I am an outsider. I came to Bristol and quickly grew to love it as my home. It has a delightful facility in that its edges can be easily held in the mind and appreciated with satisfaction; it can be absorbed and, in time hopefully, it deigns to welcome the incomer as its own.
I have watched with an interest from when the West of England Initiative published 2050 High in Hope in 2011, the discussions about the potential for development and essential renewal at the Western end of Bristol’s Floating Harbour – a jewel of this city. I have now no political affiliation, just a continuing interest and commitment for the city and for all its population to prosper.
However, I have had the privilege over more than 30 years to have been centrally involved with much of the major development and change that has been achieved in Bristol. The organisation I served has been dedicated to the long term service of our wider city community, with very positive effect.
In this case, I saw the beginning of consultation and engagement simply as the opening of discussions, with many different people and groups, that would need to continue and iterate over quite a number of years.
I think I see that the opening stance was not well or eloquently delivered and that has been a sad failing, because it has enabled comment at an unnecessarily strident level. There are undeniably many people with very legitimate interest for their own futures as well as their particular communities. All must be properly consulted and heard.
Nonetheless, I am saddened by the emerging and rather conventional reactions from those who see a conflict as a good basis for advancing their own aims, rather than to look harder at the potential wider common good. In this case, if one dares to look much further into the future, an incredible opportunity for stunning improvement to one of the greatest city gateways in the world cries out for recognition.
The locale of the immediate debate surely needs to be viewed on a wider canvas. We should encompass in our considerations the scope for improving the whole stretch of water to the mouth of the Avon and better understand its role in preventing flooding in the city centre. We are a growing, popular city with a major housing crisis.
Around 11,000 are people currently on the housing waiting list, and this basin area provides one of the spaces with largely unimagined opportunities for homes, job creation and leisure associated with a waterside destination high quality water recreation.
In my working time here, we have deftly avoided some significant opportunities that should have benefited everyone the whole population. Sadly, “We bury our talent in the ground to keep it safe” , and neutralise advantage.
This current matter should not also be buried. It must be possible to take reasonable consideration of all views and make practical compromises that give benefit to the whole.
It is absolutely right for all people to be considered. Let us take a step back and commit to understand each other’s viewpoint. I would respectfully plead for all of us to accept the obligation to be considerate.
John Savage is chairman of Bristol Chamber of Commerce & Initiative, Destination Bristol and Learning Partnership West.