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?