Bringing a big city arena to Bristol has been a long-standing cultural ambition. A huge collective effort has been put into getting the vision for a gleaming 12,000-capacity venue and a redeveloped cultural and residential quarter beside Temple Meads to this stage.
The former Diesel Depot site which will host the facility has lain largely fallow for years since it earned its name for engine goods storage. And there are many good reasons for the seemingly slow progress.
A conversation about how the West of England can take control of its destiny may be starting to happen. And not before time…
After years of discussions, a devolution deal with Government promises to give the area’s local authorities more power over important issues like housing, transport, planning and skills. If ratified, it would unlock £1bn for local growth projects and provide councils with clout to make a bigger difference in these areas.
But there’s a sticking point for some that could derail the deal before it gets going. The government wants to see a ‘metro mayor’, who would chair a combined authority to oversee a joined-up response to the way these major matters are managed. Given the level of concern about this, it’s not certain that all councils will sign off on the deal.
A big conversation is happening around Bristol that could shape local housing and transport for decades to come.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been working with colleagues to get ready for a major consultation which could map where thousands of new homes are built across the West of England over the next 20 years.
The phrase ‘West of England Joint Spatial Plan and Transport Study‘ won’t set pulses racing. But the issues it covers should interest anyone who has views about where they live, how they get to work or school or whether they will be able to keep a roof over the heads in future.
Five years, one month and a day after joining the HCA, I departed last Thursday to take up a new job.
I’m returning to agency life at JBP, an extremely well-respected company which specialises in PR (in all its forms) consultation and public affairs. From tomorrow, I’ll be a senior account director in its Bristol office and I am hugely looking forward to the opportunity.
That’s not to say that it was an easy decision to leave the HCA. After all, I was able to influence discussion around a hugely important area of government work. I had a flexible and fair employer and I enjoyed what I did. In the end, I moved because it offers me an opportunity to progress my career in areas that are most important to me.
“Some people love speaking in jargon, using fancy words and turning everything into acronyms. Personally, I find this simply slows things down, confuses people and causes them to lose interest. It’s far better to use a simple term and commonplace words that everyone will understand, rather than showing off and annoying your audience.”
I have an issue with jargon, and it’s not because I’m a pedant…
At its worst, it alienates those who we’re trying to reach and highlights a disconnect between us and the rest of the world.
It also makes no business sense, because it wastes the time of the person who is giving and receiving the information. Those are strong reasons to stop the ‘cut and paste’ approach that litters business correspondence and get back to basics.
Whilst the world of housing (particularly the bit in which I work) isn’t alone in having its own ‘special’ phrases, it’s clear that we have a problem when it comes to clearly explaining what we do. Ask anyone who joins the sector from another industry (as I did once). They’ll probably tell you much of their first few months were spent wondering what people are talking about in meetings and struggling to decipher emails.
If people who work with us feel like that, what does a small business or resident think when trying to find out about something like a new development in their community, for example?
There may be a case for using jargon sometimes; if the audience understands it, using specialist terms can be an efficient way to make a point. But context matters and dumping technical information into a note intended for someone who isn’t an expert bugs those who are on the receiving end.
And don’t even get me started on acronyms (another post for another day)! Our language is littered with them, ranging from the reasonable (HCA, DCLG) to the odd (LA for council) and plain daft (GCN? Great crested newts, or just newts!).
It’s that time of year when public sector comms practitioners must carefully consider all activity to ensure that they are not seen to compromise their neutrality or favour any political group as the local and European elections approach.
This will be the last ‘purdah’ period before the Scottish referendum in September and next year’s general election, when we can rightly expect to see stringent guidelines which will affect promotional activity, speaking engagements, events, political visits and, in some cases, even business decisions.