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.