Bridges, bridges, bridges

Councillor Don 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.

At 5pm today, the newly restored Gaol Ferry Bridge will reopen.

Our £1.5 million investment has saved the much loved structure from being lost. Inspections showed the bridge needed extensive structural work to make it safe after years of under investment in the harbour estate by previous administrations. These were, after all, the first major repairs in almost a century.

To celebrate restoring this vital and busy route, which links south Bristol and Spike Island, Wapping Wharf will be celebrating from 5pm today (Friday 8 September). After the patience of local residents and businesses, events will include live music, offers, and shops open well into the evening.

The repairs have given a new lease of life to this lightweight suspension bridge, which has been doing a lot of heavy lifting over the years as it is such a popular route with pedestrians and cyclists, and the bridge has been carrying more people than it was originally built for.

On top of structural repairs, Gaol Ferry Bridge has been repainted and looks fantastic, although we do have a small number of finishing touches to make. Some temporary decking has been installed in places, after the permanent decking that was being stored at the site was stolen – more has been ordered and will be installed at a later date.

Gaol Ferry Bridge is pictured with trees surrounding it.
Gaol Ferry Bridge

I am thrilled we have safeguarded the bridge for the future, however, there is an ongoing conversation to be had about the longer-term need for another bridge in the area. As we continue to tackle the backlog of repairs that we inherited, and as our city’s population continues to grow, our administration is also looking ahead to future opportunities for a new crossing. The previous administration cancelled plans for one over the New Cut (between the Coronation Road/Camden Road junction and Cumberland Road), despite planning permission and Department for Transport funding being in place. We are now in the process of revisiting those proposals as we look to reassess the business case for a new crossing.

The reopening of Gaol Ferry Bridge has followed the completion of the £3 million refurbishment of Redcliffe Bascule Bridge. I recently had a fascinating tour of the control room and the below water level bascule retraction chamber to see the inner workings of the bridge. With its remaining structural, mechanical and electrical repairs complete, the bascule span can now be lifted for larger boats. The new automation system means lifts can be supervised remotely.

But Gaol Ferry and Redcliffe Bascule bridges are just two in a series of Bristol bridges that need structural repairs. We have secured £16 million from the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement, administered via the West of England Combined Authority, to restore a total of six bridges that cross the New Cut as part of a rolling programme over the next five years.

In the coming weeks we will be moving our attention to Vauxhall Bridge, which links Southville and Spike Island, and Sparke Evans Park Bridge, which links the Paintworks development with Sparke Evans Park. Both of these footbridges need urgent structural work, and we are looking to close them temporarily later this year so we can assess their condition and design a programme of repairs.

Sparke Evans Bridge is pictured, with trees surrounding it and the park in the background.
Sparke Evans Bridge

Just like Gaol Ferry Bridge, we expect to carry out the repairs using scaffolding and working in a phased approach. More news will follow about these repairs along with signage at the bridges and diversion routes.

Work is also set to start soon on New Brislington Bridge, which will not affect use of the bridge as it will involve a detailed assessment on the condition of the structure. Work to assess the overall condition of St Philips Causeway will also take place in the coming months.

The remaining bridges on our list that we need to repair include Banana Bridge (Langton Street Bridge) and the twin bridges of Bedminster Bridge and Bath Bridge.

It is not only the harbour bridges that are part of our plan, as we’ll be starting work on the restoration of Kingsweston Iron bridge this month.

This will kick off with a detailed inspection of the Grade II listed cast iron footbridge. To do this safely, we will need to close Kings Weston Road on Saturday 16 and possibly Sunday 17 September.

A diversion will be in place, but we know it will cause some disruption over the weekend, so I would like to thank you for your patience in advance.

This is a key step in the project and will help us to plan how the bridge can be dismantled and repaired off-site. Not only will the restoration include repairing the structure, but it will also see us raising the bridge up and adding steps at either end, so it will no longer be at risk of being struck by passing vehicles.

Kingsweston Iron Bridge is pictured, with scaffolding on it.
Kingsweston Iron Bridge

Bridges are vital to our city and have been overlooked for too long; I am proud that our administration is tackling these difficult infrastructure projects to keep Bristol connected.

Speaking of Bristol’s important infrastructure, today will also see the reopening of the Chocolate Path after extensive work to stabilise Cumberland Road and the river retaining wall.

I am delighted this handy walking and cycling route away from road traffic will be open once again for everyone to use, and I will be taking my bike out the first chance I get and enjoying the views along the river.

Creating more space for the memory of Bristolians’ loved ones

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

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

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

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

Arnos Vale Cemetery is pictured.
Arnos Vale Cemetery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your chance to tell us about life in Bristol – Quality of Life Survey 2023

Park Street, Bristol is pictured with vehicle lights captured with long exposure photography – drawing red lights going up the road. Wills Memorial Building is seen at the top of the image.

As a large city with of the fastest growing populations in the country, Bristol’s residents are diverse and varied. While this brings so many positives to our city, it also brings about challenges. With so many different needs present in our local communities, it’s important that we continue to take time to listen to citizens to better understand them, especially in times of real need.

The Quality of Life Survey is an annual questionnaire that asks residents about their experiences of living in Bristol and what matters to them, and is sent to over 30,000 households at random. Questions ask for views on a range of topics from safety and public services, to sustainability and health.

This is your chance to have your say and voice your opinions. We want to know what you like about living in Bristol and what you think could be better.

Now in its 24th year, the findings of the Quality of Life Survey help us understand what residents want and need, and what they value most about where they live. The results also give us a picture of levels of inequality in the city and how quality of life varies between communities. We can then take this information and plan public services that will be fit for the future needs of the population, and so can city partners.

This week, invitations to fill out the Quality of Life 2023 survey will be arriving at 33,000 homes across the city. Households are chosen randomly to make sure that the sample is representative of our city’s diverse population.

If you receive an invite, please do put some time aside to take part and complete the questions before 23 October. The survey should take around 30 minutes to fill out and can be done online by following the link or scanning the QR code included on your letter. We will also be sending out paper copies later this month for anyone that isn’t able to complete it online.

It’s important that everyone has the chance to have their voice heard, but each year we typically receive fewer responses from minoritised communities. It’s so important that we understand your views, regardless of your background. We need responses from everyone so that we have a clear picture of life in Bristol. 

In 2022, around 4,000 people took part in the survey. The results unsurprisingly highlighted the substantial impact that the national cost of living crisis has had on people’s finances and mental health.

We asked if people were “worried about keeping their home warm this winter” to which almost half (48 per cent) responded that they were extremely or moderately worried. There was also evidence of widening inequality between communities as this figure rose to 62 per cent in deprived areas. The same trend was seen when we asked people about their food security with eight per cent telling us they are now experiencing moderate to worse food insecurity, doubling to 16 per cent in the most deprived areas.

Last winter we had anticipated these concerns and responded to the national cost of living crisis by coordinating a network of 105 Welcoming Spaces in the city, places where people could go to keep warm, access support and socialise with others. It was important that we could respond quickly and as a city to support people in times of difficulty.

The Quality of Life survey is an important tool for shedding light onto inequalities such as these, and showing us where people’s worries currently lie. Read my previous blog for a full overview of results from 2022.

Each year the results are used by services across the council to help make decisions about policy, to inform planning and as evidence when securing vital funding for projects. Last year findings supported a range of work including suicide prevention, our drug and alcohol strategy, digital inclusion, and fuel poverty.  They also form the basis of all our Equality and Impact Assessments, ensuring that we accurately assess how our work is going to impact people in Bristol.

To find out more about the Quality of Life Survey and reports from previous years, visit the council’s website.

Don’t forget to complete your survey if you receive one before 23 October 2023.

The challenge we face decarbonising Bristol and where we are already

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

Since we took office, much effort has been put in across Bristol’s communities to ramp up the work to lower our carbon footprint.

Bristol’s journey to becoming climate neutral and climate resilient by 2030 stepped up a notch three years ago, when the ambitious One City Climate Strategy was launched by Bristol’s Environment Board.

Since the council is responsible for just 0.5% of direct emissions in Bristol, to reach the city-wide climate goal, it’s essential that businesses, organisations and individuals also play their part.

To lead by example, the council have taken significant steps to generate the activity needed to reach that goal. Across every sector, and every community, the council, along with partners of all shapes and sizes, are putting in the hard yards needed.

Probably the most significant of those steps so far was the establishment of Bristol City Leap, our partnership with Ameresco and Vattenfall Heat UK, which plans to deliver some £630 million of investment over the next five years to decarbonise the city’s economy. This landmark deal is already seeing the partnership deliver programmes to introduce heat pump technology into homes, expanding the city’s vital heat network and working with the council to continue our success in decarbonising our buildings. By 2028, we expect to see over 1,000 jobs created and 150,000 tonnes of emissions saved, as well as wider social value return. In the longer term, the partnership builds towards £1 billion of investment.

The programme of decarbonising the council has been ongoing throughout our administration. It involves reducing the carbon footprint of our buildings, primarily through either reducing their energy usage or moving to more sustainable forms of electricity and heat supply. It also includes developing our vehicle fleet to ensure that we’re operating in the cleanest way possible.

This programme has seen much success to date with the council’s direct emissions being halved since 2015. We’re now into the phase of the programme that we always knew would be the toughest to deliver and have taken the steps necessary, such as the formation of Bristol City Leap, to have the tools available to meet our target of being a carbon neutral council by the end of 2025.

Later today, I will lay out the challenge ahead of us at the next meeting of the city’s Cabinet.

Our approach to continue the decarbonising of our estate includes prioritising the work to connect council buildings to the city’s heat network, installing alternative low carbon heating sources, moving some buildings onto a “green gas” supply, and increasing the use of electricity generated by the council’s own renewable energy assets.

The effort to develop a lower-emission vehicle fleet is also one we’ve been working to deliver since the early days of the administration. The latest proposals I will consider at Cabinet include recommending up to a £1 million investment in additional electronic vehicle charging infrastructure across five council sites as well as trialling the introduction of home-chargers for drivers of vehicles who take their council vehicles home overnight.

The overall investment required for this work is estimated to be around £31 million and is proposed come from a mix of our own investment, grant funding and the funding secured through Bristol City Leap.

These proposals follow other recent decisions I’ve taken at Cabinet to forward our net zero ambitions for the city.

In July, I approved the acceptance of £1.3 million of European Union funding to establish an innovative approach to generating the additional finance needed for the city to meet its goals. This decision will now see us lead the creation of a Net Zero Investment Co-innovation Lab – a multifaceted project that will research and pilot a number of methods of accessing funding for citizens, business and communities to invest in their projects to reduce emissions and to generate a return. As the programme develops it will bring forward a new scheme for citizen investment in climate action and open opportunities for philanthropic investment in projects all targeted at driving the city towards carbon neutrality.

The decarbonisation of our economy will generate substantial business opportunities and will require all individuals, businesses and organisations to make changes, in the bid to avoid the worst effects of climate change. For inspiration and personalised advice visit Bristol Climate Hub.

Whether you’re well on your way to net zero, or just beginning your journey, join your fellow businesses and sign up to the Bristol Climate Ask. There’s help and support available to get you started.

To help inspire others to take action, if your business or organisation has a story to tell on its journey to net zero, publicise it on your website and social channels using the hashtag #BristolClimateAction

For residents, a wide range of energy-saving measures are available to low-income households through Bristol City Leap’s Bright Green Homes scheme, which offers free solar panels, heat pumps and insulation. Visit the Bristol City Leap website for information on the Bright Green Homes scheme and to check the eligibility criteria.

My Bristol Strive internship journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City of Bristol Rowing Club

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

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

CoBRC and Diversity, Equality and Inclusion

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

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

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

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

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

Plans for the future

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


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

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

Thank you Marvin

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

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

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

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

Exciting news for Bristol: Branwhite Close development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supporting fish populations in Bristol so they recover and thrive

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

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

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

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

Where is the Bristol Avon Catchment? 

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

A map of the Bristol Avon Catchment is pictured.

Which fish are found in the Bristol Avon Catchment? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is already in place to support fish recovery? 

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

Continuing to work together 

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

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

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

Three fish are pictured in a river.

Amazing line up of free city-wide events in September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open water swimming returns to Bristol Harbour

Following the success of our Bristol Harbour swimming pilot earlier this year, we have been working with local partners All-Aboard Water Sports, Open Minds Active CIC, and Swim Bristol Harbour to look at options for continuing these open water swim sessions.

Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet member for Public Health and Communities, spoke to local and national media during our initial test swim in March, when we launched the Harbour swimming pilot.

Our spring pilot swims were hugely popular receiving a total of 920 bookings and all sessions selling out in advance. Initial feedback from the more than 650 swimmers was very positive with the majority being very satisfied with their Harbour swimming experience and keen to return for more sessions in the future.

I’m delighted that we’re now able to bring another round of public swim sessions to the harbour for four more weekends starting on 9 September.

The swim sessions will run as they did during the pilot earlier this year – 8am to 10am Saturdays and Sundays in Baltic Wharf, this time for a fee of £7.50 per person, covering the costs of improving the registration system with wristbands on top of the provision of water safety measures. All swim sessions must be booked in advance via the Wild booking platform.

These additional sessions will allow us to monitor interest in swims during the cooler months, as we move towards the Autumn, alongside costs, and any impact on our ability to maintain a safe environment throughout our harbour.

Bristol Harbour is pictured, open water swimmer are seen, surrounded with safety equipment for the safe swimming pilot.

Together with other members of the Bristol Water Safety Partnership, our harbour staff will continue to monitor any unpermitted swimming and other dangerous behaviour of people entering the water outside of the harbour swimming arrangements, helping to prevent accidents and maintain a safe waterway.

If demand and interest in the swims continues, and we’re able to maintain a safe and financially self-sustaining open water swimming area in Bristol Harbour, we will look into options for how we can provide swim sessions on a regular basis for Spring/Summer 2024.

Please remember that outside of the permitted harbour swimming times and the designated area, it remains unsafe and against the bylaws to swim in the Harbour, Cumberland Basin, or other waterways in Bristol. Our city’s many pools continue to offer swimming all year-round.

If you would like to volunteer to be part of the team setting up and running the swimming sessions, please email – there are lots of opportunities to get involved.

An open water swimmer is pictured with Bristol harbour in the background. Safety equipment for open water swimming can be seen.