Don’t get me wrong. I love Bristol. It has retained a sense of reality about the work-life balance, trying its best to protect its precious green space, working hard to provide space for cycling and walking, and becoming a city of sanctuary. Bristol has the opportunity to genuinely lead the world in smart urban living.
Apparently, The Sunday Times loves Bristol for its “great shopping, buzzing social scene and glorious scenery”, naming it the best place to live in Britain, and, in doing so, trotting out the usual well-known clichés about Brunel & Banksy. Amazingly, they also quote “the great choice of housing and fantastic transport links” as a reason for Bristol making the top spot. Really?
If they visited, presumably they avoided rush hour, driving into Bristol over the Suspension Bridge for skinny latte on Whiteladies Road, before strolling down Park Street to photograph the Banksy on their way to Watershed. Next time, they can join me waiting for another delayed First Bus, before visiting the food banks to find out how many people are struggling to feed their kids. I’m also guessing that air quality isn’t one of The Sunday Times’ criteria?
Great choice of housing? Now they really are taking the piss. If you have a £100k deposit, and a salary in excess of £50k per annum then maybe, but, for most people, Bristol is the most expensive place in Britain to buy a house, with average prices over 10 times the average salary. There are thousands of people on the social housing register, and homelessness is a growing problem that the Mayor of Bristol has had to set up a task force to tackle.
I don’t like to be a bah-humbug. Awards & accolades are very welcome. And Bristol IS a great place. But its Achilles heel is its inequality, undermining the authenticity of such headlines. How much more proud could we all be if Bristol won “most equal city”? I might even pay to read the whole article on the Sunday Times website!
Darren Hall is the Green Party candidate for the West of England metro mayoral elections.