The empire strikes back

George Ferguson and his shadowy money men from Square Peg have been on the internet today desperately attempting to apply some positive spin to their beleaguered Railway Path development. They’ve even knocked together a special logo (above) to try and impress us.

They’re basically now claiming that some of their sketches they’ve issued may have been out of date and a little confusing, so they’ve done some new ones with a lot of green colouring-in on them for us.

There’s also some waffle about “ecology consultants” and promises to plant some apple trees, presumably to offset the sight of the pair of eight storey flats they forget to mention they’re building on the path. You can read the whole thing here.

Campaigners, meanwhile, have already produced an early rebuttal to Ferguson & Co’s efforts:

1. It’s clearer than ever that the SALE LAND is vital in this matter. The preservation of the line of mature hedge bushes and the rural ambiance of the Railway Path depends on keeping that land in public ownership, where it belongs. We are determined not to allow the sale to proceed.

2. The Squarepeg response shows that they’re rattled. They’ve seriously misled the public over the status of the sale land and that is now a matter of public record. There has been NO environmental impact assessment and NO proper public consultation. They will try to divert attention from that but we will keep focusing on it.

3. Squarepeg seem to be saying that if they don’t get the land we don’t get the cycle orientated aspects. That just shows that they’re not really committed to the cycle orientated aspects but are just using it as a pretext for taking out a substantial strip of the Railway Path land. Squarepeg have plenty of room within the existing site but they have chosen to use a large area of it to accommodate parking for 260 cars! Now they want to take the Railway Path land for housing to compensate for that.

4. Squarepeg are still keeping quiet about the tower block that they want to build on the sale land. None of the residents wanted the tower block near their streets so they’ve moved it to this site right next to the Path. Users of the Path deserve a proper opportunity to be consulted on whether they want what none of the residents want – a tower block looming over them.

5. The latest Squarepeg sketches appear to show (upper sketch) the ramps from the Path to the “cycle” houses as STEPS. What use is this for cycle access? But it’s quite clear from the same sketch that a ramp would be far too steep. It doesn’t look like they’ve thought this through properly.

6. The sketches show trees planted hard up against Path. This is not acceptable since the current standard for such paths is that there should be CLEAR verges either side of about 1 metre to allow more flexibility when path users pass each other (e.g. being able to ride or walk right to edge of path or even onto the verge in emergency). These are important safety matters. Also the foliage of trees will grow out into the path and obstruct vital sightlines at the access points.

7. The sketches are grossly misleading. Lower plan sketch shows clearance from Path to housing of at least 7 metres! In fact there will be no more than 4 metres clearance along most of the development. The 7 metres applies to only to the southern extremity of site near Carlyle Road where the existing verge widens. The upper sketch is more realistic in that path/housing clearance there is indeed about 4 metres.

8. The Squarepeg notes claim that “the current buildings run right up to the edge of this land with brick and concrete walls.” This land refers to the land on which the houses will be built, mainly the sale land and the embankment beyond to the northeast. The Squarepeg statement is UNTRUE for that land. The brick and concrete walls only apply to the southwest half of the site/Path boundary. Our concerns are overwhelmingly with the northeast half of the site boundary, as they know perfectly well.

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

41 Responses to The empire strikes back

  1. Archie says:

    George Ferguson involved? no surprise there I guess, funny how the old names always seem to pop up in these news stories

  2. Martyn Whitelock says:

    Blogger – Don’t get me wrong, I’m up for as much green space and trees as possible but the concept looks interesting from the perspective of sustainable living (though probably not from affordability!). What would you rather see?

  3. Chris Hutt says:

    Martyn, now who’s being naive? Sustainable living? Is that why these “cycle” houses have integral garages? Is that why the development includes 260 covered car parking spaces?

  4. Martyn Whitelock says:

    Chris – Ooops!…I was suckered in with those lovely idealistic architectural drawings wasn’t I – always good to read the small print!

  5. thebristolblogger says:

    What I would like to see is Bristol City Council implement its expensively developed Parks and Open Spaces Strategy they were desperately keen to dump on us just 6 months ago (presumably before they read the small print?)

    How much money have they spent on creating this apparently irrelevant document?

    I’d be quite happy to abide by a decision reached on the basis of that strategy really.

  6. Martyn Whitelock says:

    Blogger – quite so!… it’s one thing inventing policies and it’s another thing to action them. I think we all know (and feel) BCC hasn’t quite got the hang of this yet. Ah well, maybe tomorrow – there’s always tomorrow (if you work for the Council!)

  7. Chris Hutt says:

    “I was suckered in with those lovely idealistic architectural drawings”
    Don’t worry Martyn, you’re not the only one by any means. That’s what the sketches are for after all, to “sucker in” as you so eloquently put it.

  8. Will says:

    love the way the comment sections for some mysterious reason is not working right now…

  9. Spectator says:

    Martyn said…
    “I was suckered in with those lovely idealistic architectural drawings”

    Yes they are sneaky aren’t they…

    and also said…
    “Ah well, maybe tomorrow – there’s always tomorrow (if you work for the Council!)”

    Not if I had my way mate… and that brings me back to one of my previous comments… The Third of May 1808!

    Bristol City Council, Britain’s flagship authority for services you DON’T need.

  10. The point about the hundreds of car parking spaces is a very good one. This ‘cycle’ development should surely be low car or no car? George Ferguson claims that this devlopment is innovative but many aspects of it sound like ‘business as usual’ to me. I think there could be a good development in this area but there is a lot of room for improvement in current plans, ably pointed out on Chris Hutts blog and elsewhere and I hope developers/architects are listening and will respond so that the character and biodiversity of the path is retained.

  11. Steve Loughran says:

    We see this all over the city (locally to me, BRI planning applications in kingsdown, where the housing is always ‘sustainable’ but the builders either put in lots of car parking (trouble) or dont put in any (different trouble). There’s no easy answer here. What could be done is having multiple dedicated cars-club parking slots with your membership automatically paid for. That and something resembling a bus service in this city. So on those times you aren’t cycling, you have options to hand that don’t require you to leave a car in the street for most of the week (disclaimer: that’s what I do)

  12. Martyn Whitelock says:

    Talking of planning and development, this might make you laugh. It is somewhat ironic that a developer like Barratt can promote the value of the Railway Path whilst the BCC & WoE coalition were considering its destruction!

    Here’s the boxed-up lifestyle blurb from the Barratt’s development at Mangotsfield – note the sentence about the Railway Path!

    “Benefiting from beautiful countryside The Meadows has great appeal for those who enjoy countryside walks and fresh air. In particular the thirteen mile Bristol to Bath cycle route highlights the rural theme. Conveniently located next to the ring road, access is easy to central Bristol and Temple Meads train station is less than ten miles away. Central Bristol is under …ten miles away offering an abundant variety of bars, restaurants and theatres. With local pubs in Siston village and the surrounding area, The Meadows meets all tastes and requirements. If a countryside setting close to excellent amenities and transport links appeals to you, do not delay! This is an opportunity not to be missed!”

    p.s. Yes Chris, I know it’s a sales strategy.

  13. Spectator says:

    Steve Loughran said…

    “That and something resembling a bus service in this city.”

    Good lord… that’s a radical proposal Steve, sheer genius… however did you come up with it?

    If you can come up with ideas of that calibre, I’d recommend that you start applying for those highly paid jobs down at the council house…

    after all, you’ve just come up with something that none of them appear to have been smart enough to figure out yet.

  14. SteveL says:

    spend any time waiting for a firstbus bus and you work out why nobody else uses the bus. Then go to london, top up your oyster card at any newsagent and you can fly through the tubes and buses without any payment delays. There are rumours that the oystercards make a bit of a loss, but Transport for London prefer them as their mission is not “make money” it is “keep london moving”, and the faster rate they can stream people through tube stations and on and off buses justifies the effort.

  15. Gary Hopkins says:

    Oyster card eqivalents would be a reasonable investment for First as the capital cost would be recovered over time with speedier journeys which mean they get more passengers and actually can manage with slightly fewer buses to run a given frequency of service.
    The problem is the crazy legislation ,introduced by the Tories and continued with enthusiasm by New Labour, whereby if First sit back long enough the councils are forced to put public money in.There is very understandable public pressure to improve the service but the limited powers available to councils(they are forbidden to even launch a competing service)mean that the operator holds the whip hand. Let us not forget that the driver of the company is to produce dividends for it’s shareholders. In most competitive markets this means lowering prices to expand customer base.In this particular “market” raising prices and waiting for public subsidies seems to work for them very well.TFL has the powers most other councils do not.

  16. thebristolblogger says:


    Your little homilies on the local bus service and the cruelties of various Labour and Conservative governments is all very interesting.

    But this thread is actually about the fact that one of your senior officer toe-rags has taken it upon himself to sell off a section of our world class greenway to a well-connected Merchant Venturer while disregarding city council policy and expert officer advice.

    One of two things might be presumed by your silence on this matter of the utmost urgency.

    1. The Lib Dems have no problem with sell-offs of high quality green space in this way and we can expect more of it under a Lib Dem administration. After all, wasn’t it your last administration that proposed building on Castle Park?

    2. You and your Lib Dems are the latest examples of the kind of effete, bedwetting wimps that have been elected to run this city for generations and you’re simply too scared to stand up to your own senior officers and the toenail worshippers who between them really run things in this city.

  17. Well said BB. I’d add …a well-connected [and Liberal] Merchant Venturer…

    Is there a firm Lib Dem position on this proposed land sell-off which conveniently is not covered by the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy??

  18. thebristolblogger says:

    But who says it’s not covered by the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy? And why?

    How has this been decided? Most readings of the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy would suggest that the land is included in it.

    To say otherwise must be open to legal challenge.

  19. Martyn Whitelock says:

    Since a few have strayed off the point of this thread, maybe this will add a little focus: It’s good to get out into the real world too!!!… well when it’s not raining (LOL!).

    So, regards the public land sell-off into private ownership/corporate capitalism… the work appears to have started!

    There’s been pruning and tree works near the Chocolate Factory as evidenced by image No.19 on my record of some of the trees and hedgerows along the path?

    Are they ‘tidying-up’ the area to make it more appealing for a sell-off ? All surplus public sector land needs to be considered (and I believe offered for sale to public bodies) prior to being sold into private ownership.

    See also image No.20, the Hawthorn which characterises railway sidings can also be protected under a TPO, that’s if you can get a tree officer at BCC to apply one!!!

    Ok, some will argue they need pruning from the safety issue but others enjoy their natural archway, particularly the quality of light and shade they offer. I acknowledge the Council needs to strike a balance between public amenity and good management (LOL!) but their municipal mentality is destroying our environment, let alone democracy!

    However, the public should not have to campaign, justify and work so hard to preserve trees which the Council has a legal duty to do themselves! There is the growing opinion amongst other campaigners that the Council fear the bureaucracy associated with TPOs more than protecting the environment. What a sad state of affairs!

  20. BristolPatriot says:

    Respectfully Ladies and Gents:
    How do you not know that this land [this piece] does not come under Neighbourhood and Housing Services.N.&HS. ?????????
    Not all gr#een space has been transfered to the Parks dept yet.

  21. Gary Hopkins says:

    I was responding to the comments about the bus service because, having examined the issue last year I learned a fair amount about it.I think the fundamental problems of why we have a poor and overpriced bus service are important to people as some of the contributors said.
    As you have so kindly invited me to comment on the parks strategy I have to say that it has some merits in theory but as Bristol CC has run for many years on a no consequences basis and has been split into a number of effectively independant “directorates” I see many problems with it in practice.In fact the policy was modified/improved following a challenge from our party and good work from the parks forum.Without this the land sales would have been a lot worse.BCC has for many years had a whole swathe of policies that it fails to follow in practice.
    Castle Park has some pretty ugly and useless buildings at one end of it and we, as the then administration, commissioned plans for redevelopment of these.Officers came back with an unacceptable plan that damaged the open space rather than enhancing it and so we threw it out.There are revised plans that the present administration have been keeping under wraps for some while.
    I do not know much about the individual Easton case, although I was very interested and involved with the railway path protection against BRT, and quite bluntly I have been kept ultra busy recently with challenging the administration on the waste policy shambles . (Demonstration 5.30 Tuesday outside the council house against the incinerator).
    By the way they are not “my ” officers as they work for the administration and whilst my political opponents accuse me of many things being afraid to challenge officers has never featured with good reason.

  22. BB said ‘But who says it’s not covered by the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy? And why?
    How has this been decided? Most readings of the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy would suggest that the land is included in it.To say otherwise must be open to legal challenge.’

    I agree with this assertion of course. Its the council that seems to be saying its not covered by the strategy as this particular land has not been designated as public open space. Bizarre. Convenient as far as land flogging is concerned. What other green spaces we all think of as park land is not in fact officially ‘designated’ which is far as I’m aware simply involves specifying its type?

  23. thebristolblogger says:


    there’s nothing in the parks and open spaces strategy that says it only applies to land in the Parks department. It is a general strategy for all open space owned by the council.

    Neither is there any mention of ‘designating’ land as open space. This idea seems to have been invented for this piece of land.

    Finally, on the council’s ‘pin point’ map showing the land they own, the piece is under control of parks or Culture and Leisure at least.

  24. matthew mark luke and jon says:

    “I have been kept ultra busy recently with challenging the administration on the waste policy shambles . ”

    Surely you could be kept ‘ultra-busy’ designing your own strategy, if you had took control of the council?

  25. Gary Hopkins said “I have been kept ultra busy recently with challenging the administration on the waste policy shambles . ”

    Mass incineration of waste is an important issue I agree but surely multiple issues arise and come to councillors attention all the time? The future of green spaces and whether they can/are being sold off due to some sort of technicality is no small issue. Presumeably Lib Dems are more than big enough as a party to have activists all over Bristol?

  26. BristolPatriot says:


    This is how half of the PGSS came around N&HS cannot generally sell land so sections of land were internally transferred from various departments over to the Parks dept that way it can be sold.
    If the portion of land in question has indeed been transferred over to Parks under the PGSS then im in no doubt they are likely to sell it.
    The pitiful thing in all this as Gary Hopkins has said is that BCC has become compartmentalised .
    When officers [ or Executive members for that matter] want to hide something or get rid of it through sale they just have it transferred from one dept to another the original “owning” dept becomes lost ,then the land becomes availble to sell.
    When you consider that anything the Council owns we own thats disgraceful.
    One of the overiding factors I can see needs urgent attention is the Councils constitution until that is altered in a few ways nothing will ever change.
    The sets of local elections in four causes no end of administative problems in attempting to gain overal control of the council – the other is the requirement for executive members to be defenders of their officers decisions – taking into account that officers are permitted to make delegated decisions on financial matters under
    £500.000 isnt it any wonder no body knows what is going on within the dark halls of valhalla!

  27. thebristolblogger says:

    I can confirm that the Railway Path is included in the strategy. In a separate document – Bristol Parks and Green Space Strategy – Typology manual, which defines the types of green space in the strategy it is listed (and named) as Subtype B1 – Green Corridors of Type B Informal Green Space.

    Here’s what it says:

    B1 Green Corridors Green

    corridors may be large scale and strategically significant, in having greenway routes passing through them. The narrow corridor which contains the Bath – Bristol Railway Path is a prime example. Another example is the Lower Trym Valley as it links Blaise Castle Estate with Sea Mills Harbour.

    They may also be smaller and local in scale such as Trymside Open Space, Southmead and Crow Lane Open Space, Henbury. This sub type covers those sites which are informal green spaces with their corridor form contributing a strong secondary purpose.

    It does not cover all green corridors in the city for thereasons described in the Introduction above under 1.6 Greenspace Shape.

    Claims that this land is not covered by the strategy are patently untrue.

  28. In which case BB I’ll be very interested to see how the council responds to letters, like mine, objecting to the land sale. In it I said,

    ‘I’m dismayed and unhappy that consultation on the land sell-off is completely lacking.’

    Consultation is, as previous discussions have made very clear, a pivotal part of the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy.

    Had this acknowledgement from the council last week, so I’m promised a response this week.

    Dear Mr Vowles,

    Thank you for your e-mail. I will respond to your reservations regarding the potential sale of the land adjacent to the Elizabeth Shaw next week. I’ve forwarded your e-mail onto Chanelle Brodie for her information.

    In the meantime if you wish to discuss the matter please contact me on 0117 9224028.

    yours sincerely

    Peter Webb

    Peter Webb
    Portfolio Management Officer
    Valuation Practice
    Floor 6, B Bond
    Smeaton Road
    BS1 6EE
    Tel: 0117 922 4028
    Fax: 0117 922 4676

  29. Jon Rogers says:

    Morning all,

    I don’t think the Liberal Democrats have been idle on this issue. In fact I think I may have inadvertedly started the previous thread!

    I was contacted about this issue by an Ashley resident on Monday 1st September.

    My response to him on Tuesday 2nd September was,

    “(1) I am aware of the new Railway Path controversy from Chris Hutt’s blog, and emailed Cllr Mark Bradshaw on Sunday to ask him what the situation was. No reply to date, so I emailed one of the Officers yesterday and asked,

    “I would be grateful for an email on this. Please could I have a copy of the attached plan?

    It is causing upset in the community, and I emailed Cllr Bradshaw a news story on the same topic yesterday.

    Can I ask that we do not proceed with any sale until consultation?”

    I have had the attached copy of the plan and a promise to contact me ‘as soon as possible’.

    I’ll let you know when I hear more.”

    I have still had no reply from Cllr Bradshaw, but I did subsequently have a detailed reply from one of the officers.

    I forwarded all this to the resident who replied at 15:41 on Wednesday 3rd September to say that he couldn’t open the quaintly titled “chocolate briefing note” so I sent that again as plain text at 15:47.

    At 16:53 on Wednesday 3rd September the officer reply that I (and other Lib Dem councillors) had requested appeared verbatim on Chris Hutt’s blog!

    The briefing was not marked confidential, and certainly I have no problem with the so-called “leak” nor the excellent ensuing open discussion and debate.

    Cheers Jon

  30. Spectator says:

    Congratulation Jon, you seem to be one of those councillors who actually bother to do anything.

    I emailed both my councillors (Abdul Malik LD, and Faruk Choudhury L) about this at the end of August – I’m still awaiting replies from both of them.

    The current situation is indeed causing some upset in the local community – but our councillors don’t seem, so far to respond to their constituents… I suppose they must have more important things to do.

    Thanks again.

  31. Jon Rogers says:

    I can’t really comment on how quickly my councillor colleagues respond to constituents, but I do know that Abdul was one of the other councillors who requested the briefing, and to be fair, I have also heard that Faruk has asked about the issue.

  32. Jon Rogers says:

    In fact, looks like Faruk has a statement on the issue to Full Council tomorrow stating, “I would like to urge council to think again before offering land for sale along the cycle path at the back of the Chocolate Factory in Easton”

  33. Consultation is good, as is thinking again but does this mean opposition to the sell-off??

    Is there a Lib Dem group policy agreed on this Jon? Are you all opposed to the sell-off?

    Good to see the involvement of individual LDs such as yourself and others but we may need more than that to stop the sale and perhaps even more importantly to stop such undemocratic ‘done deal’ practices happening altogether.

  34. Spectator says:

    Fair play Jon, that sounds like great news…

    … what exactly will this mean in pratice?

  35. We have met Farouk on the path, wearing a council issue yellow cycling top. He appears to be against the sell of. I say appears, as we rely on voting records when assessing path support, not press releases. What is hopeful here is that this may not be a party policy game, more that someone got overenthusiastic about helping a housing project. Which makes it easier to stop, especially if the planning application gets refused. Let’s see what the evening post has to say.

  36. Abdul Malik says:

    Just a note to confirm that i have indeed tried to respond to the many emails and letters regarding this issue, as Jon I too received the briefing note on the 3rd of September and hence been responding to const. accordingly maybe I missed the ‘ spectator’ out but please do feel included now, just to confirm…I feel it is a bad proposal that I have, and will continue to object to infact I emailed ‘square peg’ after their so called ‘consultation exercise’ as a resident that lives in the vacinity as well as a Councillor and was promised a meeting…..I await the day!

  37. Spectator says:

    Thanks Abdul, now I understand. Your post has set the record straight.

  38. Katie Buse says:

    Like Steve, I was there when Farouk was there, he cartainly seemed to be supportive, but then again he was on the “Save the Cyclepath” march but failed to vote for the Green / Lib Dem motion to save it!

  39. Charlie Bolton says:

    Actually, at the council meeting Farouk claimed it was Labour who saved the railway path

    And there was I thinking it was Labour that put it in danger in the first place….

  40. Spectator says:

    Yeah, from where I stand I’d say that Faruk’s about as trustworthy as a very untrustworthy person.

    And what’s the position of Bristol’s lone Green Party councillor on this flogging off of public land to Squarepeg?

  41. nick foster says:

    Having Spoken to Charlie at our Bristol -wide meeting, he is against the idea.

    Certainly Katie (Katie Buse Easton Green Party Candidate) and I (St. George West bye Election Candidate) are!

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