We believe a long term view is essential if Bristol is to realise its full potential as a leading economic and cultural powerhouse. We also believe that this area possesses more of the vital ingredients for a great and ambitious place than any other in the UK. The vision addresses the inevitability, indicated by consistent statistics over the previous 20 or so years, that the population will grow by inward migration and indigenous expansion regardless of attempts to ignore that reality. The challenge is daunting: extra living and working space will be required within existing urban areas, but the demand will also spill out into the countryside.
A simple extrapolation of trends demonstrates that over the 40-year period to 2050 the minimum space required to accommodate a population that will have increased by 500,000, requiring 300,000 new jobs and a further 200,000 new homes, will be 6,000 hectares. The space occupied by the present Bristol unitary authority is approximately 11,000 hectares.
The vision seeks to establish that thoughtful strategic planning in the broadest sense will yield greater positive outcomes. It also points to the danger that, without such a vision, the unavoidable growth will be haphazard, unproductive and quite possibly corrosive.
The vision, produced as a book in December 2011 suggests that taking time and resource to imagine and shape a vision for the longer-term future of any place is the best pathway to sustainable solutions for current challenges, imbalances and inequalities. The proposals and ideas are not absolutes; they are selected examples and the book is only a starting point. Continuing debate, collection of evidence and development of concepts into achievable realities will be needed over time to develop the vision further. The book most certainly is not a handbook for the solution of all ills.
The attraction for government, for ‘UK plc’, is a tangible and improving return on public investment, with a significant increase in the gross domestic product of the city region. Implementing the deal will require new permissions, perhaps primary legislation, and great encouragement. It will certainly demand imagination and courage and a tenacity that carries it through the crushing blight of short-termism.