John Harris

Journalist & Author

The Bristol conundrum: ‘Gentrification is a danger – and if you’re poor, you’re really, really stretched’

In the last of his series of urban dispatches, John Harris encounters a city where civic pride and cultural vivacity are tinged with fears that Bristol is changing in ways some people find hard to take

“Bristol is perhaps the one southern city which really feels independent of London,” writes Owen Hatherley in his brilliant architectural travelogue A New Kind Of Bleak. During the six weeks I have spent immersing myself in four English cities, that book and its predecessor, A Guide To The New Ruins Of Great Britain, always came with me – and in Bristol, the former works as an unflinchingly honest guidebook.

It is undeniably true that, as Hatherley points out, the bleak area around Temple Meads station is currently “one of the worst introductions to a city in the UK”. It’s true, too, that anyone looking for good buildings here can find “an enormous amount to admire … late medieval, Regency and early industrial architecture …. almost always decontextualised, thrown into collision with something hostile.”

The good thing that’s happened in Bristol over the last 30 years is people coming back to live in the city centre

Bristol is clearly being changed by the consequences of London’s impossible property prices

If you’re poor in Bristol, you’re really, really stretched

Related: Can a new Bradford emerge from a hole in the ground?

People who’ve lived here for a long time find the anarchy quite alienating. They need to have their voices heard as well

Related: The great reinvention of Manchester: ‘It’s far more pleasant than London’

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