I join with the many businesses and users of Bristol’s historic harbour – the people who make it what it is – in opposing its use as a powerboat race track. I fear this would take us backwards rather than forwards as a city
I am a strong advocate of creating activity and fun in the city and have done so in many ways over many years. However, it is important that we chose those things that fit the special nature of Bristol, which I now spend much of my time promoting around the world.
I have absolutely no desire to criticise Mayor Marvin Rees, and have gone out of my way to support him on so many fronts, but Bristol’s historic harbour is the essence of our city and a very precious resource. We saved it in the seventies by opposing unbelievably destructive road plans that would have destroyed its nature and use, and gave it a new life as the cultural and recreational heart of the city, starting with the reclamation of the cranes and the creation of the ferry boats.
The rich mix of uses, together with the tremendous contributions that have been made by Underfall Yard, M–Shed, the Matthew, SS Great Britain and the various activities on and around the water, make it what it is.
I am proud that Bristol has grown a global reputation as an environmentally friendly city with a plethora of events, reinforcing this with walking, running, cycling, festivals, natural history, food, music, art, water-slides, whales, Gromits etc.
Independent businesses have thrived both on and around the water – and it has become everyone’s playground. The problem that many people have with the prospect of powerboats, a particularly noisy and polluting event, is that it is designed to appeal to a particular audience but kills the harbour for any other use – especially by its many boat users. I don’t argue on the basis of safety – it is up to participants if they want to put their lives at risk, as they did tragically in the past – but the real cost to the city will be the loss of a reputation that has been nurtured over many years.
Any compensation to the businesses that depend on the harbour will be minimal compared with the damage of associating our wonderful harbour with a highly intrusive motor sport. Let’s not kill the goose for the sake of an expensive one–off thrill!
George Ferguson was Bristol’s first elected mayor and now supports People & Cities.