In the news this week, tragedy struck at a Bristol tower block. After a top floor flat at Twinnell House in Easton was engulfed in flames, a man fell to his death trying to escape.
The man has since been named as Abdul Jabar Oryakhel. Friends and family have paid tribute to the 30-year-old, who is believed to have left his family in Afghanistan to find a better life in the UK.
The blaze has rocked the local community after 90 people were evacuated, eight people were treated in hospital and many have been forced into temporary accommodation. With the Grenfire Fire tragedy still firmly in people’s minds, residents have spoken out about the traumatic events, as well as about feeling ignored by the council for years regarding conditions in the block.
When mayor Marvin Rees attended a community meeting on Thursday, some residents accosted and threw water at him. For months, we have been reporting on similar concerns of residents at neighbouring high-rise Lansdowne Court.
An investigation found the deadly fire was accidental, caused by a fault with an electric bike. The council said all fire measures “worked well” and contained the fire to within the flat where it started. They said fire doors and alarms in the flat and on the top floor responded as expected given the circumstances.
This is despite the fact that multiple residents told us they didn’t hear any alarm and instead were woken by the smell of smoke, or by neighbours or fire fighters banging on their doors. Read our reporting on the aftermath.
This week, we have asked the council specific questions about fire safety protocols and how they’re handling the response. At time of writing, they haven’t responded.
Community union ACORN have launched a fire safety campaign with local residents and we are now investigating the bigger picture – fire safety measures across the city’s 59 high rise blocks.
Your Bristol news round-up
? The UK’s inflation crisis, alongside existing shortfalls in social care budgets, have this year added up to a more than £31 million funding gap for Bristol City Council. Forecasts are showing the gap is expected to rise over the next few years “peaking at £37.5 million in 2027”, which cabinet member for finance Craig Cheney says is a result of decades of austerity from Westminster, and means a continued need to cut council services significantly over several years.
? Almost half the Bristol taxi drivers who’ve applied for grants to replace their vehicles with ones that meet new clean air zone (CAZ) standards have been rejected. The council has earmarked £32 million of its low-emission vehicle transition funding to support private hire drivers specifically, but has rejected many cabbies for “not meeting the criteria”. The council haven’t detailed why, but Saif Hussain, chairman of the Bristol Blue Licensed Taxi Association explained that drivers may not be aware that “If you haven’t already bought a new vehicle, they won’t give you the grant”. Taxi drivers whose vehicles don’t meet the CAZ rules will face fines of up to £100 a day.
✊ Renters union Acorn held an event outside City Hall this week which it called ‘the REAL Renting Commission’ in response to being shut out of the council’s Living Rent Commission. Bristol renters were invited to discuss their experiences of private renting, abusive landlords and rising costs.
? Five people from Bristol who engaged in a peaceful ‘sit-in’ protest outside Kingsbury Oil Terminal have been arrested and accused of breaching a High Court injunction (a court order to stop further protests after initial arrests). They were taking part in ongoing Just Stop Oil actions to demand an end to new oil and gas projects in the UK. Four have been released and one is due to stand trial this week.
?️ The Mayor has backed plans for a £200 million “sporting quarter” development next to Ashton Gate arena. A 3,600-seater convention centre, new offices, shops, a hotel, flats and a car park will be built, alongside a new development of 510 homes built nearby. The development will soon be voted on by councillors after getting its green light from planners and the mayor’s office.
⛔ Controversial plans to move 122 staff from six different council departments to Bristol Waste could be scrapped. It was revealed at a council meeting that Bristol Waste has not produced a business plan, something which added to existing fears around the employment rights of the staff.
?️ BBC Radio Bristol presenter James Hanson went viral this week for his grilling of Liz Truss on her cabinet’s ‘mini-budget’, accusing her of giving “scripted answers” and calling her out for passing the buck. Truss embarked on a spate of BBC local radio interviews on Thursday morning, which was widely perceived as a move that No.10 hoped would yield ‘softball’ questions, but during which she struggled to answer tough questioning from all local journalists involved.
? Bristol Tyre Extinguishers, a protest group who deflate the tyres of gas guzzling SUVs, have deflated the tyres of 43 SUVs across Westbury Park and Redland overnight on Thursday. The direct action group claims to have “disarmed” 449 of Bristol’s SUVs since March, saying that while the large cars are “marketed as safe” they actually “put all other road users in danger.”
? Bristol’s creative sector has expanded significantly as a result of greater film and TV production in the city, according to Bristol Film Office. The sector is estimated to have generated £20.8m in the city, an almost £4 million increase from the previous year and a 22% increase on pre-pandemic levels.
? The West of England Combined Authority has announced millions in investment for new climate-related projects across the region. Funding has been directed toward new woodlands and nature reserves, as well as for local wind turbine project, the Sustainable Innovative Foundations for Turbines.
? Two more schools in Bristol, Minerva Primary Academy in Hillfields and Whitehall Primary School in Easton, have become ‘School Streets’. The roads outside the schools will restrict car use at drop off and pick up times, using temporary barriers to protect walking, cycling, and wheeling use.
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