Pe­ti­tion call­ing for city bear to be saved to go to coun­cil de­bate

Bristol Post - - NEWS - Kate WIL­SON Pol­i­tics Edi­tor kate.wil­[email protected]­plc.com

THE fu­ture of Hamil­ton House and the Bearpit bear are ex­pected to dom­i­nate a meet­ing at Bris­tol’s City Hall next week.

Thou­sands of peo­ple in Bris­tol have forced a de­bate on both top­ics af­ter sep­a­rate pe­ti­tions were handed into Bris­tol City Coun­cil.

Pe­ti­tions need at least 3,500 sig­na­tures in or­der to trig­ger a full coun­cil de­bate - which both of these achieved.

It means that at Tuesday’s full coun­cil meet­ing all coun­cil­lors will be able to have their say on whether the au­thor­ity should con­sider mak­ing a com­pul­sory pur­chase or­der on Hamil­ton House and if the statue of Ursa the bear should be re­moved from the Bearpit roundabout.

The first pe­ti­tion up for de­bate, en­ti­tled Save Our Bear, calls on the coun­cil to stop the evic­tion of Ursa from her home in the Bearpit.

The pe­ti­tion reads: “Ursa bear brings smiles to our faces, she rep­re­sents cre­ativ­ity, al­ter­na­tive think­ing and free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

“She rep­re­sents com­mu­nity and what pub­lic space should be.”

The pe­ti­tion also de­scribes Ursa as a cider-lov­ing 12ft statue who loved her role as “guardian” of the Bearpit.

A pe­ti­tion to save Ursa was launched in Novem­ber last year af­ter the coun­cil an­nounced that the sculp­ture would be re­moved from the Bearpit as part of a multi-mil­lion-pound trans­for­ma­tion of the no­to­ri­ous roundabout near the city cen­tre.

The project would also see the au­thor­ity ‘take back con­trol’ of the Bearpit area from the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Stokes Croft, the com­mu­nity arts or­gan­i­sa­tion which put the bear there five years ago.

The coun­cil’s plans to turn the area into an ‘eth­i­cal food hub’ don’t in­clude Ursa and it has or­dered PRSC to re­move her and all their other con­tain­ers, sheds and a stage.

But the news that it was be­ing re­moved sparked a cam­paign to save her, and a pe­ti­tion on the coun­cil’s web­site led to more than 3,500 peo­ple sign­ing their name in just a few weeks.

Last year, deputy mayor Asher Craig said the rea­son for the takeover was be­cause of in­creas­ing prob­lems with anti-so­cial be­hav­iour and crime in the area.

She said: “Fol­low­ing a rise in anti-so­cial be­hav­iour and tar­geted at­tacks in the Bearpit we de­cided that the coun­cil would take more con­trol over the space.”

The pe­ti­tion re­gard­ing Hamil­ton House fol­lows months and months of fraught ne­go­ti­a­tions over the man­age­ment of the build­ing.

So­cial en­ter­prise Co­ex­ist has man­aged the rooms above the Can­teen since 2008, rent­ing cheap space to artists and com­mu­nity groups.

But fol­low­ing an on­go­ing saga be­tween Co­ex­ist and the build­ing own­ers Con­nolly and Cal­laghan (C&C) - Co­ex­ist were fi­nally given of­fi­cial notice of a planned man­age­ment takeover in Novem­ber.

Ear­lier last year C&C an­nounced it was look­ing for a new or­gan­i­sa­tion to take on the build­ing’s lease.

Man­age­ment com­pany For­ward Space, which runs a num­ber of co-work­ing spa­ces in the south­west, has now taken over the hub on a tem­po­rary ba­sis.

Ursa the bear in The Bearpit

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