The Bristol Challenge

With the election for the first mayor of Bristol just weeks away the Construction Industry Council are challenging candidates to say what they want for the city and its built environment.

The mayoral debate at the Arnolfini, organised by the CIC,  will focus on the issues around public realm, planning, infrastructure, housing and local procurement. The newly designated Temple Quay Enterprise Zone will also be under discussion, along with the role of a future mayor in influencing it.

The pledges for office from those who have said they would stand have been published by the BBC and include a wide range of promises around equality, economy and transport. There are also particular pledges around the built environment that are likely to come up during the debate on 9 November. Marvin Rees for Labour, seen by some to be a front runner, has said one of his priorities would be ‘building iconic facilities’.  For the Conservatives, Geoff Gollop (a former Lord Mayor of Bristol) has said that he would ‘start putting solar panels on the roofs of council buildings immediately’ and ‘improve green spaces’. Liberal Democrat Jon Rogers wants to bring together infrastructure management under one ‘Transport for Bristol ‘structure. Daniella Radice for the Green Party sees a chance to reclaim control of planning policy and to use council procurement to boost smaller firms.

Two of the independent candidates are professionally allied to the built environment. Tim Collins is a former planning consultant and is looking for an active future for Filton Airfield and home of Concorde the Brabazon Hangar which he describes as ‘the cathedral of aviation’. Architect George Ferguson will be a familar to many readers as ex President of the RIBA and to Bristol voters as an ex Liberal Democrat councillor and owner of the Tobacco Factory. His pledges avoid promises about new buildings or physical regeneration and look instead at creating a ‘robust economy’ and ensuring that ‘regeneration is about creating real jobs and an improved quality of life’.

Bristol was the only city to vote yes when ten cities were offered an elected mayor in May this year. The CIC hustings will be a chance to quiz candidates on their plans but ultimately it will be up to the new mayor to set the pace in everything from negotiations with central government to championing the city to investors. In London Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson have shown that a mayor can be a powerful force for a city. And in Bristol? We shall see: the mayoral election is on 15 November.