Bristol mayor Marvin Rees hailed the city as an "aspirational" place for development and business, during a networking event to launch the Bristol Is magazine and initiative yesterday (10 October).
At Bristol's M Shed museum, Rees outlined his vision for the city's future to around 100 architects, developers, consultants and other potential investors from around the UK. He spoke of projects including the planned regeneration of Western Harbour, Temple Meads, Bristol City Airport and the Temple Island development, where the council recently decided against approving an arena in favour of a conference centre and other uses.
Rees recounted his early life in the city: "For me, growing up here, Bristol was not a great city. There was a lot of money flowing around, but as a young person on a housing estate on the edge of the city, I felt that I was locked out of the many opportunities that Bristol was putting out there.
"Even when I came back to Bristol after university, it was all derelict; just empty spaces and old warehouses. That sense of social fragmentation, fractured across class and racial lines – including the riots – was a real part of where the city was at.
"That's not where the city is today. What we are trying to do is to feed it real ambition and aspiration. I am not ashamed to call it a city of aspiration, but it has to be right. We don't want to do a poor job on development and growth and then chase after it with public services because we’ve done it badly. We want to show the world how to do good city planning."
A speaker’s panel, chaired by Joanna Rowelle, design consultant Arup's director of integrated city planning, saw Rees join co-founder of Aardman Animation David Sproxton CBE; co-founder of Change Real Estate, Ron Persaud and development director at Galliford Try Partnerships, Kathryn Pennington.
Sproxton highlighted the growth of the creative industries in Bristol since establishing Aardman Animations in 1976 with Nick Park and the arrival of Channel 4 in the early 1980s, describing the modern Temple Meads area as a "mass of creative energy."
Pennington focused on the city's urgent housing need: "Is Bristol really in need of new housing? Absolutely it is. The average price of a house in 2017 was £275,000, and in 2010 before that it was £170,000, which is a significant growth. House prices in Bristol are on average around 11 times the average salary.
"But the really good news is that it is not only a unique place to live and work, but it also has a very unique creative outlook. As a partnership business, Galliford Try looks to build and continue to work in partnership with the council and local housing associations. We have the skills and capacity to build new homes.”
Persaud pressed on the importance of placemaking when planning for Redcliff Quarter, a residential-led development in the town centre.
"When we acquired Redcliff Quarter in 2014, it was a site that has been sterile for 20 years," he said. "Apart from a few businesses, it was mostly empty warehouses. The vision we had was to create a new 'quarter', a new destination. To do that we had to think about placemaking, to think about what we are, and what could draw people in, such as food and drink to complement places like St Nicholas' market.
"We have spent £2.2 million on the city’s roads, narrowing them and widening the pavements and introducing public realm improvements, not just within the development, but around it as well."
Speaking of the new Bristol Is magazine, which focuses on development opportunities and current projects in the city, and is published by regeneration specialist 3Fox International, Rees said: "Having a publication like this, which documents everything going on in Bristol in one place, is a really useful tool."
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