It's chaos, wrapped in a cock-up, inside a shambles …

Was it only two months ago that the Bristol Blogger pointed out that the sale of city council land on the Railway Path at Greenbank contravened the council’s freshly minted Parks and Green Spaces Strategy?

Indeed it was and now at last we find Bristol City Council beginning to acknowledge reality. The council has finally admitted in a pisspoor reply to Vowlsie’s ongoing complaint-that-never-ends – that no senior officer responsible has even had the guts to sign:

“We acknowledge that the Bristol Bath Railway Path is recognised as accessible green space within the adopted Parks and Green Space Strategy.”

Huzzah! That’s that then. We’re all finally singing from the same hymn sheet. Not quite. Because now, in yet another fine fantasy fiction moment, the council’s claiming:

“It was always the case that there would be a small number of exceptions to [the strategy] and that the Council would need to consider disposing of land where, for example, it might facilitate wider regeneration objectives to be achieved.”

Really? And where exactly is this case made in the council’s Parks and Green Spaces Strategy? Er … nowhere! Read through the strategy and you’ll find no mention of “a small number of exceptions” for “wider regeneration objectives” or for any other bloody objectives for that matter.

Are they just making this up by any chance?

The most recent response to Vowlsie’s complaint is reproduced in its entirety below. Further highlights you might enjoy include the entire lack of even an attempt to explain why an Environmental Impact Assessment is not required for the site. Do they know? And, apparently, it seems the Corporate Complaints Manager has no idea at what stage of his own three stage process Vowlsie’s complaint might now be at.

You might also like to puzzle out what any of this has to do with Councillor Mark Bradshaw, planning boss David Bishop’s political glove puppet, who’s suddenly decided to consult stakeholders about the sell-off. Surely parks and their sale to developers is the responsibility of Bradshaw’s cabinet colleague responsible for our park land Rosalie Walker?

No doubt the fact that it was Bishop who made the original and unconstitutional arrangement to sell the land – and is beginning to look like he’s in deep shit – is purely coincidental to this latest development.

It really is chaos at the council isn’t it?

“Tim Sheppard” <tim.sheppard@bristol.gov.uk> writes:

Dear Mr Vowles

Let me start by apologising for the long delay in providing a formal
response to your complaint, and in particular that I was unable to get you a response last week, as I had hoped.

I note that you have had an exchange of emails with Richard Mond and that he has sought to respond to your enquiries. However, I recognise that these emails did not constitute a formal response. I hope this email remedies that situation.

Taking your numbered item 1 first, we acknowledge that the Bristol Bath Railway Path is recognised as accessible green space within the adopted Parks and Green Space Strategy, and that the strategy sets out a programme to produce 14 Area Green Space Plans to inform decisions over green space property disposals.

However, it was always the case that there would be a small number of exceptions to this rule and that the Council would need to consider disposing of land where, for example, it might facilitate wider regeneration objectives to be achieved. This is the case with the railway path land adjacent to the Chocolate Factory development.

Due to public concern, council officers have now been asked by Cllr Mark Bradshaw to undertake a consultation with key stakeholders, including the Bristol Parks Forum, over the proposed disposal of this land and details of the consultation will be communicated to you amongst other concerned people, in due course.

On the issue of a lack of response from Cllr Walker, I note that Richard Mond has contacted her and as a result of this response, I shall also raise the matter with her. However, I must point out that council staff cannot compel councillors to respond to enquiries from the public.

In item 2 you point out that the area in question has not been subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). However, an EIA is not needed for this development. Instead, planning officers issued the ‘screening opinion’ dated 30th May 2008 under Regulation 5 of the Town & Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England & Wales) Regulations 999. A copy is attached for your information.

In your email to the Chief Executive today, you suggest that this matter is now at stage three of the complaints procedure and you would wish to go on to the Ombudsman if you remain dissatisfied. I don’t know that I could agree that we are at stage three but if you believe that there would be little value in continuing to pursue this matter with the Council, then I would support your approach to the Ombudsman.

Tim Sheppard
Corporate Complaints Manager
922 2233
tim.sheppard@bristol.gov.uk

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3 Responses to It's chaos, wrapped in a cock-up, inside a shambles …

  1. Ameium Celer says:

    Think in amongst the rest you’ve missed reading between the lines here a little…

    “I must point out that council staff cannot compel councillors to respond to enquiries from the public.”

    and

    “if you believe that there would be little value in continuing to pursue this matter with the Council, then I would support your approach to the Ombudsman.”

    Isn’t it all a bit ‘you may very well say that, i couldn’t possibly comment’?

    Mr Sheppard seems like quite a long suffering council worker who knows how to use turn of phrase to point out when his organisation’s cocked it right up and someone may be better off escalating a matter.

  2. thebristolblogger says:

    Yes. it’s transparently obvious that the man responsible for all of this is Head of Planning, David Bishop, who should be signing letters and explaining himself to the people that pay his wages.

    The fact that it’s all been dumped on to a complaints middle manager suggests that BCC’s main aim is not to resolve the issue in the public interest using their own clearly written parks policy but to use their resources to cover at all costs the arse of an officer earning £120k a year.

    The fact Bradshaw’s now doing this as well sums up where his loyalties lie – and it’s not with the people that elect him.

    They’ll be more on Rosalie Walker, the cabinet member responsible for parks soon.

  3. Yes, I agree fully with the two previous comments. Tim Sheppard has really been landed with this and has just done the best he can in a very difficult situation.

    This complaint has probably to go beyond the council to the local govt ombudsman. The complaints dept seem to hint at this anyway.

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