Archive for the ‘My Reports’ Category

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Spanish Migration

March 18, 2013

I researched and produced this piece about the rise in the number of Spanish people coming to live and work in Bristol. It was broadcast on BBC Points West on 18 March 2014, and the story was subsequently picked up by a variety of other media. I’d be very interested to hear from other people moving to Bristol or the West Country for work. Feel free to get in touch email address is on my About Page

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Bristol City In Arena ‘Land Swap’ Talks

November 18, 2009

A new arena for Bristol has moved a step closer, as it has emerged that Bristol City FC is in talks aimed at building one alongside its new stadium at Ashton Vale.

Several sources have confirmed to Jones The News that companies involved in the new stadium deal are discussing a ‘land swap’ with the South West Regional Development Agency in order to get an arena built next to the new stadium.

The talks are still at an early stage, but they have already been condemned by Tobacco Factory architect George Ferguson, who calls them “bonkers”.

The South West RDA – responsible for giving money to business projects in the region – still owns about 9 acres of disused land near Temple Meads station. The site had been earmarked for an arena until the plans were scrapped in 2007.

The RDA is now in discussion to swap this land for 6 acres alongside the planned Ashton Vale stadium, owned by the group of companies involved in building the club’s new stadium.

City had wanted to build a housing estate known as ‘Southlands’ on the site, but was denied permission by the council last month, because the land is green belt.

If the swap goes through, Bristol City would then develop the Temple Meads site, possibly for housing, while the RDA builds an arena at Southlands.

The club has previously said it would need to consider a variety of options to adress what it claimed would be a £10m shortfall to its stadium project, following the rejection of Southlands.

Despite last week promising not to build on Bristol’s green belt land, the city’s ruling Lib Dem cabinet say they may allow “exceptional” applications. It is believed an arena would fall into this category.

However, both the RDA and Bristol City FC have refused to comment on the land swap talks.

An RDA spokeswoman said: “Any discussions are just speculation and we will not comment on speculation.” A Bristol City Football Club spokesman said the club would not comment at this stage.

But the plans have been condemned by Tobacco Factory architect George Ferguson. He said: “The RDA have made huge mistakes in the past and this will be another one. An arena on this site is totally inexcusable and it will fail.”

Mr Ferguson has his own proposals for an arena on the Temple Meads site.

But a senior member of the ruling Lib Dem cabinet told Jones The News: “We want to see an arena and our preference is for one which will happen.

“The plan to build an arena at Temple Meads won’t happen. There is no value in fighting old battles all over again.”

Audio: George Ferguson speaks to Jones The News

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Bristolians die sooner than in other parts of England

July 2, 2009

A new NHS report shows Bristolians die sooner than average, and reveals massive differences in health between races and between rich and poor.

It shows Bristolians as a whole are likely to die earlier than people living in other parts of England.

It also reveals poor Bristolians are likely to die earlier than the rich, and black children are three times more likely to grow up poor than white children.

Health bosses put Bristol’s poor showing down to the problems common to all cities and that it is comparable to others such as Liverpool and Birmingham.

Lower life expectancy

Overall, average life expectancy for the city is lower than the national average. Men’s lives in Bristol are a year shorter on average than in the rest of the country; women’s lives 7 months shorter.

It also shows more Bristolians die early from heart disease and strokes than average, but this figure has fallen over recent years, in line with the national trend.

Other statistics are equally damning: Bristol has more problem drug users than almost any other part of the country, fares significantly worse than the national average for violent crime and has low GCSE achievement.

Class and race divisions

Most shocking however are the sharp divisions in health caused by poverty and ethnic origin.

The richest Bristolian men can expect to live nearly 9 years longer than the poorest; the richest women 6 years longer.

Among the most startling findings in the rport are that proportionally, three times as many black Bristol children are eligible for free school meals than white children. Being eligible for free school meals is often considered a key indicator of poverty.

Dr Gabriel Scally, the South West’s director of Public Health, said some of the figures were truly he shocking.

He said: “Those statistics about ethnicity are very difficult to look at and to absorb. Such levels of inequality are clearly issues of social justice that need to be tackled.”

He told us air pollution, poor housing and levels of exercise all significantly affected life expectancy and that the city’s history was partly to blame.

He said: “The legacy of Imperial Tobacco means that, especially in south Bristol, there are very high levels of smoking. Smoking, more than any other single factor, determines the health of a population. It just kills so many people.”

Problems “common to cities”

Health bosses told #SITE_NAME# Bristol fared badly against England as a whole because so much of England is rural and does not have the same problems with pollution, deprivation and drug use common to cities.

In a statement, NHS Bristol said: “Bristol compares unfavourably to the rest of the South West as it is very different socio-economically.

“However, when Bristol’s health outcomes are compared to similar cities such as Liverpool, Nottingham & Birmingham, Bristol is one of the leaders in areas such as breast feeding, smoking during pregnancy and tooth decay in children.”

You can download the Bristol report here

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Striking bin men try to embarrass new Lib Dem council

June 5, 2009

Bristol’s striking bin men staged a protest on College Green on Friday to coincide with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s visit to the city.

They are continuing their series of one-day strikes in the long-running dispute over pay. They have rejected a pay offer of 2.75% and are believed to want around 3.5%.

About 100 refuse collectors, drivers and street cleaners belonging to the Unite union gathered outside the council house on Friday lunchtime.

They waved placards, sang protest songs and attempted to disrupt Clegg’s congratulatory speech to victorious councillors.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg congratulates Bristols Barbara Janke

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg congratulates Bristol's Barbara Janke

Union leader Pam Jennings also claimed the council’s tactic of bringing in temporary workers to cover those taking strike action would not work.

She said: “I understand that nobody had told the people drafted in that they were breaking a strike. So quite a few of them have turned round and gone home.

“We also believe some of them are agency workers. It’s illegal to fetch in agency workers in this way and we will be notifying the agency that they are breaking the law by being complicit in this action.”

The council’s current advice to householders is to put their waste and recycling out as normal on their usual day. They have said they will now prioritise collecting green and garden waste.

The council’s waste contractor SITA says it’s pay offer of 2.75% is “very fair” in the current economic climate. It has also agreed to further talks with arbitration.

The Unite union is currently balloting its members on whether to take part in the talks. The result should be known on Monday.

Friday’s protest was a reminder to council leader Barbara Janke that running the city council will not be easy, despite her new majority.

Speaking after her election victory, she said: “I don’t think we have hidden behind not having a majority in the past.

“When we were in power we delivered on swimming pools, on the budget, on reducing council tax, on waste disposal and recycling and that was in barely two years.

“We have a record and we just need the opportunity to deliver that.”

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Bristol Lib Dems “confident” of council majority

May 27, 2009

Bristol’s Lib Dem leader says she is “confident” her party is on course for an outright majority on the city council after the council elections on June 4.

Barbara Janke told Original 106.5 she has high hopes of getting the four additional seats needed to run the council without support from any of the other parties.

The Lib Dems currently have 32 councillors, compared to 24 for Labour, 13 Conservatives and 1 Green. The figures mean no party can run the city on its own.

Barbara Janke said: “I think people are going to give us a chance this time to show what we can do and give us a working majority.”

She also claims the Lib Dems will not be as badly damaged by the MPs’ expenses scandal as the other two main parties.

She said: “On the performance of our local MP, Stephen Williams, people are satisfied that he is not one of the people who has been abusing the system.

“The wrath does not seem as much against the Liberal Democrats as against the other parties, particularly the party in government. A lot of Labour voters who have stuck with the party through thick and thin are not going to do so after this.”

The two main issues the Lib Dems are campaigning on are the economy and the environment. On green issues, she says she is confident voters will back her record of improving waste and recycling services in Bristol.

On the economy, she told Original 106.5:”Want to be confident that we have a strategy not just for supporting people who are unemployed and limiting the damage across the city. What they want is to be confident that we are attracting investment to the city and that there will be jobs in new technologies when we emerge from recession.

“Bristol is very well-placed to do this but it needs leadership and it needs confidence from the outside that however well the city is performing the city council is there leading.”

However, she claimed there was no magic bullet either to improve Bristol’s public transport or to reduce council tax.

On transport, she claims Bristol has few options to improve things as central government policy means the city is unable to borrow money for long-term plans or to raise its own revenue.

“I would be very much a champion for greater financial powers for Bristol to determine its own investment in transport. However, we’re not likely to get that so we will make the best of the funding allocation we have at the moment and make sure the new schemes – like Rapid Transit – are delivered on time.”

And she could make no promises on council tax, because of fears the government is storing up unpopular tax rises until after a general election.

She said: “Our policy is to cut the rate of increase in council tax. We did that by 5% when we were last in power and at the moment that is our policy.

“However, we don’t know what these big cuts are going to look like. The public sector spend is going to be hit very hard in future years.

“I think people are aware of that and that if we are frank and honest with them about the council’s finances we will get the co-operation we need to make the best of whatever the circumstances are.”

Audio: Original 106.5 is talking to the leaders of all the main parties on the city council this week. Today, Martin Jones interviews Lib Dem leader Barbara Janke.

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Former curator claims Bristol heritage ‘threatened’

May 19, 2009

A former curator at the Bristol’s City Museum and Art Gallery claims Bristol could be left unable to look after its own history, unless new plans for the city’s museum service are scrapped.

The city council is currently discussing major changes to the way the city’s museum service is run and staffed. They could mean the numbers of conservation staff cut by 3/4 and curators cut by 1/3rd.

Former geology curator Dr Tim Ewin claims this would mean Bristol is no longer able to look after geology collections and natural history exhibits such as dinosaurs.

He said: “They’re absolving themselves of their responsibility to maintain the current world heritage of Bristol. It really will culminate in irreparable damage to Bristol’s heritage.”

The new plans were formed by senior museum managers towards the end of last year, partly because of the Museum of Bristol project, currently being built on the site of the old industrial museum.

Managers want a radical shift in the way the service works, changing from collections of historical objects to community history and visual art. This requires fewer expert staff.

The loss of those staff is what most concerns Dr Ewin. He claims it would mean Bristol being unable to house a major dinosaur find if one were made near the city, and it would have to go elsewhere.

He denies art is more popular than natural history, saying: “Let’s not do natural history and archaeology down. They’re some of the most popular television programmes. When you look at visitor numbers at other museums, the Natural History museum has something like 3.6m visitors a year, so you can’t say people aren’t interested.

“And when you look at the global media interest that accompanied Bristol’s acquisition of the Scelidosaurus, Britain’s best-preserved dinosaur, that far outweighed the publicity for any of the arts initiatives to date.

“The people of Bristol have just as much right to see dinosaurs, Alfred the gorilla, and their archaeological and industrial heritage as well as art.”

The plans have been vigorously opposed by current staff at the museum, with over 80% signing a complaint letter to the council committee set up to discuss the plans.

It’s also thought that opening hours at most of the city museums, including the Red Lodge and Blaise, could be cut in a bid to save money. It’s believed the Museum of Bristol project is over budget and has created a need for extra savings elsewhere in the service.

Original asked Bristol City Council to comment, but a spokesman said they would not do so until the committee examining the plans has published its report. This is expected by the end of June.

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Campaigners demand faster Cabot Tower repairs

May 18, 2009

A Bristol campaign group is demanding the council do more to get Cabot Tower reopened.

Friends of Brandon Hill Hill claim the council has been too slow to organise repairs to the tower, which has been closed since October 2007.

It was sealed off after cracks were found in parts of the tower, leading to fears the structure would be unsafe for the public to climb.

Disagreements between the council and English Heritage have led to long delays in repairing and reopening the tower, with work not scheduled to finish until December 2009.

Recent inspections have discovered that metal supports inside the stonework of the tower are corroded, leading to stones at the bottom of the tower bearing too much weight and being forced to bow out.

But, as the tower is a listed building, the council is unable to repair it alone and must get the approval of English Heritage for any work.

Disagreements between the two, including mutual allegations of delays, have led to the tower being closed for so long. When first shut, it was intended to be reopened within a few weeks. Work is not now due to start until June, and not be finished until the end of the year.

Helen Lambert’s group, Friends of Brandon Hill, was formed at the end of last year in response to the delay in reopening Cabot Tower.

She said: “People are mainly both puzzled and saddened to find that this is still closed and it is very difficult to find out why.

“Had we been aware just what was going on we could have put more pressure on the council to try and get on with it. There has been some recent publicity about it and as a result of that things may be moving a little more quickly.

“I can only hope that the council will now start moving on with this on a scale of days or – as in the past year – on a scale of months, and put it much higher on their list of priorities.”

In a statement, Bristol City Council said: “Initial investigation works have identified structural defects, which need to be properly addressed by specialist contractors.

“In addition, we want to be absolutely sure that any works carried out will deal the underlying cause of the structural defects and prevent any further damage.

“Cabot tower is a listed building and any programme of works must be agreed in advanced with English Heritage.

“We are currently working with English Heritage to ensure works undertaken to repair and secure Cabot Tower for future generations to enjoy are appropriate.”

English Heritage told Original it had no direct involvement in repairing Cabot Tower and were merely consultants to a council process.

Audio: Martin Jones interviews Helen Lambert from the Friends of Brandon Hill

Download: the full report about Cabot Tower Cabot Tower (4)

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Community groups change face of Stokes Croft

April 21, 2009

Community groups in Stokes Croft claim the area is set for massive improvement in 2009.

Stokes Croft for many years had a bad reputation among Bristolians, but two organisations – the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft and Coexist – both have major regeneration plans set to happen later this year.

One of them is the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft. Its chairman, Chris Chalkley, has long championed the area and has been responsible for encouraging some of the cutting-edge street art now seen on the area’s shopfronts and street furniture.

He said: “Stokes Croft ahs always been an area full of artistic creativity and has always had an artistic culture going back into the mists of time. The effect of the street art is to demonstrate the strengths of the area.

“It’s a cultural quarter. It’s also a conservation area. It doesn’t have any multinational companies here at all and that gives it the feel of a village in the centre of a large city and that is extremely rare.”

He has already introduced a number of projects to improve the area. They include ‘The Toff’, a tongue-in-cheek newspaper for the area and the ‘Planning Watch’ group which monitors development proposals. This is important for Chris, who says, “For local people to have a direct input into what their area becomnes and how it looks pushes forward the notion of self-determination.”

On Monday, PRSC will hold an exhibition by UWE urban design students showing ideas for regenerating the area. Later this year, it plans to put street chess sets on ‘Turbo Island’ (the knoll at the end of Jamaica St), launch a range of Stokes Croft china and sell it on its own auction website dubbed ‘PRSC-bay’.

Another major project set to boost the area is the redevelopment of Hamilton House. The former Lloyds-Bowmaker building, on the junction of Stokes Croft and Jamaica St, is being turned into workspaces and studios for creative companies, musicians and artists.

Its most striking feature will be a 3,000 sq ft ground floor bar designed in conjunction with Tobacco Factory architect George Ferguson. ‘Canteen’ is due to open by this June.

Jamie Pike from Coexist – the company managing Hamilton House – said: “We have about 40 different tenants: artists, musicians and social enterprises working away. Our philosophy is that we wanted to develop sustainable urban communities in Bristol. We wanted to create something where like-minded people could work alongside each other and benefit from being in the same space.”

Despite the regeneration, anyone walking down Stokes Croft can still see street drinking, beggars, drug addicts, delapidated buildings and brothels. But Jamie believes the grass-roots style of regeneration will help.

He said: “There’s got to be a change of attitude. There’s a shying away from the gritty reality of people in lifelong addiction. You walk down the street and you’d rather avert your eyes than treat them as a human being.

“We’re trying to promote a culture of inclusion so even though they might not be able to overcome their drug or alcohol problems, they can feel part of the community. It’s not going to happen overnight, but the desire to change things might have an effect.”

But with new street art appearing every day, some by renowned international artists, Stokes Croft already feels brighter and safer. The new projects launching this year could make 2009 the year inner-city Bristol really changes.

You can email coexist here and visit the PRSC website.

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Prospective Bristol MP resigns in allowances row

April 18, 2009

A politician who wants to be one of Bristol’s MPs has quit his job as a London councillor after he was criticised for not turning up to meetings.

Sam Townend is the Labour candidate for the Bristol North West seat at the next election – which includes Henbury, Westbury-On-Trym and Horfield. Townend lives in Henleaze, also in the constituency.

Until today he was also a councillor in Lambeth in London, for which he claimed the statutory allowance of £10,212 a year.

This afternoon, he exclusively told Original he was quitting his London job. He said: “I’ve been carrying out my duties as a back-bench councillor in full, but I have decided that now is the right time for me to resign.

“I will allow the people of my old ward to elect a new representative. I need to write a letter to the chief executive [of Lambeth Council] to that effect, but I’m announcing it now.”

His resignation comes after one of his political opponents in Lambeth claimed he is not in London often enough to justify his salary.

Lambeth Liberal Democrat councillor Ashley Lumsden told Original: “The last time he came to a meeting was in early January. He only has to come to a meeting every six months, which is about as often as we see him.

“I don’t think he’s serving his constituents well and he’s not doing the work he promised he would do. He can’t be both a parliamentary candidate in Bristol and a councillor in London.”

However, Sam Townend says he will not hand back any of the money he has already claimed.

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Bedminster Campaigners Fear For Historic Cemetery

April 14, 2009

A Bedminster campaign group says it fears for the future of an historic cemetery in Bristol.

Hebron Burial Ground, just behind North Street, is the resting place of Mary Baker, better known as Princess Caraboo. Baker hoaxed prominent Bristolians in the nineteenth century into believing she was a foreign princess, inventing her own language in order to do so.

It is currently owned privately, but will be auctioned at the end of the month. A campaign group, Friends of Hebron Burial Ground, says it fears another private developer may buy the cemetery with the intention of building on it. They have now launched a campaign to get the city council to buy the land and maintain it.

1,200 people are buried in the small cemetery, many of whom have living relatives. The last burial took place in 1965.

Mike Meecham from Friends of Hebron Burial Ground, said: “Our fears are that it will go to another speculator who will treat it with very little respect. We would like to preserve it as a quiet area where people can sit and reflect.

“The council have been very supportive. All the councillors I’ve spoken to are behind us, as is the Greater Bedminster Community Partnership, the parks people seem to be in favour as do the local residents. They all want to see it preserved. But it will come down to money.”

Mike also wants to warn potential buyers that the land will be difficult to develop because it is a conservation area.

He said: “We feel the best step forward would be for the council to buy it and bring it up to standard. Grant money would be available to the council or a trust to run it. We’ve offered to help maintain it for the present owner but he’s shown very little interest in that.

“We want to see it maintained properly and respect paid to the people who are buried here.”

Audio: Martin Jones reports

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