Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bristol Civic Society help protect Knowle's Friendship Inn from Tesco plans

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That the Bristol Civic Society have applied to English Heritage to have The Friendship Inn protected as a listed building is great news. If successful it is a very big obstacle in the way of Tesco’s plans to build a car park over the pub garden followed by converting the building into an Express store. I’m personally uncertain whether it could stop plans altogether, though local Cllr Gary Hopkins is reported as saying it will. I hope he is right.

The story says Tesco has an option to buy the pub. This is of course true but flatly contradicts a letter I and other locals have from Tesco which says that they recently purchased it – this is not true, but Tesco have never, to my knowledge, publicly corrected their error! Tesco Corporate Affairs Manager Juliette Bishop is I note happy to talk to the press but has failed to respond to communications from local people directly affected.

The whole situation has and continues to be rather bizarre. The council’s planning officers and councillors sitting on the planning committee have told campaigners who’ve been working hard from the start to oppose the plans, myself included, that they can only consider Tesco’s application as a car park for a pub – even though its common knowledge that Tesco plan an Express store, bringing many disadvantages to this part of Knowle in addition to those of a car park alone.

Early on I asked the council officer in charge of the case if any trees would be lost (no drawing had been made public at this stage). I was given a categoric no, trees would not be lost. Clearly an error as the larger mature trees in the garden would have been given the chop due to the location of the car park inside the garden walls.

Its bizarre that council officers, including those with planning and transport ‘expertise’, recommended that the planning committee accept the original plans submitted by Tesco for a car park. Officers had apparently visited the spot and regarded the design as safe and appropriate – but after a site visit by councillors and strong representations from many locals, this design was thrown out as unsafe and inappropriate. This inevitably cuts one’s belief in the abilities of some officers, yet these same officers have been given the task of dealing with Tesco’s revised car park plans.

Things may be looking up though. Revised plans have not been released for public view and comment yet because officers had some issues with them (I presume they sent them back with suggested changes??). Its good news too that Cllr Hopkins reports he has gained officer assurances that objectors will have 21 days to give their views on any revised proposals. I will be taking the opportunity to again point out that building any car park on the pub garden, aiding the set up of a Tesco Express in place of the pub, would worsen road safety, add to light, noise and air pollution, damage wildlife and weaken the diversity of the local economy.