Plans to make Bearpit a little bit less grizzly
A PLAN is being drawn up to improve the notorious Bearpit subway in Bristol city centre.
The sunken walkway at St James Barton roundabout has long been criticised as a rundown and off-putting area.
Although hundreds of people use it as a walkway between Stokes Croft, Broadmead, the bus station and new magistrates' court every day, it is well known for its problems.
It is a hot spot for public drinking, homelessness and the toilets and phone boxes suffer from vandalism.
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Drug dealing has been reported in the public toilets and last week one of the two CCTV cameras that cover the Bearpit was stolen, although it was found and reinstalled three days later.
Conceived in the 1960s, the Bearpit was something of a showpiece, geared to drawing in customers to Bristol's main shopping area.
The mural was organised by the city council's youth offending team, which worked with a small group of young people aged from 12 to 21 to design the piece.
The project was sponsored by Bristol Clean & Green, and Destination Bristol, which manages Broadmead.
The finished piece is intended to reflect the newly-planted gardens in the underpass, carried out by the council's parks and estates service.
A mural on the women's toilet block wall has been completed by Bristol artist Graham Dews.
Mr Dews, 35, hopes the floral mural will help send out a positive message and finally bring about some improvements to the underpass.
He said: "It's getting there, it needs to be more accessible, a more useable space.
"The mural will be the first thing that people see when they come from the bus station.
"I've had a really positive response so far."
Promises have been made before that the Bearpit would be improved.
In 2002, Bristol City Council looked at either covering over the subway for £4 million or carrying out a £2m refurbishment with cafes, shops and new public toilets.
Neither happened, but now a council-run taskforce is looking at new options to finally smarten up the tatty square.
Chairman of the group for Cabot, Clifton and Clifton East is John Hirst, operations director for Destination Bristol, although council and police officers are also involved.
A report looking at options for improvements to the Bearpit is due to be considered by the group next month.
Mr Hirst's own suggestions included providing some form of entertainment or having organised sellers.
He said: "We see this area as the gateway into the shopping areas, others see it as the gateway to Stokes Croft.
"It will always be a place people use to get from A to B, but we have got to encourage people to dwell a while, use the seats."