We visit the deprived Bristol housing estate facing ‘isolation’

A community of almost 2,000 people will soon be without a bus service
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“We’re in a really worrying situation where many people are going to be left isolated,” says Cathy Robson. The 54-year-old lives in the centre of Highridge, in south Bristol. The suburb is a 1950s council-built housing estate with a population of almost 2,000 people created at the same time as Hartcliffe and Withywood.

It’s a Sunday, and Cathy has just come out of the suburb’s Estate Stores when we speak to her outside the Lakemead Grove bus stop. The stop has been there since the estate’s creation and was the terminus for one of the city’s old main bus routes - the 142 - until 1986. Today, it’s only served by the 52 route; a diminishing Monday to Friday service which will be withdrawn on September 3.

“Our area has been let down and forgotten in recent years - and this is another example,” says Cathy, who uses the service twice a week to get to Imperial Park in Hartcliffe and Broadmead. “I’d like the people who make the decision to cut the service to try and use the bus services from here. See how they get on with walking with all their shopping to the next nearest bus service [the 75 at the bottom of Vicarage Road in Bishopsworth].

“Many people living here can’t afford taxis and many are elderly. It will isolate people.”

Highridge sits within the Bishopsworth ward. It’s one of the most deprived areas in Bristol and has above-average levels of unemployment and crime. We spoke to one 46-year-old person who claimed to have been forced out from her home near the bus stop due to antisocial behaviour, which included attacks on her house.

The suburb does have plenty of green space, including Highridge Green. There’s a shop and children’s centre. It also has Highridge United Football Club. The club has three adult and four youth teams, plus a popular social club which appears to be at the centre of the community. When we were there, staff were clearing up after a successful Oasis tribute band night which saw a temporary stage put up.

And it’s the strength of community which has led people to protest over the loss of the bus service run by Transpora. A campaign has been started by the ward’s Tory councillors Richard Eddy and Kevin Quartley, who have contacted the Metro Mayor Dan Norris in a bid to reverse the decision. That campaign is popular with the people we spoke to in and around Lakemead Grove.

Ricky Tolhurst, 38, says: “I used to use it to get home from work [in St Philips] but the times changed and it no longer suited - I now have to walk to the 75. The 52 is valued locally and should be kept with a better timetable.” Bernard Owens, 62, says: “My wife uses it go to Bedminster for her shopping - it’s going to be a long walk back for her with the shopping from the next nearest bus service.”

Cathy Robson is among those who use the number 52 bus service from Highridge in south BristolCathy Robson is among those who use the number 52 bus service from Highridge in south Bristol
Cathy Robson is among those who use the number 52 bus service from Highridge in south Bristol

Roy Patel, shopkeeper at Estate Stores since 1988, agrees: “Lots of people aren’t mobile here - they need the bus service to get around.”

Joanne Bridges, chair of Highridge Football Club, uses the service to get to work at Bristol Royal Infirmary. She makes the point that the changes in the service - it has had five different operators over the past 15 years - has led people to make different transport arrangements, which is why it has fewer users. “If they provided a constant, good service it would be well-used and they’d be keeping it,” she says.

The bus stop in Lakemead Grove is a stop for the 52 service on weekdays - until September 3The bus stop in Lakemead Grove is a stop for the 52 service on weekdays - until September 3
The bus stop in Lakemead Grove is a stop for the 52 service on weekdays - until September 3

Diane Porter is supporting the campaign. She lives in nearby Uplands - and uses the bus frequently. “Isolation is what I’m most concerned about,” she says. “Isn’t it important people across Bristol are served with bus service?”

What happens now? Well, Transpora has already made the decision to withdraw the 52 service. The operator blames cuts from the West of England Combined Authority and says it presented the regional body with other options for routes to Highridge using Government-awarded BSIP grant funding. But under strict rules on how the money can be used, it can only go on ‘new and innovative’ ways to improve bus services.

Subsidised routes like the 52 need a more long-term funding solution - it is now down to people like councillors Eddy and Quartley to convince the city council and Weca how that can be achieved, with the community’s support.

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