Lost and found? Or buried?

Update on Friday’s blog about this mysterious missing public consultation into this unusual sale of protected public park land at Greenbank, engineered for Merchant Venturer George Ferguson’s personal benefit by council planning boss David Bishop.

Now new Lib Dem transport chief, Jon Rogers, announces on Twitter that “I have asked for copy and for it to be published. Not yet had satisfactory answer.”

Er, hello? What’s going on here? Surely if one of our democratically elected representatives asks a public servant for something they just do it? Isn’t that their job?

The only satisfactory answer from “Dodgy” David Bishop should be, “Yes, I’ll get that consultation for you right away Jon and then I’m off to post it on the web.”

This whole episode becomes more and more bizarre. First the head of planning makes a private arrangement over the telephone to sell a piece of protected public park land to a developer, conveniently forgetting to take any notes or minutes for the public record. Six months later he pays out £12k of public money to initiate a public consultation into the sale of this land he’s already agreed to sell. Then he refuses to show anybody the results of the consultation while the planning application on the land – which he’s legally responsible for – goes through.

The stench arising from this affair and especially from “Dodgy” Dave gets stronger by the day. When are our politicians going to get the strength to act and do something about this?

Meanwhile, Bristol City Council’s officer love-in with George Ferguson continues unabated.

For it now seems that as far as the council’s concerned if you’re a wealthy public schoolboy and a member of the Merchant Venturers then that makes you an expert in just about anything.

George’s latest council gig is as a keynote speaker at their South Bristol Digital Neighbourhoods Launch, where it seems George will star as some sort of self-styled expert on computer technology and the poor.

At first sight this seems a strange platform for a man who specialises in creating upmarket developments for the very wealthy to be promoting his repulsive ideas from.

So how long, then, before his skint architectural practice Acanthus Ferguson Mann is moving in on Knowle West and the red trousered hypocrite is expressing his oafish views about all the “pointless” open space up there?

This entry was posted in Bristol, Bristol and Bath Railway Path, Bristol East, CONsultants, Developments, Easton, Environment, Knowle, Local government, Merchant Venturers, Politics, Twitter and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Lost and found? Or buried?

  1. chris hutt says:

    Never let it be said that a bandwagon passed George by without him jumping on it. His championing of digital neighbourhoods is just the latest in a long succession of short-lived causes.

    Back in the 80s when lead was added to petrol to improve its performance (and cause brain damage to a generation of children, but hey, what’s more important?) George was boasting that his car was diesel powered and not therefore contributing to the problem.

    Then in the 90s, when lead had been removed from petrol and vilification had switched to “dirty diesels” , who do we find leading the way with the new catalytic converter equipped petrol powered cars?

    And last year the humble bicycle suddenly hit the headlines locally when Bristol was awarded Cycling City status. Barely had the paint dried on the award plaque than George was off to Groningen in Holland, complete with TV crew, to show us all how it should be done.

    But that was sooo last year. Now George has taken delivery of the latest thing in electric cars, a black Smart with “The Tobacco Factory” emblazoned over it in orange, and immediately demands that expensive infrastructure is installed around Bristol to provide him with recharging facilities.

    http://tinyurl.com/dxpecz

  2. What you are saying, in short Chris, is that Mr Ferguson is a complete and utter, bandwagon jumping twat – I couldn’t agree more.

    I await with interest further developments in the case of the missing consultation document; if said document is ever found that is. Excuse my cynicism, but I expect that we’ll soon be told that there was only one copy, and that Bishop’s dog ate it.

  3. Rosso Verde says:

    The mind boggles. Council officers are accountable to councillors and the public who elect them.
    If they fail to respond to what are reasonable requests from councillors then they shouldn’t be in that position.
    The red trousered one must have the hide of a rhino!

  4. Local Government in Bristol 101.

    “Council officers are accountable to councillors and the public who elect them.”

    Sorry Rosso? You’re not from round these parts are you? This is Bristol. Council officers are accountable to no-one!

    “If they fail to respond to what are reasonable requests from councillors then they shouldn’t be in that position.”

    Now you are simply demonstrating your complete ignorance of the unique system of local government that we Bristolians have developed over the years. If a councillor makes a request, and a council officer doesn’t feel like complying with that request, then the council officer will make discreet arangements to have the councillor removed from his position, and replaced with someone more amenable.

    “The red trousered one must have the hide of a rhino!”

    The red trousered one is a Merchant Venturer. This means that he is special. Rules that apply to little people such as you and I, don’t apply to important people like him. If they did, then important people wouldn’t be able to do important things would they?

    Now do you understand? It’s quite simple really.

  5. Rosso Verde says:

    Hello again Lizard

    I have no arguments with your analysis here. I was simply trying to say that it really doesn’t have to be this way.

    More in Hope than expectation.

  6. Sceptic says:

    @Lizard Watcher:

    I thought our council officers (or those in the Planning Dept. at least) were answerable to property developers. 😉

  7. chris hutt says:

    “What you are saying, in short Chris, is that Mr Ferguson is a complete and utter, bandwagon jumping twat”

    George is a very clever and talented man who has made a lot of things happen in Bristol, sometimes against the odds. He speaks eloquently without notes, which makes me envious. But no one is perfect or beyond criticism.

    I think the council officers are the real villains here. George is just doing his job of promoting the interests of his clients, Squarepeg, to the best of his great ability. No one can blame him for that.

    But the officers are supposed to remain independent and impartial. Doesn’t the way in which this consultation document is being kept under wraps so that the results don’t influence the Committee determining the Planning Application show that they are anything but impartial?

    If they first manage to get the Planning Permission granted without the Committee considering the results of this £12,000 public consultation exercise then when the Land Sale issue is later considered by councillors the Planning Permission having been granted is bound to influence their decision on whether to allow the land sale to proceed.

    That was presumably the officers’ plan, but they can hardly go through with anything so blatant now that BB has exposed it, can they?

  8. BristleKRS says:

    That was presumably the officers’ plan, but they can hardly go through with anything so blatant now that BB has exposed it, can they?

    😐

  9. Jon Rogers says:

    OK. I have had several emails from officers in response to my question, which I will summarise, quote from, and remove officers’ names and personal details…

    (1) Officers have said that the report is not yet ready. “We are finalising the report this week”

    (2) They accept that they have not handled this well. “We should clearly have advertised this and given timescales on the website which is I think our main omission.”

    (3) They hope to publish the report by the end of the week. “We are expecting to publish the consultation report by the end of the week. I’m not sure how the report will be made public but I’ll check. I’ve asked for an amendment to be made to the website to let people know in the meantime.”

    (4) It’s taken longer than we expected for a number of reasons:

    “a) We accepted questionnaires until two weeks after the closing date as quite a number were still coming in and we didn’t want to not incorporate people’s comments

    b) We inputed those questionnaire ourselves rather than paying someone else to do them, as we were getting criticism for spending too much money on the consultation – this therefore has taken longer as it has been additional work on top of people’s heavy workloads

    c) the person [ … ] who has been dealing with pulling the data together has been off [ … ] for the last week

    d) We have spent some time double checking the data and ensuring that the conclusions we are reaching are correct as we don’t want to get this one wrong – again this has added to the time in turning it round

    I hope you agree that this is a detailed response from officers.

    I realise that some will have many more questions, but can I request they are deferred until the report is published?

    The officers are in no doubt that I meant what I said 2 weeks ago when I requested a more open style of administration, but habits of many years are not changed in days, and we need to take officers with us, not try and impose a new way of working in a heavy-handed way.

    I will formally say that the officers have made strenuous efforts to support me in this approach and I thank them.

    Jon

  10. Rosso.
    “I have no arguments with your analysis here. I was simply trying to say that it really doesn’t have to be this way. ”

    I know mate, I was just being my usual ignorant, rude, obnoxious self.

    Sceptic.
    I stand corrected.

    Chris.
    George is indeed a clever sod… all the more reason why council officers should be forbidden from speaking to him without a witness and a dictaphone present.

    Jon.
    “The officers are in no doubt that I meant what I said 2 weeks ago when I requested a more open style of administration, but habits of many years are not changed in days, and we need to take officers with us, not try and impose a new way of working in a heavy-handed way.”

    This part is a bit disappointing Jon. I’d like the punishment system for recalcitrant officers to be public – very public. That arena that we’re no longer getting… lions… giant mastiffs… gladiators… these dirtwads have had their fun for quite a while now, we want payback time.

  11. chris hutt says:

    “a) We accepted questionnaires until two weeks after the closing date as quite a number were still coming in and we didn’t want to not incorporate people’s comments”

    This suggests some last minute lobbying of the “silent majority” by the consultants, PPS, who specifically sell themselves on their ability to do this –

    “Vocal minorities can be very effective in influencing politicians, but do not represent the wider community. Mobilising the ‘silent’ majority can be extremely difficult. Since 1990, PPS has been securing demonstrable support for planning applications from those that might not normally bother to express their views.”

    More coverage here –

    http://preview.tinyurl.com/bamc6l

    The biased nature of the questionnaire has also been commented on, conflating as it does the land sale issue with the desirability of the redelopment as a whole.

    With a determined effort, generously funded by the local tax payer, it shouldn’t be too difficult for the consultants to get the desired result from the questionnaire, but the stakeholders’ meeting was another matter, once those who weren’t initially invited got wind of it.

  12. Holly says:

    “Council officers are accountable to councillors and the public who elect them.”

    Blimey, which planet have you just come from? That’s the theory, but not the reality. They are far more a law unto themselves and are expert at hiding behind the veil of beaurocracy.

  13. Pingback: RED TROUSERGATE: shambles, complete and utter « The Bristol Blogger

  14. Jon Rogers says:

    As others may have said, the report is finally published on the Bristol City Council consultation website http://bit.ly/d70EW under “Related Documents”.

    The culture is slowly changing.

    Jon

  15. Martyn Whitelock says:

    Extract:
    “The developer wishes to purchase one plot for part of its “cycle houses” scheme, and to lease the other to provide access to the cycle houses and the development.”

    Shouldn’t this read:
    The developer wishes to purchase one plot for part of its “cycle houses” scheme, and PURCHASE A SECOND PLOT to THEN lease this to provide access to the cycle houses and the development.

    Planning applications do have a tendancy to change!

  16. Holly says:

    …and this council does have a tendency to grant RETROSPECTIVE planning permissions as has happened at Grove Wood (three to date), though they’ve probably been bullied into it by the well-known and hated rogue property developer Mr Jafari (19 Downleaze, Bristol, BS9 1LT. Telephone: 07776205117) who threatens legal action.
    http://destructionofgrovewood.blogspot.com/

  17. chris hutt says:

    Martyn,

    It’s correct in saying they want to buy the first plot and only lease the second (or have wayleaves over it), but it’s wrong to say that the land is just for “cycle houses”. A 7 storey hotel block and other structures are also planned for the land, within 4 metres of the Path.

  18. Martyn Whitelock says:

    So Square Peg will lease it from the Council and at the end of the term of that lease no doubt purchase it from the Council.

    What I also don’t understand is, if the developers have a clear vision for the redevelopment then why the need to farm out the industrial units to a management company?

    I hate all thus ‘sub-contracting and passing on the responsibility to someone else whilst still making a quick buck in the process’ stuff!

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