It is clear there is still plenty to be done before Bristol can really fulfill its potential. A debate earlier this week, in which I took part, brought together representatives from across the built environment, from contractors and developers to architects an engineers, to examine where the city stands now and where we need to be if we are to continue to grow and thrive.
Undoubtedly there is much to celebrate: Bristol is highly attractive to both investors and people who wish to relocate. There are plenty of cranes on the skyline. Today (Fri) the iconic new S-shaped bridge was opened up linking Castle Park with Finzels Reach, the new city quarter being created on the former brewery site between Counterslip and the docks in Bristol, thanks to the good work by Cubex Land. Our creative tech industry is thriving and designers and builders are starting to be more focused on the end user than ever before: office space is starting to reflect the more flexible approach to working, people want and need.
But despite being recently rated by the Sunday Times as the best place to live in Great Britain, for all the progress there remain shadows on the landscape. The entrance to the city as you approach Temple Meads still badly lets the city and, in particular, the fantastic Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, down; the proposed arena, which would give us a world class entertainment venue, remains cloaked in indecision and congestion is cited as one of the major reasons that puts people off moving to the city. A recent survey by TomTom calculated that Bristol drivers spend an average of 39 minutes a day stuck in traffic, an all time high (or low). Lack of affordable housing and infrastructure is another issue.
Construction needs a rebrand
There was also much discussion about how we continue to fail at encouraging young people into the construction industry, women and men. Not just hard hats and high viz but in professions such as quantity surveyors, design engineers and architects Our image has to change, we need to get better at marketing the built environment as a dynamic and society changing profession. Industry bodies such as the he CITB, and companies across the industry have a joint responsibility to connect and drive awareness from junior school up as opposed to just graduates/university.
In the week the Apprenticeship Levy came into force, we need to focus on encouraging all ages, not just young people, to see this as a viable way to train or retrain at all levels.
Empowering local authorities
Increasing use of local authorities to exercise their rights to deal Compulsory Purchase Orders and force the unlocking of derelict sites, the Joint Spatial Plan and the election of a Metro Mayor may kick start some real solutions to challenges. But only if politics and personal agendas are kept firmly out of the equation. As one contributor put it, we need to be bold and we need to be decisive. We all have a shared responsibility to creating a legacy for the future.