The fourth and final Initiative meeting of 2019 recapped our key activities, challenges and successes this year, before looking forward to 2020, as members discussed the Initiative’s 4 long-term priorities for the city region.
With President Richard Bonner away on business, Canon Doctor John Savage CBE, Executive Chairman of Bristol Chamber of Commerce and the Initiative opened proceedings by welcoming guests and new members Avon Fire & Rescue, Jacobs, Quattro Design Architects, Solarsense and Thrings to the fold.
Having been instrumental in establishing the Initiative over 30 years ago, John reflected on the importance of the long-term strategic thinking, investment and improvement that the Initiative has driven and achieved over the years, particularly in these turbulent times. He spoke warmly of the vital contribution Initiative members make in this regard and encouraged that as a body we should be more vocal about our achievements in the city region.
Matt Griffith, Business West Director of Policy, gave a brief report on the work currently going on surrounding the Bristol Clean Air Zone proposals approved by Bristol’s Cabinet back on 5 November and submitted in outline to government. Matt outlined the issues raised and approach we were taking for our business and employer members on the proposals, stating that whilst we are strongly in favour of cutting carbon emissions and tackling air pollution in Bristol city centre, certain practicalities need to be understood and properly taken account before the CAZ business case can be finalised. He described how the proposals as they currently stand would severely impact north and south bound traffic to Avonmouth, south Bristol and Bristol Airport, as well as impeding access to the SS Great Britain and the industrial units on Spike Island. He also pointed out that it would constrain through traffic from south to north and vice versa from Cabot Circus and Temple Meads, including access to the M32 from South Bristol, and make orbital movements from south and south east Bristol to the Portway much harder.
Given the wide-ranging impacts the proposals would have on mobility and connectivity in and around the city centre, Matt requested members and the wider business community to tell us their views by filling out our CAZ survey, so that we can put forward your views before the Bristol City Council deadline of February 2020.
James Durie, Chief Executive of Bristol Chamber of Commerce & Initiative at Business West, spoke about the wider impact and achievements of Business West over the city and wider region over the past few years before giving an overview of the Initiative’s 4 key priorities for the city region for 2020 and beyond.
In order to fulfil its mission 'to bring leaders together to create a prosperous city region for all, where business and communities thrive' the following 4 priorities were outlined in detail:
• Promoting clean growth
• Tackling deprivation
• Transforming mobility & connectivity
• Improving Education & Skills
New Initiative Membership Manager Victoria Matthews took to the stage to call out and celebrate some of the achievements of the Initiative and our members over this year with this visual timeline.
She restated the earlier call for businesses to work with the Initiative to continue tell their story as long-term investors in people and place.
On the subject of investing in people and place, Tim Borrett Policy Director at Bristol City Council together with Ed Rowberry, lead Director from the City Office and Bristol & Bath Regional Capital (BBRC), spoke briefly about the momentum behind the Bristol One City Plan and City Funds - and the significant role of BW Initiative is helping to make this happen.
Launched at the start of the year by Mayor Marvin Rees, the One City plan and approach brings together a huge range of public, private, voluntary and third sector partners to work together in partnership and shared purpose to agree and focus on a plan and shared priorities to make Bristol a fairer, healthier and more prosperous and sustainable city. Its purpose is to get the city together addressing a long-term sequence of key outcomes which we all agree to concentrate on and contribute towards and help to sequence a range of activity to ensure Bristol’s long term goals are achievable. Alongside this, Ed Rowberry, spoke briefly about early examples of progress that has been made with the One City Plan, before describing the work and remit of the newly created Bristol City Funds.
City Funds is a £10 million investment fund that works alongside grants to strengthen organisations solving some of the biggest problems facing our city. This year it has for instance raised more than £100,000 for the No Child Goes Hungry programme, which aims to tackle the underlying causes of child food poverty and poor nutrition in Bristol. Ed praised the business community and the Initiative for their involvement in the programme and highlighted the growing appetite globally for ethical and social investment, meaning there is a compelling opportunity for the work of City Funds and the work of BBRC in Bristol.
The members were then introduced to Sacha Mirzoeff, Head of the new Channel 4 Creative Hub in Bristol. Having been at the centre of Bristol’s TV & film industry for the last twenty years, Sacha explained why he thinks Bristol and Channel 4 are such a great fit. Reminiscing on his first encounter with the city, Sacha spoke passionately about the ineffable quality or ‘that thing’ that makes Bristol such a special place to live, work and do business, and how this character chimes closely with the broadcaster’s rebel status. Sacha then spelled out his commitment to promoting local voices and stories and nurturing local talent as Channel 4’s head in the region.
Shortly thereafter, Initiative Manager Nina Skubala set the scene for breakout discussions among members regarding the Initiative’s 4 key priorities outlined earlier in the evening. Members were then invited to discuss how they feel they can input into these areas of work. A detailed outline of these discussions and how we hope to achieve these aims will be published soon, but in the meantime members unable to attend the event can share their thoughts with us here.
After the breakout session members enjoyed Christmas carols sung by a quartet from Bristol Cathedral Choir, drinks, festive food and the chance to meet and catch up with one another in Leigh Court’s Great Hall and of course toast the festive season.