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.