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Bristol 2050

The peoples plan

The plan is: There is no plan.

Bristol 2050 is an attempt to use a partipatory process, through a series of open public meetings, to plan a sustainable and fair future for our cities inhabitants.

Neither the electoral cycle or the product planning horizon are far enough away to allow us to be utopian, to hope for better futures. There is very little thinking about the medium and long term.

The people’s 2050 will try to inhabit this vacuum. It will not be a top-down document or plan that anyone tries to rigidly enforce, it will not be in that sense “The Plan”. It will simply be a conversation that develops, spawning hundreds of little plans, counter plans and, crucially, actions.

We hope that by looking forward 40 years we can provide a platform for the people of Bristol to come up with some interesting ideas about how we want our city and society to be organised.

This process is in part inspired by the existing Bristol 2050 project. The only voices heard in the existing project are ‘business leaders’ (with one day event with some 14 year olds in a community centre for window dressing). Not only is this undemocratic, it’s also self-serving and short-sighted. The proposals they have put forward completely fail to acknowledge the changed political and economic situation we find ourselves in. There’s plenty of evidence that wider public participation in decision-making means better decisions – because it means more knowledge and ideas go into the mix. The peoples 2050 is an alternate vision, and we want your input into it.

Throughout history there are periodic structural crises within capitalism. In the 1930’s following the first Wall St crash we saw the seperation of investment and deposit banking. In the 1970s we saw the gold standard abandoned and the rise of neo-liberal economics, or ‘casino capitalism’.

We have again reached such a structural crisis. The neoliberal project that has brought us from the 1970’s to 2008 is morally, intellectually and actually bankrupt. We are seeing the collapse of this phase of capitalism.

Whether we see capitalism reconstituted in a new way, or whether we try something fundamentally different instead, it is at these points of structural crisis that we need bold new ideas. In Bristol we are uniquely placed to have these conversations, and maybe contribute some of these big ideas. We have a strong tradition of radicalism, which feeds into people and organisations implementing real-world solutions- for example, the Soil Association, Triodos, Sustrans and a strong Transition Network.

We don’t know at this stage how the 2050 process is going to develop. It is after all not our process, it is yours.

We do think it’s unlikely that we are going to get it right first time. We will have to use a process that revisits and re-tests the assumptions and work that we have already done. We also need the process to be massively collaborative and, over time, involve more and more people in the conversation.

What we do intend to do is to start the process. We will be holding a series of meetings in the new year to discuss how we can get started.

We are interested to explore if Open Spaces is a good way to get the conversation going.

In the meantime we would be interested to hear your utopian hopes and desires for Bristol 2050. Please email us words, drawings or images to

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