Category Archives: All

Update on Twinnell House

The fire at Twinnell House in the early hours of Sunday morning is a tragedy that has shocked and saddened myself and the wider community.

My thoughts are with the friends and family of the man who sadly passed away during the incident. My thoughts too are with other residents, who sustained injuries or had been effected by the evacuation of the building. Housing officers are continuing to support residents to ensure their physical and mental health needs are met.

As full details of the incident continue to emerge, we believe the safety procedures worked effectively, informing emergency services and allowing for an immediate and effective response.

There are stories of compassion, kindness, courage and support from those responders and the community. These stories are a positive aspect of an otherwise upsetting event.

I extend my thanks to everyone who attended to support residents, on behalf of the city. There are some I can thanks specifically .

Personnel from the emergency services including Avon & Somerset Police, Avon Fire & Rescue and South West Ambulance Service responded immediately and helped evacuate residents and ensure the fire was extinguished quickly.

St Nicholas of Tolentine Church and Margaret Ulloa opened up their doors to residents to provide important information and emergency accommodation.

Rachel James, the headteacher of St Nicholas School, opened up their facilities for parking and as a space for residents to eat. Daniel Doyle of Newman Catholic Trust helped take residents to a local hotel, who were extremely welcoming and understanding in light of the issue.

Councillor Yasin Mohammed arrived in the early hours of the morning and provided support to the emergency services and residents in the immediate aftermath.

Also, Bristol City Council staff from a range of teams provided residents with information, collected food for them and set up temporary accommodation. Their actions In the immediate aftermath have helped all residents into their homes or alternative accommodation, and they will continue to work together to make sure all residents can return to safe homes.

I want to express my gratitude to these people and organisations as well as everyone else involved in the effort. The response from the community was remarkable, as we move forward we are continuing to ensure residents feel supported and cared for and provide updates as soon as we are able.

Great Big Green Week – Blaise Plant Nursery

Councillor Ellie King standing on the City hall ramp smiling.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Ellie King,
Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities and a Labour Councillor for Hillfields ward.

Today is the start of Great Big Green Week (24 September – 2 October) and so I’d like to take the opportunity to celebrate Bristol Council’s Blaise Plant Nursery’s commitment to protect nature, support climate action, and tackle food poverty through its successful Community Plant Donation project. I’m also pleased to share some videos that show how this scheme supports community action tackling food poverty and climate change.

The plant nursery at Blaise Estate has been operating for more than 30 years. The team at the nursery work hard to reduce its impact on the environment and lower its carbon emissions as much as possible. The nursery produces all of its own electricity using solar panels, its staff use zero-emission ex-milk floats to move around the site, and they water young plants by hand from a borehole on the estate to reduce consumption. All the plants are grown in peat-free compost, biodegradable mulch mats are used wherever possible, and the plant pots and trays are recycled. Waste timber is recycled into biomass fuel and the nursery is wildlife friendly with bird feeding tables and bee hives dotted around the site.

Part of the great work the team do is the Community Plant Donation project. This spring, 10,000 vegetable and soft fruit seedlings were delivered to 50 food growing community groups in Bristol so they could help supply food banks, community cafes and schools to support people in need. As well as providing fresh, locally grown, healthy food to families and foodbanks, the plant donation project has also had a wider positive impact on communities. You can find out more about all the good work in the following short videos:

·         A group of young adults with special education needs and disabilities have been learning how to nurture a garden at Victoria Park Veg Patch.

·         People struggling with their mental health have benefited from being surrounded by nature and the feeling of wellbeing it brings through the social prescribing scheme at The Ardagh.

·         Residents in BS13 have been learning how to grow their own food, how to eat more healthily and how this can help the environment at Heart of BS13.

·         At Companion Planting in Speedwell people come together to teach their children about food and sharing food from their culture.

·         The Redcatch community garden in Knowle uses the produce they grow at their café and sell it in their shop to raise money to put back into their neighbourhood.

·         All the plants at the Blaise Plant Nursery are grown in environmentally friendly peat-free compost and are free of pesticides which is important to Edible Bristol.

Image shows a variety of plans in pots, including tomato, squash and pumpkin. A sign at the front of the image reads Friday Hillfields Community Garden.

The Community Plant Donation project started in April 2020 when the council’s plant nursery in Lawrence Weston had to close its shop because of the COVID-19 lockdown. The shop was fully stocked with fruit and vegetable seedlings at the time and so that they wouldn’t go to waste staff from the nursery and parks department delivered the plants to community growing groups who were delivering food to people who were shielding or growing food for food banks. The plant donations project had such a positive impact on communities that it received funding from the council’s Climate and Ecological Emergency Programme in 2021 and this year to continue to scale it up.

We are now facing a different kind of crisis. The rising costs of fuel, food and other essentials means there are households at even greater risk of hardship and wellbeing and so the continued success of the plant donation project is even more important.

Bristol was awarded Gold Sustainable Food City status in May 2021 by the UK’s independent, Sustainable Food Places Board. The plant donation project supports Bristol’s commitment to maintaining this status by increasing the amount of nature friendly, low carbon food growing in the city and supporting food equality by improving access to nutritious, affordable and sustainably sourced food.

Volunteer with Can Do Bristol

Ellie King smiling on the City Hall Ramp
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Ellie King,
Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities, and a Labour Councillor for Hillfields ward.

We are facing a challenging autumn and winter. The rising cost of living is affecting a huge number of people in our city, as the prices of energy, food and other essentials continue to increase. We are launching this callout to ask for volunteers to come forward to be part of Bristol’s shared response to this crisis. 

Bristol’s volunteer response during the pandemic was inspiring and demonstrated the can-do attitude of our residents. Bristolians came together to help their communities. We learned that volunteering is crucial when it comes to building the strong, community-led support that’s needed at a local and city-wide level. We would love to see the same happen again now as we face a different, but equally important challenge.

The council is taking a One City and community-led approach to the cost of living crisis. The aim is to support residents and community organisations across Bristol to take action in their neighbourhoods to make a difference where it matters most. This will continue to bring our communities together, build relationships and strengthen our neighbourhoods. 

Communities rely on volunteers and the goodwill of people to get us through situations like these. You can get involved by volunteering with a local organisation to help them respond to the needs of the community.

Everyone has something to offer, whether it’s your time, your talents, or your enthusiasm to do something positive. There are a huge range of volunteering opportunities available on the Can Do Bristol website, including providing essential advice to residents, cooking and serving food, general admin support or even helping at one of our welcoming spaces. You can find a full list of opportunities on Can Do Bristol’s website.  

Volunteering is an incredibly rewarding experience and is great for our health and wellbeing. Not only are you meeting new people, learning new skills, and gaining different experiences you are contributing to community life and building a better city for us all to live in.

Remember, you don’t have to be a registered volunteer to help in your community. Small actions like checking on neighbours can make a big difference. Consider offering them a lift to the shop, cooking them a meal, asking them if they need anything from the shop, offering a lift, or seeing if they would like some company. If you can, you could also donate to local charities or a foodbank, who are always looking for kind donations to continue supporting others.

If you are part of a community organisation in the city and need volunteers to help you reach your local residents and neighbourhood, you can post a volunteering opportunity on the Can Do Bristol website for volunteers to sign up to. 

If you need advice or guidance for yourself or someone you support, we have also launched a cost of living support hub online, providing guidance on topics such as housing, bills, benefits, employment and skills and mental health and wellbeing. Please share this webpage with others and encourage anyone who needs support to reach out.  

Together, We Are Bristol.

£4.8m funding allocated for Family Hubs and the Start for Life programme

Councillor Asher Craig
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor for Children’s Services, Education and Equalities and Labour Councillor for St George West

The early years of a child’s life are so important as this is the time when the foundations for their development are set. We also know that it is vital that they have the support they need throughout childhood and onwards through their teenage and transition years into young adulthood.

That’s why I’m thrilled that Bristol is one of 75 local authorities that has been selected by the Government for a portion of over £300 million of funding, to support the Family Hubs and Start for Life programme in the local area. This is on top of a Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) grant of £97,000 over two years, which supports services to help parents develop effective relationships and reduce conflict in the home.

The £4.8 million of funding for our Family Hub Start for Life programme will help to support the vision for children and young people set out in Bristol’s Belonging Strategy. The strategy’s aim is that everyone in Bristol will have the best start in life and to get the support, help and skills they need as they grow up to prosper in adulthood.

The funding for Bristol over the next three years will help to develop Family Hubs to make it easier for families to access information, support, and services when they need it. This is especially important in areas with the highest levels of deprivation and disproportionately poor health and educational outcomes, as we know from our efforts to protect Bristol’s children’s centres and avoid the mass closures seen elsewhere since 2010.

Through the Family Hubs and Start for Life programme, parents and carers will receive more dedicated support to better help them nurture and care for their babies and children, ensuring they have the very best start to life. Family Hubs are a great way to join up the planning and delivery of services in a local community or area and will bring together a range of services to improve the connections between providers, professionals and families. The aim is that they are a front door to universal support and early help.

A child draws inside a carboard box at Bristol City Council's play day event in Eastville park.
Bristol City Council’s play day event in Eastville park

While the Start for Life programme will focus many funded services on babies and young children and help us in furthering our ambitions to be a Child Friendly City, it will link into the wider Family Hubs programme offering services for families with older children and young people up to the age of 25.

The programme is still in the early stages of development but it’s important to know that these Hubs aren’t about creating new buildings; it’s about connecting the dots, so families have a “one-stop shop” to universal and early help ranging from infant feeding support to mental health support, parenting and family support and help in accessing specialist help, at their fingertips.

This could look like a mixture of physical and virtual spaces, as well as outreach where families can easily access professional support for the challenges they’re facing. We will also strive to build on the existing services on offer, such as midwifery, family support workers and voluntary and community sectors. We also wish to build on delivering services from some of our children’s centres with the aim of developing this approach more widely across the city as well as considering how we can develop young people-friendly hubs.

We’re really pleased to be developing the Family Hubs model, working together with a wide network of partners and organisations already doing incredible work for our children, young people and families in the city. Together we are stronger, and we can make sure that people can access the right support whenever they need it.

Securing climate investment for Bristol

We were delighted to host the 3Ci Regional Net Zero Investment Forum at City Hall earlier this month. With Global Goals Week underway, it’s an apt time to reflect on the event and our wider progress.

3Ci, Cities Commission for Climate Investment, is a partnership between Connected Places Catapult, Core Cities UK, London Councils, and other local authorities across the UK. It aims to support local authorities to secure the necessary long-term finance for achieving net zero.

Mayor Marvin Rees stands on stage, holding a microphone. Behind him, a banner reads 3Ci Cities Commission For Climate Investment
Mayor Marvin Rees

Tackling the climate crisis is a priority for Bristol and climate action is becoming more integrated within city economic recovery plans across the region. However, despite this heightened activity, the investment case for local net zero programmes and interventions is not widely developed. 

The barriers to investment are not just in the availability of finance, but more in the ability to create robust business cases and investment models. Bringing the business cases of cities and local authorities together will generate greater scale, volume, and predictability, creating a more attractive and substantial proposition for investors. Together, we have hundreds of billions of pounds of projects in need of investment, from large scale battery/solar energy to new and improved transport networks.

While we have already secured some £424 million initial private investment in Bristol’s City Leap clean energy programme, decarbonising Bristol’s economy will take around £9.5 billion so there is clearly more to do.

This regional investment forum was an early step in bringing together local government, businesses and investors to help accelerate financial flows into local net zero projects. Other similar regional events are happening in Glasgow and Birmingham this month, with a national Net Zero Summit taking place in October.

Denise Murray (centre) sits, holding a microphone. Around her, other attendees are out of focus.
Denise Murray

Our Bristol event included a discussion between Professor Greg Clark, the chair of 3Ci, and myself,  on how cities can work together to facilitate net zero finance. There were also panels with experts discussing opportunities and challenges across the region, including Denise Murray, Bristol City Council’s Director of Finance; and an overview of our approach to climate investment from Stephen Peacock, Bristol City Council’s Executive Director for Growth and Regeneration.

Local authorities and other partnerships then presented net zero projects to the attendees, including a panel of investors who gave their views on how the projects could be shaped into compelling net zero investment opportunities.

Stephen Peacock stands, speaking, at a podium. The podium sign reads: 3Ci Cities Commission for Climate Investment: Regional Net Zero Investment Forum
Stephen Peacock

Have your say on updating Bristol’s Local Plan

Cllr Nicola Beech stands, smiling, with a blurred background of trees and houses behind her.
Today’s blog is by Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, Resilience and Floods, and a Labour Councillor for St George Central ward

The overarching plan that maps out how Bristol will develop over the next 20 years will be reviewed this winter. The Bristol Local Plan is a guide for the delivery of a very wide range of development in the city. It is especially relevant as a pointer to where new homes and future jobs, as well as health and energy infrastructure, would best be located.

A regional spatial development strategy is the document which local authorities often refer to when planning and preparing for new homes and jobs in the future. However, work recently stopped on the regional West of England Spatial Development Strategy (or SDS) and is not being progressed by the Combined Authority. Because of this we have decided to revise our local plan along a similar timeline as our neighbours in South Gloucestershire and in Bath & North East Somerset beginning later this year.

We will be working together closely with our neighbours on our local plans to make sure they harmonise with each other and fit together seamlessly. Many rapidly growing cities when faced with the challenge of where to build decide to spread outwards, which can lead to the destruction of their nearby greenbelt land and fragile local ecology.

So how do we decide where to put our children’s and our grandchildren’s homes and workplaces? How can we provide for ourselves and future generations yet still build sustainably for Bristol?

Well to start with we could build affordable homes close to where there are jobs, shops and sustainable travel routes. This means that Bristol’s answer to these questions will likely mean building more densely and this will sometimes mean taller buildings. But if we are to reduce car dependence and help people to create communities near to the places citizens want to be for work, as well as to spend their leisure time and rest, then building densely is surely the only way to achieve this. We have little choice but to build sustainably upwards on available brownfield land close to the rich culture and entertainment hubs of our city centre.

Our revised Bristol Local Plan will set out new policies for a sustainable future. This means the new plan will promote the most sustainable forms of heat and power. It must not just consider the carbon emissions associated with each new development but the carbon emitted during construction and manufacture, also known as ‘embodied carbon’. We also intend to revise our plan so that it will support new health infrastructure close to new planned developments. This means considering the future health needs of our growing city at the same time as other considerations.

We intend to restart the review of the latest version of the Bristol Local Plan in November this year. We’ll need your views first during a phase of consultation and engagement. Once this is complete we expect to potentially have a refreshed local plan in place by early Autumn 2024.

The estimated timescale to get to our new local plan is as follows:

• November 2022 – further consultation on the plan’s policies and proposals

• Summer 2023 – plan published for representations

• Early 2024 – examination by planning inspector

• Autumn 2024 – new local plan adopted

Please do take the time to contribute and have your say on what is one of the most crucial issues for Bristol’s future. As one of the fastest growing cities in the UK, Bristol needs to rapidly embrace new jobs and homes in the right places to protect our fragile environment.

Supporting Bristolians with the cost of living crisis

As the national cost of living crisis continues to grow, our poorest residents are once again most impacted.

Wages and welfare payments are stagnant, while corporate profits in some sectors skyrocket. Inflation is being felt by all of us, as energy bills, fuel prices, and food costs rise. With national insurance contributions also set to rise, we know that the crisis is being experienced by many Bristolians. The price cap for energy bills is set to rise to more than £3,500 in October. Some energy industry analysts have predicted that average annual energy bills could hit £7,700 from April 2023, with the figure even higher for businesses. With 30,000 families in our city already living in fuel poverty, with even more already spending 20% or higher of their household budgets on energy.

For deprived communities, a crisis in the cost of living is not new. Families in Bristol were already over £40 million worse off at the start of the year after national government’s cuts to Universal Credit. 40,000 children in our city are growing up in poverty – a number that is set to rise. We have never accepted this reality, and won’t start now. National government urgently needs to do more to support people, particularly those who are struggling most.

In Bristol, we are continuing to try to support Bristolians wherever we can. Our new cost of living support website has all the latest information to help, as well as a handy benefits calculator, guidance about rent, and training to develop your skills if you are looking for work.

We’ve invested £1.8 million in free holiday activities and food over the summer holidays, through Your Holiday Hub, as we work to ensure that no child goes hungry in our city. We have also committed £4 million to support local community groups through our new Community Resilience Fund. And we continue to supporting over 35,000 households with up to 100% off their council tax bills through our Council Tax Reduction Scheme, worth £40 million a year. Our Local Crisis Prevention Fund is available to support people too, alongside emergency payments for items like school uniform.

For the longer term, we continue to work to make Bristol a Living Wage City, where the real Living Wage is the benchmark for all. The number of Living Wage employers in our city has increased ten-fold since we took office in 2016, and more than 5,000 workers in Bristol have had a pay rise onto at least the real Living Wage. This is also the basis of our approach to reign in high rents in our city too, as we develop a model of a “Living Rent” which is affordable and fair in our city’s large private rented sector. As we continue to bring new jobs and investment to our city, we will keep building a diverse and inclusive economy where nobody is left behind.

As we look to the colder months, we’re also developing a city-wide network of warm, “Welcoming Spaces” for people to visit so they don’t have to choose between heating and eating this winter.

Throughout the pandemic, our city has pulled together. We Are Bristol – and we need to keep supporting one another through this next crisis.

A weekend of StoryTrails in Bristol

In the foreground of the photo is Councillor Ellie King smiling, with the walls and walkway to Bristol City Hall behind her.
Today’s blog is from Cllr Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities and Labour Councillor for Hillfields

StoryTrails came to Bristol this month, giving Bristolians the chance to explore untold histories of the city in a unique way. The event brought history to life in our streets and at Central Library through a range of creative augmented and virtual reality (VR) experiences. 

It was a great weekend and lovely to see the Central Library so busy, triple the number of visitors joined us compared to a typical weekend, with loads of new faces joining the library and taking out books for the first time. 

StoryTrails taught participants about unique historical stories through a variety of different experiences, these included: 

  • Using VR headsets in the Holden Foyer showing a choice of films to experience, immersing people in history from punk to South Asian cuisine  
  • Viewing the film created by Bristol producer and StoryMapper Marcus Smith, made from thousands of 3D scans and film interviews, uncovering local and community histories in Bristol on 5 metre curved 360o screen in the library café 
  • Creating avatars (a 3D version of yourself) using the free Scaniverse app and LiDar technology on iPads to create augmented reality photos, which were printed out for people to take home on a postcard. 
  • Setting off on guided augmented reality walking tours around Bristol, led by actors and the Bristol TrailMaker Lucy Fulford to explore the history of the SweetMart in Easton and stories from the South Asian Ugandan community in Bristol. 
The image shows a group of participants watching one of the many films telling the story's of Bristol and Britain. The crowd are at the bottom of the image with a big curving projector in front of them.

The walking tour is still available to download for free on the StoryTrails app and includes six stops around the centre of Bristol. Scan locations in the city with the camera on your phone or device and watch video clips and audio extracts projected onto your screen. The whole tour takes about an hour 30 minutes to complete. 

I want to thank the Central Library team for making it happen and the extra members of library staff drafted in that helped with the smooth running of the event on the day. A special thanks goes to our StoryTrails library staff ambassadors – who were all brilliant and are now expert 3D scanners!  

As part of the legacy of the project, StoryTrails are gifting the library VR headsets and Google handsets to run their own AR walking tours, extra iPads and mini printers for photo postcard printing, so they will be hosting more events and running more 3D scanning sessions in branch libraries across Bristol.  

GCSE and Level Two VTQ Results Day

Congratulations to all the young people who have received their GCSE and Level Two VTQ (Vocational Technical Qualifications) results today (25 August).

Results day can be a very exciting but very stressful time, especially when the past two years haven’t been easy.

With home schooling and virtual learning playing a significant part in your education due to national lockdowns, you have had to overcome some unusual obstacles during the last few years. I hope you take the time to celebrate and recognise what you have achieved.

If you didn’t get the results you were hoping for, don’t give up! These results are just the beginning.

Marvin is sat on the right of the image with the pupil on the left of him. The pupil is holding a book that Marvin is pointing at. Behind them both is a light brown bookcase full of books.
Marvin reading with a pupil on a school visit

I ended up getting five Cs and a D in GCSEs myself, but I didn’t let that knock me back and through hard work I was able to eventually go to university. No matter the outcome of today, you can still do well in the future. There are many different options available to young people. You may wish to start a vocational course or continue to study towards A-Levels, while others may step into the working world through an apprenticeship. It may take you time to decide your path and that is also ok.

If you didn’t get the results you were hoping for or you need help or advice around exam results and next steps, you can contact the National Careers Service Exam Results Helpline on 0800 100 900. The free helpline is now open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 5pm on Saturdays. For mental health support and information, please visit www.youngminds.org.uk.

There is information available about Post 16 pathways and options on the Post 16 Participation website www.bristolesl.com/bristolpost16. Or you can contact Bristol City Council’s Post 16 Participation team on post16participation@bristol.gov.uk or 01173525750.

The Post 16 Participation team are also running an event on Wednesday 31 August from 1-3:30pm at The Station on Silver Street (BS1 2AG), where you can get advice on what to do next and join in with CV and interview skills workshops. More information here – www.bristolesl.com/bristolpost16/2022/08/step-to-future-post-exam-result-event/.

To the older people reading this, I would like to echo what I said in my A-level blog. Now that we are living with COVID-19, it doesn’t mean that we have seen the end of the impact that the pandemic has had on the education of our young people, and it is important that we continue to support them following these difficult times.

Marvin Rees, the elected Mayor of Bristol, standing on College Green, Bristol.

Mass transit: Bristol’s underground studies

The mass transit plan, including going underground, is Bristol and our wider region’s only real option for a future transport system that works. Bristol has been left behind on transport while all other big British cities have built and modernised mass transit: our city has delivered nothing in recent decades. 

Those of us old enough can remember the endless announcements for tram lines, the announcements of transport systems of the future, and political promises that offered 21st century travel options. The reality is nothing was delivered and Bristol commuters continue to crawl. 

We have made real progress since first announcing our aspirational plans, and remain unapologetic about our ambition for Bristol. There is no time to fail and no time to delay.

Today, ahead of the Strategic Outline Business Case and a West of England Combined Authority consultation on options, we’re publishing the executive summaries of two major studies into the potential of mass transit for our city and region. The next stop on our journey to mass transit follows on from us securing further funding in February for more studies to continue building the detailed case for mass transit in Bristol.

The first study, by CH2M and Steer Davies Gleave, agreed that the idea was worth pursuing. It said that an underground system moving around 3,000 passengers per hour per direction would be deliverable. For a growing city of 472,000 people, with 1 million people here during the work and school day, this is not at all a big ask. We should rise to the scale of the challenges we face, not limit ourselves with the failed thinking of previous administrations.

The second study, by Jacobs and Steer, said that an underground is a reasonable prospect, which could deliver value for money and “transformational” economic benefits for the city and region. It emphasised that an underground, unlike un-deliverable above-ground trams which councillors forewent in the early 2000s, would avoid the disruption and destruction of having to knock down one side of buildings along key yet narrow arterial routes like Church Road or Gloucester Road.

These expert studies demonstrate that delivering an underground transport system for Bristol isn’t some grand design. It’s us punching at, not above, our weight, in line with Newcastle, Liverpool, and Glasgow. We’re a core city, and a global city, not a village. We need a modern, low carbon transport system, yesterday.

159 years after London opened the world’s first underground, they’re still expanding its network through the £19 billion Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) across the capital. It’s more than time for Bristol and the West to get our fair share too.

We are part of the combined authority and are working with Metro Mayor Dan Norris and his team, as well as the leaders of South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset to deliver a genuine transformation of our transport.

We must keep this project on the rails and finally transform the way we travel in and around our city.