Everything you need to know about Bristol if you are into…GREEN ISSUES

Just how green is the city of Bristol? Well for starters we have 450 parks and green spaces totalling over 1300 hectares, with loads of events hosted in them. Green spaces are one of the city’s most valued features and millions visit them every year. No other city in England has as much green space.

There’s plenty of green space just outside the city boundaries within easy reach, like Ashton Court Estate, and one of the most refreshing things about Bristol is being able to see that countryside from all over the city, including when you’re right in the centre. As in many parts of the country though, green spaces are constantly threatened by development. Bristol is a very popular place to live and its population is forecast to rise by over 30% by 2031, exerting very significant social and environmental pressure at a time when we need to cut it. Bristol City Council has agreed a strategy to sell off of 2.4% of the city’s green space as demand for thousands of new houses the possibility of the ring-road around South Bristol grows. The future of these green spaces is a key, ongoing issue and one we must keep fighting for.

Bristol is also relatively green as a city as it gained its first Green Councillor, Charlie Bolton, in Southville, a few years ago. ‘About time’ many would say, given the large number of organisations promoting respect and care for the environment that have for years been Bristol based. Brilliant organisations like the CREATE Centre, City Farms, Transition Bristol, Farmers Market, Slow Food Market, local food advocates like the Better Food Company, Community Recycling Network and City Car Club. Another fantastic example is the BBC Natural History Unit in Clifton, a key organisation behind June’s Festival of Nature and October’s Wildscreen Festival, the world’s largest and most prestigious international wildlife and environmental film festival. The unit is responsible for world class environmental television like Blue Planet and Planet Earth, both playing a huge part in raising green awareness.

Sustrans, the country’s leading sustainable transport charity, again based in Bristol, has been closely involved in some of the most discussed and controversial local issues this year. Bristol City Council had planned to build a bus rapid transit route on the Bristol to Bath Railway Path, the UK’s most popular cycle path, until a 10,000 signature petition and a motion to the council from Green Councillor, Charlie Bolton, helped to cause a rethink. Going ahead with the plan might well have messed up the council’s bid to become the UK’s first ‘Cycling City’, which was ultimately successful in June. The council will now have tens of millions to spend, wisely one hopes, on cycling schemes in Bristol.

Sustrans and other local greens, such as those at the Bristol Cycling Campaign or Bristol Friends of the Earth will continue activity on cycling but also on Bristol’s many other transport problems. One of the major ways in which Bristol can improve its green credentials further is by improving public transport (bus and train firm Firstbus are hardly fondly regarded locally!). Partly as a result, Bristol’s air quality and noise levels can be poor at times and the city’s contribution to climate change needs to be cut by a factor of ten over the coming decades to approach sustainable levels. One small success of late is the rail service improvements on the Severn Beach line – it’s now a quick, efficient way to get around certain parts of the city, such as from Montpelier or Stapleton Road to Clifton.

There is also ongoing scrutiny of how green Bristol actually is in a relative and absolute sense, for example whether or not it decides to mass incinerate much of its waste. The Bristol Partnership, the council working together with businesses, voluntary and community groups, has ambitions for the city to become a green capital; “A low carbon city with balanced and sustainable communities enjoying a high quality of life.”

The eleven green objectives set out by the The Bristol Partnership are commendable; Bristol based organic food charity and a leading light behind the September’s Organic Food Festival, The Soil Association is no doubt pleased to see objective seven; ‘healthier, locally produced food’, but the tension between these green objectives and The Bristol Partnership’s other ambitions are great, in particular its economic thinking, which is still based on economic growth and a consumer society when environmental resources are finite. Bristol’s major current development is the huge new shopping area Cabot Circus. Green economics guru EF Schumacher, whose work is celebrated here every October at the Schumacher Lectures is probably turning in his grave.

Glenn Vowles
Read Glenn’s regular green issues blog at: http://vowlesthegreen.blogspot.com

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