the many pools available in the city or formal open water swimming venues outside of Bristol. If you get into trouble near the water, or notice someone who needs help in the water, call 999 and ask for the Fire and Rescue Service.

Free city-wide events in June and July

Councillor Craig Cheney, smiling, looking towards the camera.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor for Finance, Governance, Performance, and Culture.

All events through the City Centre and High Streets Culture and Events Programme are free and open to all, so everyone can visit, explore and have fun in Bristol over the summer.

St Nick’s Night Market returns for its second iteration on 2 June from 5:30pm to 10pm. You can expect an amazing line up of traders, entertainment and performers, and multicultural food and drink from local producers and suppliers.

Don’t miss your chance to see Weekends of Wonder on 3 and 4 June. Invisible Circus are renowned for their imaginative and creative performances and this line-up of street artists and performers does not disappoint!

Included in the Festival of Nature’s 20th anniversary, the Walking Forest will travel across the city centre on Saturday 17 June. Pop-up performances will take place in Broadmead, Old City, and King Street, with a chance to join in with free family activities and hands-on forestry crafts.

Join Bristol Cathedral on Sunday 18 June for Party on the Green. Bring a picnic and join communities from across Bristol for a day of live music, food and family friendly activities provided by some of Bristol’s best, including the SS Great Britain, Young Bristol and We The Curious.

A circus performer is pictured standing on a ladder in front of a crowd.

Bristol’s Summer Film Takeover celebrates unique aspects of Bristol’s culture and identity through film, and marks a number of major milestones including 50 years of hip hop’s influence on Bristol’s culture, the 75th anniversary of Windrush, and 100 years of 16mm film. The first events in June include:

  • Windrush 75: Stories Through Film, a specially curated programme of films screening on board the Vintage Mobile Cinema Bus in Broadmead from 22 to 24 June.
  • A Wall is a Screen: Secrets of the Old City on 30 June. Join a guided evening walking tour exploring hidden architectural gems in Bristol’s Old City and enjoy a selection of short films projected onto nearby buildings along the way. 

Led by performers and comedians from Bristol Improv Theatre, two squabbling tour guides will take you on the Bristol Comedy History Walk, a hilarious guided tour through Old City and Broadmead, to reveal some of Bristol’s most humorous and surprising secrets.

St Nick’s Market is hosting local musicians from the Bristol Institute of Music Management (BIMM) in its Summer of Busking series on 24 June, 29 July and 26 August, from 12pm to 3pm. Musicians will perform acoustic sessions at the market for people to enjoy as they shop and dine al fresco.

A busker is pictured playing the guitar in St Nicks market.

Running from 15 to 17 July, the Circus Playground will be on College Green at this year’s Bristol Harbour festival. Cirque Bijou will once again be bringing tricks and trapeze, children’s entertainment and pop-up performances to delight the crowds.

Ockham’s razor will be taking over Broadmead on 29 July with two showings of their new outdoor performance PUBLIC. These events mark the return of this internationally renowned company to the Bristol with a show that reimagines public space as a space for creativity.

Markets continue to take place on our priority high streets, including:

St Nicks Market is pictured, with big crowds of people walking through the market.

People from Stockwood are invited to join Brave Bold Drama on 10 June in Stockwood Square for the final session to help create the Stockwood Sounds Audio Trail, a playful new community audio trail celebrating all things Stockwood.

Events running on Stapleton Road celebrate the diversity, communities, cultures and flavours of the area. Around The World in BS5 is an immersive walking tour running every Sunday in June giving people the chance to explore the high street, sample the foods and enjoy music, dance and other performances along the way.

Welcome to Stapleton Road events take place on Saturday 24 June and Thursday 27 July. Opening out onto the street, businesses will showcase what they do with special offers, tasters and displays. There will be music, children’s activities, face painting, arts and crafts.

The Friends of Horfield Library (FoHL) are planning events on Filton Avenue including a Growers and Makers Market on 10 June and on 15 July a summer fete ‘Celebrating Filton Avenue’ which will be a family friendly day with a samba band, local performers, craft activities and facepainting.

People are pictured. walking through St Nicks night market, With food stalls either side.

St George Community Association will run their Summer Fair at St George Community Centre on 18 June from 1pm to 4pm with fun activities for children, face painting, music and have plenty of stalls to browse from local traders.

With this diverse and packed programme of events running throughout the summer we continue to help support Bristol’s businesses and the recovery of the culture and events sector and hope to build on the successes of last year’s events, where we attracted over 75,000 additional visitors to the city centre and generated almost £1.4 million of additional spend in Bristol’s businesses, all from an investment of £310,000.

The City Centre and High Streets Recovery and Renewal programme is funded by Bristol City Council and the West of England’s Combined Authority’s Love our High Streets project.

Banging the drum for Bristol: more jobs and investment

Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured (third from the right) with a panel, speaking at UKREiiF Real Estate, Investment & Infrastructure Forum.

It was great to attend the UKREiiF, the UK’s Real Estate Investment & Infrastructure Forum, in Leeds on 16 and 17 May. Now in its second year, with a third planned, REiiF is becoming an important event in the calendar for property developers and investors to come together to discuss trends, innovation, and shape the future direction of the industry.  The forum covers how the public and private sectors can work together to deal with the challenges we face, such as providing the homes we need and responding to the climate and ecological emergencies.

The public sector has an increasingly strong presence at this event. As well as UK locations setting out their stalls for investment, leaders from across the political spectrum were taking a leading part in discussions.

Bristol is recognised as a leader in climate action, committing to our One City Climate Strategy and One City Ecological Emergency Strategy. As a city we are willing to share the benefit of our experience to support efforts nationally and internationally to achieve net zero in a fair and just way. In my keynote, opening address at the Beyond Net Zero stage, I highlighted how our Bristol City Leap Partnership plans to deliver £630 million of clean energy investment by 2028, creating over 1,000 jobs and saving over 150,000 tonnes of emissions.

But more needs to be done. During my time at COP27, it was highlighted that a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investments of at least $4-6 trillion a year. My attendance was as part of the Cities Climate Investment Commission (3Ci), where we advocated for what is needed to ensure successful public-private collaboration and unlock the private finance needed for a just transition of cities to net zero. Accessing this private funding is a crucial step on our journey.

Mayor Marvin Rees (Right), is pictured next to Metro Mayor, Tracy Brabin, speaking at UKREiiF Real Estate, Investment & Infrastructure Forum.
Mayor Marvin Rees (Right), is pictured next to Metro Mayor, Tracy Brabin, speaking at UKREiiF Real Estate, Investment & Infrastructure Forum.

I also had the opportunity at REIIF to celebrate the progress we have made as a city to continue to progress towards delivering 1,000 affordable new homes every year. In 2021/22, our city built 474 new homes, as part of the 2,563 new homes delivered, the most in more than a decade. I also emphasised the role cities have to play as agents of change. 

The majority of the world’s population now lives in urban environments – so change in cities can be significant in scale and happen at pace, as long as it is just. I see a role for a national plan for key infrastructure in cities, that gives central government an agenda to follow that supports cities and gives them a long horizon to plan for, whilst giving them the freedom they need to be fully responsive to the needs of their citizens.

A seminar on the opportunity at Temple Quarter attracted much interest. The landmark project, one of Europe’s biggest regeneration schemes, will unlock 10,000 new homes and 22,000 new jobs, alongside huge investment into Bristol’s economy. I’m grateful to the team, and those working under the banner of the Western Gateway and other partners, who were flying the flag at the event for Bristol and the west, for their contributions to what I consider to have been a successful few days.