Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Nuclear Cover

As we build up to the big Climate Change March next weekend, local green bloggers have been drawing attention to the failings of the government's 'solution' - a host of new nuclear reactors around our shores.

Vowles the Green has been writing about over-reliance on the building programme - who, outside Westminster, believes it would be on time or on budget? Charlie Bolton draws attention to a new anti-nuclear petition on the No10 web site. It's been started by a neighbour of the one planned for Bradwell. Sounds disgruntled. Well you would, wouldn't you?

Below, Caroline Lucas sums up the case against nuclear power in under two minutes....

Caroline Lucas MEP on nuclear power from Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament on Vimeo.

What no-one seems to mention is that - unlike every other industry - nuclear power stations don't have to insure themselves against 'worst possible' accident scenarios. If they could find companies willing to take on the risk, Greenpeace reckon it would treble the price of their electricity.

Of course, the more nuclear reactors get built, the higher the risk of just such an accident.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

But Answer Came There None....

A load of detailed questions about the South Bristol Link were due to be answered at Tuesday's Cabinet Meeting. Several of them were based on damning data in the 'Options Appraisal' of last winter, to find out whether, as suspected, the latest scheme, introduced a couple of months ago, really performs as badly as the previous ones did in that Appraisal.

But answer came there none. Or rather, we were told that the officers and executive don't know the answers.

This time, no-one knows what congestion might be expected as a result of the new road bringing in new traffic. No-one knows how many more vehicles will thunder through South Bristol. No-one knows how it will affect journey times into the city in the morning peak rush. No-one knows if the scheme's proposed BRT 'figleaf' has the remotest chance of breaking even.

Because no-one's asked.

And maybe that tells us more than we could have got from any set of consultants predictive traffic modelling.

The story's on the Green Party's website here

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Monday, 23 November 2009

The new (radioactive) neighbours

Nice to hear Cllr Mark Wright speaking up on Original Radio on behalf of Bristolians who might be alarmed at the prospect of a new nuclear reactor being built at Oldbury - just nine miles from the city. Mark wants us to have more of a say in the decision - or at the very least, for the authorities to come and ask us what we think.

Once upon a time Bristol's people did have just such a forum, when the city council was part of the Association of Nuclear Free Local Authorities, a mutually supportive group of councils to help with fact-finding and with organising resistance to the threats that come from all things nuclear.

Today's LibDem council may be nominally anti-nuclear, but it's not going down that road. Last month, Mark's leader, Barbara Janke, turned down - for the second time - a Green Party appeal to rejoin the Association, on grounds of the cost (could be as much as a bank-breaking £30K).

Obviously she didn't ask Mark first. Too preoccupied with the World Cup bid, perhaps?

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Oh No Jon, No Jon, No Jon, No

""Do nothing/minimum" is always an option"
Jon Rogers, re South Bristol Link, this blog, 28th October

"There is no point in asking people whether they want a scheme, that has been asked before, and we have, based on all the information, going back years, already decided to proceed to the next stage."
Jon Rogers, re South Bristol Link, email, 13th November

Cue a batch of questions for answer at next Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, in an effort to find out what the options really are, and to bring some of the realities of the road-plus-BRT Link into the public domain.

More of those later. Meanwhile, Vowles the Green has been tabling more challenging questions for Cllr Rogers at the same meeting. Like how can exponential economic growth, promoted as a 'Core Value' in the city's future, be 'sustainable'? Very fundamental question that. I'm looking forward to the answer, while not really expecting one!

Too good to miss.......

On A Father Christmas Steamday you will be able to:

* Ride on a Steam train to Father Christmas' grotto (advance booking essential)
* Meet Father Christmas and be given a present (for children).

In addition you can:

* Experience an air-raid in the 1940 built World War II Air Raid Shelter

(From the Didcot Railway Centre) website

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Jeckyll and Jon

In his Dr Jeckyll persona, Jon Rogers excelled himself at this morning's Joint Transport Execs meeting, confronting the forces of darkness from BaNES, South Glos and N. Somerset. His anger wasn't enough to persuade them to relax their opposition to an Integrated Transport Authority for Greater Bristol, though.

What he did manage was to make them admit it openly. The cross-party consensus in the city that an ITA is the only way to achieve a half-decent public transport system evidently doesn't extend into the neighbouring Tory unitaries. North Somerset's Elfan Ap Rees -whose favoured transport is by helicopter - was particularly obtuse and nimbyish. He'd said at the previous meeting that he'd like to kill the ITA ambition stone dead. In the end, it may not be quite dead, but it's certainly stuck in a coma with no real hope of improvement.

That was the extent of Jon's challenge to the status quo. When it came to the South Bristol Link, I'd put my own statement drawing members attention to the absence of analysis, consultation, and future proofing in the one remaining option, and asking them to make sure that that there was still a choice other than saying 'yes' to it. No chance. The statement didn't get a mention, even to refute it, as the officers' programme to build a ring road was nodded through. Whatever Jon meant when he said here that "do minimum is always an option" remains a mystery.

(picture of Elfan ap Rees leaving the meeting, job done.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Ring Road Regress

When the West of Englands four Transport Executive members meet at the Council House on Thursday, one tiny item on the long agenda will ask them to 'note' - ie approve - what their staff are doing to push the South Bristol Ring Road forward. They're told that after a second round of public and stakeholder engagement this November, Members will subsequently receive a further report seeking approval to submit a bid to DfT in March 2010.

So it's verdict first, evidence later. Again. Except there's not even any prospect of reliable evidence to give some after-the-event credibility to this bid.

The one scheme on offer wasn't tested in the costly 'Options Appraisal' report commissioned a year ago from Mott MacDonald. Even the 'do minimum' scenario (a forecast that assumes that new initiatives like a Hengrove-North Fringe rapid transit, the Callington Road Link, and a Barrow Gurney bypass go ahead) didn't get fully assessed.

'Do Minimum', as you may have read on this very blog, is always an option (except, of course, in the current consultation documents)

So... if you were a DfT civil servant, weighing up competing demands for government cash that's nowhere near enough to cover everything, would you entertain this bid for a moment? It's not been appraised, the consultation is a mockery, there's no attempt to answer the Big Question: "What do we get from this scheme that we wouldn't get anyway?" Looks like an easy decision....

Cue for a nudge to the assembled Transport Execs, before they give the nod to this ill-advised stitch-up attempt. My own attempt comes in this 'Public Forum Statement' which, the partnership promises, "will be considered when that item is discussed"

Statement re S. Bristol Ring Road, Nov 09

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The World Cup elephant in the Committee Room

I lived near World Cup hosts Middlesbrough in 1966. North Korea became our home team for a couple of weeks, and they provided plenty of entertainment. But the face of Middlesbrough, much less its global reputation, remained untouched.

How many times will the 2018 world cup will be mentioned tomorrow, when the planning committee meets to consider the application to develop Ashton Vale?

The phrase turns up twenty times in the 'officers report' (pdf), intended to guide councillors toward a recommended decision. That's in spite of their Chief Executive's assurance, in a letter to the Green party and quoted below, that it's not a 'material planning consideration'

The Greens themselves have been pointing out that to get the World Cup, the stadium designers will need to plan to FIFA's 'Green Goal' standards. Solar panels, less 'throwaway' catering, combined bus/entrance match tickets, that sort of thing.

Meanwhile our own 11th hour comments go in (apparently take them till noon today):

We believe there is very good reason, taking into account all material planning considerations, to reject all elements of this application, or at the very least to defer a decision to see if the applicants can revise their proposals into something that offers a net 'public good'.  As it stands, it's a public bad.

a) The application relies on the principle of 'enabling development' - a material planning consideration.  But nowhere is there any attempt to define or quantify the 'public benefits' to set against the acknowledged disbenefits of much of the proposal.  Therefore, an informed judgement is impossible.

b) The applicants are inconsistent in their reliance on current planing policy.  When it suits, they claim that only the policies laid down in the Local Plan should be enforced; at other times, they claim that the RSS (still in draft and subject to legal challenge) should guide decisions.

c) The applicants' financial case for 'enabling development' has not been proved - in fact the council's own advisors (among others) have taken it to pieces.

d) The proposed waiving of some £millions of Sec 106 payments amounts to a further indirect public subsidy, of dubious legality, to the football club.

e) The prospect of bringing some World Cup matches to Bristol in 2018 has been repeatedly touted as a 'benefit' arising from the new stadium.  For instance, the phrase 'World Cup' crops up twenty times in your Officers Report alone.  That is not a material planning consideration, and should be discounted.  In fact your Chief Executive has written "the Council, its officers and members are fully able to distinguish between the aspirational nature of the (World Cup) bid process and the need for the Local Planning Authority to determine the applications for the new Stadium and the former Ashton Gate site upon material planning considerations alone".

In any case, as Tony Dyer pointed out to the last Cabinet meeting, the proposed stadium should be built and operated to FIFA 'Green Goal' standards to give Bristol a good chance to host the games and live up to its 'Green Capital' aspirations; the proposed stadium just doesn't come near those standards.

f) the failure of the applicants to include affordable housing in their proposals - in defiance of planning policy and of real need.  The result is an elitist proposal for housing, while exporting the task of actually meeting real housing need to other areas that are already under pressure.  This is a major disbenefit.

g) loss of Green Belt land.  Utterly unjustified and undesirable, and without any basis in planning policy.

h) Alternative options.  One of the best (and most efficient use of scarce land) is a dual use stadium shared by Bristol City FC and another club (either Rovers or the rugby club).  The failure of the clubs concerned to take up this option is their own responsibility - not a burden to be borne by the city.

i) Peak Oil.  The city, as part of the Bristol Partnership, has just commissioned and welcomed the report 'Building a positive future for Bristol after Peak Oil'.  This will mean absolutely nothing if the city fails to take its values and recommendations into planning and 'future-proofing' new developments such as this.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Ripe tomatoes

Outdoor tomatoes picked from the garden this morning. The yellow 'cherry' ones are the wonderfully named, and well flavoured, 'Broad Ripple Yellow Currant'; thanks to Alan Lock for the original seedling he gave me when I moved to Bristol. The fat red monster in the middle is the hybrid Ferline, which this year showed its blight resistant credentials while all around were felled.

And yes, it is November 1st.