The magical effect of multi-millionaire Merchant Venturers on Bristol City Council

If you want to see in close-up how Bristol City Council operates one rule for normal people and another for its multi-millionaire property developer clients, take a look a look at the documents they’ve published about their sell-off of our land on the Railway Path at Greenbank that wasn’t and isn’t for sale.

This short but educational saga starts on the 30 April 2008 when the case planning officer, Chanelle Brodie, writes to developer Square Peg’s agents saying:

If the request was successful … confirmation could be given to you within three months.

One day later on the 1 May 2008 and the council’s property department writes to Brodie:

It has been confirmed by the Council’s Culture and Leisure Services Department that the land in question is not surplus and therefore cannot be considered for disposal.

So that’s that then.

Not quite. Enter multi-millionaire, Merchant Venturer George Ferguson. He writes to Brodie on 2 May 2008:

The land is of no conceivable use to Culture and Leisure Services. I have had a word with David Bishop.

Unfortunately the contents of George’s “word” with Bishop don’t appear to have been recorded by the senior council officer but it must have been quite useful because by their next correspondence on 8 May 2008 Ferguson is gushing to Bishop:

I am really grateful for your involvement

No doubt he is, especially when Bishop gnomically replies on the same day – despite having spoken with nobody within the council on the record:

I have made progress on this but would welcome a telephone call Friday afternoon to clarify precisely what you are proposing.

Alas, again, public servant Bishop made no formal public record of the contents of this – what we might assume to be – private call but it must have been interesting because one week later Bishop emails Ferguson, having apparently not bothered formally (or informally) consulting any of his colleagues within the council:

There would be no problem selling you the land you asked for

Wow! There you have it. A three month process magically truncated into 16 days and a piece of land that was not for sale sold to local property developer.

Now, how did they do that?

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27 Responses to The magical effect of multi-millionaire Merchant Venturers on Bristol City Council

  1. Chris Hutt says:

    I actually feel sorry for all the officers who have worked through the proper procedures and internal consultations to come to a collective view based on their joint areas of expertise only to have the whole thing overturned within days by a couple of self-important operators who obviously think that they know best. I can well imagine how demoralising that must be.

  2. thebristolblogger says:

    Some city council officers come out of this affair very well. And some don’t. I shall do more on this soon.

  3. Spectator says:

    This is starting to look even more dubious than it looked before… and it looked pretty bloody dubious then.

  4. Stain Remover says:

    Having now spent some time going through all the exciting correspondence between the various flunkeys involved, I agree with you; there are indeed some officers at BCC who appear to have behaved in a responsible and honourable (deeply unfashionable word) manner.

    However, a certain gentleman by the name of David Bishop, comes out of all this looking somewhat less than clean. Now that all the information is out in the public domain, one can only feel sympathy for the unfortunate lady who has the task of laundering his underpants!

  5. Excellent work once again BB!

    I’ll be in touch with BCC early next week, following up on my reply to Head of Complaints Tim Sheppard approx a week ago. He asked me for time to consider it and has had a week – it should become clear now whether its worth me trying to pursue this any further via the council.

    Is there confirmation that the strip of land has actually been sold ie its gone beyond establishing an in-principle agreement to sell??

  6. badnewswade says:

    Some of these people clearly belong in jail. Or isn’t stealing a crime when the rich and powerful do it?

  7. thebristolblogger says:

    Stain-Remover: I assume you’re referring to our new amazing £180k a year Chief Exec? All she’s managed to do is prove that she’s a piss-poor wimp of a woman employed for her knowledge of how to manipulate government targets rather than for anything resembling what ordinary people might understand as straightforward leadership and management skills.

    A leader would have seen this problem coming a mile off, taken ownership of the problem, dealt strongly and adroitly with it and neutralised it.

    Despite the fact that Bum Disease Ormondroyd knew about this over a week ago – at the very latest – from Vowlsie’s festering, ongoing and unanswered complaint – she has done exactly zilch.

    Except, apparently, sit on her hands, do nothing and hope the Evening Cancer doesn’t run the story.

    However, even if they don’t (although they probably will sooner or later if they want to continue to be taken seriously as the city’s paper of record) this story’s got legs, as they say, and is going to run and run.

    At this stage, due to her chronic mismanagement and silence I can’t see anything short of dismissal of Bishop announced on the front page of the Cancer is going to do the trick.

    Anything else will simply drag the whole of her multi-million pound management team – of which Bishop is a key part – and our timid (and so far silent) councillors further into mire of corrupt-looking practice.

    I also think that this situation needs to be looked from beyond the city council. Isn’t there a strong case for a criminal investigation of Bishop? His failure to leave a clear paper trail explaining his actions suggests corruption doesn’t it?

    Vowlsie: Fuck knows what the land sale situation now is. But I think we should be told!

    Over to you Ms Ormondroyd. You are are in charge. Aren’t you?

  8. Chris Hutt says:

    “A leader would have seen this problem coming a mile off, taken ownership of the problem, dealt strongly and adroitly with it and neutralised it.”

    Not as unrealistic as it sounds. After all the labour group had just suffered a major humiliation over the BRT on Railway Path debacle. You’d have thought they might have learnt a simple lesson from that – don’t mess with the Railway Path!

    But no, they immediately start making clandestine arrangements to sell some of it off to Squarepeg, hoping that the Chocolate Factory greenwash would fool all of the people all of the time. But as someone once said… can’t.

  9. redzone says:

    i have to agree, excellent work by the b/b 😀

    i think it is corruption & should be dealt with by the appropriate authorities.
    relying on the council & it’s puppet masters to investigate is a complete waste of time 😕

    it’s time the mainstream media started informing the public what is happening behind the scenes.

  10. Umm Taqiyya says:

    Surely time to bring in the Chief Spinmeister, sorry, Head of Corporate Communications, Bristol City Council?

    Can’t he put everyone straight, again?

  11. Chocolate Teapot says:

    It is quite clear that Ms Ormondroyd has at least one employee who just isn’t up to the job… maybe my friend Castorsugar Jetski and myself should offer our services to BCC?

  12. daisy says:

    The mention of purple shaded land thats not registered is very interesting, along with the suggestion the council parcel it up with their registered land to hand over to SquarePeg. Whats to stop a local community group taking charge of this land in the absence of a legal owner?

  13. thebristolblogger says:

    Surely time to bring in the Chief Spinmeister, sorry, Head of Corporate Communications, Bristol City Council?

    As Carole should be telling them, it’s actually too late for the city council to launch a successful PR strategy around this. That should have been started a month ago when the blogs started asking tricky questions, tricky complaints started arriving and acutely sensitive FoI requests came in. They could have still seized the initiative then and set the agenda if they had thought carefully about it and acted sensibly.

    Instead the council basically decided to do nothing as information dripped out over the last 2 months while boss, Jan Ormondroyd has sat in her executive leather chair with her fingers in her ears praying that the Evening Post didn’t mention the rather large, corrupt-looking elephant in the senior management team’s meeting room. Presumably this is what her expert flunkeys have advised her to do and she’s gormless and inexperienced enough to go along.

    In PR terms, the agenda’s now been set elsewhere and all the council can do is play catch-up and issue denials until more inevitably comes out. Their sheer stupidity and lack of professionalism is mind-boggling.

  14. Post Watcher says:

    I am intrigued by the complete lack of coverage in the Evening Post on this whole business. They seem very slow off the mark… one wonders how this will be seen by the big boys at the Daily Mail when it blows up – which it soon will. I can imagine the carpeting that Norton is going to get… “So why the hell weren’t you reporting this you bloody idiot?” They have a genuine scandal to investigate, and they are where exactly?

  15. thebristolblogger says:

    You might also ask where the BBC are in all this.

    At least the Cancer is a private business, so if the editor chooses to employ one of the protagonists as a columnist and brown nose the other as some sort of transport guru for the city rather than a crook, that’s their affair.

    But we are forced to pay the BBC £140 a year to give us news. So where is it?

    Short of the story coming to life, walking into the BBC West newsroom, bending David Garmston over a chair and fucking him up the arse could it be any more in their faces?

  16. Steve says:

    Has anyone thought of contacting Private Eye?

    This whole sordid affair could be included on their regular “Rotten Boroughs” page which may lead to the Cancer and local news broadcasters (esp BBC West) having to pick up the story.

  17. Media Mouse says:

    Top news story BB, I watch with interest.

    If you want a full list of Merchant Venturers they can be found here –

  18. Daily Mail Reader says:

    Ha, ha, it’s not called the Dead Tree Press for nothing, is it?

    Anyhow, compared to the Mail, the Bristol Evening Post is a very wet rag. After all, the Mail is always attacking the State apparatus for its rampant corruption and flagrant waste of Taxpayers’ money, and often rightly so.

    Maybe Paul Dacre should come down and see to Norton before the BEP sinks any lower.

  19. Spectator says:

    BB said “But we are forced to pay the BBC £140 a year to give us news. So where is it?”

    Speak for yourself… I wouldn’t have an idiot box in the house and therefore don’t pay for a TV licence.

    The BBC is a rancid organ who’s day is nearly over. Thankfully, the antics of Brand, Ross and Clarkson may well help to finish it for good!

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