As a result of this cumulate input from the Forums to the Neighbourhood Partnership, the NP has decided to try and tackle head on the kinds of problems that are perceived by the local community as having a detrimental effect on the appearance and safe functioning of the Gloucester Road. Traders, shoppers and visitors will all benefit from the planned improvements.
While this major transport artery has to function both as a show case bus route and an essential carrier of heavy volumes of local and through traffic, its adjacent shopping area has come to be highly regarded, recognised nationally as an increasingly rare example of one which supports an outstanding mix of independent shops, businesses, cafes and restaurants. Locally, it is much valued as a virtually unique street in Bristol, offering an eclectic choice of shops and leisure facilities. But, like many heavily used areas close to city centres, it has its problems.
This is where the Gloucester Road Task Force comes in. As a sub group of the NP, the Task Force has been convened to bring together a core group from several departments of the Council in order to coordinate the disparate strategies for improving the street. Bristol Council Waste and Street Scene officers, Bristol Clean and Green, Community Development, Neighbourhood Police Teams and Safer Bristol are all represented.
Playing a central role in this major initiative is Liz Kew, a local Bishopston resident. Liz has already demonstrated enormous energy and drive in carrying out, with the help of the Council, very effective anti-graffiti operations in parts of Henleaze, Horfield, Bishopston and St Andrews. With the help of councillors from Bishopston and Redland and cooperation from the Gloucester Road Traders Association; and with additional help from volunteers and also input from SITA, the waste disposal company, she has now completed an initial pilot survey of a section of the Gloucester Road from Hatherley Road to Longmead Avenue. The surveys when completed will cover six sections that run from Cheltenham Road Arches to Rudthorpe Road (a few roads north of Ashley Down Road).
The Survey sheet targets Gloucester Road businesses and residents, asking for information and their views on a range of topics including:-
- graffiti tagging
- street cleaning
- provision of litter bins
- condition of pavements
- street lighting
- provision bicycle parking
- car parking and car parking restrictions
- public seating
- permanent flower planters and hanging baskets
The survey sheet also requires the volunteer who is completing it to make a visual audit noting the amount and location of any graffiti and flyposting, the presence of A- boards (for which new guidelines are being produced) and waste ‘wheelie’ bins or bags on the pavement.
Once this data has been collected and collated for one of the allocated sections, the intention is to prioritise the removal of all the flyposting and graffiti as quickly and efficiently as possible so that there is an immediate and obvious improvement in the visual appearance of that section. The Council is looking at the idea of controlling the amount of flyposting by assigning designated sites for this purpose, a scheme which has been adopted by some other local authorities. Other possible initiatives like the installing of planters, improvements in access for the disabled and elderly and provision of more parking will clearly require a longer time scale and will be dependent on finance being made available to achieve them.
In conclusion it should be pointed out that the success of this project will in no small part be dependent on the number of volunteers willing to offer their help in carrying out the section surveys. More importantly, to achieve long term success and prevent a regression to the regular reappearance of unsightly graffiti and flyposting in the Gloucester Road and its neighbourhood, it is important that volunteers come forward to act as Environmental Reps in Bishopston, Cotham or Redland. Perhaps this could be considered as an example of ‘The Big Society’ in action! To quote the NP leaflet on Environmental Reps, they are not expected to give up any of their free time, but by keeping an eye on one or more streets in their area, they “can act as the extended eyes of local service providers and so speed up the process of resolving environmental and street cleanliness issues.”