Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Rosy outlook for Bristol green spaces??

1 comment:
Bristol City Council Cabinet letter of response to my green spaces petition is below. I should first point out a number of things in response to the letter (bit of a rant coming I'm afraid as I found the letter patronising and infuriating, as scrolling down and scanning through it will quickly demonstrate to you!!).

I've made no statements at all that indicate that I recognise the importance of the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy, except in the negative sense that it legitimises flogging land, though you could be forgiven for thinking I had looking at the letter's beginning. I have read all the relevant documents and understand them at least as well as, if not better than, Cllr Rosalie Walker. Its always a useful argument tactic to just tell your opponent they simply dont understand or are not aware (too stupid, too lazy...not labels that stick well to an academic egghead like me), though its not aimed at genuine debate (which would have involved Rosalie in the very hard task of explaining for instance how flogging off land to be covered in concrete helps rainwater management...).

I'm much more interested in what the council actually has done and is doing than what some documents say (though she fails to comment on the councils past record). I'm at a loss to see how flogging land can be consistent with council policies on health and wellbeing, climate change, rainwater management, biodiversity...none of which are likely to be improved due to green land becoming tarmac/concrete...

I simply dont believe that no-one at the council has looked at where land might be sold off - how did they come up with figures like 90 acres or the previous 200 acres if they have not looked and estimated? How genuine is the Area Green Space Plans process if the council already has a very good idea what it wants to flog and where?

As for being committed to not selling higher value land, what about planning to flog off strips of green space near/on the Bristol to Bath Railway Path for housing development, using technicalities as an excuse?

As for the Parks and Green Spaces strategy being popular, well I seriously doubt that the council has measured this fairly via its 'consultation' processes - I'm sure that investment in parks is something people want but I'm also confident that people dont want land flogged off to a sales target!


Dear Mr Vowles

E-petition – Protect and enhance green spaces instead of flogging 90 acres to developers

Thank you for using the council’s e-petition processes to contribute to the debate about the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy. I am pleased that you and fellow petitioners recognise the vital importance of this new policy framework for the city’s green spaces, which was adopted by the Cabinet in February this year. It would appear however that you have not read the strategy, or indeed if you have, not understood how the council intends to approach the admittedly complex issues over land disposal. Indeed you do not appear to have read nor understood the wider green space policy imperatives around health, climate change, biodiversity etc which underpin the proposed 20 year investment programme – and where the council, yourself and most of the petitioners are fully in agreement. I am of course assuming you are aware that the approved strategy and numerous background documents are available at

Regarding your concern over the lack of evidence to justify land disposals in the form of maps, lists and debate, I refer you to page 36 of the adopted strategy which explains how the council is interpreting value and states that this will drive any future decision on the potential disposal of ‘low value green space’. This page includes the following…….

“…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 or disposal.”

Page 44 further explains the process of producing Area Green Space Plans and includes the following….

“…This strategy document is not the end of the decision making process or to community involvement in what happens at the local level. We will develop “Area Green Space Plans” in consultation with local people and ward councillors, making specific proposals to improve quality and facilities and provide the parks people need in their local area……..Part of the analysis for producing Area Green Space Plans will be an assessment of value of those spaces identified as candidates for change of use or disposal.”

Further information on value assessment can also be found in appendix 5 of the strategy. If you would like to know more about the programme to produce Area Green Space Plans please email who would be pleased to send you more information.

With regard to your concerns that the council will keep selling higher value green space to raise funding, the strategy also covers this in some detail. On page 42 concerning ‘resources’, this section summarises the ambitious investment plans for the city’s parks and green spaces which by the way attracted overwhelming support during last summer’s comprehensive public consultation.With an estimated £87m needing to be raised over the next 20 years to bring the green spaces up to a ‘good’ standard, an estimated £41m of this would be raised from property disposals, with 70% of the capital receipts reinvested in the strategy. This section goes on to state…..

“…The achievement of the strategy will be geared to the pace at which capital can be generated; this is why disposal of some land is essential if its ambitious quality improvements are to be realised. It is important to emphasise that it is not the intention of the council to keep selling land until the funding requirements of the strategy are achieved, irrespective of the importance and ‘value’ of the space to the community. On the contrary, should there be insufficient ‘low value’, marginal land available once the area planning process has been concluded, the council will review the ambitions of the strategy and consider alternative funding sources.”

This means that if the Area Green Space Plans do not identify 90 acres of ‘low value’ space that higher value land will not be sold to achieve any area or funding targets.

I hope that this to some extent eases your concerns over the way the strategy is going to be delivered. We appreciate that some residents feel that every square metre of green space needs to be protected at all costs – however our research and consultation has demonstrated that a large majority are more concerned to see the quality of our parks and green spaces improved and that a small loss of quantity to help raise funding for this purpose, and to release land for essential needs such as affordable housing, is a compromise worth making and in the wider public interest.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Rosalie Walker

Executive Member for Culture and Healthy Communities

Darling, you need to do much more

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Chancellor Alistair Darling's moves to help the economy eg homes under £175,000 exempt from 1% tax (for a year) are very unlikely help much, both in terms of numbers of people and the extent of help. The scale of his action is basically much too small and narrow. One article in The Guardian says,

'But if Gordon Brown and his beleaguered chancellor were hoping their £600m initiative would reinvigorate the moribund housing market - and kickstart Labour's much-trailed autumn economic "relaunch" - observers yesterday gave a muted response to the measure they predicted would have only a minimal impact on the housing crisis.'
I think he should look at all the proposals in the 'Green New Deal' and take on a much bolder and bigger approach, addressing the whole range of very pressing economic issues. This would eg include 'Reining in reckless aspects of the finance sector - but making low-cost capital available to fund the UK's green economic shift'.