Category Archives: Environmental and Sustainability

LEDs: keeping the lights on and bills down

Today’s blog is by Councillor Don Alexander, Cabinet Member for Transport

Street lighting is something that some of us take for granted, but it’s critically important for our safety and quality of life. Technology moves on and an exciting new opportunity has now presented itself.

We will be replacing 27,000 of our now outdated street lights with Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) and will operate them through a new Central Management System (CMS). The LED and CMS combination will reduce electricity consumption by 45 to 50%, saving taxpayers around £1.8 million each year and reducing Bristol’s carbon emissions by a stunning 17,741 tonnes over a decade. In addition, this system requires less maintenance so it will reduce the number of vehicle trips around the city with their associated costs and pollution.

I am really excited about this project, as given the climate emergency and with energy bills rising across the UK, it has never been more important to find ways to reduce our energy consumption across the city. 

The Central Management System provides remote control monitoring and energy measurement over a wireless interface, giving it the ability to dim or brighten individual areas of the city. Examples of the possible benefits of this could be improved women’s safety, more appropriate lighting for wildlife and reduced light pollution.

The variety of lamp posts, which are a welcome feature of our historic streetscape, has required some technical work to allow the LEDs to be used on the more traditional models. As LEDs use less energy, this creates new possibilities for our ongoing work on devising approaches to on-street charging models for electric vehicles, more of which will be announced soon.

Making an upfront investment to speed up our switch over to LED street lighting is a simple way to make energy savings. This is good news for the environment and will dramatically reduce our energy bills, freeing up future resources to be invested in other frontline services. Using smart city technology, this project which will make sure our street lighting network is responsive, reliable and fit for purpose for years to come.

The street lighting replacement programme will be completed over three years at a cost of £12 million, which will soon be recovered at current energy prices.

Temple Cycles

Today’s blog is by Matthew Mears, Founder and CEO of Temple Cycles, one of the Bristol businesses who I have recently visited.

We are a Bristol based bicycle designer and maker and we make some of the world’s most beautiful and high quality bicycles at our production facility in Bedminster. We have an emphasis on making versatile bikes for touring, commuting and also gravel riding, with a strong emphasis on sustainability and making sure our bikes will become vintage. We’ve also now introduced some incredible electric bikes into the line-up.

Sustainability

Temple Cycles was started in 2015, born out of my lifelong passion for cycling and a dream of producing bicycles here in Bristol. Since the start, making high quality machines has been the objective and we want all of the bikes we make to become vintage someday. Too much of the bicycle market is geared around upgrading and replacing your bike every few years. We don’t agree with this and make products which will last a lifetime.

Sustainability of our products and production processes are very important to us. That’s why we only make bikes from 100% recycled steel. This means that our bikes have a very long product lifecycle. If they are properly looked after they will last over 30 years, and when they do reach the end of their time, they can easily be recycled. On top of this, we make sure all of our bikes are very easy to service, maintain and find spare parts for.

The pandemic

There has been a significant change in the way we do business since COVID-19 and Brexit. Supply chain disruption and shipping delays have added extra pressure on the business. We used to operate in a leaner way, holding less stock of parts and materials in the warehouse. Now we hold a higher proportion of this to make sure we have enough to keep production running if we get hit with unexpected or extra supply delays. The demand for our bikes has risen significantly though, as people look for green modes of transport. We only see this becoming more and more important, especially as our cities grow and cars are certainly not the best mobility solution. As governments invest more in cycling infrastructure, we’re excited to see how much of a cycling nation we can become.

Cycling in Bristol

Cycling in Bristol is fantastic. We’re really proud to be part of this cycling city, and we see more and more people on bikes each year. There is so much to do if you like to cycle, with great access to the surrounding countryside and Sustrans national cycle routes. There’s something for everyone here, including great mountain biking in Ashton Court, access to beautiful and quiet country roads, an improving network of cycle lanes, and hundreds of parks and green spaces within the city to cycle to.

We’re really excited to continue growing our business in Bristol and for what the coming years will bring, as our city transforms to become a vibrant ecosystem for sustainable mobility and active travel.

Warm Homes (Go for It)

Today’s blog is from Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology, Energy, and Waste

Warmer Homes, Advice, and Money (WHAM) is an innovative project supporting Bristol residents living in fuel poverty and experiencing financial hardship.

WHAM brings together the Centre for Sustainable Energy, Talking Money, We Care Home Improvements, Bristol and North Somerset councils, Citizens Advice, Bristol Energy Network and AMS Electrical to provide a comprehensive service for vulnerable people. This includes accessing benefit entitlements, Warm Home discounts, home energy and insulation improvements, fuel vouchers, debt clearance, new heating, charitable grants, and moving onto cheaper tariffs.

WHAM has had an incredible impact so far, and has been held up as good practice by Ofgem and Public Health England. Since 2017, almost 3,500 households have are over £2 million better off through bill savings and financial/other support. It is one of many organisations who have been funded by our Bristol Impact Fund.

Many people are concerned about the cost of living crisis. Rising energy bills are part of a worsening picture, alongside Universal Credit cuts and below-inflation rises in pay and benefits. All will be compounded by the upcoming National Insurance hike.

But WHAM, with a waiting list of over 100 households, is not an emergency service. Instead, people struggling to make ends meet can access support for things like fuel bills, groceries, and school uniform through our Local Crisis Prevention Fund. We have also safeguarded the last Council Tax Reduction Scheme in the Core Cities, with some 40,000 families in our city receiving up to 100% off their council tax bills.

Bristol Energy Service also has some low-cost, handy tips on how to save energy.

Climate Change Committee visits Bristol

Heading to Castle Park Energy Centre

Bristol continues to have a crucial voice in the discussion about our country’s approach to delivering net zero. Yesterday we hosted a delegation of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent statutory body who advise the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets and monitor the progress in reducing carbon emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

The Climate Change Committee has organised a series of events in regions across the UK to explore the action being taken on the ground and the barriers that remain to deliver a net zero, climate resilient nation. We were delighted to be able to show them Bristol’s approach and work, with these conversations informing the CCC’s advice to government, shaping the steps the take to support.

We made the most of the opportunity by talking about how we are responding to climate change threats with our flood strategy, and our City Leap project. We toured the energy centre for the Old Market Heat Network, including the UK’s largest water source heat pump. The heat pump works by taking heat from the floating harbour at a low temperature and converts it to a high temperature (75 degrees) for supply into the Old Market Heat Network. We have now connected over 1,000 homes to our network, and are currently connecting offices, schools, and other public sector bodies too.

Castle Park Energy Centre

But Bristol’s offer it not just the world leading engineering and infrastructure, it’s the community collaboration and partnership working which underpin it. So we were able to highlight the Community Climate Action plans. These were co-produced by six community organisations, representing some of Bristol’s most disadvantaged communities, during 2021 as part of the lottery-funded Bristol Community Climate Action project.

The plans identify key priorities to help deliver Bristol’s 2030 carbon neutral ambition, while also improving the quality of life for local residents as the city recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. We were delighted that some of these groups, including Heart of BS13, were able to come and share their experiences. We also highlighted the Citizen’s Assembly, who have helped us develop ideas to reduce the carbon emissions from heating homes in the city.

The One City Climate Strategy aims to make Bristol carbon neutral and climate resilient by 2030. It includes a theme on nature to restore, protect and enhance spaces and the wildlife within them as the climate continues to change.

We have also established an independent advisory committee, the Bristol Advisory Committee on Climate Change, to review the strategy and the evidence. The One City Ecological Emergency Strategy  works in tandem with the climate strategy, including aims to inspire a more conscious form of consumerism and to manage at least 30% of land in Bristol for the benefit of wildlife by 2030. 

Together, we are tackling the Climate and Ecological Emergencies, sharing best practice with other cities, collaborating and innovating as we work to meet our 2030 environmental targets.

Outside Castle Park Energy Centre

Bristol Climate Smart Cities finalists

Today’s blog is by Jessie Carter, Projects and Policy Lead at Bristol Housing Festival

The Bristol Climate Smart Cities Challenge has entered an exciting phase of co-creation following the announcement of 14 finalists on 20 January, after technologists, businesses, and investors were invited to enter the competition and contribute to a new model for delivering affordable, carbon-neutral homes.

This is the next phase in the international city-based open innovation competition, hosted by Nesta Challenges and UN-Habitat, in which four cities were chosen to invite innovators from around the world to help solve their challenges relating to greenhouse gas emissions. Other participating cities are Bogota, Colombia; Curitiba, Brazil; and Makindye Ssabagabo, Uganda.

At an introductory webinar last week, the Bristol finalists not only heard from the project team, which included Bristol One City, Nesta Challenges, UN-Habitat, and others, but listened to each other’s elevator pitches, the beginning of what will arguably be the most crucial part of the challenge. At this stage, each finalist will need to go beyond their own proposal and form teams to collaborate to support system change, leading up to the announcement of the winning teams at the World Forum in Poland in June.

The brief was clear that the barrier to this was not just the technology itself (we have an increasing number of emerging green technology solutions), but the underpinning economic model used to deliver housing by multiple stakeholders that isn’t currently viable. We may be able to build beautiful carbon neutral homes but if we can’t make these affordable – and tackle the very real social inequalities that manifest themselves in housing – then we’ve stopped short of the system change the most vulnerable in our society need.

Secondly, the brief recognised that to achieve system change requires collaboration. We had a lot of questions and clarifications over the application period. That wasn’t unexpected: we knew we had put forward the wicked challenge which our city faces. As the applications rolled in, assessors and judges were looking for not just the capability of each organisation, but the extent to which they were willing to build a coalition for change with other finalists. We were excited to receive 47 applications from around the world and 14 finalists were selected, three of which are local Bristol organisations and twelve are UK based.

From Bristol, the Bristol Community Land Trust and We Can Make presented their pitches to see the community-led housing model become part of this solution, as well as Brighter Places housing association. Other finalists included housebuilders Greencore Construction, Igloo Regeneration, Ilke Homes, EDAROTH, and Innerspace Homes Group. Social enterprise Bioregional Hill are pioneering an innovative affordable housing model, while green energy schemes are offered by Microgrid Foundry and Swedish company Ecoclime, and bringing data solutions are Changebuilding and Parametric Solutions. Finally, Pyterra brings an innovative finance model. We are excited by each of these finalists, but even more so about the potential they bring together.

As the co-creation phase progresses, our hope is that the finalists will work to collectively understand the systemic challenges that Bristol City Council and other commissioners of social housing have grappled with and become ‘more than the sum of their parts’ – addressing multiple points of the system to develop an ecosystem solution and bring in city stakeholders to help them achieve this goal. This will look like considering technology solutions alongside financial and outcome led commissioning supported with data solutions (among others). Ultimately, it will mean finding a new way of delivering housing based on value (and not just cost) so we can combat the climate and ecological emergencies while never losing site of those who don’t have a secure or adequate home in which to live.  

In the next phase of the competition, the ambition of Bristol City Council and the project partners is that the winning teams will be funded to complete a system demonstrator. For us, the best outcome of this competition will be that we don’t just drive change but see affordable, carbon neutral houses built in our city.

Hartcliffe City Farm signs new lease

Transformations, that with hindsight seem like rapid revolutions, can seem no more than a series of tiny steps when you’re in the midst of them. It is worth remembering to celebrate those tiny steps in order to keep the momentum towards the changes we want to see. One such little step forward has been taken in our plans to revitalise the Hartcliffe City Farm, as we’ve signed an interim lease for the main site: 6.5 acres on the southern fringe of the city. Hoorah!

Owned by Bristol City Council, the site is brimming with potential to be a thriving hub of community activity that will transform the neighbourhood and become a player in the whole city’s life. In the long term, it will become a multi-faceted place that brings together the local community with training, education, cultural events, gardens, and, of course, farm animals. All framed within the context of a sustainable enterprise that is serious about addressing the threats of climate change.

The redevelopment of the site has started with a partnership between Heart of BS13 and Windmill Hill City Farm. That spirit of partnership will continue through the growth of the activities in the space: most importantly as a partnership with the local community. The engagement started back in 2019 when the Council developed the community asset transfer brief. Local people were clear that the site should deliver on three priorities: access for all; engaging with animals and nature; providing education and employment.

Since then more outreach has been undertaken. Already over 1,000 local people have been engaged in thinking about the future, the impact of climate change and, in particular, the role of the farm in helping to tackle it. Others are taking direct action, helping out in volunteer work sessions to get the site ready. More than 50 local people have volunteered their time – all small steps towards a bigger change.

Having been fallow for some time, the site has needed considerable attention. Beds have been cleared and re-laid to form the basis of a horticulture enterprise: it will grow food and cut flowers. The buildings on site have been surveyed, and work to make them safe and useful is underway. Education spaces are being put together to enable school visits and early years groups. Each tiny step is moving the project forward.

In the spring we hope to open the gates to more general visits from the public. What they’ll find will be a work in progress – a place taking many ‘tiny steps’ towards a transformed future.

Walking and cycling to boost health in south Bristol

Active travel, which includes cycling and walking, is a great way to take daily exercise and has a vital role to play in reducing congestion on local roads and tackling air pollution. It features in our Transport Strategy for Bristol, in which we set out our ambition to make walking the easy transport choice for our communities and to fully integrate cycling into the wider transport network, connecting people to jobs, schools, leisure and everyday facilities.

That’s why we are celebrating the news that we’ve been awarded £70,000 from the Department for Transport to design an active travel pilot to improve the health and wellbeing of people in south Bristol.

Our pilot will focus on three wards where there are comparatively low physical activity rates, including Filwood, Hartcliffe and Withywood, and Hengrove and Whitchurch Park.

The study, which will get underway soon, will look at the exercise needs of residents, what activities are available in the area, and who would benefit from being part of the trial. We’ll also review infrastructure across the area to see if there is anything stopping people from walking or cycling.

Our pilot project could see us offering one-to-one support, cycle centre courses, and group cycle rides and walks. Working with health and voluntary sector partners as well as local groups and charities, we will promote local walking and cycling routes, as well as provide training and bike maintenance courses, on top of low-cost bikes.

We are also looking to run taster sessions and fun days to promote all the ways local people can get involved with walking and cycling. Through the pilot, we’ll train more walk and cycle leaders as well as invest in bike storage and more bikes to loan out. Our aim is to give people the tools to be able to walk or cycle to maintain good health and make their journeys more pleasant experiences.

The study, which should be completed by the summer, will help us design a pilot scheme which, if successful, will provide a blueprint for us to introduce the active travel initiative to more of our local neighbourhoods.

Investing in active travel schemes will also help us as we work towards being carbon neutral by 2030. We all need to rethink how we travel, choosing more sustainable transport options. Walking and cycling are fantastic ways to reduce your own carbon footprint, and they have so many other benefits.

We’re looking forward to working with communities and partners in south Bristol to get people on their bikes and walking for a healthier and happier life.

The stuff we’re getting done

For too long, Bristol’s political leaders took a patch-and-mend to building Bristol, failing to prepare for our city’s growth in population, to update our city’s energy systems, or to deliver a transport network fit for a modern city. By contrast, I’m proud that our administration is getting stuff done and building the next iteration of Bristol.

Future-proofing the city

Nowhere is this more urgent than in tackling our housing crisis. Average house prices are now nine times higher than average earnings – the highest of all the core cities. Combined with the impact of the pandemic and over a decade of government cuts to public services and welfare, this has left us with over 15,000 people on our housing waiting list, and around 1,000 families in temporary accommodation. On top of all of this, our city’s population is set to grow by almost 100,000 people by 2050.

That’s why we’ve put forward investment of £12 million in our budget to support the delivery of new affordable homes, with a plan to deliver 1,000 affordable homes a year by 2024 which will be considered by Cabinet this week. The cornerstone of this plan is the delivery of one of the biggest council house building programmes in a generation at Hengrove Park, with half of the 1,400 homes delivered by our housing company Goram Homes dedicated for social rent and shared ownership.

We’re planning for the future too, by investing £1.8 billion over 30 years to deliver new council homes and upgrading our existing stock.

Rethinking the architecture of the city

We are responding to this housing crisis in the context of a climate and ecological emergency. Put simply, how and where we build these new homes will determine the price the planet pays for Bristol’s growth.

We’ve worked with experts, like the Avon Wildlife Trust, to understand the ecological impact of development in different parts of the city. That’s why we’ve taken the decision to scale down our own plans for development on the Western Slopes, building affordable homes only on the previously-developed former school site near Belstone Walk.

Not delivering homes here, however, means we must prioritise development at higher density on brownfield land near the centre of the city. We’ll continue to do just that through major regeneration schemes that will bring thousands of new homes (and jobs!) to our city: Castle Park View, Bedminster Green, Western Harbour, Frome Gateway, and – of course – Temple Island.

Even in the city centre, however, we’re building in space for nature to thrive. The work we’re doing to create green roofs and walls in the Bearpit will inform how we can incorporate these into future regeneration projects – building ecology into the very architecture of the city. And we are working with the Environment Agency to deliver on our flood strategy and protect our city from the impacts of climate change.

Connecting the city

All of this demands big changes to how we move around the city. Our mission throughout has been to connect people to people, people to jobs, and people to opportunity. But we will fail if we just tinker around the edges of Bristol’s transport network like previous administrations. That’s why we’re taking big decisions now to lay the foundations of a Bristol that is fit for the future.

We are repairing vital infrastructure that for too long has been allowed to fray, with a £15 million investment in repairing 6 crucial bridges. We’re delivering unprecedented investment in Bristol’s public transport system – providing more people across the city with more frequent and reliable alternatives to travelling by car. This includes the improvements to the number 2 route as part of the Bus Deal, and the delivery of the first new train station in Bristol in 95 years at the Portway Park and Ride (soon to be followed by a new station at Ashley Down).

All this builds the case for a radical rethink of our transport system. Bristol is the only core city without a mass transit network, and I am pleased that leaders across parties and from across the region recognise the need to redress this. I’m pleased to secure commitment from WECA on the need for tunnels and £5 million of investmentto set out our plans.

We’re applying that ambition to a local level too. We’ve opened our initial engagement so that residents can help us shape our first Liveable Neighbourhood pilot in East Bristol. Combined with £4.7 million of investment to help Bristol’s high streetsrecover from the pandemic, we’re committed to building sustainable and thriving communities for residents and businesses.

Going big

The interconnected challenges we are facing as a city and a planet demand urgent action. We are taking decisions that deliver jobs, homes, and sustainability to make sure Bristol can tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities to come over the next decades.

Now is the time for clear leadership – for getting stuff done quickly, and with an eye on the future challenges we face.

That’s what we’re delivering.

Bearpit necessities

Artist’s illustration of what the green roofs and walls could look like in the Bearpit when works are complete

Bristol has ambitious goals for ecology and wildlife in our city, but this can be challenging in urban settings. We’ve been working to bring nature and green walls to as many places as possible, and now we can share news of a project to bring pollinators to the St James Barton roundabout (AKA the Bearpit).

Our priority has been to make the Bearpit a safe place for everyone. We saw a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour of three quarters after we took action in September 2019. We are now able to share more about the work we’re doing to wild the Bearpit, which is a continuation of the improvement works there, as well as supporting our citywide ecological strategy and aims.

This week we commenced a four-week programme to create green roofs on the former toilet blocks, turning them into wildflower meadows. The native flowers will add to the biodiversity and attract pollinators, in a space dominated by concrete and busy roads. They will have a waterproof layer, topped with a recycled stone substrate layer and then sown with a wildflower meadow seed. Once it grows, it will become a mix of colourful native wildflowers and grasses, which are low maintenance, and drought tolerant to minimise water consumption and be resilient to climate change.

We have also worked on the raised terrace planting, with the Bristol Parks team having removed the weeds as well as litter and graffiti. The timber walls are being re-stained and timber seat tops replaced with sustainable oak timbers. The existing pollinator-friendly planting along the walls has been retained and pruned. In the retained existing soil, we are adding new wildflower meadow turf and meadow seed will be sown in the spring. There will be new native trees planted, with spring-flowering bulbs planted into the meadow areas. The planted terraces are being maintained by Bristol City Council.

These elements contribute to us delivering the Ecological Emergency Action Plan goals, including the aims of ‘Meadow Bristol’, by creating new wildflower meadow habitats and our commitment to ‘Green Infrastructure’ and managing green spaces to increase biodiversity within the heart of the city.

This is round two in the fight to make the Bearpit a safe space for everyone and an area with pollinators, wildlife and colour.

Help us improve a major transport route

Today’s guest blog comes from Cllr Don Alexander, Cabinet Member for Transport

It’s vital that we tackle congestion and air pollution across Bristol. This means reducing carbon and improving the air we breathe, improving the speed and reliability of buses and making it safer on our streets for cyclists and walkers. It’s time we think differently about the way we travel in Bristol.

Our designs for the number 2 bus route (A37/A4018), which will improve journeys along this busy traffic corridor, have been shaped by the people who live, work and travel along it.

We opened our consultation on these proposals at the start of December and have since had many people get involved and give us their views.

I’d like to thank everyone for taking the time to look at our plans and share their thoughts with us. There’s still time to tell us what you think if you haven’t got round to it yet.  

The number 2 bus route is one of eight main bus routes that need to be improved in Bristol. It travels from Cribbs Causeway to Stockwood via the city centre, following the A37 and A4018.

Overall, we want to encourage more people to choose to make the switch to take the bus, walk or cycle. For this to happen, we need to improve the service offered by the number 2 bus by making it easier to catch, more reliable, with shorter journey times.

We’re also committed to active travel, and our proposals will achieve better spaces for walkers and make it safer to cycle.

This project is part of our wider transformation over the next decade, working with the West of England Combined Authority, to make Bristol’s transport network better for all.

Through our ongoing consultation, we need to know if we have struck the right balance for the city with our designs and are reminding everyone to have their say.

We’ve launched a virtual room online (see photo of what it looks like below) that allows you to isolate the parts of the route you’re familiar with, find out what we’re planning along local streets, and give your views.

Screenshot of the Virtual Engage tool for the number 2 bus route consultation

We’re also continuing to host a series of drop-in information sessions so you can find out more about the proposals and ask us your questions.

To see our plans, book onto a drop-in session, and have your say, go to the Travelwest website by 28 January 2022.