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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.

Join the electric revolution in Bristol

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

We’re long past the days when the whir of an electric vehicle (EV) was a new and unfamiliar sound. According to Zap Map, the UK’s leading app and digital platform for EV drivers, more than 760,000 electric cars were registered in the UK at the end of April 2023. 15.4 per cent of all new car registrations are battery electric vehicles.

Electric vehicles form part of our arsenal in the fight against climate change and reducing air pollution.

So, whether you’re an electric convert or just beginning to think about the possibilities, here’s an introduction to all things EV and how we’re helping support the switch to cleaner transport in Bristol. You can also read more about how we’re getting businesses into EVs with our free trial scheme.

Choosing an electric vehicle

Although often still more expensive to buy than most petrol and diesel vehicles, EVs are generally considered to be cheaper to run with lower maintenance and refuelling costs. The range of makes and models available are growing steadily so there’s lots of choice.

First things first, you’ll need to decide which vehicle is right for you. We’ve worked with independent experts, the Energy Saving Trust, on driver training initiatives in Bristol and suggest you check out their guide to EVs as a starting point.

An electric vehicle is pictured

Charging an electric vehicle – a quick intro

We understand that the decision to go electric is closely linked to the availability of charging points nationally and locally so here’s the low-down on chargers:

  • EV charge points are operated by a range of providers, some run privately and others are maintained by public bodies, like ours (Revive) which is backed and owned by the four West of England local authorities.
  • Anyone can use a public charge point. You’ll need to sign up for an account with the charger provider, or use contactless payment where available, then you can plug in and pay for the electricity you use.
  • There are different types and speeds of charging. Standard or slow charging is for long dwell times such as charging at home. Fast charging is what you will find at destinations like shopping centres and leisure centres and could charge a car between four and 12 hours depending on the vehicle. Rapid or ultra-rapid charging can charge a vehicle in 15 to 60 minutes depending on the EV and are typically found at service stations and on key routes in cities and towns.

Charging in Bristol

According to the government’s most recent report, there are more than 35,000 charge points across the UK, a number which has been growing since records began in 2015.

That report also shows that, in the South West, there are more than 2,500 chargers with more than 150 of those units in Bristol (an increase of 11 per cent in the last year).

Locations for Revive charging bays have been informed by the demand from people who live in the region. Help develop our network by suggesting locations for future sites.

Charging at home

There are rules around how to charge your vehicle at home to ensure the safety of everyone using Bristol’s streets. Find more information about home charging.

Electric vehicle parking in Bristol

Many of the city’s car parks, including the Park & Rides, now have vehicle charging bays. See a full list of places you can charge while using Bristol City Council car parks.

Other ways we’re supporting the use of electric vehicles

Councillor Don Alexander is pictured on the left of the image, standing next to a blue electric vehicle.

We helped Zedify, a zero-emissions delivery service, to set up a place near the city centre where deliveries are made by lorry. These goods are then delivered to houses and businesses by electric bikes and vans. Zedify and other similar delivery services are now operating successfully in the city.

We’ve replaced 10 per cent of our own vehicles which we use to deliver our services with electric vehicles.

We offer 50 per cent match funded grants to businesses launching sustainable travel initiatives, which includes installing electric vehicle charge points for staff.

Businesses can try an electric vehicle for free

It’s been a year since we launched Bristol’s electric van loan scheme giving local businesses the chance to borrow an electric vehicle, for free, for between four and eight weeks.

As we’re halfway through the two-year scheme, funded by National Highways, there is still time to try an electric vehicle, but you will need to sign up soon as the scheme is proving popular with businesses across the city.

We have a range of small, medium and large vans available as well as  five cars (for smaller independent traders such as hairdressers) and two hackney carriage taxis.

In the last year over 150 firms have tested one of our EVs to see what they’re like and how they would fit into their business.

We asked them to tell us what the experience was like and 91 per cent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the driving experience and 97 per cent said they would recommend the EV trial to other businesses.

Visit our website for more information and to sign up for a free EV trial.

Two electric vans are pictured, with an electric vehicle charging point on the right of the image.

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.

A big thank you to all of Bristol’s volunteers

Volunteers’ Week is back and it’s another chance for us to show our appreciation for the amazing contributions that Bristol’s volunteers have made throughout the year to life in our city. People giving their time to pursue something they love doing and to make our communities better places to live is the foundation of strong communities.

Thank you to everyone volunteering their time to support an organisation or individuals in our local community, what you do makes a big difference.

The national cost of living crisis has had, and still is having, a big impact on many of our communities. During the autumn and winter, volunteers from across our city played their part in supporting others. 

I’d like to thank the cost of living advice assistant volunteers from Citizens Advice Bristol who were trained to give people much-needed support in some of the city’s 105 Welcoming Spaces, on topics ranging from benefits, money management and housing. Thank you also to the Changes Bristol volunteers who have been supporting peer groups to support one another through worrying and difficult times. Many other voluntary partners were part of our One City winter response to the crisis, ensuring the right support was in place for those who needed it.

Many people also freely give time to support neighbours, family members and friends so thank you, too, for playing your part.

Of course, what everyone involved with volunteering knows is that it brings huge rewards and is one of the best things we can do for our health and wellbeing. If you have been supported by volunteers during the last year, perhaps you would like to join in with thanking them.

Why not visit our Wall of Thanks and leave a message for a person or organisation that has helped you? Or perhaps you are an organisation that gets support from volunteers and you want to thank them. Here are just a couple of messages that we’ve already received:

“Judit has been an inspiration to our neighbourhood. Not only does she give boundless energy and her time to improving our surroundings, with her infectious personality she inspires all those around her to want to get involved. She is living proof that together we can make a difference.” – Amrish

“On behalf of the forum, I want to thank each and every one of our volunteers from the bottom of our hearts for all that you’ve done. The last 18 months has been difficult at times but each of you has been unwavering in your support. This has meant families of children with special educations needs and/or disabilities in Bristol have revived vital support and signposting to support their families. This wouldn’t be possible without our team of volunteers. Here’s to the many more successful months and years ahead.” – Hayley, Bristol Parent Carers

For this year’s Volunteers’ Week, we have also been working in partnership with Voscur and Black South West Network (BSWN). Here is what they had to say about the efforts of Bristol volunteers:

Sado Jirde – Director of BWSN 

“Volunteers play a vital role within Bristol’s racial justice ecosystem. According to the Community Life Survey in 2020/21, Black people were the most likely to volunteer at least once a month and once a year. As a community organisation ourselves, BSWN firmly believe in the power of volunteering as a transformative force for positive change and creating an anti-racist society. Volunteers’ Week serves as a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate the dedication, passion, and selflessness demonstrated by individuals who generously offer their time and skills to uplift others. 

“BSWN recognises the immense value of collaboration between organisations, government bodies, and community members in achieving collective goals. Volunteers’ Week serves as a platform to forge partnerships, build bridges, and create opportunities for diverse communities to come together, united by a common purpose.”

Rebecca Mear – CEO, Voscur

“Volunteers are the unsung heroes of civic life; the fact is that many of Bristol’s community organisations would cease to operate without them. Volunteers’ Week provides an opportunity to thank the local volunteers whose generous contribution – of their skills, experience, time and commitment – makes our society a thriving one.

“Through calm and crisis, volunteers provide dedicated support and expertise for the benefit of the people and communities of Bristol.

“For Volunteers’ Week this year, we celebrate everyone who volunteers, in whatever shape that takes. We know that volunteering rates in England are at an all-time low as a result of the pandemic (and the cost of living crisis) and so we at Voscur will play our part in ensuring that volunteering remains a fulfilling and enriching experience for those willing and able to take part.”

Two people are pictured, smiling while looking at eatchother.

If you feel inspired to volunteer, you can visit the Can Do Bristol or Voscur websites where there are a whole host of opportunities to get involved in, from working with the Salvation Army twice a month or volunteering your time to work at St. Peter’s Hospice.

Everyone has something to offer and there is something for everyone!

Find out more about Volunteers’ Week.

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.