Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Brookside Sights

A kingfisher fleetingly perched on a branch over the Brislington Brook close by Tescos this morning - long enough for me to see not just the electric blue plumage of its wings and tail, but the russet breast feathers and the fierce bill too.

And someone left a pair of trousers on the 'chicane' at the brookside path end, at Ellesmere Road.

The kingfisher darted off downstream before I'd taken the camera from my pocket.

The trousers will probably pose for pictures for a long while yet.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Let's take the kids to our Destination Park!

It's holidays, a nice clear crisp day, children ready for a bit of the great outdoors! Let's go to that superb playground at the Hengrove Leisure Park. It's under two miles away, here in South Bristol.

And it's free. Not an easy walk with children, though.....

Check the journey planner, Stockwood to Hengrove. A 54 to Wootton Park, then a 36 to Hartcliffe Way. Then a walk, crossing the dual carriageway.... 749 metres!

Maybe a bit easier coming back? Hmm... 90 from Cineworld to Inns Court. 36 to
Wootton Park. Then back home on the 54.

That's five buses and bags of optimism to go less than 4 miles.

Still, could get a First Day ticket to keep the cost down. £7.70.

Or we could just stay at home.

Moral: Destinations are made better by being reachable.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Robbing the Poor.....

The council's Parks and Green Space Strategy swings into action as stakeholder groups across the city start surveying public land within each of the 14 Neighbourhood Partnership areas. We should end up with Area Green Space Plans suggesting (among other things) what should be sold off so that the rest can be improved.

It's all target led, of course. Top of the list is to realize the £87 million capital funding, and the biggest chunk of this, £41 million is expected to come from land sales. Well, not really £41 million; more like £60 million, because a third of it goes into general council funds.

There are more targets to make sure every neighbourhood reaches agreed standards for access to local quality green space. Looks very egalitarian at first sight.... until you look at the likely winners and losers.

In Stockwood and Hengrove, we're runners-up in the Green Space assets league, with a whopping 94 sq. metres per person. (Shirehampton and Lawrence Weston are top, thanks to the Blaise Castle estate). Footing the table are leafy Westbury-on-Trym, Henleaze and Redland (Britains Greenest place, according to a recent survey), where residents have to make do with just 4 sq metres of public open space per head.

The target is for every area to have at least 18m2 per perperson

You can guess the rest.....

But it gets worse. A year ago, when the Parks Strategy was being drafted, they reckoned that around 90 acres of 'low (public) value' land would need to be sold to raise the capital. They can't be so optimistic now - with the bottom falling out of the property market, land values will drop and the other hoped-for source of cash, 'Section 106' development deals, is drying up. It's going to take a lot more than 90 acres to fund the Parks Strategy, and the poorer outer suburbs will be first in line to make the extra sacrifice.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Temple Meads meets Parish Pump Politics

A couple of days ago (and not for the first time) I heard the West of England's unitary councils described as the 'biggest parish councils in the country'.

That's probably an insult to parish councils, most of which get by very well without the worst of the party politics that seem to dominate our local council chambers - as anyone who's watched the petty point scoring and the party grandstanding at a full council meeting will know.

This has been all the more striking while I've been promoting the idea that Plot 6 at Temple Meads would be perfect for the transport interchange that Bristol clearly needs.

The suggestion's been very well received all round. Except that there's a deafening silence from the people who hold the key to making it happen - the big party groups on Bristol City council.

Faced with questions about it, Mark Bradshaw gave a seriously non-committal reply. The (non-executive) Sustainable Travel Select Committee has done a little better, agreeing to put it down for discussion later. Otherwise, no councillors' names on the petition, no comments on the blogs, no statements or questions in the council chamber.

No response either, after three weeks, from my MP, Kerry McCarthy, most of whose constituents can't get a bus to Bristol's main rail station.

Charlie Bolton (who, according to the other Members, doesn't count as a party) supports it, as does the rest of the Green Party.

Could it be that Green Party support makes the other parties' politicians deeply reluctant to come out in favour ? Is there a knee-jerk fear that it's not about Temple Meads, it's not about improving Bristol's dreadful public transport, it might really be all about party advantage?

I sincerely hope that I'm wrong.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

A Green New Deal

We were on the coach trip, organised by local climate change activists, to the demonstration in London yesterday. It was one of many around the world demanding real action from governments to combat man-made global warming.

It's easy enough to find things to be against - airport expansion, new coal fired power stations, and the rush for biofuels for instance. But there was a much more constructive theme, too... a call for a Green New Deal that can boost our failing economy, create jobs, improve our fuel security, cut our dependency on ever-smaller oil reserves, and keep money circulating in the economy. And - above all - to cut our carbon emissions.

It's a simple notion, it ticks all the right boxes - but the government doesn't seem to get it.

Steps like a temporary cut in VAT in a desperate effort to get us to spend more on (largely imported) goods, doesn't begin to address the real, deep seated problems - in fact it makes them worse.

Anyway, the trip was also an opportunity for a family get-together, with the London grandchildren taking part in their first demonstration (the 11 year old said a bit of violence would have livened it up!). And we spent nothing in the shops... which must put us a long way down in Mr Darling's Good Citizenship ratings.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Alchemy at Tescos

... though I don't think they've quite got the idea!

Or maybe it's a desperate attempt to get us to spend our way out of recession. So dust off those long hidden hoards of coins and Save The Economy by shopping. You know it makes sense. They told you.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

The Bendy Bus is late already

Three days after closing its public consultation over the first Bus Rapid Transit route, the city council helpfully announces that a 'Streetcar RTV' bound for Nevada is in the city today. Doesn't say where we can see it, but apparently it's just the kind of thing we might get in Bristol.

A few clicks later it becomes clear that the Ulster built bendy bus is a design developed for First Bus, and already in use on their York routes (branded there as f-t-r), adapted for the US market. Who knows what it's doing in Bristol - but you can only guess that it was intended to impress us consultees, but got here a bit too late.

More about this and other systems at

Monday, 1 December 2008

A Proposal on the Path

Now we know that Cycling City may be expected to pay for the land in Brislington that the authorities want to build a main road on... this email goes to Cycling City boss Colin Knight, copied to his political masters:

" you probably know, at last week's Cabinet public questions Mark Bradshaw explained that the project could (I think would) include land purchase along the old railway cutting between Tescos and Sainsburys. This seems like a raid on the cycling budget, as the same land is being lined up for a major road project. I wonder, therefore, if any purchase using cycling money might be used to put the land in some kind of Trust. That would offer future protection for the route - and if it must eventually become a main road, at least the land sale value could be restored to the Trust to use for other cycling purposes."

Do you think I'll get a clear reply?

[ADDED 11pm:]

Impressive, this! A reply just received. And it is clear.

"......The likelihood is that we will have to buy the whole railway cutting for the section north of Tescos/Callington Rd. As you will know, the Callington Rd link is a long way off, but if land acquired for the cyclepath were to be used for a road or rapid transit then I think it would be right that money should be transferred to the cycle budget as recompense..... "

plus a bit more about other local aspects of the route that I'd raised. Thank you Colin.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Cycling City to pay for a major road project?

The Callington Road Link has been a new major road project for years, and it's close to actually being built - with a little bit of help from Cycling City.

At the West of England's annual 'Transport Forum' we were told they want to consult on the road link during 2009, then bid for government cash backing in 2010.

It's only a short link, from Tescos at Brislington along the cutting of the disused railway to a point near Sainsburys at Arnos Vale. What makes it significant - and a heavy transport route - is that it shortens the link between the M32 and south-west Bristol, especially when, as they fully intend, the controversial South Bristol link is built from Hengrove to Long Ashton.

Then at the end of October the cabinet welcomed a report from the Cycling City team that they want a cycleway down the same disused railway cutting, completing another link - from Whitchurch to Temple Meads via Arnos Vale. Certainly good news for me - I'm lazy enough to prefer this flatter, quieter route in to town.

BUT - the land is privately owned - by the Brethren, I'm told. Whether for a cycleway or for a road, someone's got to pay for it.

The answer came today from Cllr Bradshaw in a written reply to Glenn Vowles, who'd asked "Can you confirm to what extent the Cycling City budget will be used to fund property acquisition along the line of the proposed Callington Road Link...?"

"Yes, I can confirm that one option being considered is the acquisition of part of the disused railway line between Tesco Brislington and Arnos Vale..."

So - unless there's some arrangement to claw back the money later from the roads budget - it looks like Cycling City will be helping to pay for a major new road link.

Time for more questions, I think.

What the Government giveth.......

We're lucky enough in Stockwood to border a big chunk of Bristol's 'Green Belt'. It's one of the things that encouraged us to move here.

Some of it, as the map shows, is within the city boundary, including the golf course, the Open Space, and even the sports ground beside Sturminster Road. But most is in neighbouring BaNES, giving us that pleasant rural edge.

For now.

Three or four years ago, the Regional Assembly - which yesterday ceased to be - together with its partners in GOSW drafted a regional plan - the Regional Spatial Strategy - saying that the Bristol region needed many thousands more houses to accommodate its growth in importance, turnover, and population. Most would be in 'urban extensions'. 6,000 of them should be on our south-east corner. It would mean significant loss of Green Belt land, but not to worry, they'd designate some more. Somewhere near Radstock Norton.

Then it all got into a long-winded planning process, in which Bristol Greens and various other lobby groups argued against this unsustainable expansion - while property developers argued enthusiastically for it. Last year saw many of us repeating the arguments in front of an 'Examination in Public' at Exeter. We finished up evens in this corner of Bristol, still with land to find for 6,000 homes, and a big gash in the Green Belt. The report went off to the government.

Next, the government put its own stamp on it - and upped the figures further(no-one quite knows why, and they haven't told us). Once again, lots of us challenged the numbers, which seem far higher than is needed.

But unless the Government has a change of heart (or a change of the growth agenda), the local councils are stuck with aligning the local plans - the BDF, or Bristol Development Framework - to the government's numbers, by allocating land for the housing they say is necessary. For the SE Bristol extension (Keynsham to Whitchurch), that's 10,500, including 1,500 within the Bristol boundary.

I've been to two meetings about this this week. At the first, in Long Ashton, many residents were (rightly) hopping mad at the prospect of their green valley being filled with housing, especially as there's no real case been made for it.

At the second, BCC planners were inviting reps of various 'stakeholder' groups to consider how the city could squeeze in all the extra homes demanded by the government. Most people felt that more intensive development would be much better than making new land grabs - but it would be hard to manage. No use building homes if they turn into social deserts. The 'buy-to-let' market has a lot to answer for.

But it looks like we can say goodbye to 'rural' Stockwood.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

A Ring Road Rant

Fresh from seeing the display about the 'South Bristol Link' proposals at the Create Centre last week, I've tabled a couple of questions for answer at next week's Bristol City Cabinet meeting. I'm wondering why the only non-road alternative they've suggested is, put simply, a complete non-runner. They'd promised to have be 'a wide range of alternatives' on show for the present consultation.

The publicity is, unquestionably, rigged to get people to express a preference for a ring road. Not that they call it a ring road of course - the official purpose of the link between Hengrove to the A370 by way of the A38 is to give better access TO South Bristol, not THROUGH South Bristol.

The knock on effect will certainly be felt in Stockwood, because more traffic will be drawn from the Bath Road direction to cut through Callington Road and Airport Road, heading west to the M5, the airport, and the coast. And vice versa.

The consultation's only reference to traffic levels is the admission that there MAY be a bit more going down King Georges Road - and their pictures show no lorries, only family cars, cyclists and pedestrians in perfect harmony.

In reality, the increased congestion will make access to Hengrove and Hartcliffe more difficult from the east, so the whole scheme seems counter-productive. But they're not mentioning that.

As for the alternative that they're offering.... it's a 'rapid transit' bendy bus, running between Hengrove and the city centre. Not, as you might expect, directly down Hartcliffe Way or Wells Road. No, this one takes a meandering scenic route of 11 km plus, by way of Long Ashton. The 'rapid' trip to the city will take even longer than the clapped out 'First' single deckers that serve Hengrove now. Just what we need!

At the same Cabinet meeting, other Greens are asking a string of questions about all sorts of Bristol issues, including the traffic, noise, and pollution build up if they go ahead with building their ring road. I'm sure I'll be returning to the topic!

I called this a rant. On reflection, it's rather more rational and objective than the consultation documents that the West of England Partnership have presented us with.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Putting a Price on our Green Spaces

Other bloggers, like Glenn Vowles in Knowle and the Bristol Blogger have been busy exposing the dodgy dealings behind sales of council land (our land) for development - notably to Squarepeg, developers of the chocolate factory site at Greenbank, with its much-hyped 'cycle houses' fronting the Bristol-Bath cycle path. The credentials of developer and council have been seriously compromised by an apparent deal bypassing the council's own Parks and Green Spaces Strategy, so that Squarepeg can extend the site into the path edging leaving room for still more houses in the development.

The Strategy in question came into plenty of criticism from the Greens when it was adopted by the council last year. It aims to get the city's neglected parks back up to scratch by selling off swathes of land to raise cash - keeping the lion's share (though not all) of the capital raised to maintain and improve the rest.

Each part of the city is to have its own Area Green Space Plan. For starters, the council is inviting interested residents to take part in developing a draft plan. For those of us in Stockwood and Hengrove, the process starts at the beginning of December.

If you're interested, or would like to know more, email Heather Barham (heather.barham (at) , or ring her (Tuesdays to Thursdays) on 0117 922 3087 or 07765 784537.

Stockwood Green School

Good to see that Jay Jethwa and others scrutinising the council's 'Primary Review' have asked Executive Member Peter Hammond to review the decision to close small schools, including Stockwood Green.

Cllr Hammond says it's 'a delaying tactic'. Of course it is. And why not - it would be irresponsible not to obstruct such a daft and insensitive policy.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

I'm a Sportsman - where's my bike?

We've seen how the award winning South Bristol Sports Centre encourages patrons to arrive by car - thus avoiding the hazards of coming on foot and conserving their energy for competitive sport. Thoughtful, that.

But what about those athletes who choose the most energy efficient transport of all - the pushbike?

Yes, there's a discreet little spot to park it, though you might not find it in the summer when the shrubs grow.

Friday, 14 November 2008

I'm a Sportsman - where's my car?

South Bristol Sports Centre - a surprise among the winners of this year's Civic Society awards. I'd not linked the centre with environmental excellence before.

Perhaps it was the construction energy that fooled me - all those lorry journeys bringing rubble (from old Broadmead?) to build a landraise site, replacing the gently sloping playing fields of the Imperial Ground into state-of-the-art billiard table pitches that the kids can no longer have scratch kickabouts on.

Perhaps it was the damage done in the process to the roots of the poplars along the Wells Road edge, a big factor in their having to be felled.

Perhaps it was the huge area given over to car parking where before there was just been grass.

But mostly it was the experience of trying to get in on foot. From the Stockwood end, the old entry has been sealed off, so you have to walk all the way up West Town Road, and in at the main car entrance, where there's not so much as a footway to protect you from the motoring sportsmen, then all across the car park to reach the mock tudor clubhouse.

Mental note - check for bike stands. At least if they have those, they're doing better than the Whitchurch sports hall!

Anyway - it's given me a nominee for next years 'brown lentil' awards.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Ideas to get Bristol moving

"we also want to hear from members of the public about their suggestions for how we can encourage people out of their cars. In particular, we want to find out about the little things which are stopped people from doing it - things which hopefully the Council can change."

"We are also keen for people to come forward with big ideas which could have a major impact.

So says Neil Harrison, who chairs the council's new Select Committee on Sustainable Travel.

So, says I, in a Statement to their first meeting tomorrow:

"I'd like to put the case for a single major interchange, so that virtually every journey into Bristol or across Bristol can be made with no more than one change, and that would be an easy one. I believe that this is one measure that would do far more to fulfill the objectives of this committee than any other 'hard' measure - and is far easier and cheaper to achieve.

For all but the simplest public transport journeys in Bristol, forward planning is a must, because the network is fragmented. What number bus to catch, from where, where best to get off, the best option to walk to, how long to wait, how much time to keep in hand, how much weatherproofing to wear. If there's a train journey involved, it gets a bit more complicated. Planning such trips involves the bus map, timetables on the web, and - before setting off - checking the real time information for my local bus stop. The return journey calls for the same approach.

This complexity, plus the unpredictability and discomforts of the changes en route, are always going to make public transport unattractive compared with jumping in the car. Likewise, for people arriving in Bristol at Temple Meads, it is unlikely that an onward journey into the suburbs can be done in a single leg; more likely it will involve more planning, walking and waiting at bus stops. Or getting a taxi.

Imagine either group, Bristol residents or arriving passengers, being able to complete their trip with just one, sheltered, safe, changing point where they can see all the options for taking them to their destination in one hop. That might well change transport choices

At Temple Meads, where the harbour, road, and railway systems all converge, there are already plans to transform the station for rail passengers. The Area Development Framework (which, for some unknown reason, is being prepared by SWRDA, not the council) describes a new ticket hall, with all the amenities of a major modern railway station; real time travel information, seating, shops, refreshments and so forth. That will be in what's called the 'Digby Wyatt Shed', part of the Old Station, currently used as a covered car park.

It seems incredible, but we do actually have an undeveloped site, within feet of the proposed ticket hall, that's ideally placed to turn Temple Meads into a first class multimodal interchange serving all of Bristol. The window of opportunity is limited, and once lost it will be gone virtually for ever. I'm referring to what's being marketed as Plot 6, the strip of car parking that separates Temple Meads from Temple Quay.

The bad news is that - so far as I can see - there is no planning blueprint to designate any of Plot 6 as a transport interchange. There's a recommendation for a protected line for a rapid transit system, but that's all. The area immediate outside the new ticket hall will, if present plans go through, accommodate two more blocks of flats, not a rail/bus exchange.

As the Authority for land use planning and for transport planning, also having obligations for local residents 'wellbeing' and for limiting climate change impacts, the council really must grab this opportunity before it's too late.

The proposal has recently been floated in the Evening Post, where it met with a 100% positive response, and is also the subject of a petition placed on the council website; it's early days yet, but it looks to enjoy popular support. Perhaps equally important, I've yet to hear a word in opposition.

I hope this committee can make it a key, and urgent, recommendation, and that the Cabinet and Council will want to follow suit on behalf of all Bristol's travelling public.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Ever More Open Space

Eight trees thought to present a public risk, are due to be felled in the 'Open Space' hillside between Burnbush School and Stockwood Top. Another four will undergo surgery to make them safe.

The details (well, some of them) are posted nearby (the notice at the top of Craydon Road includes the schedule and map) - or are available from the Parks Dept (Anna.Willcox (at) .

I don't have the expertise to challenge the professionals on this, and I assume it's all for the good. But it strikes me that there's a climate of suspicion about any proposals affecting Parks and Open Spaces, given that a fair slice of them are likely to be selected as development land.

I'm trying to find out whether the condemned eight will be replaced

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Influencing Transport in Bristol - 2

More cars and lorries may increase traffic!

That's the advice from the West of England's transport planners as they launch a 'consultation' on their plans for a South Bristol Ring Road. Except that these days, they never mention ring roads.

Its latest disguise, as a 'South Bristol Link' from Hengrove to Long Ashton, is being offered to us as a choice between a road, a rapid transit bus route, or both. No-one has yet explained why lots of people should want to drive, or get a bus, between these points, unless it's to travel on somewhere else - probably by way of the motorway, or Hicks Gate. Yes, this is a ring road.

A new road would attract more through traffic along Callington Road and Airport Road. When that gets too choked up (bad enough already isn't it?) it'll be back to the Phase 3 plan - Hicks Gate to Hengrove via Stockwood, Whitchurch and Hengrove, completing a parallel relief loop through south Bristol. And when that gets choked up.....?

The 'spin' in their consultation makes it pretty clear how they intend us to respond. A road "May increase traffic on King George’s Road" they say. Well, yes, there's just a chance that turning a quiet residential street (above) into a key link in a ring road would do just that. Aren't we lucky to get such quality professional analysis?

Still, they've found a silver lining! This road link is "Likely to reduce traffic on some key routes (including Kings Head Lane, Winterstoke Road, Parson Street and through Barrow Gurney)" they say. Which pretty well proves they see it acting as a ring road for through traffic. Not, of course, that it is a ring road.

Nowhere is there any mention of the most obvious impacts of a road; divided communities, poorer air quality, more traffic. Nor is there anything to explain how it might regenerate South Bristol.

OK, I'll try to write something more positive next time. About the alternatives.

Influencing Transport in Bristol - 1

The petition for a major transport hub at Temple Meads - instead of building more flats there and remaining stuck with the fragmented public transport system we suffer now - is now up on the council website at

Please sign it. Even if you never go near a bus or train, it's in your interests that public transport in this city should work better and tempt some car drivers to actually use it!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Job Creation

First, the good news. The mattress is no longer in the Brislington Brook. Congratulations to the Leisure Services people who finally organised its collection. And within the target two working days (unless you count all the earlier failures, before the whole issue was put on the net)

BUT..... the mattress was just one of half a dozen local flytipping incidents reported last Thursday. And did they collect the rest while they were here? Err.... sorry, no.

Reason is as soon as the report was made, someone checked which council department is responsible for which site. Getting the mattress cleared was the Parks people's job. While the rubbish left in Dutton Road and off Sturminster Road was the District Cleansing Officer's problem. That mess is still lying there.

So (at least) two orders to be drawn up, at least two bills to be settled, and at least two wagon trips to Stockwood to pick up half a wagonload of rubbish. Brilliant. SITA must be laughing.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Nothing to do with climate change. Of course.

Picked today, November 1, from an unprotected - and neglected - plant in the garden.

They're cherry tomatoes, Broad Ripple Yellow Currant. Fifth generation, from a seedling I was given when we first moved here. That's one of the nice things about Bristol - loads of opportunities to share seeds and seedlings.

Friday, 31 October 2008

A Temple Meads Hub

[Added 5th November: the petition is now up on the council website at]

Good to see the Evening Post reporting the case made by the Greens for a proper transport hub at Temple Meads. Not only would it give far more of the city a direct link to the main railway station, it would give everyone crossing the city the 'seamless interchange' to continue their journeys - undercover, in safety, well informed, and well lit.

Contrast that with what bus users face now - say, on an evening journey from here in Stockwood to Horfield. A change, a longish walk, a wait at one of the city centre bus stops, and a seriously unpredictable arrival time. Then the same on the way back.

Temple Meads is ideal as a hub, and it's already well on the way to providing what's needed. The 'Digby Wyatt Shed' - the covered car park that formed part of the old station - is to become the new ticket office and waiting area, with shops, cafes and so on. The all important 'real time information' is taking shape (as pictured) All it needs is the bus and coach services themselves. Plot 6 is perfectly placed to provide for them.

But there's something very strange going on. Usually, the city planners say how land should be used, and it's open to full public debate. Not around Temple Meads though. The land use planning - the 'Local Development Framework' - has been left to one of the landowners, SWRDA, and they're pushing ahead with commissioning development that would put a couple of blocks of flats just where the buses could go. They've not consulted, in fact the plans still aren't even public. It was only thanks to some hard digging that the Greens found out what's being done.

There should be an e-petition for a Temple Meads hub on the council website very soon. I'll post the address here (and everywhere else I can think of!)

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Stockwood Green Primary

Sadly, this evening's Cabinet meeting has approved the Primary Review, including the closure of Stockwood Green and two other Bristol primary schools. This is despite all the arguments put by so many adults and children showing the stupidity of the decision.

The decision is 'target led' the main target being a pot of government money. It has little or nothing to do with providing a decent education close to home.

Congratulations for everyone who resisted the closure steamroller - especially Mike Landen, and (I would say this!) Councillor Charlie Bolton, who argued so strongly against the closures. Charlie's address to the council is here on the Bristol Green Party website.

Litter Piccing

The mattress has been lying around for a couple of months now. The council aims to shift flytipped rubbish in two working days, but this mattress has been a real problem. It started by the path that leads down to West Town Lane, and in no time got pushed into the brook. It's been reported a few times now, but all that's happened is that it's shifted a few yards downstream.

So I'm trying a new extra helpful strategy. Flickr has a gizmo so you can show on a map where your pictures were taken. So I've put a few current flytipping pictures - including the mattress - on there, and sent the link to the council.

They can't go wrong now, and they'll make the most of the journey.