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“Turning visions into reality”: Reflections on the 10th anniversary event

Peter Ellis kindly volunteered his time to help with the Bristol Green Capital Partnership 10th anniversary gathering on 6th July. He oversaw the timeline activity, where attendees wrote their ambitions for the city on post-it notes and added them to a timeline from now up to the year 2065. Before moving to Bristol last year, Peter was Deputy Head of the Infrastructure and Environment Division in the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Planning Directorate, leading on a wide range of high profile planning and environmental policy. He was also responsible for EU business relating to planning. Before working in Whitehall, Peter worked as a planner in local government and for a national housebuilder. He is currently a freelance planner and trustee of the Centre for Sustainable Energy. In the piece below, Peter reflects on the anniversary event and the ambitions that emerged on the timeline.

In it for good. What a great name for the review of Bristol’s year as the European Green Capital. For newbies to Bristol like me it embodies the energy, enthusiasm and commitment underpinning what is good about Bristol. And that environmental sustainability in Bristol is both a journey and destination, with some stopovers along the way!

The same was clear from Bristol Green Capital Partnership’s 10th anniversary gathering. Both from the speakers and the timeline showing the headlines of the Partnership’s last ten years. The headlines were just that, there is clearly so much to celebrate and much more could have been included. If only there had been space!

The really important part of the timeline wasn’t the part looking back, important as it is to celebrate achievements, but the daunting journey going forwards. This is where we all come in. The timeline painted in some of our agreed visions for the future, including becoming a carbon neutral city by 2050. But, as with the last ten years, turning visions into reality depends on those who live and work here. The timeline gave us the opportunity to ‘post-it note’ our own ambitions for the city, related to our area of work or expertise. We posted them at the point in the future when we hoped they would be achieved. We were also encouraged to think of the steps needed along the way.

What emerged was dozens of personal ambitions for the city. Many clustered around how we use energy, how we travel, the food we eat and the air we breathe. Some pointed to particular projects or suggested targets to be achieved by particular years. Many had echoes in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Some of our ambitions related local action to global concerns, others to the quality of local environments. Many included a social dimension.

Perhaps because I’m a built environment professional, my post-it note was about quality in our surroundings. How we design and use places. And manage them. Research tells us poorly designed and scruffy places, including things like littering and tagging, can undermine environmental sustainability. They also affect people’s wellbeing and life chances, not least in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

So there we have it, our post-it noted ambitions will have certainly given the Bristol Green Capital Partnership CIC food for thought. They should also challenge us. We are the Partnership. We own the answer to the question of whether the sum of the parts adds up to a sustainable Bristol for all the people of Bristol.

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