Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Friday, 27 March 2009

What bus? and where?

Here I am, shoulder to shoulder with Bristol Labour Party's finest. Mark Bradshaw's put up a petition to keep the 'TravelShop' on Colston Avenue open. His signature is quickly joined by others from the Labour front bench. And by mine.

It's all provoked by the First Bus decision to pull out of its partnership with the council in running the shop. As they provided the staff, that can only mean closure - unless the council brings back some of its own public transport staff to do the job.

I've already tabled questions about the closure for answer by Mark Bradshaw's successor, Jon Rogers, at the full council meeting on Tuesday - most of all to ask how they'll provide an 'over-the-counter' information and advice service to the travelling public if the TravelShop is allowed to close.
Oddly enough, Mark Bradshaw has his own questions to put to Jon Rogers at the same meeting, but he's using them to perpetuate a myth of his own making, in true Mandelsonian style. He's looking for confirmation "that a transport interchange at Temple Meads remains a key component of the (rapid transit) bid"

Transport interchange, eh? This is the site he has in mind. Of course it will look different by then. The rapid transit bus from Long Ashton P&R will call here at a stop (described as a 'docking station'!) so that Temple Meads passengers can dismount with their luggage, walk on through a new subway under Temple Way, then continue through a new office-retail-residential development, all the way to the railway station. Other buses (at least, those buses that come anywhere near Temple Meads) will continue to use Temple Way. Not a good place to transfer between buses, bus to train, BRT to ferry etc. etc. But that's Mr Bradshaw's idea of an interchange.

The proposal for a REAL interchange is quite different. It would have buses from all over the city converging on a hub immediately outside the 'Digby Wyatt Shed' at Temple Meads - click the picture and you can see it as the brick building in the distance. Network Rail and First want to turn the Digby Wyatt shed into a state-of-the-art concourse for Temple Meads passengers; all mod cons like real-time information, ticketting and advice, seating, light, safety, refreshments, retail. And there's stacks of room to cater for bus, ferry, and rapid transit passengers in just the same way - instead of leaving them at the scatter of exposed shelters somewhere near the station.

My own petition for this has drawn some very positive public response, but for some reason none of the Labour, Tory, or LibDem councillors has yet signed up to it. Nor has Kerry McCarthy MP, who's playing for time by trotting out the Bradshaw docking station/ interchange myth. That's especially surprising, given that few of her Bristol East constituents can get to Temple Meads in a single bus journey.

You can't help wondering if they've all been nobbled by the site owners or developers, who want to cover the lot with more offices, flats, and shops. Such things do happen!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Proposed development sites unveiled.

The council has published the outcome of its 'Call for Sites', when it invited suggestions for sites in Bristol that should be considered for development. It's part of consultations over the Bristol Development Framework, which will guide future planning decisions in the city.

Over 1100 people answered the 'Call', nominating around 600 sites. They can be checked from here on the council's website, which has a schedule of all the sites, and maps of each area with the sites marked and referenced.

I was glad to see that I wasn't the only one to propose a modern multimodal transport hub centred on Plot 6 at Temple Meads.

This map section (original pdf here) shows sites nominated in Stockwood. All of them are submitted by 'other' - which I take to be parts of the council itself. Biggest site is the hillside above the brook east of Sturminster Road, some of it open space and some woodland. It's nominated for housing.

There's also, oddly enough, a proposal to use the Whitchurch Railway Path - the long thin bit on the map - for 'transport infrastructure'. Err... I thought that's what it was. Or are they trying to tell us something ?

Sunday, 15 March 2009

A Green Knight for Europe

It's not often you hear ' cognitive dissonance' as the theme of a rousing political address. Jonathon Porritt managed it yesterday at the launch of the campaign to elect the southwest's first Green member(s) of the European Parliament.

Jonathon is up there with the green gods, as far as I'm concerned. Of necessity his party profile has been been low while he's held a series of top level 'non-party-political' jobs, for most of the last decade as chair of the Sustainable Development Commission. But yesterday he felt free to endorse our list of six candidates hoping to bring some green realism to Brussels - the source of well over half our our legislation.

The realism is where cognitive dissonance comes in. All our reason, all our common sense, all our experience, tells us that climate change crisis is on its way, and that we can and must do something about it urgently. And yet we - well, most of us - carry on pretty much as before. Climate change is, indeed, an inconvenient truth, a discomfort to be dealt with by rationalisation or denial.

That certainly seems to be the case at the Evening Post, whose coverage of the launch was to say the least extremely thin.

Also (a topical example) at 'Carbon Managers' - the consultancy selling green credibility to corporate polluters by planting trees on their behalf and giving them certificates to prove it. Their obvious worries about climate change weren't going to stop four of them flying up to Inverness this week on a two day tree-planting trip!

Also at the G20 summit where the main object seems to be to boost world demand - along, by definition, with all the carbon-producing, resource depleting practices that got us in this mess in the first place.

Also among the West of England road planners.... but I'll get on to that another time.

Meanwhile, since the Post made such a mess of it - let's introduce Ricky Knight, our lead European candidate, clearly far more competent to save the world (and south-west England in particular) than that odd rag-bag of Euro-MPs who represent us at Brussels right now.

I'm not sure about the 'Green Knight for Europe' though! Could it be an Arthurian reference, to give the Greens that vital English 'brand' in the electoral stakes?

Friday, 13 March 2009

Question Time

Both Jay Jethwa and I put questions for answer at this afternoon's Cabinet meeting at the council house. Fat lot of good it did either of us!

Jay felt entitled to a bit of action after being at the receiving end of those racist comments in the council's budget meeting. But by now, the 'coconut' jibe from the Ashley's LibDem councillor Shirley Brown has been referred to the council's standards board, so that provides the ideal cover for her Leader Barbara Janke to justify a 'no comment' position. For the time being the LibDems are desperately peddling the myth that the Florida councillor can represent her ward in Bristol - and throw in the odd racist insult - for two more years, making flying transatlantic visits as necessary. How long can they keep that up?

My own questions, about the impact of the recession on the Parks strategy, drew a rather condescending response from the Chief Park-keeper. What it amounts to is that they have no plans, but they're keeping their fingers crossed. For the time being, while they reckon up the saleable assets, there's no money for park improvements.

Of course, rising land values will mean rising house prices. Funny old world, where increased prices are seen as a 'good'.

All this makes you wonder what the value of 'public questions' is.

Sometimes they do get significant answers. It's two years since the (then) transport supremo Dennis Brown told me that one purpose of the South Bristol Ring Road is to '.... help reduce congestion within Bristol'. He was only echoing what the Greater Bristol Transport Strategy claimed - we need it to help relieve the congestion around Parson Street, Winterstoke Road, and the A370 (Ashton Way). The usual excuse for bypasses, in fact.

So... will it do what it sets out to do? Watch this space.....

Friday, 6 March 2009

Paying for the Parks

It's just over a year since the council adopted its Parks and Green Space Strategy, a plan to restore Bristol's parks to something to be proud of. Except, of course, those parks and green spaces that get sold off to pay for the rest.

We're more than a little nervous about this in the south east corner of the city - after all, we've got 94 square metres apiece to gambol about in, whereas residents of more deprived areas - like Henleaze and Redland - have to wedge themselves into as little 4 sq. m. Always conscious of equality issues, the Strategy wants to redress the balance, and has set quantity standards for each neighbourhood.

It could be achieved by moving a load of people from those northern inner suburbs out here into the fresh air. We've the land to build them new homes, away from the overcrowding and pollution of the city. Like the Sally Army sending the huddled masses out to the colonies. Then, the places where they used to live could be returned to nature, for the enjoyment of those who remain. Possibly that was the centralist, socialist Labour administration's plan. Let's be realistic, though; the libertarian LibDems probably won't go for it.

So it's a problem, and it's made worse by the recession. The £90 million quid that was to be raised by selling 'low value' land looks like a joke now. Does it mean they'll have to up the original estimate of 90 acres of public open space to be sold off to developers?

In search of the truth, I've put down a question for our new Chief Parkie, Gary Hopkins, to answer at the Cabinet meeting next Thursday. It asks if the Strategy will be reviewed in the light of plummetting land values, who'll be involved, and when they'll tell Joe Public what they're up to.

Monday, 2 March 2009

A Farm for the Future

Saturday's blog post took me from council house racism to peak oil and sustainability by way of Cuba.

Transition Bristol's newsletter brings the peak oil bit back to a more local context, not least by providing a link to 'A Farm for the Future' - shown on BBC2' Natural World the other day.

Excellent film, well worth watching while you still can... especially while thinking about all that's being planned around Bristol without a second thought about fossil fuel reliance.

Sunday, 1 March 2009


We've got your trolley. Yes, the Partington LCGC2. We took it into protective custody after it was abandoned in Stockwood. Nasty things can happen to trolleys.

You can have it back - at the right price.... a bag of organic peat-free would be nice. In fact you can have it back anyway.

If you don't play ball, we'll send it back. Bit by bit.

Await further instructions.