Protesters interrupted the private launch of Finzels Reach Bridge – now officially named ‘Castle Bridge’ – after breaking through security fencing in Castle Park.
The demonstration happened yesterday evening, as developers and council members attended the private event.
The protesters formed a human barricade to prevent the guests exiting the bridge, calling for them to be forced to “sleep on the bridge.”
The demonstration was held to raise awareness of a lack of social and affordable housing in Bristol. Nick Ballard, one of the protesters, captured the moment protesters stormed the bridge.
Community union ACORN (the Association of Community Organisations for Reform Now) organised the demonstration. It was planned to coincide with the launch of the new bridge to highlight the lack of affordable housing provided by private developers.
Matthew Hollinshead is a branch member of ACORN. He says the organisation wants to highlight Bristol’s “phenomenally low social housing provision.” He added: “Nothing is ever going to change if people just sit around. Get organised, get active, get educated.”
He spoke to us about what else he thought could be done to solve Bristol’s housing crisis, and what ACORN have done to help unhappy residents.
ACORN released an open letter to Bristol City Council regarding the former Avon Ambulance Service site on Mary Bush Lane.
They said: “We are therefore writing to demand that as the Old Ambulance Station site on Mary Bush Lane is publicly owned land it should be used to provide 100% social housing on the basis that no social housing has been provided in any other developments elsewhere in Bristol. This would go some way to redressing the balance between private and social housing.”
“Why can’t I live where the rich people live?”
The demonstration was also attended by members of Homes For All. Kerry Bailes set up the organisation because she was unhappy with the way the council were tackling homelessness.
Gavin Bridge, director of Cubex – the developers of the new luxury flats – was not available for interview. However, in a statement he expressed support for the demonstration.
Gavin said: “May I just clarify that the protest is not actually about Finzels Reach and Nick Ballard of Acorn has been in tough with me to clarify that. The protest is raising awareness about affordable housing and the lack of provision on the ambulance station site in particular. Themes I completely agree with.”
Mayor Marvin Rees’s Housing Delivery Plan has set a target of building 2,000 new homes, including 800 affordable homes, per year, by 2020. The council’s Core Plan also states that 30% – 40% of affordable housing will be sought within private developments.
Cubex’s development does contain some affordable housing, but this is not the case with all new developments in the city. A tower block proposed by developer Rollo Homes in Bedminster has also been the subject of protests, as it contains no provision for social housing.