It looks like the council’s planning department is pushing ahead hard with their controversial Chocolate Factory/Bristol and Bath Railway Path cycle house development (Blogger passim).
In fact the relevant planning committee will meet on Wednesday about it. This comes despite the fact that no decision has yet allegedly been made regarding the sale of protected city council park land on the Railway Path to the developers Square Peg.
You might recall that the land was originally sold last May over the telephone by the council’s Head of Planning, David Bishop to the Square Peg’s financially strapped Merchant Venturer architect George Ferguson with no formal record or minutes taken.
This is an absurd situation where a council officer commanding a six-figure salary doesn’t appear to know how to properly record and administrate his own decisions. An unfortunate oversight by Bishop in hindsight, however, because it means the rest of us simply have no idea – and he can provide no evidence either way – as to whether he’s a crook who’s taken a bung.
The fact that the council has still made no announcement on this land sale despite the planning application going ahead simply adds to the stench of sleaze around this affair.
The public presented a 731 signature against the sale in December and the council then ran a public consultation in January. Alas, the results of this are yet to be published.
Another ridiculous situation since this is a soppy piece of work that most of us could turn around in a fortnight. Why are we waiting?
The council has also reneged on a promise made in November. They told the Cancer:
“It is important to stress that the land sale proposed is subject to planning permission and that the environmental impact and any concerns raised from any quarter will be considered at the appropriate time by the area planning committee.”
Since the main “concerns raised from any quarter” are around this dodgy land deal, you’ll be gratified to read the instructions given by planning officers (pdf) to the councillors on the planning committee:
Members are advised to remember that land-ownership issues should not be viewed as ‘material considerations’ that hold weight in the overall assessment of this planning application.
In other words, despite promises to the contrary, councillors will not be allowed to consider the land sale at the committee.
The Blogger did point out at the time that the council’s claims were total bullshit:
[The city council] seem to be trying to conflate the issue of the planning application and the land sale, suggesting it is the job of a planning committee to agree land sales.
It is not. They are separate issues. And need to be dealt with separately. Indeed the question of the land sale and how it was conducted needs to be settled before the planning application is decided. A Planning Committee has no statutory or city council constitutional power to agree a public land sale. It is not their job.
Why are Bristol City Council pretending it is?
So why haven’t the council settled Bishop’s land deal before allowing the matter to go to a planning committee?
Oh, by the way, the council’s planning officer recommendation to the committee is to grant permission … Well fancy that!