News / Western Harbour

Rees: ‘The bridge, the Gorge and balloons are not central to my city’s identity’

By martin booth, Thursday Nov 7, 2019

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees has said that when he was growing up, he never visited Clifton or Hotwells, saying that “the bridge, the Gorge, the balloons were an inaccessible part of the city’s life to me”.

Rees was responding to a question at a city council cabinet meeting about plans for the Western Harbour development.

Options for the development include a new bridge built in front of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, a new road through Ashton Meadows and along the Pill Path, and a four-lane bridge between the Nova Scotia on Spike Island and the Pump House in Hotwells.

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Rees said: “We need something that’s transformative. We can’t tinker around with the city. We need to get stuff done. Those (options) that have been brought forward are those that give us the opportunity to have a really transformative development.”

An artist’s impression of the Western Harbour development

A question from Lib Dem councillor Anthony Negus was about his fears that a development and new bridges would affect the “iconic” view of the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the area’s tourist industry.

Rees responded by mentioning a recent radio interview by Negus: “I heard you criticise me on Radio Bristol this morning for both ‘rushing’ and ‘delaying’ at the same time, which is an interesting position to find myself in.”

The mayor added: “We will work across the city at protecting our cultural heritage. It’s an important part of the proposal and the Local Plan consultation was very clear that any development would take account of the area’s heritage assets and their settings, key views and landmarks.

“But I want to say something here that comes from my experience of growing up in Bristol. I don’t want to upset the establishment but when I was growing up the bridge, the Gorge, the balloons were an inaccessible part of the city’s life to me.

Marvin Rees looking over the Avon Gorge from the Sea Walls on the Downs

“I heard the statement earlier on that this is central to our city’s identity. Not mine, okay. My experience of Bristol as a kid did not come down to Clifton or Hotwells. We didn’t come to this part of Bristol.

“So we can talk about the city’s heritage. It is in buildings, it is in that fantastic story. At Radio Bristol, I called it ‘balloons, Brunel and bridges’. That’s all anyone talked about.

“But I think there’s a heritage to be had in the city about tackling poverty. There’s a heritage to be had about making sure we don’t have families in temporary accommodation, in making sure that the circumstances of children’s birth does not determine where they end up in life. And providing good quality homes for people is essential for that.”

Read more: Makeup of Western Harbour Advisory Group criticised for being too close to mayor

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