Thursday, October 23, 2008

Developers drive policy on Bristol's green spaces

Developments relating to my complaint to Bristol City Council are keeping me very busy in between work and family at home today! Received this from Councillor Rosalie Walker, Cabinet Member for Culture and Healthy Communities (including parks and green spaces) shortly after sending in my reply to Bristol City Council's reaction to my complaint:

"Rosalie Walker" writes: I happen to agree with your concern re the P and G S Strategy. I am as keen as you are that green space is protected both inside the strategy and otherwise.I shall be making sure that my feelings are heard and that consultation is rigorous..Rosalie

My immediate reply to her was:

Many thanks for the prompt response Rosalie. Will you call for a delay in the planning processes dealing with the 'cycle house' development on/near the cycleway until an Area Green Space Plan is urgently put in place? Will you support modifications to part of the plan to move it away from the path and hedgerow at the eastern end??

I really do hope that she really is wearing her green hat and is fully onside. Will she say yes to my questions? Can she? Who/what is driving events in relation to green spaces, land sales and plans for developments? Seems to me that developers and their friends in parts of the council very much have the upper hand and that as long as these circumstances prevail parks/green spaces, local communities and democracy don't stand much of a chance. This explains why I was told in response to my complaint,

'it was always the case that there would be a small number of exceptions to this rule and that the Council would need to consider disposing of land where, for example, it might facilitate wider regeneration objectives to be achieved'

This is not menioned in the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy, which I've now double checked. I've fished around trying to find where there might be criteria written down for deciding on exceptions but have yet to find anything. Anyone who can find references and/or quotes to justify and explain this council assertion please contact me.

Bristol City Council policy on green spaces: flog any land whenever we see fit to do so

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Finally had a response from the council to my formal complaint that they are not following their own policy on green spaces (copied below, preceeded by my response to it). Bristol City Council's written policy, the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy, means little because the council feel they can ignore it and flog land whenever they see fit to do so!

Tim, [Corporate Complaints Manager, Bristol City Council]

Thank you for your email about my complaint. There is description of and apology about but no attempt at an explanation for the delay in dealing with my complaint. There has been no explanation of why the communications I did have with the council were not in accord with council policy on handling complaints either. Perhaps you could address these issues.

Your latest email does not a provide a satisfactory resolution of all the issues I have raised. It lacks explanation throughout. As a result I cannot see how the 'cycle houses' planning application (ref 08/03862/F) can be fully and fairly processed at this stage. My view is that this complaint should be resolved first and I urgently seek your advice on this matter in particular.

I'm grateful for the confirmation that the green space in question is covered by the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy, as Richard Mond has previously stated. Area Green Space Plans do much more than you describe though and the strategy describes how they play a crucial role in defining the various land types, values and qualities in an area through the combined efforts of both council and local people via a consultation process. The strategy recognises that establishing the value of green space has social as well as scientific dimensions. Given that many Bristol to Bath Railway Path users and local residents feel strongly about their green space it is particularly important that an Area Green Space Plan is established before any land selling or processing of planning applications.

I very strongly object to the notion that

'it was always the case that there would be a small number of exceptions to this rule and that the Council would need to consider disposing of land where, for example, it might facilitate wider regeneration objectives to be achieved'

Where in the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy, which has been in place since February of this year, is this notion described? Where in the strategy are the criteria for deciding on exceptions outlined? Can you please provide references and/or quotes to justify and explain this assertion because it is a crucial matter.

You seem to be saying that there is some policy over and above the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy and that some Bristol green spaces are both covered by it and its processes but simultaneously can be dealt with outside its provsions! This is inconsistent, incoherent and unfair - how are people supposed to know which decision making processes apply to which green spaces? Is there in fact the openly stated and in fact lauded green spaces policy (which has been in place for ten months now) and another policy that allows the council to make decisions that go against it on an ad hoc basis? The council needs to address this matter urgently so that all green spaces are dealt with according to a clear, consistent, fair and open policy. Decisions on land disposal and planning applications wont be consistently handled until they do and the public could potentially be misled until they do.

I am somewhat confused as to what exactly this paragraph means:

'Due to public concern, council officers have now been asked by Cllr Mark Bradshaw to undertake a consultation with key stakeholders, including the Bristol Parks Forum, over the proposed disposal of this land and details of the consultation will be communicated to you amongst other concerned people, in due course.'

I welcome further consultation of course but would want this to be fully inclusive and broad-based in nature. I await the details you mention with interest of course and call for a delay in any planning processes to enable adequate time to be made available. What issues will this consultation deal with? Would it not make more sense to urgently bring forward the process for establishing an Area Green Space Plan for the relevant land - after all that is council policy and the procedure is already clearly laid out for all to see whereas its not clear what this consultation is!

I'm grateful for what you say about Cllr Walker and welcome any contact Richard Mond and you have had with her. Its well worth noting that in both letters and telephone conversations with her she has never described council policy on green spaces in the way you have. She has lauded the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy, saying in fact that it covered concerns I expressed via a petition to the council. It appears however that the strategy is not being uniformly applied to all the green spaces covered by it, though it should, and thus my concerns are not addressed even on Cllr Walkers terms let alone mine.

More than month has passed since my complaint but there is still a lack of clarity surrounding council green spaces policy(ies)!

On the issue of no environmental impact assessment (EIA) being conducted you describe what I already know and offer no explanation as to why it was deemed unnecessary. The attachment you refer to in your email is not in fact attached (!) which is not helpful. A layman's explanation would in any case be much appreciated. I described why I felt an EIA was appropriate (the green space is a significant one - as described by the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy - and the EU Directive was supposed to be interpreted and applied broadly, to favour environmental protection) and request that you spell out why it is not.

You are far from clear in stating what stage of the complaints procedure you feel my complaint is at. Saying 'I dont know that I could agree that we are at stage 3...' is most unhelpful and I cant understand why you dont just give me the benefit of your experience and expertise here! What stage in your view is my complaint at, given the considerable delay, lack of clarity (even now) and the personal efforts I have had to make to force a decent response from the council? My complaint was first submitted on the 18 Sept, was passed around various council officers, was not handled according to established procedures, eventually reached both you and then the Chief Executive of the council and then you missed the 21 Oct deadline you said you would give me a response by (I emailed Chief Executive Jan Ormondroyd about this at 9.38am this morning and received your response at 10.55am !). Seems to me that I have made a complaint, then a complaint about how it was handled and then had to make a further complaint on top of that, before receiving a response that lacks explanations all the way through on the last day available to me to submit the online form about planning application 08/03862/F! Its all highly unsatisfactory and is very poor administration which has effectively reduced and made much harder my ability to participate in decisions made about my city.

I await a further response from either yourself and/or other council officers and will certainly keep open the option of approaching the Ombudsman.

Yours sincerely
Glenn Vowles
Tim Sheppard, Bristol City Council Corporate Complaints Manager writes:

Dear Mr Vowles

Let me start by apologising for the long delay in providing a formal response to your complaint, and in particular that I was unable to get you a response last week, as I had hoped.
I note that you have had an exchange of emails with Richard Mond and that he has sought to respond to your enquiries. However, I recognise that these emails did not constitute a formal response. I hope this email remedies that situation.

Taking your numbered item 1 first, we acknowledge that the Bristol Bath Railway Path is recognised as accessible green space within the adopted Parks and Green Space Strategy, and that the strategy sets out a programme to produce 14 Area Green Space Plans to inform decisions over green space property disposals.

However, it was always the case that there would be a small number of exceptions to this rule and that the Council would need to consider disposing of land where, for example, it might facilitate wider regeneration objectives to be achieved. This is the case with the railway path land adjacent to the Chocolate Factory development.

Due to public concern, council officers have now been asked by Cllr Mark Bradshaw to undertake a consultation with key stakeholders, including the Bristol Parks Forum, over the proposed disposal of this land and details of the consultation will be communicated to you amongst other concerned people, in due course.

On the issue of a lack of response from Cllr Walker, I note that Richard Mond has contacted her and as a result of this response, I shall also raise the matter with her. However, I must point out that council staff cannot compel councillors to respond to enquiries from the public.
In item 2 you point out that the area in question has not been subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). However, an EIA is not needed for this development. Instead, planning officers issued the 'screening opinion' dated 30th May 2008 under Regulation 5 of the Town & Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England & Wales) Regulations 999. A copy is attached for your information.

In your email to the Chief Executive today, you suggest that this matter is now at stage three of the complaints procedure and you would wish to go on to the Ombudsman if you remain dissatisfied. I don't know that I could agree that we are at stage three but 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.

Tim Sheppard
Corporate Complaints Manager
922 2233

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Objection to 'cycle house' plans

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Submitted this objection to the so-called 'cycle house' plans on/near the Bristol to Bath Railway Path (or Land At Former Elizabeth Shaw Factory, Easton as the city council website puts it) today. I'm opposed to the development as it is currently planned and feel that to be given the go-ahead modifications should be required:
As a user of the Bristol to Bath Railway Path I am very concerned about several aspects of the proposed development, primarily in the eastern portion, and fear that developing land very close to and onto the path sets a precedent for future development. I am also concerned about the processes gone through by the council and am currently still going through the official complaints procedure (my complaint that the council is not following its own policy on Parks and Green Spaces is unresolved, has gone through several stages and has reached the Head of Corporate Complaints and council Chief Executive). I describe my concerns below and call for the planning authority to delay any planning permission until all the proper processes have been completed and that then any plans submitted are scaled back in places and changed to avoid the impacts I describe.

Council policy on green spaces states that through consultation Area Green Plans will be established to deal with land quality assessment, change of land use or disposal of land. There is not yet a plan to cover the land concerned, though the process of shaping such plans has already been started in parts of the city. It would be following the councils own policy to delay and agree an Area Green Space Plan before granting any planning permission or selling any land in this highly valued location.

No Environmental Impact Assessment of the plans has been conducted. The EU Directive relating to this is supposed to be interpreted and applied broadly and I believe an EIA (and thus a delay) is required given that the council describes the linear park along Bristol to Bath Railway Path as a significant green space in its Parks and Green Spaces Strategy. It would thus be following the councils own policy to conduct an EIA

The Bristol to Bath Railway Path currently offers significant, high quality services to its users, who are very large in number and are varied in type. The service to eg leisure, recreation and transport it offers is particularly valuable because of the beauty, tranquility and wildlife value of the area. The great pleasure, enrichment and education people gain from the path will be significantly reduced in places if current plans are not scaled back and changed, in particular: where embankment slope and mature hedgerow will be entirely lost. Plans should thus be scaled back and modified to avoid large amenity loss and reduction in ecological value.

The proposed construction of a 7 floor twin-tower block, a 4 floor block of flats and 14 houses in place of the hedgerow immediately alongside the verge of the Railway Path very significantly changes the green and pleasant landscape and character of the location, making it noisier, harder on the eye and most unlike many other parts of the path/linear park. These features of the development should be moved further away from the Railway Path.

The mature hedgerow referred to above is very biodiverse and any proposed compensation for loss of habitat and wildlife is very likely to result in net biodiversity loss for some considerable time. The row of Hawthorn trees, a key feature, are of high heritage as well as wildlife value (especially to insect and bird life). Badgers and slow worms have been seen in this area and both are protected species whose welfare needs to be assured. Scaling back and changing the plans would avoid damaging wildlife.

Finally I am concerned that any development right onto the Bristol to Bath Railway Path is likely to increase the accident rate as cyclists, skateboarders and others approach what would become a more populated spot with consequent dangerous multiple junctions. Scaling back and modifying the plans would reduce this likelihood.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No plans to build houses over football pitches on the Downs so why here in Knowle??

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Bristol City Council really do have their eyes on flogging off green spaces in Knowle/Filwood - first Filwood Park was sold with most locals not informed and now the playing fields off Newquay Rd could go if they are sold as part of the Ilminster School site due the the primary school review (which I've banged on about as a very bad idea since the first public mention I saw of it in Feb this yr).

Its vital for kids health, wellbeing and development that they get plenty of fresh air and exercise yet the fields off Newquay Rd in Knowle may be sold off for housing development (details reported here, headline pictured left). The football that's been organised there by former Bristol City footballer Colston Gwyther for large numbers of kids is fantastic - it deserves wholehearted support from the council in place of the threat to the fields they are playing on. I dont see any plans to build over football pitches on the Downs so why here in Knowle??

Filwood's Councillor Chris Jackson does not seem to be up to speed on green spaces issues. In today's local paper he says this in the story about green spaces and the setting up of a local housing company,
"There's no question of selling off all the council-owned green space for housing. So far as I know, what has already been sold off is the full extent of what might happen."
Just sounds vague and not clued -up to me. Has he not seen the figures for all the thousands of houses that are to be built within Bristol's boundaries? Has he not heard that the council has already sold green spaces for housing in other parts of Bristol and that it has agreed the principle of selling off 2.4% (90 acres) of publicly owned green space (see details of green spaces petition I submitted to the council here)??

Local people will have to stay vigilant and involved if they want to protect their parks, green spaces and sports fields because they most certainly are potential building land! Its great to see that locals are ahead of the game and have put in statements and a paper petition with 200 signatures to the full council meeting of 14 Oct opposing the sale of Newquay Rd fields (there were also many statements about Filwood Park).

Anita Pearce from Eagle House Community Association said,
I represent the management committee of Eagle House Community Association.
The Council report and the Cabinet report recommend the amalgamation of
Ilminster School and Connaught School with both existing schools to be
demolished and one new school built. The report states that a new school will
cost £6m and asked the government for £4m. The Council is expecting to sell
the Ilminster School site for at least £2M. The report states that the size of the
school site is 26,344 sq metres.
This figure is wrong as it includes the land that is used by the community and
accessed from Newquay Road.
It is fully accessible at all times and includes a children’s play area. It has
already become established as public open space and therefore comes under
the Parks and Open Spaces strategy. It should not be included in your report as
a school site.

We ask you to remove this open space from the report and exclude it from the
calculations of the school site. We estimate that the open space is nearly a
hectare in size and so your figures should be reduced to 16,344 sq metres.
The community have been commended for its work with the local children by
organising junior football matches and training. These activities have had a
positive impact on reducing anti social behaviour and one of our local Councillors has recommended that more funds are made available to continue this work here and elsewhere.
Children and young people need activities to occupy them out of school and this
open space is invaluable. Please amend your report today before it goes to the
Government and agree that this land will be correctly allocated as open space for the future.

Ten yr old footballer Kevin Pearce read this out loud to the full council, gaining a round of applause,

Dear Council,

I am writing on behalf of all the children who use Newquay Rd Playing Field.
We do not want the council to sell it.

We use it every day to play football and other games.
We have started football training and have over 100 children under 12 registered.

We have had fun days to fundraise for our equipment new goal posts and nets
and bought new kits to play in. South West Roofing donated waterproof jackets
to us and Wates Living Space donated £300 and helped us prepare the pitch for
the match.

We have had a friendly tournament against Brislington and played the Salvation Army team on Saturday (we won both times!) We are on the front cover of the Knowledge newsletter.

We have had a couple of clean-up days and everyone came to help us cut all the
brambles and stinging nettles and then had a BBQ for everyone.

There is nothing else around here for us to do. We are not old enough to go in
the Youth Club so we play in the field.

We don’t want to hang around the streets getting into trouble and drugs like
some of the bigger kids.
So PLEASE let us keep our playing field.

Ps Can you improve the play equipment in Newquay Rd Park please.

Former Bristol City footballer and local resident Colston Gwyther, pictured left in the local paper football training with Knowle kids said,

I live near the School and I am shocked to hear that you intend to knock down
Ilminster School and sell the land for housing and also at the same time sell
off our open space on Newquay Road. Children have been using this open
space for years and we have many junior teams playing football on the space.
Residents consider this to be public open space. The community have been
involved in the maintenance of this area and we have fundraised to get goal
posts fitted for junior football and we have had Neighbourhood Renewal
money to cut back the hedges and make the place more accessible for
people. The open space is fully accessible at all times.

We object to the sale of the Newquay Road Open space because we have
very little usable green space and a lot of children in the area. Instead of
selling our open space for housing you should invest more in the open space
so that the play equipment is better and make it more like a park.
This community have never considered the land off Newquay Road to be part

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wildlife reserve for Aston Vale!! Sign the petition!

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Many thanks to Trisha and Co for updating myself and other greens about what happened in Ashton Vale (see post below) without the proper permissions and what some of the campaign ideas are. The positive aspect was seeing the great photographic, video and written records of the area that have been put together and how the community has come together with a real spirit and great ideas well worth supporting (you can sign the e-petition calling for a wildlife reserve for Ashton Vale here and locals are in the process of setting up a campaign website here). It was really very depressing to see the damaged land up close though. The ripping up of hundreds of metres of hedgerow here was an act of wanton vandalism and I hope that Bristol City Council prosecutes those responsible (though I'm not holding my breath!). The establishment of a nature reserve in the area would help to make up for the damage caused as well as providing a small green barrier between existing homes and what is likely to be an area where a lot of development will happen. Will the landowner, Bristol City Chairman Steve Lansdown, help to establish a protected habitat for wildlife like robins given that his ''s nickname is "The Robins", and a robin featured on the club's badge from 1976 to 1994' (wiki). Is this too much to ask for?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ashton Vale visit

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Going to visit the site of this wanton vandalism of green space in Ashton Vale, South Bristol this weekend with a few green friends, to talk to residents. Great damage already done of course, but lets see what the latest information is and if we can help in some way.

Story in the Bristol Evening Post here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Now is the time to invest, invest, invest in going green!!

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The poorest people in the world are suffering most from climate change and will be the worst affected by climate change to come. The map starkly illustrates this. They need richer countries, who have produced the climate problem in the process of becoming rich, to act seriously and urgently. Higher temperatures mean many of the world's poorest areas face: less water availability; lower crop yields; degraded resources such as woods/forests, biodiversity available; higher disease incidence; weather extremes from prolonged drought to sudden extreme flooding, extreme temperatures to violent storms (see this report on scientific evidence from the IPCC for instance).

That moves have been made to dilute and undermine valuable work on tackling climate change done by the EU is thus very worrying and shortsighted (details here). Governments across Europe, not least our own, are using the current financial crisis to excuse tough action on climate - they are willing to spend billions bailing out banks but action to benefit the world's poorest is not a priority. The potential impacts of the climate crisis are enormous for all of us and you'd think that the effects of not planning, regulating, and investing for both the short, the medium and long term are clearly illustrated by the financial crisis! Action to genuinely tackle climate is just not an option - clearly our society and within it our economy (and within that our financial system) exist within and are dependent on our environment.

Investment needed to build secure, stable, climate-friendly green economies around the globe is just the kind of investment that would help tackle recession too. Hundreds of thousands of jobs could result in Europe alone from the right kind of policies on just energy efficiency and wind power, also excellent for cutting carbon and tackling climate change. This could be repeated around the globe, building green infrastructure in countries both rich and poor. Scope for growth from green investments is very high!

Details on the Green New Deal.
Some background on Roosevelt's New Deal of the 1930s.

Update: interesting to see that Jonathon Porritt, Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission has made basically the same point as this post on his blog.

This post is part of Blog Action Day 08 - Poverty

Complaint about complaint!

1 comment:
Sent the email below to Bristol City Council today, marked for the urgent attention of Jan Ormondroyd, Chief Executive, Bristol City Council. There appears to be disarray in the handling of my complaint and so I've complained about it!
Please see below details of a complaint I made to the council via the online form available. This was submitted on 18 Sept. I was promised a full and formal response within 15 working days and have not received it. The time period elapsed some time ago and I have followed up on this through both a reminder email, a statement submitted to a full council meeting (14 Oct) and through phoning the complaints dept today and yesterday.

All I have had is a brief indication in a few emails who would be dealing with my points (the last information I have is that Richard Mond would be dealing with it, though it was previously with another person) with some brief discussion on issues. I recently sent a reminder email to Mr Mond asking for the latest on the progress of my complaint but received no response to this. Complaints are very unhappy that the proper procedures have not been followed by those officers dealing with my complaint and I had a conversation early this afternoon with Tim Sheppard from Complaints who is now contacting Richard Mond on my behalf to speed the process up from here. I 've not been contacted this afternoon by Mr Mond.

I'm very concerned about time slipping by however (my complaint has a strong bearing on a planning application that I want to comment on and object to and the time within which I can do this is running out) and thought I would email you too. Mr Mond did not give me information on the stage my complaint had reached, thus this email, which I think means my complaint is at stage 3 (?). I've been advised by my local councillor to contact the local govt ombudsman on the substance of my complaint and the process by which it has (or rather has not) been handled - I'm in the process of looking into doing this now and this message is copied to the local govt ombudsman.

I look forward to your response with interest.

Bristol City Council Complaint

I have two complaints about what appear to be procedural errors on the
part of the council in relation to land on the Bristol to Bath Railway
Path (where the development of the former chocolate factory is now

1. I am very concerned that the council's own procedures on green spaces
disposal or change of use has not and is not being applied to the green
corridor that is the Bristol to Path Railway Path.

The Parks and Green Spaces Strategy mentions the Bristol to Bath Railway
Path as an example of a significant and important green space. Yet it
seems that a strip of land which is council owned has either been sold-off
or is the subject of an in-principle agreement to sell before an Area
Green Space Plan covering the area has been drawn up and consulted upon.

This procedure is clearly outlined in the strategy and so I cant
understand why it has not been followed.

I'm also very concerned that a week ago I emailed Cabinet Member Cllr
Rosalie Walker for clarification of the status/designation of the land and
have not even received an acknowledgement, yet alone a prompt reply.

2. I am also very concerned that the plans for development on the strip of
land at Greenbank that I refer to above have not been subject to an
Environmental Impact Assessment as described by an EU Directive, even
though the directive is supposed to be interpreted and applied broadly in
order to make environmental protection effective.

Ensure that procedures outlined in the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy are
followed and applied to all green land along the Bristol to Bath Railway

Draw up an Area Green Space Plan, after public consulation, covering the
Bristol to Bath Railway Path green spaces, before any land is actually
sold and review urgently any in-principle agreement to sell council-owned
land on the path.

Inform me of the status/designation of the land in question, explaining,
if required, the reasons why the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy does not
cover the green spaces along the Bristol to Bath Railway Path.

Explain why an email to a cabinet member has not even been acknowledged, a
week after it was sent.

Urgently review whether the EU Environmental Impact Assessment procedure
should be applied to developments on/near the Bristol to Bath Railway
Path, interpreting the directive and its use as was intended by its
authors ie broadly.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tuppence prudently, fruitfully, frugally invested in the

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This clip from Mary Poppins seems strangely relevant to today's financial chaos (with Bristol City Council having £8 million in failed Icelandic banks for instance). Michael causes a run on the bank and so obviously was not convinced that his tuppence would be prudently, fruitfully, frugally invested in! Who can blame him! Try to read about green thinking on economics.

Vogons on Bristol City Council sell off Filwood Park

The sell-off of Filwood Park by the council is an apalling act ('They sold our park and didn't tell us', Bristol Evening Post front page, Oct 10). Its only fair that the council should stick by its own policy on green spaces. This is to draw up Area Green Space Plans through local consultation before doing anything with land. Such plans would determine issues of land quality and value, uses and any possible disposal/development.

I currently have an official complaint in to the council because they have an in-principle agreement to sell green space on the Bristol to Bath Railway Path to the so-called ‘cycle-houses’ developers without an Area Green Space Plan agreed beforehand. They seem to have a habit of doing this, having sold off Filwood Park! Are there other examples like this? As I write this I still have no formal reply from the council and the 15 working days I was told it would take are up!

The council said the sell-off of Filwood park was 'well advertised, with notices on lampposts...classified ads and public meetings'. This reminds me of the opening scenes of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, where Arthur Dent finds out that his house is to be demolished for a by-pass the day before the bulldozers turn up - the dialogue with Prosser (in charge of the bulldozing) then goes:

Mr Prosser said: "You were quite entitled to make any suggestions or protests at the appropriate time you know."
"Appropriate time?" hooted Arthur. "Appropriate time? The first I knew about it was when a workman arrived at my home yesterday. I asked him if he'd come to clean the windows and he said no he'd come to demolish the house. He didn't tell me straight away of course. Oh no. First he wiped a couple of windows and charged me a fiver. Then he told me."
"But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine month."
"Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anybody or anything."
"But the plans were on display ..."
"On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."
"That's the display department."
"With a torch."
"Ah, well the lights had probably gone."
"So had the stairs."
"But look, you found the notice didn't you?"
"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard."
A cloud passed overhead. It cast a shadow over Arthur Dent as he lay propped up on his elbow in the cold mud. It cast a shadow over Arthur Dent's house. Mr Prosser frowned at it.
"It's not as if it's a particularly nice house," he said.
"I'm sorry, but I happen to like it."
"You'll like the bypass."
"Oh shut up," said Arthur Dent. "Shut up and go away, and take your bloody bypass with you. You haven't got a leg to stand on and you know it."
(see the clip on YouTube).

Rather than behave like the Vogons in the Hitchhikers Guide, building over green space after so-called consultation and information of a very poor standard...

"People of Earth, your attention please," a voice said, and it was wonderful. Wonderful perfect quadrophonic sound with distortion levels so low as to make a brave man weep."This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council," the voice continued. "As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system, and regrettably your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly less that two of your Earth minutes. Thank you." (see clip on YouTube)

...the council need to ensure people are getting the benefits of parks. In an urban area open, green spaces are vital to the quality of our lives, offering relief from the all too common congestion and other negative effects of development. There are self-evident leisure, recreational, entertainment, sporting and health benefits in open, green spaces. They are a way of connecting with and appreciating the natural world vital to wellbeing and to encouraging respect for nature. We sorely need this respect in order to build the green attitudes needed to fight extremely serious environmental (and thus security) threats.

Parks and green spaces provide key ecological and environmental function benefits. There is storm water drainage and thus flood protection, as the land soaks up, temporarily stores and then gradually releases rain. Green spaces take carbon dioxide from the air and thus help fight climate change (losing open space is thus as good as adding carbon to the air!). There is the provision of wildlife habitat and food supply, which aids biodiversity. Worth protecting and enhancing isn’t it!!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Petition supporting ultra light rail

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Ultra light rail is a smart, highly efficient technology - please sign this petition in support of its use in Bristol:

The petitioners request that Bristol City Council supports an ultra light tram Rapid Transit system. We oppose the current bus Rapid Transit proposal, the South Bristol Ring Road and the urban extensions, which they both are designed to serve.

Dont panic/We're doomed (?)

No comments:
Who is now looking over the horizon to see what's coming next and preparing appropriately for it? I've read an awful lot about the urgent action taken to protect banking because of the credit crunch but these are uncertain economic times because of high fuel and food prices, climate change impacts and massive rates of increase in resource consumption in fast growing economies. No better time than now to produce plans to put our economy (and the world economy) on a genuinely secure, stable and sustainable footing. Where is this planning ahead?? Isn't the lack of planning ahead for security, stability and sustainability part of the reason for the current economic chaos?

The BBC reports that, 'The government has announced a £50bn ($88bn) package to prop up eight of the largest banks and building societies. In return, the government would receive shares in those institutions.

A further £200bn would be made available by the Bank of England to provide the banking system with much-needed liquidity.

A special company will also be set up to provide up to £250bn in loan guarantees to banks and building societies.

The announcement came after UK banking shares plunged on 7 October and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) warned that Britain was already in a recession which could see unemployment rise by 350,000 by next year.

Will economic rescue packages like this (and the one in the US) work? It's basically a case of 'dont panic' and wait and see according to what I've heard. Its far from planning ahead and putting the economy on a sustainable footing eg by massively boosting energy and food security!

The BBC also reported this recently, 'The UK should cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050, according to a panel set up by the government to advise on climate change.

It says that the target should cover all sectors of the economy, including emissions from planes and ships.'

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

These boots are made for walking

1 comment:

I've been playing around with the what this website,, can provide. For example when I walk 1.4 miles to the Open University regional office in Portwall Lane (BS1 6ND) from home (BS4 2HX) to deliver a tutorial for work the website shows that I've avoided emitting 0.45kg of carbon dioxide car pollution (or 0.2 kg of bus pollution) - click picture to see all figures. Take a look and see how much carbon you could save or are saving by walking (the site is also useful for route planning, journey times, calories burnt!!).
The site's about section says: We think walking in and around town can often be a smart choice. No timetables to keep to, no journey delays, no overcrowding, healthy, green, free, direct, access to services (and sunlight!) en route.

We don’t in any way pretend that you can substitute walking for all the urban car/bus/taxi/tube trips you make. We do, however, want to at least help you make more informed decisions about whether you choose to walk for all, or part, of any given journey.

Light rail efficiency advantage

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Great to see some pressure for trams/light rail in Bristol (see here). Some of the ensuing online debate mentioned only the disadvantages of trams/light rail but all technologies have both pros and cons to be weighed up. Trams and light rail have some significant factors in their favour and should be deployed where they are viable - they are up to twice as energy efficient as buses and therefore use much less fuel and produce much less carbon pollution. This could prove to be a major cost advantage in times of high fuel prices. The key is to use this technology in the best locations, after full and proper assessment - I dont think this has this has been done in Bristol.

Monday, October 06, 2008

When to dig and when not to dig

On what basis does the Bristol Evening Post say today, in a full page report 'People in Brislington have welcomed the idea of a ring road..'? The report only quotes a few people, so how many are we talking about? A majority? Has there been a survey/poll? Could I not say with equal validity that people in Brislington have spoken out against the ring road, with the increased environmental footprint and split communities it will bring?? This is a major local issue that has stirred up very strong feelings amongst local people and it deserves to be reported on factually and to a good standard.

As for the ring road issue itself - we are in an unsustainability hole and need to stop digging! How many city's are there in the UK with complete ring roads that have massive congestion and pollution problems? All of them!

Where have people been if they still think more roads will solve congestion and pollution...? Since the best scientific evidence says our current transport habits are unsustainable any council or govt that continues the habits of the past are irresponsibly taking us further into a hole not out of it!

I agree with Mike Landen, chairman of the Alliance against the South Bristol Ring Road, when he said:

"A dual carriageway will impede people's access to amenities and open spaces and will have a disproportionate impact on the young, the elderly and those without access to private motor vehicles."

"It will create a physical barrier between where children live and where they go to school."

We need a different pattern of development to meet economic and social needs, community-owned public transport, better bus and train information, lower fares, a strategic transport authority, prepaid 'smart' multimodal ticketting, and a serious transport hub at Temple Meads - this is the sort of action that will tackle congestion not more roads.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

EfficienCity: multimedia-packed interactive virtual city

1 comment:
I recommend a visit to EfficienCity on the Greenpeace website. There you will find the most innovative ways to create an efficient, clean and climate-friendly town being implemented in the UK brought together and represented virtually. People in EfficienCity enjoy secure energy supplies, cheaper bills, and cleaner air. No need for coal and nuclear power when you can have a green future with efficiency and decentralised energy. This is the smart, up to date approach to heating and lighting!

Decentralised energy is the opposite of our present, massively wasteful energy system which was designed when we hadn't even heard of climate change and features 80% waste, mostly into the air, by the time energy reaches homes from large, remote power stations. It’s smart to think that we should generate electricity, and capture the 'waste' heat at the same time! Combined Heat and Power (CHP) schemes in EfficienCity, do this.

CHP is efficient (up to 95% in Denmark), decentralised, usually sited in the towns and cities right where the electricity and heat will be used. Efficiencies of CHP plus efficiencies in the home through insulation and higher minimum efficiency standards for appliances eliminates profligate waste.

CHP runs on several fuel types including fossil fuels like natural gas and greener fuels like biomass from expanded forestry and biogas from farm waste/food waste. Build a CHP plant to burn one fuel and switch to greener fuels as and when available - great for the transition to sustainability!

EfficienCity’s local renewable energy sources (wind, sunlight, tides, waves, rivers, underground springs, the earth itself..) are abundant. Innovative technologies are fast developing. Government estimates that UK wind, wave and tidal resources could meet 40 per cent of our energy needs by 2020. It needs a proper energy strategy, investment on the right scale and political leadership to make it happen everywhere.

Decentralised energy is completely scalable and flexible, from a tiny CHP plant in a supermarket or an enormous industrial plant like Immingham, a single wind turbine like the one at Manchester City's stadium or a massive wind farm like the forthcoming London Array. Systems can be installed much faster than huge power plants and tailored to fit local needs. EfficienCity's local, diverse energy sources don’t rely on imports. Hundreds of small energy generators instead of a few major ones means far lower risk of a large system failure. Decentralised energy approaches are very cost-effective – govt figures say efficiency measures alone can save consumers £12 billion a year, paying for themselves.

Energy from decentralised systems can currently be more expensive per kilowatt hour than eg coal but because only 37 per cent of the average British electricity bill is for the electricity (the rest goes to propping up the wasteful infrastructure) the total cost can be less.

Non-dependence on the fossil fuel market, means being protected from massive price increases of gas and oil that we’ve seen of late (plus any future price rises, lack of availability). With climate change already happening best science says we need to avoid fossil fuels.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Mandelson, Myners, more of the same madness...

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When needing to get out of a hole stop digging! Peter Mandelson is one of the key architects of the last eleven years of New Labour Government along with Blair and Brown. Look at where their shaping of the UK economy and their contribution to the global economy has brought us! Mandelson is an expert in how to dig holes like the one we are in! He's not the man to turn to to help get us out and has not been elected by anyone for some time (its not yet been made clear how he will be made accountable).

Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas MEP put Mandelson's return to Government this way,

"If there was ever a time to put the high priest of corporate globalisation in charge of regulating our wayward economy, this isn't it. You might as well get Al Capone to run a young offenders institution.'

"As EU trade commissioner, Mandelson has bullied his way through countless developing countries, demanding the sell-off of public services and trade rules for corporate convenience instead of public protection. Is that really what we want for the UK economy too?"

Its a similar 'hole digging' as opposed to getting us out of a hole story for Paul Myners. He has never been elected and according to the Bristol Blogger was 'a director of GLG a £25bn hedge fund responsible for the kind of short selling that the Labour government is now blaming...for their financial crisis.' In spite of this Myners 'was appointed Minister for the City of the Goverment of the United Kingdom in October 2008, when it was announced he would be elevated to the peerage. He was chairman of the Guardian Media Group, publisher of The Guardian and The Observer newspapers, and chairman of Land Securities Group. He is a former Chairman of Marks & Spencer and Deputy Chair of PowerGen. He holds a number of third sector posts, including Chair of the Trustees of the Tate gallery and Chair of the The Low Pay Commission.' (wiki).

War on Want's view, World Development Movement's view on Mandelson.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Wellbeing not growth, sustainable transport not a south Bristol ring road

1 comment:
Today's Bristol Evening Post reports that 'Plans to complete Bristol's ring road with a link across South Bristol will be put before the public next month.
A scheme is being put together to create a quicker transport link between the A370, the A38 and the existing A4174 ring road across the southern half of the city.'

We need to think and plan differently, with our health and wellbeing uppermost, instead of growth of this kind. Where does reducing our carbon emissions and our ecological footprint come in to these plans?? The very best available scientific evidence says that 'business as usual' plans for more roads, masses of houses, expanding air travel and loss of green space cannot be sustained.
More on the rong road issue:

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Kerry McCarthy MP backs 'cycle house' plans (and fails to consider changes to parts of them).

Letter to my MP, sent today.


Please see below a copy of what I've just posted on your blog about the cycle houses development. I'm concerned that this issue is fully and formally taken up by you and that you accurately appreciate my position. Note that I have previously emailed you on this issue.
Kerry, you have been mislead by developers, in this post are positively campaigning for the development as it is currently planned and give no thought to any changes people are proposing, whether small or large, either in the whole development or some small part of it. This is close-minded and unwise and its extremely disappointing to know that you do not take a proactive interest this green space in your constituency eg by playing your part in seeing that the proper procedures are gone through. You state,

'I'm told that none of the people who have been opposing the cycle houses on blogs - Chris, Glenn, Adam, Blogger (and yes, we do know who you are) - have been in touch with the developers directly'

This is total rubbish! I'm going to be the third person to say here that I have contacted them directly. I blogged about emailing them and had a letter in the Bristol Evening Post to say I had too! Like the Bristol Blogger I've had zero response and so they do not appear to be open to considering the changes I think are needed in one small part of the development (note one small part). I've also emailed you about this issue and have no response other than from the auto-reply system. I still have no reply from Bristol's Cabinet (Cllr Rosalie Walker) and still wait a council response to a formal complaint I put in about the procedures they have (or rather have not) followed.

It is inaccurate to describe me as an opponent of the cycle house development - I have not been opposing the development as a whole, though it should be preceeded by the formulation of an Area Green Space Plan as is council policy. What I have in fact been doing is calling for, (repeatedly on my blog and previously on your blog Kerry) the scaling back of and change in the plans in one area, the east, in order to avoid the worst damage to wildlife and green area character. I guess it would be in the interests of the developers and perhaps you Kerry to misrepresent the case of opponents on political grounds.

After a heated exchange on one of your previous posts(Back to work) you'll recall making this statement about me

'to be frank I'm fed up with the manner in which you 'demand' answers'

because you felt I should wait until after your site visit. What I said to spark this extraordinary reaction from you was this,

'The Bristol Blogger is right that the greenery along the Bristol to Bath Railway Path is described in the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy as why no Area Green Space Plan and why no Environmental Impact Assessment..'.

I note that after your site visit you still dont address the specific points I raised. It is backwards to sell off and plan to build over publicly owned green space without an Area Green Space plan (council policy) first being drawn up is it not?? The relevant EU Directive states that the Environmental Impact Assessment process should be interpreted and applied broadly and yet no EIA has been deemed necessary for these plans - why?? There are wide implications here for how the city deals with green spaces issues and you should be looking into the matter further. I'll email you a copy of this comment because I want to ensure your full and formal response as my MP.

I look forward to your reply.
Yours sincerely
Glenn Vowles