There’s a nice story over on the Green Bristol Blog that’s discovered the city council is quietly negotiating a sell off of a strip of land on the Bristol and Bath Railway Path at Greenbank to mystery property developers, Square Peg, for a speculative housing development.
This news comes just six months after the introduction of the controversial ‘Bristol Parks and Green Spaces Strategy’, an attempt by the Labour Council to raise cash for park improvements through the sale of land of – what they call – “low recreational value”.
So have some council officers decided on our behalf that land around the Railway Path now has a “low recreational value”?
Let’s hope not for their sakes, as the strategy they’re supposed to be working to – that’s been very clearly set out for them by their elected bosses in a lovely glossy booklet (pdf) – sees it slightly differently.
For starters, on page 28 of this brand spanking new strategy we find that cycleways and greenways, including the Bristol and Bath Railway Path – which is even named in the document – are included.
Then page 44 assures us:
“This strategy document is not the end of the decision making process or to community involvement in what happens at a local level. We will develop “Area Green Space Plans ” in consultation with local people and ward councillors, making specific proposals to improve quality and facilities and provide the parks people need in their local area …
… Part of the analysis for producing Area Green Space Plans will be an assessment of value of those spaces identified as candidates for change of use or disposal.”
So where the hell is the “Area Green Space Plan” for this section of the Railway Path, which seems to have been made a prime “candidate for change of use or disposal”?
Surely senior city council officers wouldn’t be engaging in a free-for-all sale of bits of our city’s park land to friendly local developers and ignoring our democratically elected representatives’ written instructions would they?
So are you’re suddenly getting a lot of US traffic from people searching for “Bristol Blogger” today?
I was toying with the idea of doing a post on the significance of slightly mental Alaskan right wing politicians calling their kids Bristol but did this instead.
It could be worse, they could have called their kid Filton.
Or Nempnett Thrubwell.
You haven’t met my son Nempy yet, have you?
No doubt he knows you as Old Sodbury?
Sorry to interrupt the flippancy, but SteveL’s posted rather amusingly on this subject on Bristol Traffic (which you can link to from his name above).
Well, well. What a surprise. In one of the most densely populated areas of Bristol, an area which has a distinct lack of greenspace that can be used by the public for just getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, our Mighty Council have decided that we really don’t need anything except more housing. That’s right you plonkers, jam us all in like sardines… we love living like that you know.
Meanwhile, on the east side of the path, facing the old chocolate factory, the wonderful Bristol Academy have just put in their proposals to extend their new-fangled sport / athletics facilities, thus turning this stretch of the cycle path into a developers jamboree.
It looks like this area of Easton has been earmarked for some redevelopment / rejuvenation NuLabour style.
Tossers, they can’t leave anything alone, and only ever succeed in messing everything up!
I’ve received an exxtremely patronising and far from acceptable response from the council’s cabinet to my e-petition on green spaces.
Basically it says that I have not read their strategy and related documents and if I have I dont understand it!! Bullshit!
I understand what is motivating the council to flog off land very well. The classification of land as ‘surplus’, ‘low recreational value’ and ‘marginal’ is highly subjective and can therefore potentially be used to justify flogging off on a pretty broad basis.
I’ve been in communication with the council officer dealing with Area Green Space Plans
firstname.lastname@example.org about how and when they will be drawn up. His last email to me is below for your information:
Thanks for your email. The programme for producing Area Green Space Plans is being reviewed at the moment but I can say that the south of the city will be carried out first in this order (as things stand):
– Brislington East and West;
– Knowle, Windmill Hill and Fillwood;
– Hengrove and Stockwood;
– Hartcliffe, Bishopsworth and Whitchurch Park;
– Bedminster and Southville.
It maybe that a larger amount of work on all of these areas is taken forward simultaneously if the programme changes.
We are currently taking forward the Brislington East and West Plan . The next in the programme is the Knowle, Windmill Hill and Fillwood Neighbourhood Partnership Area – although we are currently doing some small-scale desktop work we will be making more progress on this in September.
The process that we have adopted is that we do desktop work which includes having a look at how the Green Space Standards that are given in the Parks and Green Space Strategy apply to the Area. We then work with stakeholders in a participation exercise, including councillors, on what local green space provision could look like in the future – put a draft together and then carry out a full public consultation. I can’t put dates on these stages for you at present.
Can we see the cabinet response Vowlsie?
Desktop work??? Stakeholder??? I’ll give you stakeholder you bloody vampire… just lie down on that desk a mo…
BB – I’ll see if I can get a decent scan image of the letter for you. If not I’ll type it out.
BB – Cabinet letter of response to my green spaces petition is below.
I should first point out a number of things in response to the letter (bit of a rant coming!!).
I’ve made no statements at all that indicate that I recognise the importance of the strategy, except in the negative sense that it legitimises flogging land. I have read all the relevant documents and understand them at least as well as, if not better than, Cllr Rosalie Walker. Its always a useful argument tactic to just tell your opponent they simply dont understand or are not aware (too stupid, too lazy…), though its not aimed at genuine debate (which would have involved Rosalie in having the very hard task of explaining for instance how flogging off land to be covered in concrete helps rainwater management…).
I’m much more interested in what the council actually has done and is doing than what some documents say (though she fails to comment on the councils past record). I’m at a loss to see how flogging land can be consistent with council policies on health and wellbeing, climate change, rainwater management, biodiversity…none of which are likely to be improved due to green land becoming tarmac/concrete…
I simply dont believe that no-one at the council has looked at where land might be sold off – how did they come up with figures like 90 acres or the previous 200 acres if they have not looked and estimated? How genuine is the Area Green Space Plans process if the council already has a very good idea what it wants to flog and where?
As for being committed to not selling higher value land what about planning to flog off strips of green space near/on the Bristol to Bath Railway Path for housing development, using technicalities as an excuse?
As for the Parks and Green Spaces strategy being popular, well I seriously doubt that the council has measured this fairly via its ‘consultation’ processes – I’m sure that investment in parks is something people want but I’m also confident that people dont want land flogged off to a sales target!
Dear Mr Vowles
E-petition – Protect and enhance green spaces instead of flogging 90 acres to developers
Thank you for using the council’s e-petition processes to contribute to the debate about the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy. I am pleased that you and fellow petitioners recognise the vital importance of this new policy framework for the city’s green spaces, which was adopted by the Cabinet in February this year. It would appear however that you have not read the strategy, or indeed if you have, not understood how the council intends to approach the admittedly complex issues over land disposal. Indeed you do not appear to have read nor understood the wider green space policy imperatives around health, climate change, biodiversity etc which underpin the proposed 20 year investment programme – and where the council, yourself and most of the petitioners are fully in agreement. I am of course assuming you are aware that the approved strategy and numerous background documents are available at http://www.bristol.gov.uk.parkstrategy.
Regarding your concern over the lack of evidence to justify land disposals in the form of maps, lists and debate, I refer you to page 36 of the adopted strategy which explains how the council is interpreting value and states that this will drive any future decision on the potential disposal of ‘low value green space’. This page includes the following…….
“…value will, therefore, be assessed at the stage when Area Green Space Plans are being drawn up and sites are being identified as possible candidates for change of use/type or disposal.”
Page 44 further explains the process of producing Area Green Space Plans and includes the following….
“…This strategy document is not the end of the decision making process or to community involvement in what happens at the local level. We will develop “Area Green Space Plans” in consultation with local people and ward councillors, making specific proposals to improve quality and facilities and provide the parks people need in their local area……..Part of the analysis for producing Area Green Space Plans will be an assessment of value of those spaces identified as candidates for change of use or disposal.”
Further information on value assessment can also be found in appendix 5 of the strategy. If you would like to know more about the programme to produce Area Green Space Plans please email email@example.com who would be pleased to send you more information.
With regard to your concerns that the council will keep selling higher value green space to raise funding, the strategy also covers this in some detail. On page 42 concerning ‘resources’, this section summarises the ambitious investment plans for the city’s parks and green spaces which by the way attracted overwhelming support during last summer’s comprehensive public consultation.
With an estimated £87m needing to be raised over the next 20 years to bring the green spaces up to a ‘good’ standard, an estimated £41m of this would be raised from property disposals, with 70% of the capital receipts reinvested in the strategy. This section goes on to state…..
“…The achievement of the strategy will be geared to the pace at which capital can be generated; this is why disposal of some land is essential if its ambitious quality improvements are to be realised. It is important to emphasise that it is not the intention of the council to keep selling land until the funding requirements of the strategy are achieved, irrespective of the importance and ‘value’ of the space to the community. On the contrary, should there be insufficient ‘low value’, marginal land available once the area planning process has been concluded, the council will review the ambitions of the strategy and consider alternative funding sources.”
This means that if the Area Green Space Plans do not identify 90 acres of ‘low value’ space that higher value land will not be sold to achieve any area or funding targets.
I hope that this to some extent eases your concerns over the way the strategy is going to be delivered. We appreciate that some residents feel that every square metre of green space needs to be protected at all costs – however our research and consultation has demonstrated that a large majority are more concerned to see the quality of our parks and green spaces improved and that a small loss of quantity to help raise funding for this purpose, and to release land for essential needs such as affordable housing, is a compromise worth making and in the wider public interest.
Councillor Rosalie Walker
Executive Member for Culture and Healthy Communities
How strange. She quotes page 44 just like I did.
Must be important, so why isn’t it being applied to the Railway path?
That would be because it’s being applied by the council, and they decide what gets applied when and how they feel like it.
WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH THE SELL-OFF OF THIS BRISTOL PARK?
Filwood Park – Knowle West
I hope some of our more environmentally minded councillors (that excludes Labour then) will be raising this at this Tuesday’s Full Council Meeting. Gary – I think this is your ward isn’t it?
English Partnerships exist to facilitate the re-use and development of surplus public sector land in order to meet this island’s increased housing demand (because the Government can’t control our borders) but Filwood Park is NOT surplus public sector land!
For all those concerned about our green space, please join the protest to save Grove Wood at Snuff Mills on Tuesday 14th October, Council House 5.30pm to 6.00pm. All previous protests were designed to lead up to this event in the hope of making a real impact. This is the best time to show your support for the campaign, particularly if you signed the petition which is being presented to the full council meeting at 6.00pm, which you can also attend. Bring banners! All welcome!
This is not just about saving Grove Wood, it’s about getting the Council to enforce the conservation status it granted the area in 1972, ensuring the public amenity of trees is respected and preserving the current natural habitat for wildlife to thrive in.
It’s time we organised a city-wide action group to protect all our green and open space because it’s currently down to local people to fight the grossly misused powers which council officers have.
Hi We Love Trees.
I understand the city-wide group supposedly working to protect our green spaces is called the Bristol Parks Forum.
I also understand it held a meeting yesterday at which a person from ‘Keep the Bank Green‘, the campaign for stopping the development on the Railway Path was prevented from even addressing the meeting by a combination of the chair of the forum and a number of city council officers. I may be in a position to post further details about this in the near future as soon as I have the OK from the people involved. (I understand a formal complaint may be in the offing).
I also understand Gary Hopkins was at this meeting so he may be able to give you his views.
But it seems that the Bristol Parks Forum is a city council patsy organisation designed to neuter and prevent open space campaigners rather than offer them support.
A new, independent city-wide Parks and Green Spaces is indeed urgently required.
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I was at the Parks Forum meeting and also today at a meeting with officers (colleages from Knowle and WH present but no Labour Cllrs from Filwood)looking at the parks and open spaces strategy for Knowle/filwood/Windmill hill.
As I have commented before one of the fundamental problems with the strategy is that the average person naturally believes that if there is a sell off of a piece of council land it is included.Although not clearly spelt out this is not the case. Many of the scraggiest pieces of land that would be least missed,and I know that some will say that every scrap is vital, are excluded because they are not “open space”. The money raised is therefore offlimits and “open space ” land only counts.
Except apparently when it is Filwood park ,or a couple of other valuable sites.
The PGSS was passed at a cabinet meeting in February this year. It waas item 5 on the agenda. Hidden in item 8 was the decision to sell off Filwood park to English partnerships.Apparently there has been something of a failure of communication to residents of Filwood.(My ward is next door Knowle)
I have previously commented that BCC does not always stick to its policies. This is particularly true at present but I must admit that even I am suprised that a commitment can be broken as quickly as between items 5 and 8 on the same agenda.
I asked the rather obvious question on Saturday to check that if it was intended that certain parcels of land that have been designated as open space be excluded was this specified in the strategy. I was told that no exclusions were in the strategy passed by cabinet.
I hope you will apply as much pressure as you can in this area of policy in particular Gary. I’ve yet to receive a formal reply to my official complaint to the council about not first establishing Area Green Space Plans before making decisions on key pieces of green space . The 15 working days I was promised a reply within lapsed several days ago. Can you follow up?? I’ve been on the phone about it already.
I have to advise every constituant that is unhappy about a major issue about the local government ombudsman. You may feel as an individual that this service is appropriate in this case.
One area that they are concerned about is when a council fails to carry out its own policy.
as I understand it, BCC have a three stage complaints process that needs to be completed before you go to the Ombudsman.
In the absence of a reply from Mond, and since he failed to tell you whether you’re at stage 1 or stage 2, I’d go straight to stage 3 and contact the Chief Exec.
Just send her the complaint and explain that in the absence of a reply you’re moving the complaint to stage 3 of the process and see what she says.
Her email should be: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for the advice from Gary and from BB. Looking into what I can/should do next right now. Just had a very interesting and helpful phone call back from Tim Sheppard from BCC after I phoned Complaints again.
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The obliteration of this wood in the middle of one of the city’s largest parks is utterly shocking! I hope the Council issue a Compusory Purchase Order as this land has become part of the park. Any planning application will be fiercely opposed by the citizens of this city. We must find out who is responsible for this. At least the Council acted as soon as they could by applying an emergency TPO – well done BCC!
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