Sunday, September 21, 2008

Scrutinising plans and proposing changes...local democracy, not a problem!!

Councillor Abdul Malik does not seem to want much public debate about selling, then building on publicly owned green space, rich in wildlife, on the Bristol to Bath Railway Path ('Call for unity over factory development', Bristol Evening Post, Sept 20). He does not want light shone on the issue I guess (?). Very unquestioning as far as the development is concerned. He contradicted himself by saying he did not want ‘arguments to threaten the future of the site’ (employing a fear tactic..) but later said that he had ‘concerns about over-development’! Scrutiny of plans and seeking after any necessary changes is an essential part of the local democratic process! Does he just want people to accept proposals?

Over 200 local people have signed a petition on this issue and so concern is certainly significant (and growing as people find out the facts). Also, given that the Bristol to Bath Railway Path is used by large numbers of people from all across Bristol and from outside it, there are a wide range of stakeholders interested in the green nature of the path and its protection. There is a much bigger issue here of the procedures that should be used to decide on land selling and change of use, given that the council has plans to flog off more of Bristol's green spaces year on year!

Public investigation and debate, which Councillor Abdul Malik seems surprisingly reluctant to have, and which has been lead by bloggers (see here too), has shed a lot of light on this issue which we would not otherwise have had. Its been vital in revealing how intensive the development is and how the process has lacked openness. The plans need to be scaled back and changed to avoid the worst impacts, which have been a big concern to the council's own Nature Conservation Officer. I’ve written direct to the George Ferguson, Chairman of the architects involved about this and copied the message to the council and developers but so far have no reply nor even an acknowledgement.

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