Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Environmental action in schools and colleges

Questions to be put to Councillor Peter Hammond at the next full meeting of Bristol City Council (13 Jan 2009) along with my e-petition on school environmental charters:

1. What action has been taken by Bristol City Council as a result of recent UK Sustainable Development Commission published research which showed that schools are responsible for 15% of UK public sector carbon emissions (9.4 million tonnes per year)?

2. Can the figures for carbon emissions from Bristol’s schools be made available and if there are none as yet available will the member ask officers to approach the Stockholm Environment Institute, the Sustainable Development Commission’s partner in producing the report referred to, as they hold the raw data and may be able to break it down to give figures for the city?

3. Consistent with objective 10 in the Bristol Green Capital pledge list to enhance environmental education and awareness, will the member circulate a Model Environmental Charter, such as the one described in my petition submitted to this meeting, to all Bristol schools and colleges, accompanied by a letter to governors urging them to adapt the model charter to suit, adopt it asap and agree to annually review and report progress relating to it?

4. Does the member agree that schools can play a major role in tackling climate change, especially through starting with their own school buildings, transport, waste and procurement, helping pupils and communities to learn about the sources of and solutions to carbon emissions and the consequences of not taking urgent and large scale action?

5. Does the member agree that the education system should provide a continuous opportunity to experience, practise and evaluate sustainable behaviours in recognition that empowering people to find solutions to sustainability problems is one of its core purposes and that therefore it is vital for all establishments to adopt their version of an environmental charter or a similar statement of intent, preferably accompanied by action plan?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bristol's Northern Slopes - housing plans??

No comments:
Just one to watch in 2009 (it wont be the only one). The Area Green Space Plan process and the principle outlined in Bristol City Council’s policy the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy, that disposals of green spaces will be of ‘low value’ land identified by consultation, looks set to be completely ignored. A large part of the Northern Slopes, a Site of Nature Conservation Interest and proposed Local Nature Reserve, may have houses built over it if the council get their way!

This is no surprise to me: given that Filwood Ward was separated off at the recent Knowle/Windmill Hill/Filwood Area Green Space Plan meetings (where only Knowle and Windmill Hill were dealt with) and awaits different treatment (!!); given that my complaint to Bristol City Council shows that the policy is easily swept aside; given the actions of our so-called ‘green capital’ council in selling Filwood Park, in planning to sell green land with ecological merit on the Bristol to Path Railway Path, in favouring green space loss and opposing Town Green status for Castle Park

The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) Stakeholder Technical Assessment lists possible sites for housing and has maps, including site ST111 which includes a large part of the Northern Slopes. The Knowle West Regeneration Framework covers this valuable green space too (a bit of background + links here) and there is a Kingsweir / Torpoint Masterplan that will be complete within 6 months apparently. All these could over-ride the Area Green Space Plan process and given the councils green spaces record look set to do exactly that!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Should Tesco be allowed to impose themselves on Knowle?

No comments:
Copy of a letter sent to Juliette Bishop, Corporate Affairs Manager, Tesco Stores Ltd

Dear Juliette

Re: Plans for a Tesco Express convenience store – former public house on Axbridge Road, Knowle

As a Knowle resident with a very strong interest in the provision of local facilities, like shops, to meet local needs I have taken a serious interest in Tesco plans for The Friendship pub, which I used to live opposite and still live quite close to. I’ve been talking to many locals, shopkeepers in particular and have been given a copy of the letter you wrote (dated 28 November) to a very small number of people in the area.

Whilst some locals might have heard rumours of Tesco plans most people are taken aback and will be concerned by the sudden developments and serious lack of prior community consultation. The ‘professional team’ that has been working on ‘plans for an Express store’ have not thought to involve a range of local people from the off. Your letter was quickly followed (on 4 Dec) by the submission of a planning application to build a car park over the pub garden. Local residents only have until 6 January to respond, with Christmas and New Year rapidly approaching!

This is for me not the action of a ‘good neighbour’ though your letter begins ‘Dear Neighbour’ and mentions that Tesco ‘operate a ‘good neighbour’ policy’. A good neighbour would generally be in close, frequent and good quality contact with people, probably a wide range of people, in the community – agreeing with the idea that neighbourhoods and communities should ideally shape where they live through partnership arrangements.

Given what I have said I ask you to slow this process down and give everyone involved proper opportunities to discuss plans in the new year. Would Tesco be willing to send representatives to a meeting with those living and working in Knowle?

I don’t agree that the planned Express will be a ‘small neighbour convenience store’ in a few key senses. First, the store floor area (3000 sq feet) and takings expected will be significant at a neighbourhood and community level eg compared with the existing convenience store and newsagents on Axbridge Rd and many other local shops of all kinds. As a result the impact of your Express on the existing local shops is likely to be significant and negative. Second, the changes on the local roads, already increasingly busy, will be significant both due to the proposed new car park and due to deliveries to the proposed store in very large vehicles. Local roads are not suitable for more yet more traffic and more large vehicles. Congestion, air quality and noise are likely to worsen further and people’s health and quality of life along with it.

The statement that Tesco ‘intend to improve the existing car park arrangements’ is not true. In fact you wont be modifying existing pub parking arrangements but instead plan to build a new car park over the pub garden! Its very disappointing that as yet no drawings are available online to show the exact layout proposed but the council planning officer dealing with this case described what is intended to me over the phone.

The loss of green space with a lot of potential, to be replaced by a car park, would be a big blow to local amenity and to local wildlife. Cars turning in and out of the car park onto the busy road with much greater continuity and frequency than currently means greater risk of accidents. I’ve already referred to the environmental and health consequences. Tesco have not been proactive in seeking out locals and discussing such plans.

Your letter states that you locate ‘Express stores where they will be convenient for people to walk to, reducing the need to use a car’. In fact the proposed store is likely to get quite a lot of trade from people passing by in their cars – thus plans for a new car park. The effect of Tesco opening on this spot may well make the operation of other local shops unsustainable – if/as they close over time then the distances people are from their shops will increase, making it less likely that people will walk to the shop. Stats show that once walking distances to shops exceed 400 metres it becomes much harder for the elderly to access them.

Many items that would be sold in your store are already on sale in existing local shops at affordable prices. You are quoted in the Bristol Evening Post as saying that the immediate area was "currently under-served for convenience retailing". This opinion is not shared by local people who have a wide choice of types of shop close by already. In fact concern is high that should Tesco open then others shops will close, reducing choice, cutting competition and allowing prices to creep upwards. This is not the right location for a Tesco Express in my view.

There is concern locally that despite your ‘good neighbour’ policy the setting up of Tesco Express stores can be accompanied by: increased local litter; the increased presence of large bins which can obstruct walking and sometimes overflow; noise and anti-social behaviour due to people congregating; illegal parking on busy roads by some customers.

There are several possible uses for The Friendship – properly managed pub with good quality, large garden; conversion to flats, with access to large garden area; conversion to accomodation for the elderly…Options have not been fully explored and certainly have not been fully discussed locally.

You may feel that some/all of what I have said is flawed. You may feel you can allay fears. You may acknowledge negative impacts but feel that you can mitigate them somehow. I would welcome further communications and hope you will agree to meet with locals as I suggested earlier. I look forward to your reply.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Compliment to Bristol's 'citizen journalists' - including this one!

No comments:
Writing in this weeks Venue, Eugene Byrne pays this compliment:

The campaign to save the Railway Path also marked the point at which "citizen journalism" came of age in Bristol. There have been local blogs and "alternative" local news websites around for years, but 2008 was the year in which we suddenly found there were a few of them actually worth looking at. The Bristol Blogger, James Barlow, Vowles the Green, the Green Bristol Blog and some others don't just peck away at their keyboards complaining. They find stuff out as well sometimes, and made a lot of the running in the Railway Path campaign and on a couple of other issues.

Good to get some recognition. I'll do my best to keep up the efforts. The Bristol Blogger deserves his 'Top Banana' award but several other bloggers (see right and see the long list on the Bristol Blogger site) and their commenters have contributed to reporting, debating, activity and campaigning. I'm sure that 'citizen journalism' will continue to grow in size and influence.

Get your objection to the Tesco plan to build a car park over The Friendship pub garden in Knowle submitted now!

No comments:
I sent the following objection to the Tesco plan to build a car park over The Friendship pub garden (see photo) on Redcatch/Axbridge Rd in Knowle today. I urge others to object similarly (you can do so online here or by writing to the case officer Jo Edwards, Bristol City Council, The Council House, College Green, Bristol, BS1 5TR). Neighbour consultation letters were sent out on 16 Dec and planning consultation ends on 6 Jan 2009. Its a busy period with Christmas and New Year so get your objections and comments on the plans in as soon as possible and before 6 Jan!! You could also write to Tesco on this issue via Juliette Bishop, Corporate Affairs Manager, Tesco Stores Ltd, Ground Floor, Unit 5, Greenways Business Park, Bellinger Close, Chippenham, Wilts, SN15 1BN, or e,mail

As a Knowle resident I am very strongly opposed to the Tesco plan to build a car park on the pub garden. I don’t want to experience: loss of amenity; a less attractive area; a less green area; more accident risk; more traffic congestion; poorer air quality; more noise pollution; health impacts; bringing a Tesco Express in The Friendship a step closer. I’m happy to join with many other locals who feel as I do and ask you to refuse planning permission or at the very least delay to allow discussions between all interested parties on what sort of shopping facilities are necessary and desirable for Knowle, consistent with the thinking behind Neighbourhood Partnerships.

Building a car park over the pub garden will have a detrimental visual impact and loss of amenity for all neighbouring residents, those regularly in the area and of course local wildlife. The pub garden is a large, pleasant green space with plenty of trees and shrubs and a lot of potential. Better use can be made of this space than a car park, which cannot be built to attract customers on foot at a time when the city has the aim of becoming a green capital of course!

The proposed car park will also impact negatively on road safety on an already increasingly busy road. Cars would be turning in and out of the propose car park onto Redcatch Rd/Axbridge Rd where they currently don’t, adding to accident risk. Cars turning into and out from the car park would inevitably cause some additional traffic congestion to build up, worsening air quality and increasing noise pollution locally and adding further to climate change. This all impacts on our health, wellbeing and quality of life.

I call on you to bear in mind that this planning application has obviously been made by Tesco because of their publicly stated intention to establish a Tesco Express in The Friendship based on existing permissions. Disquiet about this is significant, amongst both local people and the many and varied existing shops locally, with two mutually supportive petitions opposing Tesco’s intended move signed by many. There are very strong concerns about Tesco: further impacting the local area beyond car park effects, with large, very inappropriate delivery lorries; increasingly dominating the local economy; monopolising trade; causing loyal and longstanding local businesses to become unsustainable as time passes; cutting shopping choice, cutting competition, increasing prices as time passes; increasing dereliction as shops close.

There are very strong concerns that when considering such planning applications no-one at the council is considering what kind of neighbourhoods and community locals need and want – this is more about keeping and improving Knowle’s variety of shopping provision than opposition to Tesco plans per se. I hope therefore that good sense among those making planning decisions prevails and that broad considerations are accounted for along with precise factors.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tesco plan to build on The Friendship pub garden in Knowle

Due to existing permissions Tesco dont need planning consent to set up a shop in The Friendship. Any campaign opposing them setting up in The Friendship is broader than their current planning application (see here and here) and is about the balance of shop provision in Knowle. I've been contacted by several people with an interest in the current shops in Knowle and will be meeting them in the next few days to talk things through.

Tesco dont have to apply to set up a store but have applied for planning permission to build a 12 car plus 1 disabled space car park on the pub garden (see photos), with access gained by removing part of the wall on Axbridge Rd/Redcatch Rd. The council can only judge this application, as the planning officer dealing with this case has told me, on its merit and demerits -and the Tesco application makes no mention of their plans to convert the pub into a shop!

Building a car park over the pub garden will have a visual impact, meaning loss of amenity for neighbouring residents, those regularly in the area and of course local wildlife. The pub garden is a large, pleasant green space with plenty of trees and shrubs and a lot of potential, as the photos show. It will also impact on road safety on an already increasingly busy road, as cars would be turning in and out where they currently dont. If/when the shop sets up very large delivery vehicles will impact the area (though this fact cant apparently be taken into account by the council as the current planning application can and will only be looked at as if the pub was applying!!).

I urge local people to write to the council, via case officer Jo Edwards, opposing this application quoting ref number 08/04903/F. Two notices will shortly be put up in the local area and people have 21 days to respond once the notices are on display. You can also object or comment online here.

The Bristol Evening Post covered the setting up of an e-petition today and the ensuing online debate/commenting was reasonably lively, including a few rather vociferous 'anti-vowles' comments saying I was out of touch with what locals want!! Strange then, if what online commenters said is true (!), that when I again went to the area today talking to people, everyone I spoke to felt the same as me - and the paper petition opposing a Tesco already has hundreds of local signatures and the newly launched online one already has 30!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Walking in Bristol

My contribution to the current Bristol City Council consultation on walking policies for the city, inspired considerably by various Green manifesto's and policies which have long argued for walking strategies:

Walking should be given the highest priority in transport planning: it increases health and well-being, which no other mode of transport other than cycling does; it has the least environmental impact; it is available to use by the greatest number of the population, particularly children; it benefits the social environment in which it occurs, increasing contact between people; it enhances the vitality of our communities.

Three quarters of journeys made are still under 5 miles, and half under two miles - walking should, along with cycling, account for most short distance journeys made if we get conditions right and we need this to be so if we are to build a sustainable society.

Walking should not be in general decline given that it’s a very effective transport, health and environmental policy but even though its still a common mode of transport just look at the stats: the number of walking trips fell by 20% between 1993 and 2003; between 1986 and 2001 total distance walked per person per year fell from 244 miles to 189 miles; households with a car walk less than those in households without a car - 163 miles per year compared to 265 miles (men who are the main driver of a company car walk least of all - 131 miles per year on average); car ownership has increased from 30% of households in 1961 to 70% in 1998; the decline in walking is largely accounted for by trips that have transferred to the car.(DfT 2003, National Statistics National Travel Survey and Social Trends).

How do we reverse this decline and then increase the amount of walking? Well, walking facilities should be well maintained and cleaned and priority should be given to this, in funding and enforcement, including fines against those allowing dogs to foul the footway. All opportunities should be taken to maximise convenience, safety, security and comfort. Planning for walking should aim to provide both networks of routes and to ensure other areas are pedestrian-orientated. Priority should be given to providing a minimum standard of provision for walkers that would ensure that all networks are complete and usable.

Design for walking should always seek to provide for all needs, including: those with sensory disabilities, the elderly, children, those pushing or carrying heavy loads and larger groups of people. Some people are not able to walk and so improved access for the disabled by all transport types should also be a priority.

Crossings of roads should always be designed with walkers as priority one and follow consultations with pedestrians. All formal crossings should be designed to respond more quickly to demand from walkers than at present and give them more time to cross. Zebra crossings should be present at more frequent intervals in key places. Any barriers stopping informal crossing of roads should be identified and progressively removed.

The Highway Code allows for priority to walkers crossing at side road junctions and access roads. This should be effected in road design, education and enforcement.

Signing of walking routes should be given priority, with clear signs to those places that people actually wish to travel to, e.g. shops and public facilities, including public transport stops. The placing of maps at more regular intervals that give information that walkers need, such as surface barriers, road crossings and bus stops, is important.

Shared use of walking space with cyclists can be a source of nuisance and conflict to walkers. All efforts should be made to reduce these conflicts through increased safe provision for both walkers and cyclists. Where proposals are made for shared use, all other measures should first be studied to ensure that there are no other ways of making walking and cycling safe. Loss of road space from other vehicles to accommodate cyclists is preferable to loss of footway space for walkers.
Despite overall decline, walking is still a popular leisure pursuit, with the development of various paths/trails. Such activity can imply a dependence on a car to access these places. All publicity for these should show how these can be accessed by sustainable modes of transport, including public transport.

Developing a car-free city centre is a great idea. Walkers improve the attractiveness and commercial success of central areas, and pedestrian only zones mean a reduction in pollution, noise and car accidents.

Greater priority should be given to maintaining and signing public rights of way throughout all areas. New routes should be developed wherever there is a sufficient demand.

For information on walking in Bristol and useful links:

Friday, December 12, 2008

No to a Tesco Express in Knowle: e-petition

No comments:
Please sign this e-petition saying No to a Tesco Express in Knowle:

We the undersigned call on councillors to support the existing varied shop and pub provision in Knowle and oppose any proposals to turn The Friendship Pub into a Tesco Express.

This petition is in addition to and fully supportive of the existing paper petition organised on behalf of shops on Redcatch Rd in Knowle, by Balbir Kaur Birk, opposing the Tesco Express plans.

Tesco should not be allowed to convert The Friendship on Redcatch Rd,
Knowle into a Tesco Express. They seem to
have a policy of flooding the market with their outlets.
Councillors should support the existing varied shop and pub provision in Knowle which is already providing good service to the community. Any Tesco Express may well make the position of some existing shops unsustainable....
(further details on the e-petition website and in this blog post).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Proposed Bristol City Council budget

Just posted this initial comment about the proposed Bristol City Council budget: A prudent and responsible budget would not in my view plan to spend £400,000 on 'marketing the city'. You can do most for marketing the city by improving its performance - this will speak louder and objectively mean more than any marketing activities. I'd cut this budget by at least half and spend the £200,000+ gained on even more energy saving and insulation than is currently planned - this is badly needed with spiralling fuel bills, fuel poverty, economic recession threatening jobs and livelihoods and the need to urgently cut carbon emissions due to climate change.

More details on the proposed budget here. Local newspaper report and online comments here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas with a lower impact

Even in this time of recession its likely that during Christmas billions of pounds will be spent on food, drink and presents in the UK. Waste levels rise by 20% at this time and include food, energy, wrapping paper, cards and of course Christmas trees. We can enjoy ourselves without abandoning green concerns however with a little prioritisation and organisation. The following wont transform us into a sustainable society of course but whilst campaigning for the required leadership, policies, institutions and decision-making processes continues, they are positive steps I think are worth taking now on cards, decorations, trees, wrapping presents, chocolate and turkey...!!

Billions of Christmas cards are sent every year, many not made of recycled card and many thrown out rather than recycled. You could send an e-card instead or watch out for cards made from recycled material or make your own cards from previous ones! Bristol is well set up for recycling card, so its easy for us to use this system.

Old colour newspapers and magazines can be used to make decorations like paper chains. Paint, glitter, card from boxes or old Christmas cards, glue and a bit of wool or string can be used to make tree decorations. These activities will keep kids happy and occupied doing a creative task that really involves them in Christmas. Far better this than buying sparkly decorations made in a far away sweat shop by child labour then flown thousands of miles across the globe.

Millions of Christmas trees are bought, often to be thrown out, each year. There is enough tree waste to fill the Albert Hall more than three times! The best thing you can do if you have a tree is buy one with roots - it can be planted out and used year on year. If you choose a tree without roots make sure you use the local schemes for turning used ones into mulch for parks and gardens.

You may not think of all that sticky-tape securing wrapping paper as plastic but it is. It wont rot and is single-use. String and wool are both more biodegradable and reusable and so are much the better option for securing wrapping paper. String/wool does not mess up the paper it secures and leaves it in a state where it, with a little care, can be retained and reused – close to ten thousand tonnes of paper is used to wrap UK presents every year. If you have paper that cant be reused put it out for recycling in your black box!

Hundreds of millions is spent on chocolate for Christmas. If you buy fair trade chocolate you will be supporting cocoa farmers, their families and communities much more. They get a fair price for their cocoa beans. Rights, pay and working conditions are much better under fair trade.

Ten million or more turkeys are eaten during the festive season in the UK. Millions of these birds are reared intensively in huge windowless buildings containing crowds of thousands. Selectively bred and anti-biotic treated for maximum growth these birds cannot express natural behaviours and cannot mate without human intervention. I’m just not hungry for this kind of food at all and its ecological footprint is very high. If you don’t want to avoid turkey at Christmas altogether its worth paying more for one reared to much higher animal welfare standards.

More information/ideas:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Loving the car

Interesting to see the online critical responses to letter writer Philip Gannaway. He is concerned about what he calls ‘anti-car rhetoric’ (Soapbox: ‘Learning to love the motor car’, Post 5 Dec).
He would acknowledge I hope that there are many positive reasons for seeking a society with low car use, not least our health, safety, security, stability and quality of life.

The Council and Government should invest heavily in sustainable transport methods as a matter of urgency.

He would acknowledge, if he believes in reason and the real world (terms he is keen to use in his letter), that the best available science says that we must urgently make very large cuts in carbon emissions from cars. The damage done to our climate would, with other measures, then be lower, enhancing the security and stability of life on into the future. Bristol’s carbon emissions are six times the sustainable level, a large proportion of this due to car use.

With car use lowered road safety would be increased. Thousands are currently killed and tens of thousands injured every year.

Fewer cars on the roads means cleaner air, which means lower lung damage and much improved health, especially for children. Tens of thousands die prematurely each year due to toxic air pollution.

Towns and cities more focussed on walking, cycling and public transport would be more tranquil and less stressful places to live. The quality of our lives could thus be enhanced.

We devote so much time, money and land to the car too – why not free up a lot of this and put it to good use in other ways?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Knowle does not need a Tesco Express!!

Tesco should not be allowed to convert The Friendship on Redcatch Rd, Knowle into a Tesco Express (report from local paper here). I will object to these plans and support any protest/petition. They seem to have a policy of flooding the market with their outlets.

Tesco's Bristol dominance is growing, skewing the local economy. It is monopolising the market, which is increasingly bad for competition and thus prices. It is forcing longstanding and loyal local shopkeepers out of business.

We need a balance of types of shops in Knowle. Tesco already has stores nearby and there is also a choice of supermarkets and smaller shops in the area.

Another Tesco outlet seems absurd. Any new store and plans ' improve the existing car park arrangements on the site to offer 12 customer parking spaces...', could increase local traffic and worsen road safety.

Another issue is what would happen to the area that is currently a pleasant, reasonably large garden with trees and shrubs at the back of the pub. Many people will want to retain a local pub and garden. If pub retention is not possible there must be better uses than yet another Tesco!

I've contacted the council for details but none are available yet as the application is very recent.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Grow your own

No comments:
Food seeds are now outselling flower seeds in the UK. The last time this situation happened was over 60 yrs ago! Many allotment sites are full and have waiting lists – and growing numbers of people in their late teens, twenties and thirties are choosing to grow some of their own food. It’s increasingly popular because it is an activity where the costs are low and benefits high, which is a big plus, particularly in times of recession. In Bristol you can rent an allotment site for between £10.50 and £63 per year depending on the size and type, and some qualify for a discount of 25% or 50%. Costs can also be shared if people club together. The rise in popularity started long before economic downturn though so its certainly not just about money.

Growing some of your own food raises quality of life. It encourages and rewards creativity. It is a calming, stress-busting activity that can be the source of a good deal of pleasure. Physical work out in the fresh air boosts your health, as does the fresh food grown. Allotment and garden exercise is also much cheaper than going to a gym!

The challenge can be formidable, especially at the start. However, if you take your time and go step by step you can experience the satisfaction of seeing the seeds you planted grow, the satisfaction of harvesting and then the pleasure of eating! Choose to grow what you love to eat and save money formerly spent on over-packaged food – a pack of seeds costing the same as one bag of salad leaves can produce leaves for picking a few times every week throughout a whole season! You can cheaply grow what is expensive in the shops.

You will know exactly how the food has been grown and can choose to avoid artificial fertilisers and pesticides. The miles travelled by garden and allotment grown food is very low and so carbon emissions and climate impact is also low. You can help to keep in circulation the seeds of many old, flavoursome and pest-resistant plants – preserve more varieties and you preserve genetic diversity which commercial growers show no interest in.

By helping to keep allotments used to capacity, or even increase the number of plots (The Small Holdings and Allotments Act of 1908 made it the responsibility of local authorities to provide allotments on the demand of four people or more) you are helping to keep land from development. Allotments are not well protected and many have been lost to housing developments since the 1950’s, not least in Bristol (despite its stated green city ambitions). However, the ‘grow your own’ community is increasingly diverse and allotments can grow into very friendly and organised groups willing and able to protect their plots!

For more information:

Bristol transport boss 'managing traffic congestion'

'Mark Bradshaw, executive councillor for transport at Bristol City Council, said: "The DfT report is a welcome endorsement of our determined focus on managing traffic congestion.' (report here)

If we are to get anywhere near the carbon emissions cuts science says is necessary* to avoid the worst climate change then cities like Bristol need to go far beyond 'managing traffic congestion'. Part of the reason we have the climate problem in the first place is because this is all we have done over several decades. And lets not forget all the other problems and costs caused by traffic!

Where are the transport plans which are capable of achieving absolute traffic reduction as opposed to a reduction in the growth rate of traffic and an improvement in traffic flow??

*Note: Bristol City Council has a carbon emissions reduction target of 60% from yr 2000 levels by 2050. The Government's Climate Change Bill, which became law on 26 November this year, includes a much tougher target 'Green house gas emission reductions through action in the UK and abroad of at least 80% by 2050, and reductions in CO2 emissions of at least 26% by 2020, against a 1990 baseline.' There is solid evidence that these targets and timescales, which are challenging in themselves, are insufficient (see refs in this article).

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Facing up to reality

No comments:
Today's post about climate change on George Monbiot's site is well worth reading (see extract below). It seems to me that we have made it harder and harder to build the green society we need because we are always behind the times with our assessment of the science, let alone acting on it! Again we have not put the problem of climate change on the right scale and in the right context. This explains the continual lack of action of sufficient seriousness and urgency over decades. We have not faced up to reality.

Turner claims that to keep the temperature rise close to two degrees, the world’s greenhouse gas emissions must peak in 2016 then fall by either three or four per cent a year. A 3% rate of decline is most likely to deliver a temperature rise of 2.2 degrees this century; a 4% annual cut would produce about 2.1%(3). That’s more or less consistent with his 2050 targets.

So far so good. But a recent paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, using the same sources, comes to completely different conclusions(4). It agrees that to deliver a reasonable chance of preventing more than two degrees of warming, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere need to stabilise at a maximum of 450 parts per million, carbon dioxide equivalent (ppmCO2e). But it shows that to achieve this, global emissions of greenhouse gases from the parts of the system we can control need to peak by 2015, then fall by 6-8% a year between 2020 and 2040, leading to “full decarbonization sometime soon after 2050.” Even this, it shows, relies on an optimistic reading of the current data. Turner’s suggested cuts are more likely to produce four degrees of warming than two degrees.

The difference between the two reports comes down to this: Turner assumes that greenhouse gases can rise to 500ppmCO2e before falling back to 450(5). The other paper shows that this is a dangerous assumption. Not only does this mean that the cut comes too late, but far from falling back, the enhanced levels in the atmosphere are likely to trigger more emissions, as the biosphere starts producing more greenhouse gases than it absorbs. We cannot afford to overshoot(6).

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The more we buy the better off we are?????


The celebration and advocacy of mass consumerism, the belief that the more we consume the better off we are, in this weekend's Suzanne Savill column is remarkable, particularly in these pretty unprecedented times of credit crunch, economic downturn, resource depletion and environmental degradation. The system, with its short-termist banking, sleeping regulators and politicians who have sucked-up and basked in the glow of short-term ‘success’, allows a small number of people to take the profit whilst society pays the costs. How is continued mass consumption going to solve the problem of meeting the needs of the worlds people in a way that can be sustained Suzanne?? If consumerism helped us to live happier, healthier, fairer, greener lives I’d be all for it but the opposite is the truth!

See: and this BBC report about a local economics graduate beginning an experiment to live for a year without money:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bristol City new stadium proposal: club obliged to compensate for large environmental impacts

'Bristol City Chairman Lansdown unveils vision for the future' says the headline. Its a development I'm very interested in, so I posted this comment on the newspaper website:

If this stadium is built surely the club should do their absolute utmost to compensate for the large scale loss of green land and other associated environmental impacts. Are they prepared to consider creating permanently protected natures reserves around the new ground and employing the latest energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable transport part of their design?? Lets not forget that in this very same area there are also proposals for mass house building, new road construction and possibly an arena! We must not forget ecological footprint considerations!!

This drew a response from 'Dan, Downend', who said, 'the land is not restricted or protected, therefore City dont have to do anything that you suggest. I'm sure there will be considerations as with any major building, but there is no obligation nor should there be'

He forgets that it is green belt land!! Its not been mentioned much, if at all, in the press stories about the proposals for the new stadium. Green belt is a 'land use designation used in land use planning to retain areas of largely undeveloped, wild, or agricultural land surrounding or neighbouring urban areas.' (wiki). So there are supposed to be restrictions on development and there is supposed to be protection for land - therefore Bristol City can be considered to have an obligation. Seems fair to me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy coincidences!!

No comments:
What !? Yet another award for Bristol? Come on!!!

The local paper says,

'Bristol has been crowned "European city of the year" after scooping an urban environment award.

The city beat off competition from fellow finalists Manchester and Newcastle [/Gateshead] at the awards held in St George's Hall in Liverpool.

The occasion was the annual awards ceremony held by the Academy of Urbanism, whose 100 members include industry-leading architects, planners, engineers, developers and designers.... (

Can this recent glut of awards or consideration for awards for Bristol - European Green Capital shortlisting, top of Sustainable Cities Index, Cabot Circus shopping centre of the year, and now European City of the Year - possibly be considered well thought out, fair and objective assessments? No they can't, both for the reasons I've previously covered and because the same people and/or sort of people who have an interest and involvement in that being judged also have an interest or involvement in the organisation doing the judging !!

Now, to my knowledge there is no indication of anything underhand happening (lets call it 'happy coincidence') but some rather circular and self-congratulatory processes have occurred. Assessment cannot therefore be considered objective, unbiased and dispassionate. What the awards offer us then is just the subjective assessment of one narrow group of people.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cabot Circus: best shopping centre in the world?!?!

No comments:
This is getting beyond a joke. Good sense, common experience and well thought out honest assessment was recently defied: when Bristol was shortlisted to be European Green Capital; when the city came top of Forum for the Future's Sustainable Cities Index and was called the greenest city in the UK. Now there is yet more ridiculous and laughable hype as the local paper reports that 'Cabot Circus is"best in the world" ', stating:

Cabot Circus in Bristol has been named the best shopping centre of the year - despite being open just two months.

An international panel of expert judges selected Bristol's new £500m retail centre from a shortlist of three leading shopping centres, including Forum Mersin in Turkey and Zlote Tarasy in Poland.

Judges for the MAPIC EG Retail Awards praised the "seamless integration" of Cabot Circus into Bristol and the impact that the 1.5 million sq ft development has had on the rest of the city since it opened in September.

They said Cabot Circus had "changed the entire city and for one shopping centre to do that is quite an achievement".

Bristol City Council Leader Helen Holland yet again goes massively over the top with her 'wonderful' and 'stunning' judgements on this bunch of shops selling masses of imported goods and very inaccurately states that 'Bristol has the most powerful city economy in the UK outside London...'.

If Cabot Circus is so good that its changed the entire city where is the solid evidence, gathered over time? If its about Bristol where does it prominently feature local products? If it's consistent with the green city/capital ambition why the focus on driving to the very large car park? Where are the genuinely green products? Why are plastic bags given out left right and centre?? Why no mention of how it has increased Bristol's already very large and unsustainable footprint?

As I've emphasised before, 'The focus of Cabot Circus is more global economy than local economy, more about a small number of people getting rich than local people meeting their needs. Would it not have been much more valuable to individuals, neighbourhoods and communities in Bristol to get together a proper strategy to maintain and develop shops, services and jobs in each locality? We need development to be localised. Cabot Circus is a million miles from local production for local needs yet this is the pattern of development we need for a happier, healthier, fairer, greener and more convivial city!'

Keep Castle Park Green...

Received the details below from a friend and am passing them on:

Keep Castle Park Green. Come to the public inquiry

Bristol City Council and the developers Deeley Freed are still intent on building on our green space. In a bid to stop this, Castle Park User Group submitted an application to the council to register Castle Park as a Town Green. If successful, the green space will be permanently protected from development. The council and the developers constitute the main objectors to the proposal and the issue is going to a public inquiry.

Support the move to protect our green space for all time.

The public inquiry begins on 1st December 10.00 a.m. at the Old Council House, Corn Street, Bristol.

Assemble 9.15am outside the Old Council House bring banners and placards.

The inquiry is due to run for one week, with two evening sessions.

The times are 10.00am to 5.00pm each day, plus Monday & Wednesday 6.00pm to 8.00pm.

There is more information on the internet at:-

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Appeal to Bristol City Council's Chief Executive

Email sent to Bristol City Council Chief Executive Jan Ormondroyd this weekend appealing for her to review my complaint about the council not following its own green spaces policy:

I've been looking at the council complaints policy and conclude that Stage 3 involves a review by the Chief Executive. I asked Complaints Manager Tim Sheppard about this and was told that 'The CX will not have "reviewed" your complaint but she will have read it and will be aware of the issues.' Having pondered this I find myself somewhat confused.

Tim did confirm to me that the council complaints system had been exhausted (leaving me free to approach the Ombudsman) but I dont think this can be considered the case until you have reviewed it. Can you confirm that the council complaints policy involves, in Stage 3, a review by the Chief Executive?

Can you confirm a) that you have read my complaint and are aware of the issues b) that you will now review my complaint or do whatever is required to fully comply with council complaints policy?

Sorry to be a pain but I really must insist that you conduct a review, unless you can explain that its not a compulsory part of council policy of course. This is because I need to ensure that I've gone through the whole of the council complaints procedure before it can be considered exhausted. I dont want to go to the Ombudsman only to find that they reject what I send, telling me to get back on to you/the council. This would represent considerable waste of time and effort.

Many of the key issues are addressed in the most recent exchanges between Tim Sheppard and myself ( see below).

In addition to a response to the above email I'm also awaiting a reply from Complaints Manager Tim Sheppard to the points I made in the post below. I'm also waiting for a response to my request for a meeting with David Bishop, Strategic Director for City Development and Regeneration at the council and Steven McNamara, Head of Legal Services at the council. I've also sent a message to George Ferguson asking if he is willing to meet with me to discuss modifying the cycle houses development plans and a range of other matters (I previously contacted him but had no ackowledgement).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Council green spaces policy to classify land not needed - senior council officers on the council have done it for us!

The latest on my complaint to Bristol City Council about them not following their own policy on green spaces. My response to each point from Council Complaints Manager Tim Sheppard is in blue:

Dear Mr Vowles

David and I have now discussed this matter and for information, I have described below the Council's position.

Tim, the word you used in your email to me was that you would ‘investigate’ the matter (ie David Bishop's decisions in this instance). ‘Investigate’ means to search and examine – have you done any searching and examining outside of the discussion with senior officer David Bishop you refer to??

You will be aware that this development offers an opportunity for an innovative exercise in linking cycle houses with the Bristol to Bath cycle path. Difficulties initially emerged as the strip of land in question has some ecological merit. This prompted George Ferguson to contact David Bishop to discuss the merits of the scheme and ask him to examine the council's initial position on the sale of this stretch of land.

With respect, the merits or not of the proposed cycle houses is not the issue since the development that features them could easily go ahead without destroying the hedgerow and being built up close to the cycle path. It just needs shifting a short distance back from the path and a little redesign and/or scaling back as appropriate.

Interesting that officers within the council advised that the land has ecological merit, which is my view, whereas in a recent Bristol Evening Post story George Ferguson called it ‘pointless scrubland’. Interesting that George Ferguson a) gets to know of the view formed and advice then given within the council on land he has a significant interest in and b) easily and promptly has access to a senior council officer who has significant powers to make key decisions c) obviously has had considerable influence on decisions made given that ‘difficulties that initially emerged’ before contact are not difficulties after. How much did the public know, especially in the local area, and how much access to senior council officers could they easily get? How much influence on David Bishop would they have had? Council policy, the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy says about land value, on page 36,

"...value will, therefore, be assessed at the stage when Area Green Space Plans are being drawn up and sites are being identified as possible candidates for change of use/type of green space or disposal".

Clearly in this case this has not happened. The complex issue of total land value has been decided by senior officer David Bishop and a few other officers, following an intervention by the highly influential George Ferguson.

Given that the Council was on the cusp of becoming the first Cycle City, a proposition that used a small piece of the Council's land to enable such an innovative idea - almost a cycling service station on a flagship cycle route (notwithstanding the fact that planning permission still needed to be obtained and no-one could make any presumptions about that) - was very attractive. If such an idea came to fruition, Bristol would enhance its cycling/green capital reputation still further, and more people would be attracted to cycle and walk along the path in future. Bristol's residents would get healthier as a result and any traffic modal shift would make a contribution to reduced congestion and enhanced air quality, all aims the Council is vigorously pursuing.

Please see my previous comments about the merits or not of the proposed cycle houses not being the issue. There are many ifs in this third pragraph that I’d like to point out though: if Bristol became the first Cycle City (the decision had not then been made in Bristol’s favour); if any development successfully went through the planning process (official plans were not submitted at this time and so there was no public consultation on official plans); if the cycle houses enhance city cycling/green capital reputation significantly; if traffic modal shift is significant…

Promises are not a firm basis for a major decision that goes against advice and does not involve consultation with the public, stakeholder groups nor, so far as I know, elected councillors. The paragraph sounds to me more like someone’s sales pitch, based on imagery and inflated potential impacts, rather than solid ideas based on evidence.

There is more to a piece of land than its size, though we are talking about well over 100 metres of mature hawthorn hedgerow which officers judged to have ecological merit. Quality, value and significance of land are not a matter that can finally be decided completely objectively or should be decided by a small number of people – the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy acknowledges this and outlines a procedure (the drawing up, by agreement in localities, of Area Green Space Plans). My complaint also raised the issue of plans not being accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment - responses from you have not explained the council decision that an EIA was not needed. Is it the case that an EIA was deemed unnecessary just on the basis of the size of the land involved??

Bristol City Councils green capital reputation depends in part on the quality of and implementation of its policy on green spaces.
No doubt the city’s application to become the European Green Capital includes outlining the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy. However, the procedures it outlines clearly have not been applied.

A discussion about the proposed land sale and the questions that it raised, was had with Transport, Property and senior Culture & Leisure Services staff, which included the relative merits of cycle houses versus negative localised ecological impact. It was felt that because the eventual development control process could ensure that ecological mitigation measures were secured, on balance we should support the principle of the land sale, subject of course to the development progressing.

The fourth paragraph raises more questions than it answers. Just one discussion? Seems a cursory treatment to me. What laid down, publicly available criteria were used to judge the relative merits, so that accountability for decisions is built in? How does one objectively weigh up very different types of benefits/costs? Cycle house benefits are only promised whereas ecological loss due to habitat destruction is relatively easily established – was this accounted for? Were any elected representatives involved at any point? Were any stakeholders involved? Were the public involved? What reference was made to the letter and spirit of council green spaces policy and the principles and procedures it outlines? Was the option of promptly getting an Area Green Space Plan put in place for this land ever discussed? How/where does accountability come into play??

No ecological mitigation measure details were then available and so assessing the quality and potential success rate of these was not possible. In any case there is a serious debate about whether mitigation measures are often just a sop to developers, allowing their plans to proceed by requiring environmental action sufficient to appear to be full compensation when in fact it most often falls short.

Property Services staff were advised to progress their discussions with the developer accordingly, which we believe will have given them the necessary confidence to progress their scheme to the next stage, albeit of course the land sale will not be finalised until much later, if planning permission is secured and the development progresses.

The decision that the benefits of ‘cycle houses’ outweighs ecological losses and that therefore selling the land is ok in principle, is a big decision in favour of the plans now submitted. This decision by senior and powerful council figures puts massive pressure on any officers and councillors involved in processing the plans and making decision on them. The pressure is clearly favouring the granting of planning permission because if it was refused then all those supposed net benefits that some are convinced of are lost.

These sorts of balanced considerations, and resultant decision making, are the day to day function of senior managers such as David and I am satisfied that no policies or advice has been ignored or over ruled nor was it a hasty decision. I am also satisfied that the necessary checks and balances are in place to ensure the public have an opportunity to express their views.

Sorry but how do you expect me to be satisfied with your conclusion? If there were straightforward answers to my complaint why were they not made available within the initial 15 working day deadline? Two months have passed now since I complained. The appearance, at least, of the situation is that its taken the council all this time to agree a line of argument!!

It may well be that this sort of decision is within the remit of senior officers like David Bishop, though I will ensure that I ask he Ombudsman to look into this to check.

I see
little or no evidence that the procedures outlined in the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy have been followed – perhaps you can provide it for me??

Clearly the weight of initial officer advice about the ecological value of the land has not counted for much compared with David Bishops view after the intervention of George Ferguson followed by discussions you outline. The
key decisions on land selling appear to have been made within a timescale of less than two weeks - very short compared with the two months its taken for the council to reply to basic questions from me! It appears, at least, that Mr Ferguson's intervention speeded along the decision nicely.

You’ve still not provided me with any reference to documents showing arrangements/criteria used for making judgements if policies conflict (not that they should). Likewise you’ve not outlined any interim arrangements that were prepared in order to allow sufficient time for Area Green Space Plans to be put into place. Are there or have there been meetings since my complaint to outline criteria I refer to or to make interim arrangements? In short, how is the council building in accountability and participation of some sort? Does the council admit that David Bishop and other should have consulted more widely eg via stakeholders before deciding that a land sale was on and that further discussin with a buyer could proceed?

At present it seem perfectly clear that development pressures will most often win against the need to protect and conserve green spaces – I had this made pretty clear when attending recent initial meetings on establishing the Area Green Space Plan for Knowle, Filwood and Windmill Hill (discussion of Filwood’s green spaces was ruled out by officers running the meeting, who explained that this was because big ‘regeneration’ plans were due to be finalized in the coming months and they did not know what the ward might look like should plans go ahead!)

I believe this now brings all these matters to a close. Should you wish, you can now add this to your complaint to the Ombudsman.

I felt it was worth replying to this latest message even though your closing sentences sound very much like you want no further communication with me. Should I send off details of my complaint to the Ombudsman I believe your message and my reply will be valuable to them as a summary of some key issues. However, I’ve still not sent anything yet, in part because further freedom of information requests may help to clarify the situation and I am still hoping to be able to meet with David Bishop and Steven McNamara face to face and have copied them in to this reply so that it doubles as a request for a meeting. I’m not hopeful that they will agree to meet with me as I think they most probably view me as a stirrer and trouble-maker rather than the truth (someone who initially just asked a few questions and felt compelled to follow up from there because of lack of answers).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ashton Vale wildlife habitat vandalism update: questions to council Cabinet

1 comment:
As I've described previously I've been to Ashton Vale with a few green friends (see here and here), including Tess Green, and seen the environmental vandalism first hand. Tess has now submitted some excellent and authoritative questions (below) to the next meeting of the council's Cabinet. Its going to be a very interesting meeting with lots of tough, probing questions put!!

I should like to submit the following questions to Cllr. Rosalie Walker at the meeting of the Cabinet on 27th November 2008.


The City Council will be aware of the destruction of mature hedgerow and damage to adjacent land, which took place on the mornings of 5th and 6th September 2008 at the west end of Ashton Drive and along Colliters Brook, to the distress of local people.

No permission for the destruction of hedgerow was sought by the owners of the land and as a result the City Council was denied the opportunity to survey the site beforehand or to offer advice on the legal protection afforded to wildlife there.

Local people were not consulted, breaching the Guidelines in Planning Policy Statement 9. If they had been consulted they would have been able to provide information about the wildlife species to be found in the area, which included foxes, deer, many varieties of water and hedgerow birds, amphibians, badgers and signs of otters and water voles as well as, of course,hedgerow, wetland and meadow plants.

Many species are of course protected under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997, the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, the Habitats Directive, Conservation (Natural habitats etc.) Regulations 1994 and other regulations.

Otters, badgers, water voles and crested newts have specific protective legislation.
The City Council has a duty to have regard to the conservation of biodiversity and this is recognised in the Biodiversity Action Plan, which particularly mentions protection for water voles and otters.

What steps are being taken by the City Council to

a) prosecute those responsible for these breaches of the law and acts of environmental vandalism and

b) prevent further similar acts by irresponsible developers of land, which may be inhabited by important wildlife species?

Will the City Council offer assistance to the local people of Ashton Vale who want restoration of as much of the habitat as possible?


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Council green spaces policy to classify land not needed - land and property developer has done it for us!!

No comments:
The controversy concerning the 'cycle houses' development and the council not following its own policy on green spaces has finally been reported, to a limited extent, by the local newspaper even though local bloggers (here, here, here and here for instance!) including me, have been banging on about it for months now!!!

Developer George Ferguson, Chairman of Architects AFM, is quoted as saying this, which is particularly infuriating as well as missing the point:

"This strip of land is a completely pointless bit of scrub land"

As a land and property developer its no surprise that George Ferguson speaks dismissively, contemptupusly even, about the quality of the land he wants to build over. Council officers advised against selling green land for this development due to its wildlife value and contribution to the green character of the area.

What Mr Ferguson needs to understand is that all land covered by the councils policy, the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy, should according to that policy, have an Area Green Space Plan drawn up before it is disposed of or has its use changed in any way. This has not happened in this case. Its not for developers to classify land quality for us as if they know best!

It appears that some senior officers at the council have taken some very speedy and rather ad hoc decisions on selling land that do not accord with the principles, procedures and spirit of council policy at all.

I've been so concerned about this that as far back as Sept I submitted a formal complaint to the council via their system (See here for details and to track the lengthy history of the complaint).

They missed deadline after deadline for giving me a full and formal response and still have not answered all my queries satisfactorily. I've recently had it confirmed in writing by the Council's Corporate Complaints Manager that I have exhausted the complaints procedure and am free to take my complaint to the Local Govt Ombudsman for independent investigation. This has become a very serious issue indeed because if straightforward answers to my complaint existed they would have given them to me easily within the 15 working day deadline - but two months has now passed since I first complained !!

I emailed Mr Ferguson and others asking him to scale back the development in one small area, in order to stop the destruction of a mature hedgerow over 100 metres in length and to conserve the green character of this part of the Bristol to Bath Railway Path - he did not even acknowledge let alone respond to my appeal (recorded on my blog and in a letter published in the Post) even though he initiated some limited contact with other people who want his 'cycle houses' development.

Its no surprise at all to me that this issue has escalated to the point where Ashley Fox, a respected Tory Councillor is asking questions of the Labour run Bristol City Cabinet at its 27 Nov meeting, where I also have questions tabled.

We must establish that developers must not drive council policy or have any undue influence over it. We must establish that officers must follow council policy, which should be clear, coherent, consistent and open, so that people can be held to account. We must establish that council officers do not decide what to do on an ad hoc basis. Unfortuneately things look pretty bad at the council currently so the Ombudsman will have some work to do investigating the situation in the coming weeks and months.

Transport concerns in Knowle and elsewhere in Bristol

1 comment:
Questions to the Bristol City Council Cabinet meeting of 27 November submitted today – for Cllr Mark Bradshaw, Member for Sustainable Development (which encompasses transport and planning I believe). They relate both to Knowle and to wider issues.

Speeding concerns in Knowle
Residents in the Wootton Park, Callington Rd and Airport Rd area of Knowle have raised concerns with me about frequent speeding, road safety issues, and high levels of both air and noise pollution. This part of Knowle is included in an Air Quality Management Area and is a noise pollution hotspot according to the council’s excellent work on noise mapping. Cutting speed limits will cut the frequency and severity of road accidents and cut air and noise pollution.

1. Will the council commit to gathering further information on speeding, road safety, air and noise pollution in and around these three roads, including gathering information on accidents and near accidents from local residents?

2. As part of any review of speeds on A roads what consideration will the council give to

a)reducing the 40mph speed limit on Callington Rd and Airport Rd to 30mph
b)reducing the 30mph speed limit on Wootton Park to 20mph
c)cutting speed limits in general across the city wherever it is appropriate eg on M32 (or parts of it), in order to improve air quality, cut carbon emissions, cut noise and improve road safety

South Bristol Link: Road Traffic Impacts.

1. Given that the only reference in the consultation documents to altered traffic levels created by a 'road' option between Hengrove and Long Ashton, is that it "may increase traffic on King Georges Road", has any traffic modelling been done that might offer a bit more certainty to the West of England planners, and might give consultees a more realistic picture of what they’re invited to comment on?

2. If one of the road options is chosen, thus creating a de facto South Bristol Ring Road, what is its likely impact on

a) traffic levels along Airport Road/ Callington Rd/Wootton Park
b) total vehicle miles (compared with 'do nothing', or the public transport option)
c) air quality in the vicinity of Callington Rd, Wootton Park, Airport Rd and the South Bristol Sports Centre

Whitchurch to City Centre Cycleway

Can you confirm to what extent (if any) the Cycling City budget will be used to fund property acquisition along the line of the proposed Callington Road Link (the disused railway cutting between Tesco Brislington and Arnos Vale) as part of the proposed Whitchurch to Centre cycle route ?

I will report any responses received on this blog.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Population: a vital part of the sustainability picture

No comments:
Excellent post over on Jonathon Porritt's blog about population, originally done for Greenpeace Business but refused because they felt it was too controversial. Below is a brief extract from it. Its well worth a read. The figures, analysis and argument are striking and compelling.

The governments of many of the poorest countries in the world are crying out for financial support for family planning, but are not getting it. The lives of countless millions of women are devastated by their inability to manage their own fertility, and hundreds of thousands die every year because of illegal abortions or complications from unwanted pregnancies. But their voices go largely unheard. On top of all that, every single one of the environmental problems we face today is exacerbated by population growth, and the already massive challenge of achieving an 80% cut in greenhouse gases by 2050 is rendered completely fantastical by the prospective arrival of another 2.5 billion people over the next 40 years.

Being food secure, energy secure, and water very much harder the higher human population is and the faster it grows. Sex and relationships education the world over has never been more important.

Great campaigning work for primary schools in Knowle and Knowle West

No comments:
'Stupid', 'ignorant' and 'inflammatory' remarks have indeed been made by some online commenters on this story about the great efforts of people in Knowle/Knowle West to stop the merger of Ilminster Avenue and Connaught Primary Schools. I strongly support locals, like Mil Lusk, who have done a great job of gathering hundreds of signatures on a petition against merger. There is a great deal of valuable community-strengthening work being done by many in Knowle West - why do people have to label and stereotype as these commenters have??

I commented online a few times as below, to support views expressed by Kerry and Melanie especially:
*I agree strongly with Kerry and Melanie. There are very strong educational reasons for stopping the creation of large primary schools - smaller schools can offer better quality -ask the private sector!! I think the Primary Schools Review that has decided on this merger has more to do with money and building houses on the old sites and their green spaces than the quality of education.
**Brian, Claude and all those only interested in labelling and stereotyping. You seem to have forgotten the hundreds of people who signed the petition to save the schools and all the determined campaign organisers. All these people are concerned about their childrens education and the progress of their community. Its all too easy to snype and be cynical.

To Martin I would say that smaller schools are just what is needed in the Knowle and Knowle West communities, as in many others. Individuals dont get dwarfed in smaller schools and personalised learning is better fostered. Relationships between teachers, parents, guardians, and pupils, as well as the wider community tend to work better, as its easier for everyone to get to know each other well and develop productive links.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Council policy seems to be delay, delay, delay in complaint handling

1 comment:
Its worth noting that Council Complaints Manager Tim Sheppard said this in an email to me on 6 Nov and that therefore he/the council has again failed to give a detailed response in a reasonable time (I'm well used to it now!):

It is however, important we have the opportunity to fully address the issue of the actions of David Bishop. To this end, I propose to investigate and make a separate response to you. I would hope to complete this exercise by the end of next week. [14 Nov]

This was in direct response to me including this as part of my complaint:

It seems apparent, from documents obtained within the last week or so by The Bristol Blogger using freedom of information legislation, that David Bishop, the most senior planning officer has ignored/overruled other depts and advice from other officers and has made far reaching and speedy decisions on green space disposal that go beyond council policies.

I'll send a reminder (another one!) to the council complaints department on Monday. I await their (eventual) response with some interest especially given this insight into what really determines how development happens from Knowle Lib Dem Councillor and former Cabinet member Councillor Gary Hopkins. Over on Cllr Charlie Bolton's blog he said he is 'not shocked that a developer,of whatever shade of green or none, should do his best to secure the best deal for his development. It happens all the time...' . Tell us more Gary...

Questions to Bristol City Council Cabinet on green space flogging controversy

My complaint to Bristol City Council about them not following their own policy on green spaces (originally posted on here) and all the work done by the Bristol Blogger and by the Green Bristol Blog’s Chris Hutt has resulted in questions being submitted to the next meeting of Bristol’s Cabinet by Councillor Ashley Fox (details here). I will be submitting the questions below to the next Cabinet meeting as I think they fit in well with the excellent ones from Councillor Fox -

Parks and Green Spaces Policy not being followed:

1. Why have the procedures outlined in the Parks and Green Spaces policy not been applied, 10 months on from agreeing it, to all the land it covers ?

2. Area Green Space Plans should preceed any land selling or development - were interim, proper, clear and open arrangements (to allow for the establishment of Area Green Space Plans) made?

3. If no interim arrangements were made did this result in some ad hoc decisions on land sales being made by very small numbers of people?

4. Were any agreements to sell land entered into despite interim arrangements being made?


I’ve posted on some of the (long) history of my complaint here but need to update this with recent communications (see below) for anyone that needs/wants to track developments. My apologies for the lengthy nature of all this but the council have dragged this out and appear to have delayed at all opportunities, right from the start. You’ll note that many of the specific points I raise are simply not addressed and that replies are hardly detailed or backed by references:

Tim Sheppard, Council Complaints Manager, writes: 11 Nov

I write in response to the recent emails we have exchanged. I can confirm that the complaint you raised with me in your email dated 18 Sept 2008 has now exhausted the Council’s complaints procedure and you are free to take the matter up with the Ombudsman.

I must point out the the the issue of the behaviour of David Bishop, that you raised with me in your email of 3 November, is something the Council would like the opportunity to respond to. However, this will not prevent you taking the matter up with the Ombudsman or prevent them making initial enquiries of us.

Glenn Vowles writes: 7 Nov

Can you supply me with written confirmation that the council complaints
procedure has been exhausted and that I no longer regard the council as a
full unbiased investigator in this instance. I will then proceed with the
Ombudsman form filling.

Glenn Vowles writes: 6 Nov

I'm not at all happy with this, though I very much welcome further investigation of David Bishop's actions. The Parks and Green Spaces Strategy does not say that it is there to act as a framework for guidance - it lays down specific procedures to be followed. A Cabinet member has spelt this out clearly in a letter to me. I feel that there are people overruling council policy whenever they see fit.

I'm not convinced that all officers involved in decisions on green spaces and complaints relating to them will act and are acting objectively. I'm extremely concerned about bias and weak answers unsupported by references to laid down council positions so that the public can assess what their council is likely to be doing. Policies need to be consistent and coherent!! At the least if conflict occurs between policies then there should be a clear procedure for dealing with this laid down in writing so that the public can see what's going on.

I therefore seek your support in taking this to the Ombudsman and ask you to give me guidance on exactly how you can/will support me in this urgently.

Tim Sheppard, Council Complaints Manager, writes: 6 Nov

I've now had the opportunity to discuss the situation with colleagues and write with my response.

I believe we now have two separate but related issues. The first is your original complaint and the second is contained in the third paragraph of your email below.

On the first issue, I am now satisfied that the response I provided in my email of 22 October does indeed address the issues you raised. The essence of the matter involves the purpose of Council policies. As I see it, they act as a framework to help guide progress, they are not rigid and absolute prescriptions. There will be times when there is a tension between differing policies and tension between desired actions and the aspirations of a policy. It is then for the Council to consider these competing needs and take a balanced view. This is what I believe has taken place and what lies behind the actions taken by David Bishop.

It is however, important we have the opportunity to fully address the issue of the actions of David Bishop. To this end, I propose to investigate and make a separate response to you. I would hope to complete this exercise by the end of next week.

As we have discussed, you are free to contact the Ombudsman if you are unhappy with the progress of this matter.

Glenn Vowles writes: 3 Nov

Many thanks Tim, that's very clear and helpful. I look forward to the
reply in a few days (though see my comments below, which may impact on
how/whether you respond).

I must say that I do feel that the council has had a reasonable
opportunity to respond already. A lot of time has passed and several
people at all levels of seniority at the council have been involved to
some degree but still I dont have a fully satisfactory set of answers.

I think I have established that what the council is doing with green space
is not in accord with its policy on green space. It seems apparent, from
documents obtained within the last week or so by The Bristol Blogger using
freedom of information legislation, that David Bishop, the most senior
planning officer has ignored/overruled other depts and advice from other
officers and has made far reaching and speedy decisions on green space
disposal that go beyond council policies.

Given what I've said above my confidence that the council will/can address
the issues I have raised with objectivity is pretty low and getting lower
as more information is revealed. There may be several key people on the
council who are both involved in investigating my complaint and advising
you on what you should say to me who simultaneously have emerged as a key
part of my complaint because of the decisions they have taken - thus they
have a strong vested interest. I think ultimately the consequences
could/should seriously affect a highly paid career(s). In order for my
complaint to be investigated in an unbiased way and to be seen to be
investigated in this way it may be that Ombudsman involvment is essential
and indeed that you may prefer this. You may be able to reassure me about
the potential for bias however.

Tim Sheppard Council Complaints Manager writes: 3 Nov

I am not yet in a position to provide you with a comprehensive reply but
would hope to have something within the next couple of days.

The Local Government Ombudsman would expect a complainant to have
exhausted the Council's complaints procedure before they investigated the
matter. However, this is not as inflexible as it may sound and if a
complainant can show that the Council has had a reasonable opportunity to
respond or that the complainant has lost confidence in the Council to
investigate the matter in an unbiased way, they may agree to take the
complaint. What often happens in that case is that the Ombudsman will
contact the Council (me in the case of Bristol) and ask if we want a
further opportunity to settle the matter or are we happy to leave it to
the Ombudsman.

If I have had contact with the complainant and I am satisfied that
further investigation by the Council would be unproductive, I will agree
with them that they should now investigate. If however, we are on the
verge of settleing the matter, I will ask them to give us a little more

Hope this answers you question. I shall be in touch as soon as possible
with a response to your complaint.

Glenn Vowles, back from holiday, writes: 3 Nov

Can you tell me when I'm likely to get a response to my reply to you Tim?
I guess that having had a week to work on it officers from parks/planning
etc (?) must have reached conclusions?? What's the latest?

Any news on the proposed further consultations? Can you expand on your
point that 'if you believe that there would be little value in continuing to pursue this matter with the Council, then I would support your approach to the Ombudsman'.

I'm of the opinion that I probably will have to go to the Ombudsman but
it may depend on what is said in any reply I get. If I dont get anything
or only get something brief then I'll need to talk to you about the
Ombudsman (can you give me a ring today/tomorrow about this?).

Many thanks for your time and efforts on this issue to date.

Glenn Vowles writes: 24 Oct

Thanks for the attachment and opinion on complaint stage Tim.

I'm happy for you to take next week for looking at this thoroughly as the
implications could be broad. I'm away on holiday until 31 Oct and wont be
able to respond to anything you send me in any case. If there are urgent
issues I can be reached via [ mobile phone number…].

I've put in an objection to the 'cycle houses' plans which includes
comments that this complaint is unresolved and that thus there should be
an appropriate delay until its sorted out - I hope this is what happens.

Tim Sheppard, Council Complaints Manager writes: 23 Oct

My apologies for not including the attachment I referred to, which is now
included below.

It is sometimes unhelpful in the resolution of a complaint to dwell on
exactly what stage the complaint is at. Fair Comment is flexible and can
be shaped to to suit the circumstances of each complaint. however, for
clarity, I would judge this to be at stage 2.

I would be grateful if you would allow me the time to discuss the other
matters you have raised with Richard Mond and Peter Wilkinson, before I
respond to you. I would hope to get back to you by early next week.