Speakers' Corner: An issue that is of vital importance to all of us
Today's Speakers' Corner is from Bristol mayor candidate Tim Collins (independent).
AS SOMEONE who has lived in north Bristol for 49 years, I have grown to take immense pride in this great city. We have always shown ourselves to be entrepreneurs, industrious engineers, scientists and artists who have made us world renowned.
But we are living in turbulent times. If we are to recapture the spirit and atmosphere that will put us on the atlas once again, we need a new approach.
We need the authorities that govern the city to foster an environment that is based on self-sufficient economic growth to take us out of the recession in the best possible position.
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In order to do this we need to take an holistic approach and turn our backs on the political in-fighting that has put paid to plans for this city in recent decades. We need a true Greater Bristol authority, based on a "growth coalition" involving the public and private sectors to encourage the inward investment my plans would need.
I have decided that my passion and experience would make me an ideal candidate for Mayor to make this happen.
One of the biggest issues that Bristol faces today is the threat that comes from closing a long-standing asset that has, for many years, driven much of our economic development – Filton Airfield. Many people have claimed in the press that this is solely a "commercial decision" for the current owners, BAE Systems, and an issue for the authority in whose boundaries the airfield just about lies.
I absolutely disagree with this stance – it is an issue which affects the whole of Bristol, the West of England and even Britain as a whole.
We cannot afford to allow growth in such a high-value industry as aerospace to be throttled by our lack of a runway. Airbus do not have a SINGLE manufacturing site without a runway, and if Filton becomes the first site to lose theirs, the risks to employment are unthinkable.
Bristol City Council has failed to take a proactive role in steering the debate and this needs to change – it is not a subject outside our control.
With 4,500 direct local jobs and a further 12,000 in the supply chain currently dependent on the long-term stability of aerospace and aviation activities in the region, and with so much potential for growth, it is not something we can shrug off.
But I am not planning to concentrate my efforts on a single sector – the creative, scientific and technology industries are all local strengths that need to be nurtured.
We need to ensure that good spatial planning, careful deployment of enterprise zones, better financing models, a cooperation of relevant partnerships and planning of local transport infrastructure all help create a city that people and businesses want to locate to.
We need to ensure that the city's secondary and tertiary education is geared to targeting local needs, developing curricula that hone both academic and vocational skills to support a healthy supply of jobs.
It is imperative that we design and implement a truly integrated transport system that serves the public how, where and when they want. I will use my experience having served as a member of the Avon County Council Economic Development committee and chairing the Planning and Transport committee to ensure that transport hubs are properly connected using the technically best solutions.
We need to look to the rest of the country – and the world – to see where good practice has yielded an approach to public transport that works for everyone. I want to lobby Westminster for a true Greater Bristol Transport Authority that is independent of political whims, headed up by professionals in the field, to drive the research and development of a high-frequency urban rail network, and I want to avoid the folly of opting for second-rate solutions for the sake of chasing limited promises of quick-fix cash.
We need environmentally – and public – friendly vehicles running routes based on demographic demand and road policies that don't penalise any particular group of users.
Regarding the built environment, I think we should use the opportunities afforded by private sector development around the Temple Quarter to improve our gateway to the city and make vistas out of our best-kept secrets such as St Mary Redcliffe Church, by redesigning the remnants of the overbearing Redcliffe Way and the social barrier that is Temple Circus and re-zoning nearby land.
Bristol is a British gem, and we should make the best impression to visitors when they arrive off the platforms at Temple Meads.
I hope people in Bristol share my vision and I look forward to helping make it take life if given the opportunity. As a strong believer in open democracy, I look forward to meeting people and hearing their own views during the mayoral campaign.