We’ve asked people in Bristol what issues are most important to them this election. This Citizens’ Agenda is a list of their priorities.
- Make Housing Affordable
The biggest issue for most people is the affordability of housing – both for renters and those trying to buy their first home.
Readers called for rent controls and protections of renters, greater requirements on developers to build affordable housing rather than luxury flats, the power of landlords to be more regulated, and the council to use empty properties for affordable housing.
Other issues mentioned include the need for more council housing and improvements to older council properties, the cost of the recent cladding falling on leaseholders and the need to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.
- What will you actually do to force big development corporations to take action about ensuring there is adequate affordable housing, both rental and purchased, for younger people in the next five years?
- Are you in favour of high rises and have you ever lived in one?
- Will you campaign for central government to allow Bristol to introduce rent caps?
- What practical and actionable steps are you willing to take to help protect the leaseholders from the unaffordable costs to fix problems they had no hand in causing?
- Why is Bristol City Council allowing planning permission for so much student accommodation when there is a real lack of affordable housing for young people who live in the city?
- Address the climate crisis
A number of readers described the climate crisis as the issue that “trumps” everything else. There was a clear sense that some readers could not see enough meaningful action from the council to match the declaration of the climate emergency in 2018, and pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030.
A particular concern was the expansion of Bristol Airport, and the mayor not being strong enough in opposing it. Other priorities mentioned were replacing cars with greener transport, retrofitting housing to make it more energy efficient, supporting households and businesses to decarbonise, food sustainability, green jobs, renewable energy, and investment in fossil fuels by the Avon Pension Fund.
- How will you ensure that as Bristol rebuilds its economy after the pandemic in a way which does not continue to destroy the planet and is not rooted in unsustainable materialism and consumption?
- Bristol recognised the climate and ecological emergency over two years ago, but very little concrete change has happened. How will you put the declaration of emergency into action?'
- Are you willing to enforce a minimum net carbon zero requirement on all new high rise buildings in the city, in order to protect the environment and the health of Bristol?
- Would you set annual way points on the path to carbon neutrality, in order not only to measure progress to the 2030 goal, but also to engage the people of Bristol in what needs to be done to achieve it?
- What plans do you have to offset the 1 million tonnes of carbon an expanded airport will bring per year? Or will you be actively campaigning against its expansion?
- Improve public transport
The need for a better public transport system in Bristol came up a lot. Bristol’s busses were highlighted as not sufficiently affordable, reliable, or well connected to be a good choice for getting around the city. Some suggested the bus network should be brought under council control.
Many called for a greater investment in public transport, helping to reduce traffic and reliance on cars, as well as ensuring public transport options are green and less polluting. Investing in supporting active travel like cycling and walking was mentioned by many as a way they wanted to see public transport improved.
- What are you going to do to dramatically reduce the dominance of cars in the city?
- When will Bristol get an integrated rail and tram plan (like Birmingham, Cardiff, etc.) and so start to get serious about car congestion and its air pollution?
- How will you make the public transport system more affordable and reliable?
- How do you propose to work with the Mayor of the West of England to ensure comprehensive, reliable and cheap public transport for all parts of Bristol and the surrounding areas?
- Reduce air pollution
Air pollution was a big concern for readers, and the related issues of feeling like the city is dominated by cars. Multiple people mentioned the link with inequality as the poorest are often those living with the worst air quality and poor transport links. Pollution was of particular concern in areas being redeveloped.
Lots of people mentioned the Clean Air Zone, but also asked about exemptions for people who need to drive, and called for more action on reducing cars in other areas and tackling particulate pollution from sources such as wood burning stoves. Several readers mentioned the opportunity that Covid presented, but that the council had been too slow to tackle air pollution.
- Apart from the planned Clear Air Zone, what other measures are you going to take to eradicate cars from the city of Bristol, whilst understanding that many people are not mobile, wealthy or able to access the still rather poor public transport offering ?
- How will you prevent pollution outside of the city center, from solid fuel burning and from industrial pollution such as incinerators in Avonmouth?
- Diesel fumes and wood burning stoves are significantly impacting the local air quality, what are you going to do to significantly reduce both of these sources?
- How will you manage a cliff edge of free parking and driving around Residential Parking Zones and the Clean Air Zone?
- Protect green spaces
Concerns about loss of green spaces and the natural environment in Bristol came up again and again. Readers highlighted the importance of free urban green spaces as important for people’s physical and mental health, as well as for biodiversity and absorbing air pollution. Many also demanded an end to the felling of urban trees.
Many people said green spaces should not be sacrificed to urban developments, eg. the proposed housing development on the Western Slopes in Knowle West.. Many people also said existing green spaces should be better funded and protected, in particular parks. Many people also raised concerns about fly tipping and litter as issues affecting their local environment.
- What commitments will you make to protect and invest in the city’s green spaces?
- What will you do to address the ecological emergency in Bristol and the destruction of wildlife habitat?
- Can you commit to ceasing all planned developments on the remaining green space and instead redeveloping disused homes and brownfield sites where possible?
- How will you create a balance between building new homes and maintaining the lifeline that our green spaces provide?
- What steps will you take to strengthen protections for mature trees in the city?
- Strengthen local democracy
Many readers said they are sceptical of how the mayoral system is working in Bristol, raising concerns that the role is too powerful, and not sufficiently collaborative with councillors. Lack of transparency around decision making was another concern raised, with concerns about accountability, especially around “fiascos” like Bristol Energy.
Following the recent protests in Bristol, many also wanted to know how peaceful protest would be protected in the future.
- How will you improve democratic engagement in the city?
- How will you ensure that there are no more expensive fiascos like Metrobus, Bristol Energy etc?
- How will you improve transparency around decision-making?
- Why do you think a mayor is important for Bristol?
- What do you think are the biggest issues with local democracy in the city?
- Enable active travel
Lots of readers mentioned the need to make Bristol a less car-centric city in order to enable walking and cycling, but also just make the city a nicer place to live.
Some people described cycling as unpleasant or intimidating at best and dangerous at worst. Many called for greater cycling infrastructure, as current cycle lanes aren’t segregated, and often are full of potholes and parked cars. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods were mentioned as a good way to reduce the dominance of cars outside the city centre, while other suggestions included financial support to get people from poorer areas cycling and car sharing schemes.
Readers mentioned pavement parking as a real problem, particularly for people with mobility issues and parents with buggies.
- What are you doing to encourage more people to use greener transport outside of the city centre, especially in disadvantaged areas where individuals can't afford it?
- What are you going to do to improve cycling infrastructure and reduce the dominance of cars?
- Will you be brave enough to restrict car movement so that additional schemes can be brought in that will genuinely benefit cyclist and pedestrian movement around the city, rather than only making space for cyclists/pedestrians when it doesn't inconvenience cars too much?
- How will you progressively remove through traffic from residential streets in the next three years and remove more parked cars from our residential streets to provide more space for people?
- How will you change Bristol so that a ten year old can cycle across the city safely?
- Fight inequality
Lots of readers said economic inequality was a big concern – the gap between the rich and the poor and the number of people with low paid or insecure jobs. Many said Covid-19 had shed new light on how we live in an unequal city, in terms of wealth, education and health.
Support for people in and out of work was a central theme – from becoming a Living Wage city, to piloting universal basic income. Some people also spoke about some areas of the city feeling neglected, being affected by gentrification and needing greater investment.
Readers also mentioned other types of inequality and discrimination as a problem, from racism to homophobia and disability rights.
- How will you reduce inequality of opportunity and social injustice in the city?
- How would you tackle the problems of disadvantage, insecurity and disengagement among the working-class in our city, in areas like Hartcliffe, Southmead and Lawrence Weston?
- How will you address equality in the city? It seems like those who have money are paying meager amounts to people in the gig economy with no workers rights whilst companies profit. A disproportionate amount of these workers seem to come from BAME groups.
- Will you look at improving wider areas of Bristol and not just central?
Are these your priorities this election?
If you haven't already, have your say in the Citizens' Agenda. It's a living list which we will update to reflect the priorities people tell us.