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The Bristol Cable

Watch: The struggle for the future of Britain’s best street

A furore has kicked off over proposals to pedestrianise one of Bristol’s most iconic streets, St Marks Road, with famous shop Sweetmart threatening to leave! Easton native Neil Maggs investigates whats going on behind the headlines.


Proposals to pedestrianise the street has ignited a war of words between local businesses and campaigners aiming to make the street more friendly for walking and cycling. But behind this spat are there bigger issues of gentrification and power in this changing community?

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  • I guess the thing that annoys me is that people like Rob have only come into Easton recently and they see these ‘problems’ (i.e. ‘you can’t bring a 40 ton lorry up this street, it’s just not big enough’… erm, it obviously is because that’s what they do at present!) and decide to try to change things to make themselves feel more comfortable. People like Rob would’ve been terrified of Easton 10 or 15 years ago and yet here they are, telling local businesses what need doing. Yes, it’s a lovely idea, yes, as a non- driver and a Mum, I can see the appeal of pedestrianised areas BUT, and it’s a big but, those shops and those business owners are what make St Mark’s Rd such a vibrant community street. The multiculturalism and delicious food is what attracted many of us to the area in the first place (for me a rental house on Heron Rd getting the train up to Clifton for Uni 17 years ago). I don’t think Rob’s ‘urban planning’ mentality takes into account the rich and diverse needs of a community which is far far more nuanced than he and his Whitehall parent chums realise, sitting over a pint of real ale and organic pizza discussing how to make Easton more amenable to their ex-London sensibilities… you’ve already pushed house prices through the roof, how about you appreciate what you’ve got and not try to take over completely, eh?


    • Hi Christy, I’ve lived in Easton for 12 years off and on, so I think your entire premise is slightly off. I wasn’t terrified of Easton 10 years ago, it was great then and it’s great now. I don’t have any Whitehall parent chums that I can think of, I generally drink European premium lager and to be honest will eat any kind of pizza, it doesn’t have to be organic. I’ve never lived in London and never would – I was born and brought up in Leicester. Have a great day!


    • Rob says in the film he’s lived there for 12 years


  • Any chance you guys could include transcripts for AV content please?


  • Bristolians are born in Bristol. I assume Rob, born in London is somekind of Cockney or something! These people thanks to the media have destroyed Bristol. They have ruined communities, forced out families and friends and have created a domino effect that is now reverberating thoughout South Wales, as Bristolians take advantage of cheaper house prices. A pox on gentrification!


  • I used to shop in St Mark’s Road from 1965 to the early 1970’s. My sister-in-law used to work in Sweet Mart when they just had the one shop on the corner of the lane. Sweet Mart have done amazingly and I admire their determination in build up such a successful business. Unfortunately the demand for their wares and the wares of other businesses are now causing problems, due to the amount of heavy vehicles needed to deliver lorry loads stock in such a narrow street. As many people travel by car to buy these larger amounts, it would be beneficial to have a local warehouse for bulk buying customers and keep the lovely atmosphere of the shops for smaller purchases.


  • As a South Asian environmentalist, I’m definitely conflicted about this! A key point made by the owner is that the Sweetmart serves South Asian families across the South West. There’s simply nothing like it for miles around and these customers have to no choice but to drive there. On the other hand, proposals to reduce car use and pollution should always be taken seriously and Bristol has to uphold its reputation as a green city. It seems to me that a compromise is achievable but it needs much, much wider community consultation. Disappointing that Rob did not do this from the beginning – it really is a worrying sign of the emergence of two parallel Eastons.


  • Just a minor point that came up: ‘You can’t take a 25Kg bag on a bike’. But you can if you’ve got a trailer or a cargo bike. There is a lot of stuff that this that 50 years of using cars all the time makes people think can _only_ be done by car. But it’s kind of ridiculous to use a huge 1.5-tonne machine to shift you and your 25Kg bag of rice/spice if you think about it. Now we have e-bikes it’s easy even in hilly places like Bristol.

    I used to drive half a mile to the shops every week, just like everyone else, but then I got a bike trailer and I could stop doing it. No queuing in traffic, it fits a whole shopping-trolley worth. That was 19 years ago – it’s an amazing bit of kit. And now there are loads of cargo bike designs available. This stuff should be a lot more normal in cities, like it is in the Netherlands.


  • If Rob was truly connected to the local community, he would have shown more respect than to go to the council and seek to impose his will without unifying local businesses and residents first.


  • The council have already compromised St Marks Road with narrowings and bollards. So it is no suprise that deliveries to local businesses now block St Marks road more easily.

    At the same time distribution centres have standardised height loading bays which militate against use of smaller vans to provide small deliveries Planning officers could reduce congestion and pollution by lorries by requiring van height loading bays in any planned distribution centres.


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