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03/06/2016

Bristol Elections 2016: the new political landscape

 

Take a good look at this map; it will remain largely
unchanged for the next four years. The move to all-out elections on new
boundaries combined with the election of the Mayor of Bristol stretched the
party machines as far as they could go and clearly Labour was able to go the
furthest.

Labour’s Marvin
Rees is the new Mayor and housing is his number one priority. His central
pledge during the campaign was to build 2,000 homes a year by 2020, of which
800 are to be affordable. Among one of
his first priorities has been to appoint a housing "czar" to drive a
programme of building new homes in the city to ease the chronic housing crisis.

This role will be taken by Councillor Paul Smith, a well-known expert in the
housing industry, in the newly created position of Cabinet Member for Homes
& Communities.

This new department for housing was created out of the old
‘Place’ brief, with transport moved to its own department. Planning will remain
under the Place department with Cllr Helen Holland.

What this means is that housing is now front and centre of
the new Labour administration’s platform. The Mayor and his council majority has
stated that they are determined to get building as quickly as possible with
unity of purpose. Developers felt that housing was not a high priority on former
Mayor Ferguson’s agenda and that a concerted effort was never made to remove
the obstacles in the way of finding a solution for Bristol’s housing crisis.

Mayor Rees has acknowledged the need for clarity on
development and planning and brings with him strong views on the future of
Bristol’s housing stock. For example, he has a dislike of gentrification
typified in his neighbourhood of Easton. In Monday’s Guardian, he recounted a very telling anecdote:

“I went to meet one developer, and I asked
them: ‘Who’s going to live here?’” Rees recalls. “And they came up with a
beautiful description that sounded like something from an estate agent:
‘Forward-looking people, after something different.’ I said, ‘No – who’s going
to live here?’ And a colleague of mine said: ‘Are there any affordable homes?’
They said, ‘No.’ […]

“I said to them, ‘If
you build a development with no affordable housing, it has an impact. It’s not
a neutral act. It’s actually harmful. And if I become mayor, I’ll end up spending
money on the social consequences of you doing a development that compounds our
inequalities. Inequality costs money, right? So what you’re doing is asking me
to support something I think will hurt Bristol.’ It is not an option to come
here and expect to do development without making sure there are houses for real
people.”

So developers and housebuilders should not expect a free
hand and there will be a strong emphasis on developing schemes that relate to
the areas in which they are situated. Though companies can enjoy a four-year
period of political certainty with no elections for a number of years, Labour’s
strong showing in May suggests that the party will be bold, taking a
‘tough-but-fair’ approach to the industry.

Remarkable’s Bristol team are specialists in political and
planning matters, with strong connections to local decision makers and the
communities who elect them. For more
information on how we can keep you up to date of developments as they arise,
contact the team via 0117 247 0150 or bristoloffice@remarkablegroup.co.uk

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