Turbo Island could soon get a radical makeover, with plans to pave over the iconic Bristol spot and put a café seating area or a food truck there. Local authorities are working together to transform the location, which has achieved cult status in the city.
The ‘island’ – a triangle of land at the junction of Stokes Croft and Jamaica Street – is known for attracting street drinkers, who can usually be seen sat around a bonfire there on abandoned sofas. It has a reputation as one of Bristol’s oddest and most unique spots, where ravers often party until the early hours.
But Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire says that she has received numerous complaints from locals about the problems which the area is causing, and she is pushing for something to be done about it. She told Bristol Live: “I received the first complaint in April 2022 about anti-social behaviour on Turbo Island.
“I then wrote to the local police sergeant in April asking them for an update and followed that up with a letter to the landowner. They were quick to respond and provided an update on their conversations with the council.
“I also wrote to the council asking for a quick resolution. The complaints kept coming in and in late June dissatisfied with the progress being made, I convened a multi-agency meeting with Bristol City Council officers, the landowner, the police and local councillors.
“It was a constructive meeting and helped break the impasse and get a clear plan of action. While I and my team will continue to provide whatever support is needed, the ultimate responsibility lies with the landowner and I will keep reminding them of that.”
Debbonaire says that locals have complained about the health risks from smoke and fumes, and some say they can’t open their windows because of it. She says that on one occasion, the whole bonfire caught in the wind and blew across the road, while on fire, towards a resident.
And locals have acomplained about drinking and drug consumption happening there all day, while the anti-social behaviour and fires reportedly create traffic hazards and problems for businesses. Jamaica Street Stores, a restaurant near Turbo Island, recently had to shut its doors permanently, and the owner blamed growing problems with anti-social behaviour on the patch of land for its closure.
Firefighters from Avon Fire and Rescue Service have been called out 44 times to the ‘island’ between April 1 and July 13 – the equivalent of around one call every two and a half days. A spokesperson for the fire service said that 25 of these calls were for fires, and the rest were false alarms, which is usually where a fire is suspected but no fire is found on arrival.
It is not clear who the current landowner is, but Turbo Island was owned by Gloucestershire-based advertising company Clearview as recently as February 2022. The current landowner has been served with a community protection order by Bristol City Council. This means they will have to pave or tarmac the area, while the notice also commits them to cleaning Turbo Island and making sure that waste and debris do not build up on it.
And according to Debbonaire, the landowner has promised to identify “suitable uses and operators” for the space – which could include a food truck or seating area for an adjacent café.
Turbo Island has developed as an area which is somewhat outside of the council’s control because it is technically private property. The space has been owned by several advertising companies over the years, who make use of the giant billboard which sits at the back of Turbo Island and brings in more than £1,000 a week in revenue.
Because it is a private place, despite being open to the public, it is outside the control of council rules like banning alcohol consumption in public. The space even got its name from the brand of cheap cider drunk there during the 1980s and 90s.
Bristol City Council has been approached for comment.