As the council cuts diminish non-essential services, Bristol communities are considering initiatives such as the Clean Streets Campaign. The Hotwells and Cliftonwood Community Association have been thinking that there are elements of cleaning that locals probably already do, like clearing leaves in Autumn, snow in winter and making sure our streets are tidy, but other things we can’t do, such as large waste removal, power cleaning and non residential streets.
The Cumberland Piazza is an interesting example of where this kind of approach has been working since 2010, when locals started to make plans for the site. As the Community Association put on consultation events, we needed to risk assess the site, and so we needed to explore how it was managed and build a relationship with Bristol City Council. Here’s what we discovered:
- BCC Highways is responsible for the management and maintenance of the site, as it no longer has ‘park’ status; their priority is 24hr access to the roads above
- They commission BCC Parks to maintain the verges, shrubbery and cut the grass areas and tend to the older trees.
- Waste Services were responsible for the removal of graffiti and ensuring the site was litter-free which they did on a fairly regular basis, but there was frequent vandalism and bins and benches were repeatedly stolen.
Following several community events and surveys, HCCA established that the priorities for the community were to ‘green’ the Piazza and provide more facilities for young people, particularly for sheltered skateboarding. Community volunteers, worked behind the scenes to create plans and designs, develop communications with council departments, fundraise, seek permissions, assess safety and clean out the disused toilets to use as storage (yuk!). We thank the Neighbourhood Partnership for all their support.
We struggled to raise the funds to cover the whole site plan for creating a beautiful, green community space for all ages. HCCA so nearly achieved £120,000 in a Grow Wild bid in partnership with Bristol Zoo’s Wild Place and BCC Conservation Department- we came second! So we decided to change things incrementally, in a community-led, DIY fashion.
Physical developments began in 2014 with the planting of 8 Acer trees, with money raised by the community association through section 106 and private donations, followed in 2015 by our Bristol Wood Recycling Project Planters, the painting of the pillars and our small tarmac’d ‘skatespot’. In 2016 we built a pocket park, consisting of concrete play sculptures designed to form a MUGA and created many more planters.
All this is great, but now the community are responsible for maintaining all the work we have done, without access to water and electricity. This is what we do with the help of our amazing volunteers:
- We have installed a rain water harvesting system
- We hold seasonal gardening days and have several community members weeding, planting and watering as needed throughout the year- our next one is Sunday 5th march 2-4pm. Put on some scruffy clothes and come on down!
- We keep plenty of coloured paints to manage graffiti as soon as possible after it happens- we will soon be coating accessible areas with anti-graffiti paint.
- We arranged for the council to give us some bins, some of which we keep locked up, and we make sure they are emptied regularly
We always welcome more help and ideas, so if you’re not on our Piazza mailing list and want to be kept informed about gardening days, have ideas for improvements, or are able to litter pick or weed please sign up by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We put environmental sustainability and community-led practise at the heart of our work on the Cumberland Piazza and we know sometimes ‘green’ doesn’t always mean tidy, and it’s difficult to always keep things clean when we’re relying on volunteers and we’re certainly not suggesting that volunteers take over services the council ought to be providing.
The Piazza isn’t perfect, but it’s so much greener and more cheery than it was before the community got involved!
It was just about warm enough on a mid-February sunday to plant a new Catalpa and Dogwood shrubs in memory of Ray Smith, who sadly died last spring.
Ray was a force for good in Hotwells and Cliftonwood, involved in running the Hope Centre in its heyday, facilitating (and performing in) the Hotwells Panto, campaigning about issues important to locals and producing the community magazine delivered to 2500 household three times a year from 2003 to 2014.
The Hotwells Panto paid their respects this weekend by providing a new Catalpa tree and Dogwood shrubs, selected by his daughters, to beautify and add to the carbon eaters in the former children’s play park on the piazza.
Over thirty people gathered to watch the tree go in and while Ray might not have appreciated the fuss, he would have been amused to know that although his colleagues at HCCA managed to gather such a crowd at a days notice, they had given no thought to ceremony or speeches. And we had managed to interrupt the Panto dress rehearsal schedule!
Thankfully, we had Gill Loats in all her costumed glory to step in and pronounce! We will have summer do, when the piazza is in full bloom- if you’d like to be kept informed sign up to our piazza list by emailing email@example.com
If it wasn’t for Ray, the piazza would still look as grey as it did pictured above, in 2013. If you would like to see Ray explain what the community desires for this space are, watch this video clip.
What’s next? Well we have some funding to experiment with more greening and planting. We hope to make a living wall outside the disused toilets with hanging (shopping) baskets, climbing plants and mosses; we will lift some of the cracked tiles and see what will grow nicely, we want more planters and more green in the former playground. With more green we can get more surfaces tarmac’d or astroturfed for children and young people to play.
If you fancy joining, in we’ll be doing more planting and painting on Sunday 5th March 2017 2-4pm. Just put on some scruffy clothes and come on down!