Standing on the corner of Jamaica Street and Stokes Croft, Turbo Island is a familiar landmark in Bristol – and one many argue embodies the heart of the area.
A giant billboard hangs over the scrubby patch of land that would be largely forgotten, but for the efforts of the Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft (PRSC) and artists who create an ever-changing canvas of street art on its surrounds. For years, the small island has acted as an informal space for people to gather.
PRSC was started 12 years ago with the idea, among other things, of Stokes Croft being an outdoor gallery. The organisation’s campaigners are now seizing an opportunity they hope will enable them to secure some of the £300,000 needed to purchase the island back from the private company that owns it and put it in the hands of the community.
“For a long time, we have felt that the way we address problems of gentrification is by community ownership of assets,” explains Chris Chalkley of PRSC.
“So, we set up Stokes Croft Land Trust Cooperative for community benefit.”
Turbo Island was sold off by the former Avon County Council for some £30,000 to a private company that rents it out as billboard space.
The PRSC team have put forward a bid for their proposal to be considered for a share of the community infrastructure levy (CIL) – funds paid by developers to boost the local community and mitigate against any harm caused by building work.
The organisation has already secured grant funding for the community purchase of the PRSC building on Jamaica Street and there are rumours the Jamaica Street Studios could also become wholly community owned.
Pitching the proposal to residents and central ward councillors at City Hall on Tuesday, Chris said: “It’s an area than has been forgotten for a very long time. It’s an indeterminate, no rules kind of place and we are proposing that it goes into community ownership.
“It’s worth £300,000 because the billboard generates £25,000 a year.”
He told Bristol24/7 the potential is for the whole of one side of the street to go into community ownership to safeguard it for the future. The owner of Turbo Island has already indicated a willingness to sell the land at market value.
“That’s as big and culturally important as Watershed,” says Chris. “All we are trying to do is secure the culture of the city.”
Speaking in support of the idea, one resident said: “It’s [currently] a shocking under-use of a very prominent and underused public open space so the idea that it be taken over by a community land trust is very welcomed.
“I would look forward to seeing the back of the rather ugly advertising board and see it replaced with some good street art.”
The bid is one of a number being considered for CIL funds from central ward. The proposals will go into a pot, together with those from adjoining wards, and councillors will ultimately decide how to divide up the available money.