Inside one of the most deprived areas in Bristol

People are working hard to change perceptions of this area in south Bristol

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Hartcliffe has long had a lazy stigma attached to it. As one of the most deprived areas in Bristol house-buyers have traditionally chosen to look elsewhere. Its one remaining pub - modestly described as a ‘back street boozer’ by its landlady - will not feature in any ‘best Bristol pub’ listicles and its shut-down council rent office has been left to look more like an abandoned fortress than anything of help to the local community.

So it may come as a surprise to many that the average sold property price has risen faster in Hartcliffe than in any other neighbourhood in the city, bar Westbury-on-Trym, according to latest data from the UK House Price Index. This often put-down area, where just 9% of young people go into higher education, is in the same company of Bristol’s leafest surbubs like Stoke Bishop and Henleaze.

The statistics show the average sold property price went up 32% from 2021 to 2022, to £250,000. There are some caveats. In 2021, half of the 143 properties sold were flats, compared to 2022 when just 13% of the 45 sales were flats. However, we can see that the median price for a semi-detached did go up 20% from £212,500 to £254,900.

So what’s driving the increase in prices for properties in Hartcliffe?

“People are coming here and buying on the cheap,” says local councillor Kerry Bailes as we talk inside the cafe at Morrisons supermarket. “Some come to do up homes and sell for a profit, others come here but just don’t stay around. Really, it’s a shame. If people stayed and became more a part of the community they would see how friendly it is here and want to stay longer.”

The increase in demand for housing in Hartcliffe, and across Bristol, has seen developers buy-up pockets for new housing. “There isn’t much space left,” says the councillor Bailes, who also worries about the lack of infrastucture available for those who arrive. While the area is strong for its community, it no longer has a Post Office, a bank or a council rent office. The Fulford House pub also closed in January, and work is taking place to turn it into HMOs - despite opposition locally.

Councillor Bailes wants more financial support to meet the demands of the local populaton. Although she accepts no political party can ‘wave a magic wand’ at the issue, she does believe there be more funding for marginalised areas under Labour government. She wants a youth club. She wants better bus services for people to enable movement around the south of the city (the 75/76 take passengers to the city centre). And she is working hard to secure funding for improvements at Willmott Park and Withywood Park.

But one problem in the area is antisocial behaviour. Young people are said to intermediate shoppers in the Peterson Avenue area, and even as we walked outside Morrisons a young boy swore at us from his bike. We hear from several people over a lack of respect from some of the younger generation, which are the focus of council-led youth teams who look to engage them in activities like day trips and barbecues.

But that’s not enough for The Hartcliffe Inn’s landlady Nicky Delaney. From behind her bar just before midday, she tells me her pub is the last surviving local in all of Hartcliffe, and it’s keeping going thanks to a flow of loyal drinkers, a few of whom have come in for an early pint.

“They don’t come in here, they wouldn’t dare,” she said. “But the kids round here cause problems. They intermidate the shoppers and they do things like smash up the outdoor area at the community centre. I’m here because of the pub, but if it wasn’t here I’d move away. People are sick of the problems here. The police are trying, but it’s a rabbit’s warren of streets here. They caught two last night. But they’ll be back out again.”

A short walk away is Hartcliffe Community Centre where a Hartcliffe FC flag is draped across part of the brick wall facing the main road. A short flight of stairs takes usinside where Marie is busy emptying the fruit machines of pound coins. She tells us that the club has 350 members, and rising, with the age range between 18 and 92.

“I love it in Hartcliffe,” she says with a smile. “I moved away to Hanham and I spent a fortune coming back here all the time, so I’m back home if you like. I like the friendliness of it here, everyone is in together, even if there are a few toerags hanging around.” She says the club is doing well, picking up customers from the closed Fulford House - but the recent vandalism to the smoking area and new security doors being installed at the entrance suggests it is also on its toes.

Councillor Kerry Bailes is working hard to improve the outlook of Hartcliffe despite funding challengesCouncillor Kerry Bailes is working hard to improve the outlook of Hartcliffe despite funding challenges
Councillor Kerry Bailes is working hard to improve the outlook of Hartcliffe despite funding challenges

We then wander down to Willmott Park where young families are relaxing and playing in the open parkland which also features a play area and a skate park. On the way back we bump into Sandra, who lives with her partner in Woodmead Gardens. She moved from Bedminster Down in 2012 and despite intially being apprenhensive about the area, she likes where she lives.

“We have good neighbours, shops nearby and a bus stop,” she says. “I think every area has its problems, but we’re happy here.”

As the cost-of-living crisis continues, it’s important areas like Hartcliffe, along with Withywood, are not forgotten by those who make the decisions on funding in the city. And it’s evident that there it need for greater youth provision, whether that be a permanent youth club or more youth work. But one thing the area has in abundance is a strong-willed community.

Only time will tell on the impact what impact the flow of new arrivals, including those at the new Jessop Park, will have on this area’s capability to survive and improve.