Parts of the Hartcliffe area are some of the most deprived in Britain. This seems to bring out both the best and the worst in people. Whilst vandalism and anti-social behaviour can sometimes be dispiriting the wonderful community spirit and the willingness to get involved in groups to improve the community can be amazing. The Hartcliffe and Withywood Community Partnership, originally formed to oversee the spending of regeneration money. The Government no longer provides regeneration money for the area but HWCP continues to run the @Symes community building from which it operates the highly popular CATT bus service. HWCP also works closely with the Dundry View Neighbourhood Partnership providing some of the support. There are other organisations such as HAWKS; it works with the effects of drugs upon the lives of children, which can often mean drugs taken by their parents rather than themselves. HHEAG does great work on food and diet in the community teaching people about how diet can help in the fight against the effects of some medical conditions and teaching children about healthy eating. It is a sad fact of life that the wealthier people are, the longer their life expectancy. HHEAG is doing something about that.
People in Hartcliffe have a history of not complaining to authority, only to each other. So when 1,000 local people signed a petition to protect Wilmott Park and Pigeonhouse Park aka Valley Walk it was a sign that Hartcliffe People were passionate about their parks and did not want the Lib Dem council to sell them off under any circumstances. As Labour Councillors, we stood by them and made sure that these parks were protected.
Half of Withywood, the half to the east of Queens Road is also in Hartcliffe Ward. I am a Governor at Fair Furlong Primary which obtains fantastic results. Some children when they join the school cannot name more than two colours. This year every year 6 child met the Government SATS target of level 4, most got a level 5, some got a level 6 and one pupil won a scholarship to Clifton College. What a great school with great kids, a great staff and a great Headteacher. Until recently I was a Governor at Gay Elms School. This has now merged with the Merchants’ Academy therefore it no longer has its own governors. Merchants’ Academy was formed when thanks to the previous Labour Government the former Withywood School was demolished and rebuilt afresh. The Gatehouse Centre is home to a number of local small businesses and run by Hartcliffe and Withywood Ventures. HWV run classes including IT classes as well as a local café.
The former Wills Tobacco Factory Site has now been renamed Imperial Park and is flourishing with retail outlets such as Boots, B&Q, Tesco and Next providing jobs and and access to shopping facilities that were previously absent in the area. There are food outlets such as Pizza Hut, Subway and the interesting Angel Berry which sells amazing frozen yogurt, a low fat alternative to ice cream. Soon there will be a hotel, a family pub, housing and adult care on the site. Meanwhile next door in what was the old Imperial Tobacco office block Urban Splash have turned the skeleton of the old building into a development of 300 apartments called Lakeshore.
People are often surprised to find out that Headley Park is part of Hartcliffe Ward. Sometimes people who live there believe that they ignored by the rest of Bristol but there is a good community spirit there too with a fabulous Community Centre run by dedicated people with dance classes, bingo and lively local events. Across the road is Headley Park Primary School where Derek Pickup is a Governor. It achieves great results and has a determined and vociferous group of governors who will fight tooth and nail for the good of the school and the children who go there.
Some might be surprised to hear that Headley Park sometimes has issues with anti-social behaviour too and we need better youth outreach work. There was a big issue with traffic on St. Peter’s Rise where there have been several accidents involving children. Local people longed for a crossing there for many years and former councillor, Royston Griffey and I campaigned for many years to get one. When Derek Pickup became councillor he took over the baton from Royston and finally via the Neighbourhood Partnership we finally got the funding and the work has been done.
Last but by no means least a small part of Bishopsworth is also in Hartcliffe Ward. It is the part with the swimming pool and the post office. The pool is now closed following the opening of the fantastic new facility at Hengrove Park. The Neighbourhood Partnership has set up a community group to look at the future of the site and Derek Pickup is heavily involved with that. Part of Bishopsworth is almost cut adrift from the rest of the area and is near the Hartcliffe Roundabout. Local people there have had issues with people who work in the area parking on their street due to inadequate parking provision at their workplaces. I have been working with local people to do something about that.
I see the future as one in which the local Dundry View Neighbourhood Partnership brings these areas together so that people from Hartcliffe, Bishopsworth, Headley Park and Withywood help each other. The challenges that we now face are massive Government cuts to Bristol City Council which could affect some of the community groups in the area. Benefit cuts can have nothing but a negative effect upon the most vulnerable members of our community. There are is one issue on the horizon that doesn’t seem to have registered in the community yet. The Lib Dem council is introducing 20mph zones across much of Bristol. In principal this is of course beneficial but I am uncertain if the detail is right and there may be some controversy around this in coming months. My worry for the community is around the public parks that we saved previously. If a Lib Dem mayor is elected or a surrogate Lib Dem mayor posing as an independent then will the parks be sold off anyway. We need a Labour mayor in November to ensure that this does not happen.