Railway Path: that leaked document in full

Here’s that leaked briefing note on the Railway Path from council officers to councillors in full.

I understand it originated in the Property Services Department, hence the blatant arse covering exercise we find early on – “Instructions were subsequently given to Property Services to proceed.”

Nice example of the new super-efficient “One Council”, corporate working style launched by that charlatan of a Chief Exec, Bum Disease Ormondroyd, and her ‘new’ management team this Monday predictably collapsing into chaos and recriminations by, er … Wednesday!

Look out for the relaunch coming soon …

Briefing Note – Land Adjacent to Former Elizabeth Shaw Chocolate Factory

Squarepeg the owners of the Former Elizabeth Shaw Factory in Greenbank contacted the Council in December 2007 over the possible purchase of the land outlined in red on plan N5078b. This Council land is currently leased to the former owners of the Elizabeth Shaw Factory at a rent of £100 pa to be used for an access onto the cycle path and landscaping. Squarepeg’s proposals are to incorporate the land within the redevelopment of the former chocolate factory site which is to be developed into a mixed use site of retail, business and residential units.

Several concerns were raised over the potential sale of the land by the Nature Conservation Officer and the Transport Development Control Manager. The initial response was that the Council would not wish to sell the land. Further discussions between chief officers in CLS (Culture and Leisure Services – Parks) and PTSD (Planning Transport and Sustainable Development) and George Ferguson from Squarepeg were held in May 2008. Instructions were subsequently given to Property Services to proceed with the possible sale of this land subject to the following conditions:

1. Squarepeg engage in dialogue with Council’s Nature Conservation Officer to ensure the proposals provide necessary but reasonable compensating measures for the loss of vegetation and habitat.

2. The land sale will only be finalised if the developer receives planning permission and proceeds with the specific proposals.

3. Any structural changes to the bank will have to be agreed with the Council before works start. This is to protect BCC against works being carried out which undermine the cycle path.

4. The developer pay market value for the site.

The property was circulated as surplus in June 2008 with no department putting forward a operational requirement for the land within the four week circulation period. A formal offer from Squarepeg is awaited.

Strip of land b (The green verge of the Path along the boundary of the site, coloured green)

In July 2008 Squarepeg showed an interest in acquiring an easement or long lease of an additional strip of land outlined red on plan N5078c. This is required to access their development from the Bristol to Bath Cycle Path. They propose clearing land of vegetation and replacing with grass and landscaping. Squarepeg have confirmed that they would to maintain the site and continue to allow public access onto this land. Should the Council wish to proceed with a lease of the land it would need to advertise the proposal in the local newspaper and invite the public to comment. The matter may also need to be referred to the Parks & Green Spaces Board.

The Council is waiting for written proposals from Squarepeg as to the terms under which they will be looking to use this land.

David Bishop has indicated that he supports the grant of an easement (subject to certain conditions) as this development was referred to in the Cycle City bid application and is seen as a ‘cycle friendly’ development which will not compromise the future of the cycle path but could potentially improve it. David has indicated that he would be happy to discuss the development with any members should they have any issues with this proposal.

There it is from the horses mouth.

It seems Bristol City Council has admitted to deliberately ignoring the land disposal policy that applies to the case – the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy – and ignored the advice of its own expert officers (the Nature Conservation Officer and the Transport Development Control Manager).

Instead the recently promoted and generously remunerated new Strategic Director for City Development, David Bishop, has made a private – and seemingly personal – arrangement with George Ferguson, former city councillor and Merchant Venturer, to sell him the land.

It also appears that Bishop intends to hand more of our land over to Ferguson and Square Peg on the dubious basis that it’s “referred to in the Cycle City bid application”.

Again, Bishop is throwing the formal and democratically agreed land disposal policy he should be implementing in to the bin. Instead he is using an informal document – containing a few vague aspirations for the city that happen to be more in accordance with the outcome he and his developer friends desire – to justify his decision.

The idea that just because something’s been written down somewhere at some time by a city council officer means it can be implemented if they feel like it in preference to agreed policy by elected councillors is, of course, a total nonsense.

Bishop’s conduct over these land deals goes beyond undemocratic. It is anti-democratic. He’s willfully ignoring council policy because it doesn’t produce the outcome that he and George Ferguson want.

It’s also concerning that, as it is worth less than £250k, the decision on the sale of this land has been delegated by elected councillors to Bishop .

Should a delegated decision maker working on our behalf be meeting and entering into direct negotiations with property developers?

Shouldn’t that be the job of other officers who then report their findings to Bishop along with experts such as the Nature Conservation Officer and the Transport Development Control Manager?

Shouldn’t Bishop then be considering their recommendations in the light of the relevant policies laid out to him by our democratically elected representatives and then shouldn’t he reach an objective and impartial decision … Rather than deciding these things after lunching with Merchant Venturers?

Bishop should have to go for this. Bet he won’t.

This entry was posted in Bristol, Bristol East, Cycling Demonstration City, Developments, Easton, Environment, Local government, Merchant Venturers, Politics, Transport and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Railway Path: that leaked document in full

  1. Baffled of Bruce Rd. says:

    Hang on a doggone minute….

    If this bit of land is sold to Squarepeg, they’ll improve the access to the Cycle Path, and their development will overlook the path, therefore making it more secure.

    If the land is sold on the open market it could be bought by someone who has another plan, like a Bus operator perhaps?

    As someone who took part in the ‘reclaim the path’ walk a few weeks ago, and a Greenbak resdient, I know which option I prefer.

  2. Improved access and security would be good but we need to be looking at the price we might be paying for this too.

  3. Chris Hutt says:

    Baffled, we’re saying the land should NOT be sold at all. The Council are in breach of their own Parks & Open Spaces policies by trying to sell it. That’s why they didn’t tell anyone and why Squarepeg pretended it was a dome deal!

    The BRT proposals for the Path are dead and being quietly buried as we type. Squarepeg can’t use that threat to bamboozle people into accepting some lesser degradation of the rural ambiance which we all value so highly.

    Accesses to the Chocolate Factory site can be provided without selling the land, as has been done at dozens of locations along the Path. We’re not objecting to a modest number of well designed access points.

    As for overlooking the Path and improving security, that may be true for the section beside the development, but almost all the crime occurs further down the Path out of sight of the development. Are you advocating building houses ALL the way along the Path?

  4. Chris Hutt says:

    Sorry, that should have been “done deal”, not dome deal. Spell checks have their limitations.

  5. Spectator says:

    Baffled of Bruce Road.

    As this land is in public ownership it shouldn’t be sold off to anyone without consultation. As the land forms part of what Bristol City Council themselves describe as part of a “wildlife corridor”, it should be off limits to development… full stop!

    The argument that this land can just be bought by a bus operator to do what they want with is a red herring… can you really imagine BCC, after spending all that effort and money to get the accolade of “cycling city”, then slapping a bus route on the country’s first cycle path? If they did, I suspect it would generate so much bad publicity that it would be all over the national news media.

    As the Evening Post reported in July, Mark Bradshaw is now on the record as saying that “after seeing the size of the lanes and the gantries needed for the dedicated bus route, he visited the Bristol cyclepath for another look.

    Now he says he can fully appreciate the scale of what is involved and feels a bus route along the cyclepath would be entirely inappropriate.”

    The debate is no longer between a BRT route or “cycle houses”, but between “cycle houses” and our current wildlife corridor.

    As I walk along this stretch of the cycle path every day, I know what I’d prefer.

  6. Spectator says:

    Chris, maybe your spell-checker’s not so crazy… maybe it was thinking of that white elephant in Greenwich.

  7. The BristolBlogger says:


    You seem to have misunderstood what’s happening here. This is not a debate about whether the land is sold to Square Peg or on the open market but about whether it should be sold at all.

    The correct way to decide this is laid out in the democratically agreed Parks and Open Spaces Strategy. It is not the job of city council officers or anyone else to circumvent this process at their convenience.

    If you’re interested, the process and principles for assessing the non-monetary value of land and the fitness for sale of open space are clearly laid out in Appendix 5 of the strategy. Once this has happened, the land is then considered in the context of a wider ‘Area Green Space Plan’ and a decision taken.

    None of this happened.

    The role that the cycle houses can play in the security of the path is interesting. You are correct to say “their development will overlook the path, therefore making it more secure.”

    But it will only make the immediate vicinity around the development more secure not the path as a whole. Home Office research has even shown that these type of crime reduction through surveillance methods (such as overlooking and CCTV) don’t reduce crime but displace it elsewhere.

    Already most of the crime on the path takes place West of Devon Road down to Brixton Road via the Community Centre and Owen Square, so increased security at Greenbank is a fairly marginal issue anyway and is only likely to displace more crime in to the ‘hotspot’.

    If you really want to tackle security on the path it would be better looked at and developed on a slightly larger-scale strategic basis over the section of the path between say, Brixton Road and Gordon Road.

    Indeed, the issue of security on the path seems like a compelling reason for the urgent drafting of a Green Space Plan for this section of the Railway Path as per the council’s open space strategy, rather than the current piecemeal sell-off and private development approach.

  8. Gary Hopkins says:

    Baffled of Bruce Rd.

    Mr Bradshaw may have said 1 thing in the Evening(now morning) post but after this interview the West of England continued discussing this as very much a live option.

  9. Chris Hutt says:

    Gary, can we quote you on that? That’s quite a bombshell, although slightly odd that it should only emerge when it might bolster Squarepeg’s cause.

    If true then Bradshaw’s Mea Culpa act just before Bristol made it’s bid to be Cycling City was just that, an act. He knew his political days were numbered anyway so thought “what the hell”.

    Nu-labour’s in its death throes anyway and I don’t see a Tory government going for congestion charging (which underlies BRT) somehow. And the recession and the rising oil price are going to knock back traffic growth for a good many years.

  10. Martyn Whitelock says:

    In addition to local policies on land use, at the national level the public utility of a site takes priority over the sale of surplus public sector land, before falling into private ownership (as we all know what happens there!). Even then, the land must be sold at its full market value. I seriously question the theory that residential development increases security, despite Home Office research. I personally think most urbanisation attracts distinct sets of problems, probably more in quantitative terms. Aside from the ‘Big Brother’ issue, most people would not like to see CCTV on or near the path as it would be an inappropriate public expenditure which wouldn’t even provide reliable evidence in court.

    Listen! The criminal activity on the path is not going to go away until this Council puts some real and relevant investment into it – ‘relevant’ being the key word here. I’m probably making myself unpopular here as most users value it exactly as it is (myself included) but I am totally bewildered by this Council’s mis-placed priorities. It’s as if there’s some undeclared policy of investing in the central business district in order to pander to business and tourism, which hasn’t quite worked in the case of the IMAX. Come on BCC, you’ve got sustainability written into all your policies, if you can invest money into creative engaging light systems at Millennium Square and Broad Quay, why can’t you invest in what is arguably one of Bristol’s greatest asserts – the Railway Path?…and I don’t mean relocating Victorian street lamps from other areas!

  11. Martyn Whitelock says:

    Chris Hutt – have you seen all the houses out at mangotsfield? – all those people need transport! I’m quite sure this (present) administration will use a ‘successful’ implimentation of the Ashton Vale BRT route as an exemplary pilot scheme for extension to Eastern wards. To think otherwise is plain naivity (with respect ). I understand the plans for BRT on the Railway Path have still not been OFFICIALLY binned. Do you know otherwise?

  12. Chris Hutt says:

    Martyn, I’m guessing you’re a vegetarian so you may a not know about this, but if you chop the head off a chicken it carries on strutting around for some time (18 months in one case – check out Mike the Headless Chicken) . That’s the explanation for WoE carrying on with the plans for BRT on the Railway Path.

  13. Gary Hopkins says:

    Whilst I hope it is unlikely that anyone will be stupid enough to try to revive the railway path plans they are still on the books. I did flag this up before but it was probably not seen amongst the torrent of Bradshaw says one thing and does another stories.If you saw the totally unaccountable way that the West of England is operating you would be rightly very concerned. It is completely “Alice through the looking glass “stuff.Unfortunately this is completely what the new Labour doctor ordered and all the central government funds with strings on are being channelled in this direction. Do what Whitehall wants or no money.

  14. Chris Hutt says:

    Gary, I can well believe everything you say. But surely an astute politician such as yourself will be looking beyond the dying days of Nu-Labour towards the next government and a new broom that will sweep away all the old trappings of this discredited administration. Do you think the likes of WoE will survive?

  15. Martyn Whitelock says:

    Chris – The present climate is precisely what the WoE wants – relaxed Railway Path campaigners and a public assuming the path is safe, whilst our attentions are diverted to the Ashton Vale BRT route which will serve a very different commuting community and inevitably be hailed a successful model.

    In the same way a headless chicken makes no noise I sincerely hope the current aloofness of the pro-greenway path protectionists means they are actively implementing some of the great ideas to permanently preserve the Railway Path instead of relying on the inevitable demonstrations should the issue resurface? Proaction is a far better policy than reaction when it comes to the planning and sustainability departments of this administration. Let’s face it, the plans have very much been shelved rather than bined.

  16. Chris Hutt says:

    “…relaxed Railway Path campaigners”

    Speak for yourself Martyn. I’m totally manic.

  17. BristolPatriot says:

    Citizens,this is no different than the council ignoring its own Tenants Compact -Then starting a Housing Management Board [HMB] Furthermore, starting a Local Housing Company [in Knowle] in order to begin stock transfer.
    This was initially started through the likes of Bristol Community Housing Company [BCHF]
    which transferred Tenants from BCC over to BCHF then the Tenants lost their rights as secureTenants.
    BCC have since moved on a little further and started to sell off garage sites you can be assured the monies gained will not be going into the decent homes standard.
    BB can we expect a long overdue expos’e on this crime?

  18. Spectator says:

    Martyn said…
    “Listen! The criminal activity on the path is not going to go away until this Council puts some real and relevant investment into it – ‘relevant’ being the key word here. I’m probably making myself unpopular here as most users value it exactly as it is (myself included) but I am totally bewildered by this Council’s mis-placed priorities.”

    I would agree with you Martyn. I too am a person who doesn’t mind making themselves unpopular… may I suggest some sensible investments that BCC could make? Stocks, pillory, gibbet, hurdle… all can be made from native, sustainably grown trees I might add.

    In all seriousness, what has been happening over recent years is that those innocent members of the public who simply want to go about their business end up getting penalised with crackpot urban “solutions”, simply because the powers that be won’t deal seriously with those who believe they have the right to thieve and rob. Simultaneously, members of the public have been discouraged from taking action themselves; apparently, Britain is now the least likely country in Europe for members of the public to have a go.

    If the Home office research showing that urbanisation was correct, then the middle of Dartmoor would be a crime hotspot… needless to say, it ain’t. When governments quote from their statistical data, they always twist it to fit the story they want it to tell.

    As far as the cycle path goes, BB is spot on with his analysis of where the crime currently takes place… in one of the busiest parts of the path, with the most access points. I strongly suspect however, that if the cycle houses go ahead, then we could well see anti-social crime move toward them. These type of crimes usually take place at transition points, where the intended victim is moving between different environments… at these points, people’s attention is unfocussed while they concentrate on such things as “Is that bike going to hit me?” or “Is anything coming round this corner?”. These are well established principles that have been well covered over the years by people in the security industry and self-protection business. As Squarepeg’s plans will increase the number of transition points…

  19. Pingback: David Bishop: the game’s afoot « The Bristol Blogger

  20. Dona Qixota says:

    Martyn: “In the same way a headless chicken makes no noise I sincerely hope the current aloofness of the pro-greenway path protectionists means they are actively implementing some of the great ideas to permanently preserve the Railway Path …”


    Lovely turn of phrase, Martyn, but sadly, ‘headless ostriches’ would perhaps be a more appropriate epithet.

    See post and comments in Green Bristol Blog’s latest – “From Park to Parking”

  21. steve meek says:

    Martyn comments on the aloofness of pro-greenway path protectionists, a repeated complaint on this thread, and Dona ends with ‘See post and comments in Green Bristol Blog’s latest – “From Park to Parking” ‘
    How telling that cross blog reference is – blogs are where the action is, not narrow interest groups.
    Things have changed radically in this city this year – it’s all about blogs.
    Bristol Blogger, Green Bristol blog, Bristol Traffic, Vowles the Green set the news agenda – whilst the EP are so worried about their plummeting circulation (now under 50 ooo) they are radically restructuring. Apparently mike norton has specifically acknowledged they have been left behind by bristol’s bloggers.
    Sure, the path isnt safe for ever but we face multiple threats in bristol from the forces of darkness, and they keep changing – the bloggers, and various people like us, seem to have formed an unoffical network which can respond to variety of issues quickly. The rise of effective activism in Bristol this year is very exciting and is inspiring more and more people to join in. When the BRT threat to the railway path returns, it is this network that will alert people to resist it.
    No wonder the council are worried – they can’t adapt quickly: they don’t yet know how to deal with FoI requests although the law was passed in 2000. BB and CH, you’re running rings round ’em!
    What we need is to change the council from a bickering, party polarised and secretive institution into a cross party organisation which properly directs and manages the council officers according to what bristol people want. Oh, and geting more than 25% of the potential electorate to vote would be a help….

  22. H.T. Mill says:

    Very few facts are able to tell their own story, without comments to bring out their meaning. The whole strength and value, then, of human judgment, depending on the one property, that it can be set right when it is wrong, reliance can be placed on it only when the means of setting it right are kept constantly at hand. In the case of any person whose judgment is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and conduct. Because it has been his practice to listen to all that could be said against him; to profit by as much of it as was just, and expound to himself, and upon occasion to others, the fallacy of what was fallacious. Because he has felt, that the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. ……

    Our merely social intolerance kills no one, roots out no opinions, but induces men to disguise them, or to abstain from any active effort for their diffusion. With us, heretical opinions do not perceptibly gain, or even lose, ground in each decade or generation; they never blaze out far and wide, but continue to smoulder in the narrow circles of thinking and studious persons among whom they originate, without ever lighting up the general affairs of mankind with either a true or a deceptive light. And thus is kept up a state of things very satisfactory to some minds, because, without the unpleasant process of fining or imprisoning anybody, it maintains all prevailing opinions outwardly undisturbed, while it does not absolutely interdict the exercise of reason by dissentients afflicted with the malady of thought. A convenient plan for having peace in the intellectual world, and keeping all things going on therein very much as they do already. But the price paid for this sort of intellectual pacification, is the sacrifice of the entire moral courage of the human mind. A state of things in which a large portion of the most active and inquiring intellects find it advisable to keep the general principles and grounds of their convictions within their own breasts, and attempt, in what they address to the public, to fit as much as they can of their own conclusions to premises which they have internally renounced, cannot send forth the open, fearless characters, and logical, consistent intellects who once adorned the thinking world. The sort of men who can be looked for under it, are either mere conformers to commonplace, or time-servers for truth, whose arguments on all great subjects are meant for their hearers, and are not those which have convinced themselves. Those who avoid this alternative, do so by narrowing their thoughts and interest to things which can be spoken of without venturing within the region of principles, that is, to small practical matters, which would come right of themselves, if but the minds of mankind were strengthened and enlarged, and which will never be made effectually right until then: while that which would strengthen and enlarge men’s minds, free and daring speculation on the highest subjects, is abandoned. 19

    Those in whose eyes this reticence on the part of heretics is no evil, should consider in the first place, that in consequence of it there is never any fair and thorough discussion of heretical opinions; and that such of them as could not stand such a discussion, though they may be prevented from spreading, do not disappear. But it is not the minds of heretics that are deteriorated most, by the ban placed on all inquiry which does not end in the orthodox conclusions. The greatest harm done is to those who are not heretics, and whose whole mental development is cramped, and their reason cowed, by the fear of heresy. Who can compute what the world loses in the multitude of promising intellects combined with timid characters, who dare not follow out any bold, vigorous, independent train of thought, lest it should land them in something which would admit of being considered irreligious or immoral? Among them we may occasionally see some man of deep conscientiousness, and subtle and refined understanding, who spends a life in sophisticating with an intellect which he cannot silence, and exhausts the resources of ingenuity in attempting to reconcile the promptings of his conscience and reason with orthodoxy, which yet he does not, perhaps, to the end succeed in doing. No one can be a great thinker who does not recognise, that as a thinker it is his first duty to follow his intellect to whatever conclusions it may lead. Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think. Not that it is solely, or chiefly, to form great thinkers, that freedom of thinking is required. On the contrary, it is as much and even more indispensable, to enable average human beings to attain the mental stature which they are capable of. There have been, and may again be, great individual thinkers, in a general atmosphere of mental slavery. But there never has been, nor ever will be, in that atmosphere, an intellectually active people. When any people has made a temporary approach to such a character, it has been because the dread of heterodox speculation was for a time suspended. ……

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