And so, at last, the West of England LEP has produced a public draft of its Strategic Economic Plan to 2030. This is helpfully out to consultation 1 week before Christmas/New Year with a tight deadline for comment by 24 Jan 2014 – plenty of time to read and digest a 76 page document! Available from here for anyone who wants to take a look – https://www.citizenspace.com/bristol/west-of-england-partnership/lepsep
I thought I’d write a few initial comments in this blog then go back to it for more detailed comments early in the New Year, but do you know what, not sure I’ll get to the detail after all. To say I was less than inspired would be an understatement, and whilst I know these things are always difficult and tough to get right, as well as meet government agendas, it just feels a bit like we don’t even try. I’m not sure what I expected really, as there has been little or no opportunity for individual residents like myself to know what was being discussed or debated or even considered for inclusion in this draft consultation document. But I probably should have known that what we would get is the same old stuff, the same focus, the same sectors, the same outcomes and the same old waffle about growth, ambition and quality.
If you can be bothered to scan through the document you will notice that there is barely any mention of South Bristol – again no real surprise, as there never is, it rarely if ever features on decision makers agendas, unless it’s about building a road through it to help other people in the sub region! I really must move on from that agenda!!
But I was disappointed to see the focus is entirely on the 5 Enterprise Zones/Areas and that nothing is focused on South Bristol except this notional 10,500 jobs that will miraculously appear once the Link Road is built. That’s it, that’s all that’s in there as part of the spatial focus in relation to South Bristol. How is that helping to address the fundamental spatial inequalities we see in Bristol between north of the river and south of the river? It just doesn’t, so is this not important to a plan for the future? Shouldn’t redressing inequalities be at the heart of the plan? Yes I know it’s about growth and jobs, but if we don’t address the real issues and problems the idea of Bristol and the West of England being a prosperous area where people enjoy a high quality of life is just not true, or at least it is for some, but not for others.
I was left feeling that our politicians, businesses and others, who have been involved in the process so far, have missed a real opportunity to be truly ambitious and creative. They have gone for the safe option and focused on areas of success and obvious growth rather than doing anything different and they have focused spatially on the easy stuff rather than the difficult. So the plan will probably get approved by government but unfortunately will make little difference to those people in our sub region who are currently at a disadvantage when it comes to getting a job, having a decent place to live or improving their own quality of life – a missed opportunity to make a real difference!
What all this says to me is that local people and those interested in improving the quality of life for all Bristol’s residents should get together to write their own plan, that meets local needs, focuses on inherent inequalities in the city and above all shows some creativity and innovation. Anyone up for the challenge?
For an update on my views see an article I wrote for Bristol 24-7 about inequality of opportunity and the lack of any attention to this issue in the plan