They don't know what they're doing!

The plan to rip up the city’s premier green corridor, the Bristol and Bath Railway Path, at Greenbank and build a tower block and houses on it takes a new turn courtesy of the relentless Bristol City Council – Square Peg Developments partnership mission to mislead.

Saturday saw the Bristol Parks Forum – an odd grouping of park users, busybodies and the odd member of the public run by Bristol City Council – discussing the matter under the watchful eye of Peter Wilkinson, Head of Parks at the city council.

Although judging by Wilkinson’s extraordinary performance the only thing he’s head of is the queue of well-remunerated city council officers happy to mislead the public for the benefit of local developers.

Here’s some of what he told the audience:

“I don’t think the planning application has gone in yet”.

Whoops! The planning permission was actually submitted one month ago and can be viewed on his organisation’s own website.

“No agreement has been made to sell the land [on the Railway Path owned by Bristol City Council and part of the development proposal]”.

Oh dear! The email from the Head of Planning, David Bishop, to the city council’s Property Services department instructing them to sell the land was published by the city council last week.

“It’s not certain the land is included in the Parks Strategy because it depends on whether it’s held by the Transport Department or the Parks Department”.

Doh! Wilkinson’s boss, Richard Mond wrote – over two weeks ago – in a partial response to a complaint from Vowles the Green about the land being sold off without applying the processes and principles for green space disposal set out in the Parks and Green Space Strategy, that “I confirm that the land you refer to is in the parks and green space land covered by the strategy.”

What an informative and helpful chap Mr Wilkinson is. He’s all heart and public interest isn’t he?

However, I’m told it’s very hard to tell whether he’s mendacious or just lazy and dim. Either way, is this really someone who can be relied upon to protect our interest in parks and green spaces?

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15 Responses to They don't know what they're doing!

  1. rosebud says:

    I understand P W took up mostof the forum’s time with a confident explanation of how the senior tier of officers would share out our money, and that the one who has made such a filthy mess of our streets – Simms – is now to be entrusted with our parks. The second tier is yet to be reorganised. Oh, and they have bought themselves 2 brand new computer systems! No mention was made of the gardening, let alone the leave they could all be on. So there you have it: Mrs Ormontroyd from High Performing Hull’s Transformation Project for Low Performing Bristol.

    Apparently this was heard with an air of weary cynicism by the audience who gave polite and gentle voice to it when he sat down.

    The minutes of this forum are taken by the Parks Department. Who is Chairman Fraser working for? He got his chairmanship extended to 3 years and is to stay on the committee when he stands down, so it might signify.

  2. thebristolblogger says:

    Who is Chairman Fraser working for?

    Bristol City Council basically. You can ignore all this nonsense about Bristol Parks Forum being “independent”. The forum is entirely funded, administrated and run by the city council.

    If it’s independent and in receipt of grant or in-kind funding from the council where are the Articles of Association, the accounts, the service level agreements, the quarterly monitoring reports and all the other bureaucracy every other independent organisation has to produce to receive money and support from Bristol City Council? What makes them different?

    The Parks Forum is better understood as the highly partial public consultation section of the parks department run, to save money, by voluntary and unpaid labour.

    This explains its remarkably lax approach to scrutiny of the city council’s parks department and perhaps partly explains why the city’s apparently been landed with a sloppy, unworkable £100m public land disposal free-for-all instead of the robust Parks and Green Space Strategy we urgently need to protect our open spaces from our own councillors, officers and their developer friends.

  3. Chris Hutt says:

    “The Parks Forum is … run …. by voluntary and unpaid labour.”

    Unpaid? A little bird tells me that the Chairman made off with the copious leftovers of the excellent buffet lunch.

  4. rosebud says:

    An interesting fact emerged during the meeting: BCC is spending £70,000 on bottled water for itself, a sum which would apparently restore all our drinking fountains, and not just in our parks.

  5. Sue D says:

    No taps at the council, then?

  6. Martyn Whitelock says:

    From my attendance at several council meetings it must be noted Charles Bolton (Green Party, Southville) takes his own water flask. That’s true commitment to the environment and an example of the kind of behavioural changes we can all make.

    As well as the expense, the amount of plastic refuse is also concerning as we all know where that ends up – either in landfill or in the middle of our oceans, where safely out of sight we can relish in our denial.

  7. Chris Hutt says:

    If I had to attend council meetings on a regular basis I’d be tempted to take a flask of something too. The NO to bottled water line is a good cover for taking a swig of something suitably mind numbing.

  8. Fatty says:

    The last council funded meeting I attended was liberally supplied with jaffa cakes, bananas and bottled water… but that’s nothing… when the old Neighbourhood Management meetings were going, it was worth attending just for the grub! Nan breads, rice, mutton curries, pickles… loads of it… the only thing missing was the lager! You’d have to pay at least 15 quid in a restaurant to get the sort of grub they were handing out for free… personally I’d rather that this frivolous spending of our taxes didn’t take place, however, if it is happening, tuck in and view it as a tax rebate.

  9. Des Bowring says:

    I think I might be a busybody.

  10. Charlie Bolton says:

    I sat on a committee which looked into bottled water last year (at my request) (Physical Environment Scrutiny committee), and we recommended a reduction in the councils use of bottled water, although there was still going to be more left than I would have liked. I believe it was going to save £20k per annum – I remember one of the issues being to do with fearing staff would just go out and by small plastic bottles of water, so ‘water miles’ and use of plastic might actually increase. I think there was another issue to do with difficulties in getting tap water to be made available in some buildings.

    (perhaps Gary Hopkins remembers more – or Sean – or any other member of that committee)

    I have to own up to saying I filled my flask from the bottles, when it ran out last night, and I don’t always remember it – and, no Chris, it was water, but it is tempting

  11. Martyn Whitelock says:

    Charlie – well, at least you provided your own sustainable container!

    Surely, a system whereby reservoir bottles are refilled with the building’s own water supply could be developed. If water purity is really necessary perhaps coolers could incorporate filters rather than transporting water with a high carbon footprint.

    Panorama produced a good documentary – ‘Bottled Water: Who Needs It?’, follow link:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/panorama/7247130.stm

  12. Chris Hutt says:

    “One of the issues being to do with fearing staff would just go out and by small plastic bottles of water, so ‘water miles’ and use of plastic might actually increase.”

    Thanks for that feedback Charlie. The above argument illustrates an old bureaucratic favourite – ‘we must do A because B is even worse’. Option C which is better never gets a mention.

    Why can’t the big plastic bottles be refilled with our excellent Mendip tap water? Or has the Council signed up to a long term contract with penalty clauses for withdrawal?

    £70,000 on bottled water may not be a big deal in the context of £500 million of annual expenditure but it does untold damage to the image of the Council simply because it is an issue that we can all relate too.

  13. Pingback: They don’t know what they’re doing! Pt. 2 « The Bristol Blogger

  14. inkspot says:

    Oh, the leftovers from the buffet lunch, only served to “known” busybodies. I noted the blogger’s mega winge about not being offered any at the parks forum (on another place in the web) and found it ridiculous.

  15. Cabot Ashton Court (Sir) says:

    Parks Forum, think u mean Parks Boredom

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