On the 24th June we were delighted to be able to share with a wide audience from all corners of the property and built environment world, our Q&A session with Bristol Mayor, Marvin Rees.
The session explored the challenges Bristol and the region is currently facing, and the opportunities arising from those challenges. We considered the importance of city stewardship and proactive ambition, and the enablement of communities and partnerships that can deliver sustainable growth.
Some of the themes that Mayor Rees considered are summarised below, with the full recording available below.
Covid-19: inequality and opportunity
- Covid-19 has exposed both the fragilities and resilience within our communities, and recovery needs to recognise the level of human trauma that has occurred.
- In the short term, health and safety guidelines are needed from Government, along with ‘track and trace’ and clarity on a strategy for dealing with subsequent outbreaks, so that businesses and consumers have the confidence to return to work and to their daily lives.
- There is an undeniable and significant financial implication arising from Covid-19, which has resulted in £30m of increased costs to the City Council, along with lost revenue of more than £80m, of which Government currently recognises only the former. Frontline services will need to be protected by redirecting infrastructure spending. This has a counter-intuitive knock-on impact on the creation of a healthy city.
- In times of turmoil, the impossible becomes possible; but, consideration and thought is needed. The message from the Mayor was not to ‘dash for recovery’, but to think differently about the economy so that there is less risk of future shocks.
- There is a clear opportunity to ‘build back better’. The City has already grasped the opportunity to bring forward pedestrianisation and cycling improvements within the city centre.
Frontloading investment: the housing crisis, and the climate and ecological emergencies
- The City is pro-development and pro-housing. Providing affordable homes can mean a critical change in life prospects for many people – improved mental health, a successful marriage, job security, food and fuel security, safety, and the chance of a better education, were all referenced.
- We need to grasp the conversation about the housing crisis and the climate change and ecological emergencies, as housing must be delivered in the context of both. The type and the location of new homes in the city will be determined in the context of these factors. The property sector can help by facilitating conversations around these challenges.
- The support of Government is needed to help drive and frontload investment, in terms of low carbon transport, retrofitting homes, de-carbonising the energy system, and so on. This will enable jobs to be provided today, that will support the City’s ability to address climate change further down the line.
- The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are now core to the work of the City and to the development of the Spatial Development Strategy for the West of England Combined Authority area. In Bristol the SDGs are aligned through the One City Plan. Mayor Rees asked that developers and investors familiarise themselves with the SDGs, the Council’s Climate Strategy (and the forthcoming Ecological Strategy), and to come to the table with proactive assessment of proposed development projects, reflective of these priorities.
The Council will be a willing and supportive partner in enabling these conversations to happen.
Communities: social and cultural capital
- In considering how to engage with communities, it is important to think seriously about those who are powerless and live life on the margins of society. People need to be involved, and also to feel they are involved.
- Social and cultural ‘capital’ is important to our future prosperity; securing the Channel 4 Creative Hub for the city was in part based on the ‘life’ of the city and what we stand for. Who we are has value and enhances Bristol’s profile and reputation, which in turn enables us to do more good work.
- We should all take up the challenge to be champions of our city – the scale of ambition, and the scale of opportunity, is there.
- Enabling Government support and investment is of course not just about public money, but also our presence on the national and international stage, so that we can secure future investment. The property and development industry can support the City by making sure Government enables the City Council to be the dependable development partner it has set out to be; and for this to happen, financial certainty is needed.
- The Council ‘front door’ – the One City Plan and the Cabinet leads – is very much open, so that we can work together to be co-creators and co-owners of our successes and failures.
The session covered many more topics, including the Western Gateway Powerhouse, building heights and density, reducing transport dependency, strategic growth areas such as Temple Quarter, engaging local skills and talent, and supporting the leisure and hospitality industry.
If you have any questions regarding the session, or thoughts around how we can work together for the benefit of Bristol, please contact Helen Tilton, Director, Bristol & South West