South Bristol has many advantages – it is close to the city centre, surrounded by beautiful countryside and well located in relation to Bristol Airport. It has some lovely houses, in garden suburb layouts, with large gardens and green open spaces close by. But to many it is perceived as inaccessible, with a poor quality environment, unskilled workforce and high levels of crime and anti-social behaviour.
Look at any table of statistics for the Bristol City region – on house prices, crime, educational attainment, skills or employment levels and one thing will quickly become obvious. The central area and the northern fringe are making great strides but South Bristol is lagging behind:
- The worst 2 areas nationally for lack of attainment amongst children/young people are in Knowle West
- 6 areas in South Bristol are in the most deprived 100 nationally
- More than a third of people in South Bristol live in areas which fall in the most deprived 10% nationally in terms of education, skills and training deprivation
- Of the most deprived 20 areas in Bristol in terms of education, skills and training, 18 are in South Bristol
- 35% of people aged 16-74 in South Bristol have no qualifications
- Four areas in South Bristol are in the most deprived 10% nationally in terms of health deprivation and disability
- Of the worst 10 areas in Bristol in terms of crime, eight are in South Bristol
- 3 areas in South Bristol are in the worst 50 areas in England in terms of crime.
That’s a sad reflection on Bristol itself and all those who have been, or are, in a position to do something about it. But with vision, leadership and ambition all that can change. So why hasn’t it? We have been talking about South Bristol as an area of multiple deprivation and disadvantage for decades, but how much has actually changed? Yes there have been some improvements in recent years; new schools, the redevelopment of Symes Avenue, new housing at Lakeshore, a new community hospital, skills centre and a leisure centre. But is this the best we can do?
Just what are our aspirations for South Bristol? From so many points of view it seems once more to be left behind. Do the Local Enterprise Partnership have plans to bring jobs, regeneration, housing and skills to the area or has it been forgotten in their plans or maybe just placed in the too difficult to handle box? Have the Mayor and Bristol City Council got plans and will they work with the local community to see what they want?
From the outside looking in, South Bristol just seems to keep missing out and will continue to lag behind other areas of the city until it features high enough in political aspirations and action.
Rather than allocate South Bristol as an Enterprise Zone or major growth area, like other areas of the city region, the Local Enterprise Partnership instead decided to focus entirely on transport links – the North Fringe to Hengrove BRT route and the South Bristol Link Road. Will this really deliver what is needed for South Bristol or is it just the tip of the iceberg?
South Bristol could be so different but what do we need to do to make it happen and whose job is it?
Is this something the local communities themselves can take control of and outline what they would like different areas of South Bristol to be like, or is it up to the Local Enterprise Partnership to remember to include it in their plans and focus funding on the area, or is it down to the Mayor?
I suspect it should be a combination of all of these but so far there is little evidence to suggest that much is actually happening?
The economic map of the Bristol City region could be redrawn to embrace South Bristol and make it the focus of everyone’s attention but will it ever happen? I’ve been waiting 20 years to see real change and all I can see at the moment is piecemeal, ad hoc, low quality developments that look like no one in authority really cares about the people or the area!