A capital idea

Chris Hutt at the Green Bristol Blog has been casting a critical eye over proposed Cycling City expenditure this week.

Meanwhile Tory Councillor Geoff Gollop is asking difficult questions (pdf) about the city’s latest money-pit, the Museum of Bristol, which is £7m overspent already in capital (ie. building) costs and has no obvious way of generating its revenue (ie. running) costs. So who pays?

Here at The Blogger, then, we’ll combine the two issues, considering how city development kingpin the Shifty Bishop, is allowed to do business on our behalf by shifting substantial pots of public money around to suit himself and his whims.

Here’s a section of a report from last week’s Resources Scrutiny Commission (pdf):

Front funding is required to deliver the public realm infrastructure associated with the Museum of Bristol project. The provision is secured through S106 agreement with developers of adjoining commercial development site, but this is now unlikely to be delivered in time for the opening of the museum.

Oh dear. No private money – as promised – to build “the public realm infrastructure” or the pavement outside as you and I might call it. So what now?

A co-ordinated approach to dealing with BRT, Cycle City and public realm for the Museum of Bristol is necessary in order to realise this aspect of the project through City Development.

Yep. You got it. Let’s pretend it’s a Cycling City project and then we can use a wedge of that money for the Museum of Bristol. Presumably on the basis that people might happen to cycle past the museum occasionally?

The fact that Cycling City is supposed to provide extra facilities for cyclists rather than fund long-planned for general improvements promised by the council’s beloved private partners will no doubt eventually be lost in some small print somewhere in a report nobody reads.

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55 Responses to A capital idea

  1. Ella says:

    To be fair, the musuem is never going to cycle REALLY SLOWLY in front of your bus when you’re late, though, is it?


  2. inks says:

    Using Cycling City money to fund a shortfall for the museum project? That’s seriously taking the piss if that’s what’s planned.

    The Princes Street bridge is now a dangerous nightmare to cycle over, particularly heading south. They still want to turn the cycle path into a road (sorry, bus route). Now the money is going to be nicked to plug whatever random budget gap the council wants to fill.

    Time to re-launch critical mass I think, without the annoying hippies and reaching out more to ordinary cyclists.

  3. chris hutt says:

    There’s certainly a growing list of projects that were going ahead anyway but which are now getting Cycling City funding, many of them having only a tenuous connection with cycling.

    Take for example the Safe Routes to School scheme at Westbury-on-Trym. This consists of the signing of some local streets with 20mph signs and, wait for it, all of two ‘speed tables’ on Passage Road. No evidence of any consequent cycling to and from the school concerned.

    The consultation for this scheme dates from 5 years ago and the implementation was completed in October last year, so the decision to do this clearly predated the Cycling City award last June. So on what basis can Cycling City funding be allocated to this project?

    We also find the Greater Bristol Bus Network listed as part of Cycling City, and presumably another recipient of CC funds, on the grounds that previous bus priority schemes have “contributed to increasing the number of people cycling on the arterial corridors”.

    But no evidence is available to support this claim. The ‘officers’ involved seem to have no understanding of the difference between correlation and causation.

  4. MattB says:

    I would love to alert my Cllr’s to my displeasure, but what do I do when they simply ignore any emails? I can’t get to the 3hrs/month you can see them.

    What do I do? Also I dont want to get legal threats if I complain

    PS Great Job Everyone to uncover whats really going on! I honestly find it really hard to believe and people I tell think I am making it up!?!?

  5. Forest Pines says:

    My councillors have ignored my emails ever since I told them I was never going to vote for any candidates who supported the guided busway scheme. The guided busway road was always due to run alongside the museum, so I guess that using busway/congestion charge money to pay for the area around the museum isn’t a new plan.

  6. thebristolblogger says:

    Feel free to name and shame councillors who don’t respond to correspondence …

  7. Forest Pines says:

    That would be Mark Bradshaw – and his fellow Labour Bedminsterine Colin Smith, who was CC’d in on one email.

    Funnily enough, someone reached my blog the other day by googling for “Mark Bradshaw replacement Bedminster”. I wonder if it was merely wishful thinking.

  8. Forest Pines says:

    I should add that: firstly, Bradshaw *did* reply to my first email to them, with a rather arsey letter, and then ignored my further questions for clarification about what he’d said. At the same time I sent an email to the local Lib Dem general enquiry email address asking for their stance on the guided busway proposals, and that was ignored too. But they’re not my local councillors; Bradshaw and Smith are. I did find at least one statement in what Bradshaw told me rather hard to believe.

  9. thebristolblogger says:

    Bradshaw’s already been fingered by Chris Hutt for not being bothered to respond to correspondence.

    But it’s not just transport campaigners he ignores; it’s his constituents too!

    Smith, of course, is also Primarolo’s case worker so he’d know nothing about manners or good practice.

  10. BristleKRS says:

    Would it surprise you if I said that I’d never got a response from Shirley ‘Not A Racist’ Brown née Marshall?

    In my experience Jon Rogers does reply to correspondence.

    Going back a while, Trevor Riddlestone always seemed to scuttle away rather quickly when I saw him in the street. I don’t know why.

    Not my ward, but Mark Bradshaw has blocked me on Twitter 8)

  11. thebristolblogger says:

    Remember the “appalling Helga Benson?”, Labour, Ashley?

    Went to college with Ian Bone in Swansea. He tells some fascinating tales of the 60s, the middle classes, LSD and minor drug dealing during his college years on occasions …

    A bonus point if anyone can remember Helga’s partner and fellow councillor …

  12. TonyD says:

    Dud Saward?

    Ashley has been well served by its councillors hasn’t it?

  13. Gary Hopkins says:

    I am aware of the name but wont spoil it for others. But interestingly canvassing around their abode was particularly productive for the Lib Dems some years ago.Their neighbours seemed to know them quite well.

  14. BristleKRS says:

    If we’re playing Ashley Ward Crap Councillor Bingo, let’s throw in Ray Sefia. “Heated debate in CEED car park”, anyone?

  15. thebristolblogger says:

    Well if we’re going to get into Labour councillors and council grant spending, let’s not forget Councillor Derek Fuckup, Labour Education spokesman.

    Now, why, in the mid-90s – was he quickly transferred out of the council’s community grants section where he used to work into personnel at the very same time as a fraud investigation into Filwood Community Centre, run by his community work cronies Yvonne Edwards and Dan Lloyd?

    Ten points available for this one.

  16. BristleKRS says:

    I’m surprised no one’s dared utter the name at the eye of the twin storms of LibDem political fuckuppery that were Paedogate and Fraudgate!


    Bradshaw’s already been fingered by Chris Hutt

    Cheers, that’s one image I’m unlikely to be able to shake off today 🙁 (No offence, Chris)

  17. thebristolblogger says:

    I’m surprised no one’s dared utter the name at the eye of the twin storms of LibDem political fuckuppery that were Paedogate and Fraudgate!

    Indeed. And let’s not forget our current glorious leader “Call me ma’m” Janke will not deny she knew all about Mr Astley’s predilections prior to his arrest.

    Why would that be?

  18. BristleKRS says:

    *Checks watch to time arrival of Gary to bluster about offering non-denial denials and vague threats on behalf of his capo*

  19. thebristolblogger says:

    No doubt there’s a flurry of emails being fired off as we speak to Stephen McNamara telling him to do something …

  20. And on the subject of East Bristol Lib Dems, the new issue of Focus is out… the headline?


    God help us.

  21. Gary Hopkins says:

    BristleKRS and BB
    You may not have noticed before but I am not Helen Holland.

  22. thebristolblogger says:

    And on the subject of East Bristol Lib Dems, the new issue of Focus is out… the headline?


    God help us.

    And the July headline?


  23. MattB says:

    Emma Bagley Liberal Democrat
    Sean Emmett Liberal Democrat

    Too busy to respond to me apprently. I had a quick search and not even the mighty google could find anything these two have done.

    There is no way I can get to see them in person, so anyone know how I complain about them ignoring the people they are suppose to represent?

    I am really fed up with BCC/etc ignoring anything but people or companies with money.


  24. thebristolblogger says:

    Emma Bagley has a semi-literate blog: http://emmabagley.blogspot.com/

    I doubt Emmet can write in sentences.

    There’s basically nothing you can do if they don’t respond … Except name and shame them on the internet!!!

  25. Paul Smith says:

    “You may not have noticed before but I am not Helen Holland.”

    Well you could have blown me down with a feather – now wondering if I have ever seen them together.

  26. BristleKRS says:

    You may not have noticed before but I am not Helen Holland

    It’s the dreamy eyes that cause the confusion.

  27. Jaanaki says:

    “anything these two have done”

    Emma’s chopped down a few trees, hasn’t she?

  28. You may not have noticed before but I am not Helen Holland

    It’s the dreamy eyes that cause the confusion.

    And the moustache.

  29. chris hutt says:

    Gosh, sounds like it’s open season on councillors all of a sudden. Might this be in anticipation of them all chasing after our votes over the next two months?

  30. There was of course Dave Sutton. Didn’t the Evening Pissed get their knickers in a twist because he was the first (male) councillor with an earring?

    I also seem to have a bizarre recollection of him accusing someone of being a “speciesist” in Full Marks bookshop… I believe the crime may have been eating a ham sarnie… very Ashley ward… with the emphasis on “ward”!

  31. chris hutt says:

    Dave Sutton was (is?) a good bloke. He and I co-operated on some early work back in the 80s promoting transport alternatives and he played a key role in defeating the ATA plans for light rail on the Railway Path.

  32. BristleKRS says:

    And the moustache.

    But I thought she’d shaved it off?



    And with that I’m off to the shops 8)

  33. Get out says:

    Interesting that people actually think that defeating the ATA was a GOOD idea. Just imagine how different Bristol would be now if we had got a decent tram system off the ground decades ago. Heck, Bristol might even function like a European city now…

  34. chris hutt says:

    ATA was a kite flying exercise to see if Parliamentary powers could be obtained to construct a tramway, but Their Lordships dealing with the application decided that ATA weren’t fit to be given such powers, much to the releif of many.

    Had ATA been successful and secured an Act I imagine they would have sold their interest on to a major player, since ATA were really out of their depth. Then there would have been the question of funding and the willingness of local government to get on board and of central government to underwrite it.

    So nothing may come of it anyway (yes, my earlier reference was simplistic) and even if some sort of system had been built it would not have done anything to reduce our car dependence without complementary measures like Congestion Charging (c.f. Manchester, which was the first city to get a new tram system).

  35. TonyD says:

    When something is described as a “free gift to the people of Bristol”, you instinctively know that it will be no such thing. Such was the case with ATA.

    The ATA scheme appeared to have been specifically designed as a way of undermining local input, providing its backers with powers of compulsory purchase, the ability to alter rights of way, and the precedent of private developers being allowed to create their own bye-laws to protect their operations. For example, one of the provisions ATA was looking for was the ability to create car parks and park’n’rides without the need to obtain planning permission.

    In hindsight, the whole ATA episode can be seen as part of a general movement by commercial interests who, with the backing of central government, sought to undermine local planning control from the mid-80’s and included the building of the Lloyds Bank offices on Canon’s Marsh and the establishment of the Urban Development Corporation. The city is still suffering today from an inability to place the public social interest on an at least equal footing with private commercial interest.

    For a company that was keen to market itself as being for the good of Bristolians, ATA were extremely reluctant to provide details to the public about the project details (and especially the funding) and it was only with some reluctance that they finally admitted that at least half the funding would have to be from local sources and thus not “free” to Bristolians at all.

    Phase One of the scheme was from Portishead to Prince Street Bridge along existing railway lines. To pay for it, ATA were looking to raise about 70% of the local costs from property developers enhancing their land values along the route despite most of the route being in Green belt land. As Chris has said, the most likley outcome would have been ATA getting the scheme through and then selling it on for a tidy profit to a larger developer whose main interest would have been property development not public transport provision.

    The similarities between the ATA and its linkage with development opportunities (most of which would have been at the Portishead/Portbury end of the route) to the current proposals for the BRT scheme and development opportunities at the Ashton Vale end of the route appear obvious to me.

    Why build decent public transport links to existing populations when the best way for developers to make money is by creating new populations by getting the local authority to build that same decent public transport link to your proposed development? Ker-ching!

  36. TonyD says:

    Makes mental note to self;

    Brevity is an art worth learning.

  37. chris hutt says:

    That was very interesting TonyD, to me at least. I didn’t realise that you were following events so closely all those years ago.

    I’ve just checked a few details from the documents that I still have. It seems that ATA actually obtained an Act of Parliament to allow the Portishead to Prince Street Bridge line in 1989 but failed to achieve powers for the city centre section, which was opposed in the Lords by 4 individuals including Tony Howell on behalf of the Civic Society, Dave Sutton on behalf of Labour Party interests and myself on behalf of Cyclebag.

    Although ATA obtained powers to proceed with Portishead to Prince Street, they didn’t do so because it simply wasn’t viable in isolation. They chose that line for their first attempt at obtaining powers simply because it was the least contentious, consisting as it did at the time entirely of disused railway track. So nothing like the current BRT proposals for Ashton Vale then.

  38. Forest Pines says:

    That sort of project – under-used railway into tramway – was very fashionable at that time. The first phase of the Docklands Light Railway, which had been open a few years at that point, was mostly built on disused railway alignments; and the first phase of the Manchester system was almost entirely a conversion of operational suburban railways. Similar considerations applied to the West Midlands and Croydon trams, and one of the three Sheffield routes.

    One problem that the BRT plans have is: a single track railway is rather narrower than a road, even one limited to buses only. What do you think the West Of England Partnership would rather turn into busway: Cumberland Road, or the cycle path alongside it?

  39. snafu says:

    No prizes for guessing that one.

    Thanks Tony – history, and historians, sure have their uses.

    Cambridge BRT – or guided busway as the council is so pleased to call it, is already overdue and over budget:


    Maybe BCC could use the services of an independent transport enquiry like the one they’re having in Cambridgeshire?


  40. Get out says:

    That’s very interesting, Tony and Chris, but actually what you’re saying is that you are glad the scheme got blocked because local people werent involved enough and because developers would have made lots of money… not because it was a bad scheme – because it wasnt.

    The thing is, it would have been great to have the old rail lines used for trams – as in Docklands and Manchester. Compare how well they have done since with what happened to Bristol since.

    Bristol Labour blocked ATA because it was driven by Tories and commerce, rather than because it was a bad idea. They simply didnt want to lose control of their fiefdom. They wanted to be the big fish in the little pond. At the very same time, the Labour dominated council was refusing to apply to the Thatcher govt to get regeneration cash (from Heseltine) purely because they wouldnt sign up to a single Tory condition on anything, and because the loony left didnt want to be seen taking Thatcher’s handouts.

    Opposition to ATA, and opposition to Heseltine’s regen cash were all purely about putting petty localism ahead of the interests of Bristol. That mentality, driven by the lines of Mickelwright, Graham Robertson and Peter Hammond, is most of the reason why by 2003 Bristol was dead bottom of the core cities in almost everything.

  41. Get out says:

    PS Nearly everyone thinks that the Lloyds Bank offices are the best part of Harbourside. They were the first and the best.

  42. TonyD says:

    “Get out”, really?

    We obviously move in different circles, because most of the people I talk to consider that the first example of decent redevelopment of the “Harbourside” was the 1975 conversion of the old tea warehouses known as Bush House that are now home to the Arnolfini. As for the best, that’s always open to subjective argument but I would put forward the conversion of the old river police station into a restaurant as my personal favourite.

    In my humble opinion the Lloyds development is an example of that egotistical type of architecture in which the building itself, whatever its merits, takes no notice of its surroundings and has no sympathy whatsoever to the history of the location, relying on its own intrinsic merit to compensate.

    If the building had the significance of, for example, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, then it could be forgiven for this approach – but it doesn’t, it is a bland piece of corporate self-regard utilising a form of architectural painting by numbers from London plonked in Bristol. It’s what you get when you treat anywhere as everywhere.

  43. thebristolblogger says:

    Wasn’t the Urban Development Corporation a direct central government response to Bristol Labour intransigence?

    It basically gave the corporation the power to do what it liked in Bristol although for most of its existence it got bogged down in petty feuding with the council.

    Oddly most of its plans – eg. the spine road and Temple Quay have been enthusiastically adopted by Bristol Labour, which suggests their approach in the 80s was driven as much by fighting the Tories as any concern for the city.

    The Lloyds-TSB building was undoubtedly a turning point in developing the docks. Before it was local and small-scale; after it was large and corporate.

  44. chris hutt says:

    The Lloyds development went ahead despite the disdain of Labour because the Tories were setting up the Bristol Development Corporation (1989 – 1995) at the time and it was feared that Canons Marsh and other dockside sites would be included in the BDC area if they blocked the Lloyds plans.

    As for what might have happened if ATA had not been stopped in their tracks, I think Douglas Adams gives us the context for such speculation. The real world is like a gigantic experiment but none of us know what the point of the experiment is (unless it’s to teach us what fools we are?), or even understand more than a fraction of what is going on.

    So no one can predict any particular outcome with any confidence because there are far too many variables for anyone to compute. The ATA episode and more recently BRT illustrate that very well. For another example who would have guessed even a few years ago that Bristol would be declared England’s first Cycling City?

  45. chris hutt says:

    BB, I posted before seeing your last post, so a couple more points.

    Labour did not enthusiastically embrace the Spine road. In fact Labour controlled Avon County Council even opposed it at a public enquiry, shortly before they were abolished.

    I don’t think Temple Quay and other developments in that area made much progress under the BDC. Most of the development they achieved was around the Spine Road corridor (Avon Meads) and it looks pretty mediocre by today’s standards.

  46. thebristolblogger says:

    Sorry, not very well put. I meant to say subsequently embraced rather than at the time.

  47. TonyD says:

    The other point worth making about the Lloyds Bank development is regarding the tobacco bonds that occupied the site – these belonged to Hanson Trust who insisted that they if they were demolished it would have a tremendous negative impact on the tobacco industry in Bristol.

    This meant that any scheme to develop Canon’s Marsh was faced with this major problem.

    However, when the Lloyds scheme came together, Hanson Trust felt that the tobacco industry could get by without the bonds after all and sold them to Lloyds. The fact that Lord Hanson sat on the board of Lloyds is purely coincidental of course.

    One other piece of information, and I am sure BB in particular will find this fascinating, apparently senior officials within the council spent several weeks in discussions with Lloyds, looking at the site, collaborating with the architects retained to design the building, discussing a development close to the water’s edge and so on but never bothered to tell the ruling Labour group – in fact even the City Planning Officer was only informed of the development proposal by a third party.

    Officials exceeding their remit – can’t see that happening today can you?

  48. snafu says:

    Very interesting. Amazing what can be dredged up out of some folks’ memory banks from the mere mention of one local councillor’s name from one ward. There must be hundreds out there just over the last few decades. Enough to fill a book or ten.

    What happened to the bristol broadsides co-op?

  49. Jon Rogers says:

    Morning all

    ” thebristolblogger // March 28, 2009 at 8:09 pm. Sorry…”

    Is this a first?

    Is it identity theft?

    Are we seeing a Spring mellowing with the clocks going forward?


  50. chris hutt says:

    But it was a subtly sarcastic “sorry”, because if you read the comment to which it refers, it’s quite obvious that BB was referring to the Spine Road, etc. being ‘subsequently’ embraced and it was my comment that failed to grasp this, so I was the one who should have apologised.

    You won’t catch him out that easily.

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  52. Martyn Whitelock says:

    Thanks to ‘ADF’ on Chris Hutt’s post (http://greenbristolblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/cyclist-apologises.html) you can keep up to date with the cycling advisers on their newly created blog (http://bristolcyclingcity.blogspot.com).

    I don’t get it!?! I thought the plan was to improve the cycling infrastructure in Bristol (which includes what we have at the moment in my opinion) which will in-turn encourage more cycling, rather than badger people on their doorsteps.

    There are going to be lots of people turning to cycling anyway, due to the economic downturn. I’ve already noticed the increase in secondhand bikes around Bristol, including older racers?

    Back to the money pot – why can’t we do something REALLY creative with the money?

  53. Gary Hopkins says:

    A whole range of approaches are needed and should be explored and tried.
    New routes and enhancement of existing ones are obviously a vital part but encouraging people to make a switch is also an important part.
    Many people can be persuaded to drop their car for example if they have the security of a car club so they can have access for the odd occasion when they need it.
    Another key factor is bike security. I know significant numbers of people are put off relying on bikes because of thefts.
    Secure storage is a help in some places but there will also be a major police crackdown on bike thefts. Bike crime used to be regarded as a bit of a joke ,and it is obviously individually less important than many other crimes but tackling it has now been moved wewll up the agenda.
    There is general agreement that increasing the %of people who cycle is good but whilst others thought that making a big announcement that we have won some money is “it” in reality it is about identifying the barriers ,working out good ways to remove them and then communicating that effectively.
    Given the shambles of how CC was launched it would be suprising if it is all working properly but we will make it effective over time.

  54. Martyn Whitelock says:

    Yes, I really hope the LibDems can sort out the Cycling City shambles and move things forward. Surely, it is logical to get the cycling environment and infrastructure in place prior to encouraging converts, or else people will simply be put off (as with the buses).

    I have to say, under the terms of the award for being the country’s demonstration cycling city, I think the Council has a duty to improve things for existing users. I’m sure this would encourage a more natural uptake of cycling with existing users spreading the word.

    Regards bike security: perhaps that empty IMAX building (or the many others lying empty) could be converted into a central bike point for commuter cyclists?

    If I may, purely as an example, plug an idea I had for a “Green City Cycle Route” which you can view on the excellent Bristol Streets website. I’m sure others have good ideas too.

  55. Dona Qixota says:

    “Surely, it is logical to get the cycling environment and infrastructure in place prior to encouraging converts, or else people will simply be put off”

    Too right Martyn.

    But if people are asked what is the single biggest thing that puts them off cycling, I think you’ll find that it is CARS. Fear of being hit by a car!

    What does that suggest?

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