Over 150 business, community and civic leaders converged on Bristol’s Old Vic Theatre recently to celebrate thirty years of the Bristol, Bath and West of England Initiative.
The Initiative, which sits at the heart of Business West, is comprised of members from business, the community and local government, and aims to foster strong local leadership and a clear sense of direction to help drive inclusive growth and development of the Bristol & Bath City region.
Born out of a realisation that business cannot afford to not play an active shaping and influencing role in the development of this place, the Initiative is credited with playing an influential role in delivering key projects including the redevelopment of Bristol’s Harbourside, Cabot Circus, building The Matthew (a replica of Cabot’s boat which sailed from Bristol in 1497), We Are Curious, Bristol 2008 bid, Visit Bath, Destination Bristol, Bristol Cultural Development Partnership & Bristol Festival of Ideas, BIDs in both Bath & Bristol, Bristol Green Capital Partnership, Go Green & Bristol & Bath Regional Capital, Be On Board and 91 Ways.
Having facilitated a strategic partnership of the four local authorities in the West of England region from 1997, it has enables business to play an active part in the West of England LEP and was heavily involved in making the case for an elected Mayor for Bristol in 2012 and the formation of the West of England Combined Authority and devolution deal last year.
With its eyes fixed very firmly on the future, today the Initiative continues to bring together over 200 partners from across the public, private and third sectors to deliver on six key priority areas for the city region: economy and business growth, planning and development, employment, skills and education, low carbon technology and clean growth, transport and connectivity and local and national government.
In 2018 the Initiative has played its role in a number of significant developments for the Bristol city region such as the successful Channel 4 creative hub bid, the rollout of fibre broadband to the premise and the Global Parliament of Mayors summit, which took place in Bristol in October.
On the night, Bristol’s city mayor Mayor Marvin Rees took part in a panel debate alongside University of Bristol Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Guy Orpen, Bristol Festival of Ideas Director Andrew Kelly, Black South West Network Director Sado Jirde and Canon Dr John Savage CBE to discuss the Initiative’s lasting impact on the city region and its future plans up until 2050.
Mayor Rees thanked the Initiative for the influential role it has played developing an ongoing strategic sense of direction for the city region and promoting strong local leadership, citing the Initiative’s ‘2050: High in Hope’ vision for the future of the city region as an inspiration behind the One City plan.
Commenting on the Initiative’s milestone anniversary and celebration event Chief Executive of Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Initiative at Business West James Durie said: “For 30 years the Bristol, Bath and West of England Initiative has had a role, whether large or small, in inspiring and delivering a series of successes throughout the region, each time working in partnership with a range of other organisations.
“Founded in 1988, our premise was (and still is) based on the notion that businesses don’t exist in a vacuum, rather that they are an essential part of the fabric of civic life, meaning that they can and do have an active role to influence how the city region grows and develops.
“The Initiative started in testing times – in the aftermath of the St Paul’s riots. This was a flashpoint in our city’s history in which trust in the system and trust in the Local Authorities’ ability to provide people a better life had reached an all-time low. Today we find ourselves in similarly testing times and it is testament to the Initiative’s impressive track record and potential future impact that so many local business and city leaders continue to support and work with and it’s great to have the chance to look back and celebrate. Whilst we are looking 30 years back on what together we have done, we are also keenly looking out at least 30 years to 2050, as we set out in our city region vision ‘High in Hope’.”