Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

South Bristol Link: time to weigh up the option.

Spot the difference.....

This is what Jon Rogers and the other three West of England Partnership Transport Executive Members approved when they met on 1st October. These two road/BRT options recommended for further examination and consultation might have surprised them - after all, they'd not been among the five shortlisted for the previous round of consultation or for the 'Options Appraisal' study of their probable impacts. Nonetheless, the Execs nodded it through.

This is what the two options favoured in October have now become. Somewhere, somehow in these last four weeks the southern option has been dropped. All that's on the table is the BRT to nowhere and the 'northern option' road. That's the one that squeezes 10,000 vehicles a day through the now quiet backwater of King Georges Road, swells traffic entering the Cumberland Basin by 20%, and increases journey times into the city centre. All in the name of cutting congestion, cutting emissions, and some nebulous claims of regeneration.

So now we're invited to comment on just one option. Hobson's choice. The 'consultation' takes the form:
"We welcome your views on the scheme - please help us by answering a few questions at the end of this pamphlet."

OK, I'll probably do that before deadline day. But I wonder if they'll first answer mine?

* Who took the decision to cut the two options mandated by the Execs, to just one?

* How are you going to cope with the extra traffic you'll bring to the Cumberland Basin - especially if a stadium and a superstore get added to the mix?

* Will you keep the bus rapid transit in the scheme, subsidising it to make up for its losses?

* How on earth will you explain yourselves to people living on the route?

* How do you square this new ring road with:
Cutting CO2?
Peak Oil?
Cutting congestion?
Getting people out of their cars?

* Whose tune is it that you're dancing to?

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Land Grabbers are Coming.....

Last time I stood for election in Stockwood, I warned that 'they're moving the countryside further away'. Sure enough, it's all beginning to take shape now.

A new town in our own back yard.

While development plans for the Ashton Vale/ Barrow Gurney green belt have been hitting the headlines recently, we've not heard so much about the equally controversial bid for massive development along south-east edge of the city, bordering Stockwood and Whitchurch, and stretching to Keynsham and Hicks Gate.

That's about to change, as Bath & NE Somerset council consults on its 'Core Strategy' to guide future planning. It sees the development centred on Hicks Gate and on the fields around Whitchurch village.

In the next couple of weeks, they'll be holding two display and drop-in sessions to explain the options that are being considered in relation to a potential SE Bristol urban extension. Both take place at Whitchurch Community Centre (off Bristol Rd, about opposite Maggs Lane) between 3.30pm and 7.30pm. They're on Monday 2nd and Friday 6th November.

The BaNES website at shows the Core Strategy. It's called the 'final approval version' which doesn't give much confidence in their willingness to change anything now!. The details of the SE Bristol Urban Extension can be found in Chapter 5 - much more comprehensive than the map above.

Deadline for comments is December 11th.

Meanwhile, the Friends of Stockwood Open Spaces somehow find themselves as one of the first ports of call for developers and planners in the area. Our (I confess an interest in this, as the secretary) 'to do' list now includes offering a local (pre-planning application) opinion of possible brownfield residential development immediately behind the Hollway Road shops. There's also an invitation from the City Council's 'Urban Extensions Project Manager' (honest!) to feed into a 'South Bristol Retail and Centres Study' commissioned from consultants GVA Grimley.

Arguably, Stockwood needs a separate and representative group of residents with an interest in local planning to take on these tasks.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Bristol's Future after Peak Oil

This is worth reading. Not just reading, but following up with pressure on the city's elite to actually lift their heads out of the sand and see the reality out there.

The Peak Oil report spells it out:

"An oil crunch would fundamentally threaten the way our city operates with challenges to transport, healthcare, food distribution, social cohesion, public services and other sectors"

"Peak oil is currently not even considered as a risk for most businesses, yet its effects would make many of today’s business models redundant"

"Major Bristol transport planning schemes do not currently consider the potential impact of different fuel prices"........."Peak oil fundamentally alters the viability of the private car as the leading mode of transport"

"Bristol Council has no statutory responsibility around food and no plan around food security. The city is totally reliant on major supermarkets for food supply."

"It is essential that planning decisions keep sufficient cultivatable land available in and around the city to allow for a low energy local food system. This is already at risk as developers move to buy green belt land around the city from farmers in anticipation of more relaxed planning laws"

"Current Bristol planning strategies, which are guided by central government, do not factor in peak oil as an issue or a risk."

"In order to raise some of the funding for the green space programme the Council is planning to sell some‘low value’marginal land. Changes in priority for land use brought by peak oil are not yet integrated into this strategy."

"Bristol does not have a strategic energy plan."

It wasn't Transition Bristol that produced this powerful, hard hitting, but constructive report. It's the child of that august body, the Bristol Partnership's 'Green Momentum Group', until now known mostly for its 'Green Capital' hype.

But the report's conclusions are in many cases diametrically opposed to the things the city fathers are actually doing - for instance, encouraging more traffic while cutting public transport.

It looks like its time to challenge the council - and the business people - on how seriously they will take this report. Can we hope they might even put its suggestions into practice, not just pay lip service? The consequences of failure are unthinkable.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Traffic to rise 20% in congestion hot-spot.

......and they're thinking of adding a Tesco Extra to the mix!

One of the two proposals for a South Bristol Ring Road, which won the blessing of the West of England's transport bosses on Thursday, would add over 7,000 vehicles a day to the traffic on Ashton Way as it approaches the Cumberland Basin.

That's before adding further to it by building 230 houses, a stadium, hotel, and fast food outlets at Ashton Vale, and a Tesco megastore at Ashton Gate, as Bristol City Football Club are demanding.

Is it the transport planners, or the football club owners, that are on some other planet? All of them, I reckon.

Edit, 2.30pm 7/10:

The 7,000 figure above comes from the Options Appraisal (App7.1), showing an increase from 35350 (do minimum option) to 42950 vehicles/day for Option 1 - a road from Hengrove to A370 Long Ashton

Lots more on this topic from the Bristol Blogger (look out specially for Tony Dyer's comment on the regeneration myth) and on Chris Hutt's 'Green Bristol Blog'

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The stadium and the World Cup

Looks like a decision will be delayed - according to Jones the News. But 'minded to approve' decisions on November 4 and 5 would leave it open for Bristol to remain part of the World Cup bid - and make it more difficult for the 'No Tesco' objectors to appeal.

Not, of course, that the World Cup bid has anything whatever to do with the planning decision! I know. Jan told me

Friday, 2 October 2009

A Day in the Death of Stockwood Green School

Throughout last year, the council's 'Primary Review' set out to meet targets by closing schools. Educational needs and parental choice were casualties of the process. Other casualties were the truth and any balanced assessment of what was best for the children concerned. Errors and half truths and the threat of closure were enough to trigger a response - children being moved to other schools - that paradoxically justified closure on grounds of falling rolls.

The whole sorry saga is spelled out in this 'statement' from the Stockwood Green governors, which was presented to the council by Stockwood Cllr Jay Jethwa last month - at the end of a long and exhausting full council meeting. It was barely noticed there, so I thought I'd republish it here, in the hope that someone might learn something from it, and maybe prevent such bureaucratic and political stupidity happening again.

Stockwood Green School: statement to Bristol City Council, Sept 2009