unnamedIn 1966, the M32 “Hambrook Spur” opened to traffic, a major step in Bristol’s transport evolution towards dominance of the car. It also sparked the start of the revolution that prevented, amongst other things, the harbour being concreted over and a dual carriage way being built up Jacobs Well Rd. I’m sure some will say that if it had been, we would not have the traffic problems we have today; an inner ring road allowing even more cars to circulate the city, like Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds. One piece of this dream, the St Philips flyover, was built. Houses were demolished to make way for cars, and people took up residence in their new high-rise apartments built nearby. In theory, it created economic prosperity and growth and everyone was happy. The Bristol Civic Society, however, voiced their opposition and local campaign groups put a stop to further “dual-carriagisation” of Bristol. I would put it to you that not even the most ardent Bristolian supporters of car based economic growth would suggest we reconsider an inner ring road through Redland. Indeed, the removal of the Queen Square flyover is a triumph of green space over tarmac that has proved beyond doubt that it is both possible and beneficial.
It is notable, then, that the Long Ashton bypass – perhaps the last such gesture –  is being built, partly excused by the need for tarmac upon which rapid transit buses (BRT) can run. On the other side of the city, more green field land (the ‘blue finger’) next to the M32 was finally turned over to the contractors to build a slipway for BRT 1.
Protests against the loss of the ‘blue finger’ marked the start of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital. Inside the Victoria Rooms were many of the activists of the last 30 years, rightly celebrating the progress that had been made in establishing Bristol as the UK city where green space, energy efficiency, cycling & walking were prioritised just as highly, if not more so, than office blocks and roads. Outside the room were today’s activists, claiming that those inside had sold out.
Ironic, then, that the ceremonial handing over of the award to Ljubljana was also marked by protests outside. This time it was a politically motivated group asking for greater transparency over how the significant sums of money raised for Bristol 2015 had been spent.  The Council allocated £1.2m, Government pitched in over £7m and several more millions were found through private sector sponsorship. How it was spent is a legitimate question, and deserves a detailed answer. We won the award on behalf of the city, and the city has a right to know, especially when the city was shut out of the organisation that spent it.
It should be acknowledged, though, that the Bristol 2015 team did a fine job of exceeding their own objectives, and I’m sure the evaluation will demonstrate that Bristol’s standing in the world has leapt as a result. The team that awarded the prize are coming back in 5 years to assess its longer-term impact and so the bigger question is whether the year has achieved what it set out to do; in particular, whether it has established a vision for the next 10 years that will ensure that future investment will go into making Bristol more of a Green Capital rather than less of one. There is some evidence of that discussion having taken place, with over £1.6m allocated to a series of summits; but, early on, the private sector team hired to deliver the programme began to concentrate on the messaging rather than the message. Rather than opening up the debate to the very people that we were hoping to involve, process took over from partnership, and project management took over from grass roots passion.
More worrying is the lack of legacy. Indeed, a word search on the Bristol 2015 website brings up a nil result. This offers the green community of Bristol an opportunity, perhaps via the Green Capital Partnership should it choose to take it on, an opportunity to get stuck in again. We, Love The Future, are going to support that opportunity by championing a series of individual, organisational and institutional actions that make green easy. We must pedestrianise the old city. We must develop a circular economy. We must improve air quality. We must build affordable, sustainable, low energy houses across the city. We must make public transport, cycling & walking the preferred method of travel.
It is unlikely that there will be more fog bridges, falling fruit or wicker whales, but if we have got anything to do with it, there will be clean air, warm houses, sustainable energy, good jobs and plenty of safe green space for children to enjoy.

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  1. The Bristol Blogger

    Can anyone tell me who is funding ‘Love the Future’? They seem to have a lot of money.

    And I don’t recall a Queen Square flyover?

  2. Christian Martin

    From the DECC reports it appears as if Bristol 2015 Ltd who received £8.3m of taxpayers cash is linked to Bristol Green Capital Partnership who in turn makes reference to bringing in Love the Future Ltd to run events and things for Green Capital so presumably they were contracted via the Green Capital money? Again we don’t know because we don’t have the accounts or contractual arrangements published for all to see. Alistair Sawday in his piece above does say “city has a right to know, especially when the city was shut out of the organisation that spent it.” so perhaps he could enlighten us on the contractual arrangements and tell us whether his and Darren Hall’s company Love The Future Ltd received a contract and money out of Green Capital?

    • Daniel

      If you look on Twitter, Darren Hall has given a series of evasive replies to this question. In avoiding the answer, it seems he is largely relying on the inability of the questioner to name the precise subsidiary corporation of Green Capital which is paying his CIC the cash.

      This is not democracy. This bears no relationship to any sustainable environmentalism. It smacks of exactly the sort of nepotism and closed circle operating which made the stench of Green Year its major legacy. I guess in its way, Messrs Sawday and Hall are therefore continuing the legacy.

      It is of note that both are noisy supporters of the local king of secret accounting, George Ferguson.

  3. Darren Hall

    Only just seen this. To clarify, Love The Future received £100k from Bristol 2015 Ltd to deliver Big Green Week 2015. I was paid £1500 per month as the Director. My issue with most of the people criticising the piece is that their efforts would be so much more credible if they could at least report the facts that are in the public domain properly, and even more so if it wasn’t just a blatant misguided excuse to have a go at the Mayor.

    Of course we are trying to continue the legacy – we were major players in trying to win it in the first place, so we are hardly going to give up now. The aim is to make Bristol a fairer, healthier, more prosperous and resilient city. Our issue was with the persons Bristol City Council hired to run the company and the way in which many of the grass roots organisations who had worked so hard to help win the award felt excluded from the decision making process.

    We remain committed to social & environmental justice, and believe Bristol could be one of the first cities in the UK to demonstrate truly sustainable urban living, especially if we learn the lessons from 2015 and re-engage from the bottom up, rather than the top down.

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