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This week in Bristol: Historic hotel gutted by fire

The former Grosvenor Hotel, mired in controversy in recent years, has been destroyed by fire.

Grosvenor Hotel fire
This Week in Bristol

In the news this week, a huge fire broke out at the old Grosvenor Hotel, an abandoned building opposite Temple Meads that has been derelict for 20 years. Metres-high flames roared from the top of the building – which has a storied history.

Sitting opposite the entrance to the city’s central station, the Grosvenor was once Bristol’s “grandest hotel”. As the city built up around it through the post-war period – including the construction of a flyover which apparently sent cars zooming past hotel room windows – the residence became less attractive. The property changed hands several times, and by the 1990s was a hostel for the homeless.

In 2017, the now-derelict Grosvenor became the site of a property scam. With the site laying empty, attracting squatters and urban explorers, the council had been eager to see it developed as part of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone. Sanjiv Varma, an Indian businessman, convinced a number of upmarket estate agents and individual buyers that he had a viable plan to develop a student flat block. He didn’t – and disappeared with an estimated £9 million.

While a lengthy prosecution was taking place, the council was trying to push through its own purchase of the site, but hadn’t been successful by the time the fire took place. The building is now likely to be demolished given the extent of the damage, but the council says it remains committed to redeveloping the site as part of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone.

Just 48 hours later another council-owned high-rise caught fire, only weeks after the Twinnell House tragedy. The fire service have revealed they’re treating the incident, at Eccleston House in Barton Hill, as arson. There were no fatalities, and around 40 people are now being cared for at nearby rest centres.

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✊ Around 50 housing officers, covering Bristol’s 27,000 council tenancies, will strike this weekend and into next week due to what they have called “unsustainable workloads”. The council needs to act, said Unite’s general secretary Sharon Graham, due to Bristol seeing a “64% increase in the number of cases involving vulnerable tenants over the last year”.

Disabled people face being trapped in their homes because they can’t afford to upgrade their cars to meet Bristol’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) standards, campaigners have warned. In a protest outside City Hall, they said that though the council had recognised the CAZ would disproportionately affect disabled people, “insufficient mitigations have been put in place”.

⚖️ Abigail White, the 24 year old Kingswood woman accused of stabbing her partner Bradley Lewis, has been found guilty of murder. She pleaded guilty to manslaughter but not to a murder charge, and though a consultant forensic psychiatrist who gave evidence at the trial said she had diminished responsibility on the grounds of a borderline personality disorder diagnosis, the jury convicted her. She faces life in prison with a minimum of 18 years.

A report into whether tensions between Bristol’s city leaders is wasting public money has been “gathering dust”, according to councillors who claim the report is “substantially complete” but has not been shared with them. External auditors Grant Thornton launched the investigation last year after Metro Mayor Dan Norris called Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, and the council leaders of South Glos and Bath and North East Somerset, “the Hokey Cokey Three”. The three boycotted one of his meetings, which involved decisions about millions of pounds of public money.

ACORN has called comments by Mayor Marvin Rees “ridiculous, disgraceful and utterly cynical” after he compared protestors from the union to insurrectionists who stormed the US Capitol in January last year. ACORN members with placards walked past security into a meeting of the council’s Living Rent Commission, which they had been excluded from despite being the largest representative body for renters in the city.

?️ New noise-detecting traffic cameras are being trialled in Bristol to “crack down on ‘boy racers’ revving engines and using illegal exhausts”, according to the Department of Transport. The government said it will invest £300,000 in the project to offset the £10 billion estimated “social cost” of road noise pollution.

Cossham Hospital in Hillfields has temporarily suspended its birthing unit due to a lack of staff. Vacancies and absences due to illness have led the North Bristol NHS Trust to decide to suspend the service; they say it’s not the first time they’ve had to make this decision in “similar circumstances”. 

Two men have been arrested for the stabbing murder of Takayo Nembhard, aka rapper TKorStretch, which took place at Notting Hill Carnival earlier this year. The men, aged 23 and 18, were arrested alongside a 20-year-old woman arrested “on suspicion of assisting an offender”.

Bristol in-land surfing lake The Wave has said that an algae bloom, the result of the summer’s heatwaves, is the culprit for the water turning green, and it is completely safe to use. Surfers took to social media to question whether the attraction should be open given that the lake was not “its normal turquoise colour”.

Solutions and Successes ?

?️ A new affordable eco-housing project commissioned and funded by the council has been given the green light. Nine one-bedroom, two-storey homes will be built on disused council-owned garage plots in Horfield, and will be largely open plan, highly insulated with low energy lighting, and run on solar panels and heat pumps. Other plans are being put together for similar projects in Knowle West and Lockleaze.

The Kings Head on Victoria Street, a pub with some of the oldest bar fittings in the UK, is reopening under new management. Bought by the co-founders of St Philip’s brewery Good Chemistry, and The Good Measure in Redland, the pub’s interior dates back to 1865 and is the only Bristol pub to be selected for Camra’s Heritage Listed Interiors.

At this week’s University of Bristol Employment Showcase, members of the Student Action Bristol group took a stand against the hosting of arms manufacturers. The campaign group stood alongside the stands of Airbus, Boeing and MBDA, discussing with fellow students the companies’ role in arms dealing, their specific contributions to recent wars, and fines paid for misconduct. In 2017, the university divested from fossil fuels following student and staff pressure, but have not responded to any demands regarding weapons. Student Action Bristol say “By failing to act, or even to comment on this, the university and its careers service have taken a stance.”

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