Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Defending our green spaces

On Tuesday 7th September - an hour before the council meeting - there's a photocall outside the council house for all Bristolians who don't want the city's precious green spaces sold off. Gather by 5pm, bring a placard if you can! And spread the word!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Good News from First (honest!)

The new 54 timetable, now in force, shows a later last bus home to Stockwood on a Sunday night - leaving the Centre at 11.19. That brings it into line with the rest of the week. What's more, the journey isn't being subsidised by the council.

Last buses are generally well patronised, but most are still subsidised - you have to wonder why.....

Anyway, no need to leave the Old Duke Jazz festival early this weekend!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

The blue glass house in Stockwood

Jay Jethwa's Evening Post attack on LibDem councillors relied on an appeal for transparency and integrity in public life. It was motherhood and apple-pie stuff. But before we get any more calls for democracy to be seen to be done, our two Stockwood councillors should look very much closer to home.

The Hengrove and Stockwood Neighbourhood Partnership meeting in June was horribly chaotic, but otherwise seemed unremarkable. Once again, it was hard after the event to work out quite what (if anything) had been agreed by whom, and if so, just who was going to put it into practice. The only sure thing was that the residents wouldn't play much part in it.

The meeting kicked off with a couple of Public Forum statements, one of which dealt with that topic that should make every councillor run for cover - residential on-street parking. A local whose house fronts both the busy West Town Lane and the quieter Imperial Road (pictured) put his case against imposing parking restrictions at that corner, claiming they were unnecessary. So far, so good.

The norm for Public Forum statements is that they're received and passed to the relevant councillor or officer. There's no debate, no immediate response. Officers might know a bit about the issue - but aren't invited to explain. The meeting moved straight on to the next item. As it should.

The Minutes of the meeting tell a different story:
"A Public Forum Statement was received from Colin Williams concerning a proposal to install yellow lines at the West Town Lane/Imperial Road Junction. It was agreed that this scheme should not be proceeded with."


OK, I know that it's the councillors who make the spending decisions, but isn't the whole idea of the Neighbourhood Partnership to sound out local opinion, to weigh up the pros and the cons, and reach a decision in public ? Uniquely, this one individual's public forum statement was taken as doing the job - though it certainly wasn't apparent at the time.

Hmmm.... demonstrable integrity, with decisions being taken openly, after due debate and without undue influence..... ??

Far from it. Here were our two Tory ward councillors (David Morris in the Chair, plus Jay), and one of the LibDems from Hengrove, cutting some highly unorthodox corners.

Could it be because the 'public forum statement' that triggered it came from an ex-Tory councillor, now an Alderman of this city, who didn't fancy having double yellows on his doorstep?

Jay Jethwa is throwing stones from a particularly fragile glass house.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Expurgated !

There's a letter of mine in the Evening Post today. Well, part of it, anyway. It's been edited down, which is fair enough (though it would be far more honest if they marked each letter that's been cut, so readers know they're not looking at the original). What's more, they always seem to cut the best lines!

Have blog, will publish. Here is the original; the bits in bold never made it past the BEP editors.

" It's disappointing to see Stockwood councillor Jay Jethwa (August 5) condemn those councillors who decided, on the evidence, that the Sainsbury's superstore should not be permitted at Ashton Gate.  There is no reason for her to imply that party pressure was put on those councillors; after all, the LibDems have been as transparently pro-stadium as Tony Blair was pro-war.  Presumably Jay writes because, like all councillors, she's been targetted by the club's campaign to get fans to put pressure on individual members.

Jay might have been better advised to challenge the Cabinet decision to hand the club £5 million of land in an unsecured deal, in exchange for 'community benefits' spread over 30 years. 

Members of all parties, including her own, who scrutinised the sale advised against such a high-risk comitment of public assets to a very shaky business.  Jay's Tory instincts should have warned her against such extravagance with the public purse. Above all, her commitment to her Stockwood ward should have alerted her to the fact that every handout to the club, whether as land, as planning concessions (that's another £3.2 million plus), or as an inappropriate planning permission, must be recouped by squeezing wards like hers even harder. 

The 'affordable housing' that Steve Lansdown won't now have to provide at Moorelands will have to go disproportionately somewhere else.  The cash that should have come to the council from the Ashton land sales will have to be found by selling off land, or cutting services, somewhere else. Stockwood seems especially vulnerable.  And the changed traffic and cash flows caused by such a big superstore would have repercussions throughout South Bristol and beyond.

In short, however much we'd like a new Bristol City stadium, there are limits to the public risks and sacrifices that should be made to get it, especially in a time of savage cuts. 

Pete Goodwin
Green Party, Stockwood "

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Temple Meads - a way out

Before the developers pulled the plug on the first choice Bristol Arena site, saying the money just wasn't available, it was already clear that the old Temple Meads diesel depot would, in spite of its central position, be very difficult to reach.

It's an 'island' site, bordered by railways, the tidal River Avon, and the elevated A4 Bath Road. The only road access is the service approach from the west side of Bath Road, twisting back under the A4 alongside the rail line to the train service depot. Despite the proximity of Temple Meads, any pedestrian link between station and arena appeared long and tortuous, probably involving new river bridges and a new eastern station entrance from Cattle Market Road. No bad thing - but it wouldn't come cheap.

Except that there's already a bridge. A massive bridge, carrying the station itself over Cattle Market Road and the Avon. And between Platform 15 and the Arena site, there's just one track in the way, generally used by trains heading between Paddington and Weston, or beyond.

Here, at least, it would be very easy to provide direct level access from Platform 15 to the site - the ideal for any venue that attracts visitors from outside Bristol.

All it needs is to swap the tracks either side of the London platforms, so that Platform 15 becomes the the terminal platform and Platform 13 takes the through trains. Operationally, it's exactly the same. In signalling terms, it needs negligible change.

Maybe this has got a future as a site for an Arena, an Exhibition or Conference Centre, or even a car-free housing development. At the moment, it holds little other promise.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Politics, Pacts, and Pothole Pointers

In the May elections for a Stockwood councillor, I was trounced by all three other parties - particularly disappointing as I'd been runner up the time before. I put it down to the country's obsession with the Leadership Debates (remember them?) and the fleeting epidemic of Cleggmania.

In Michael Goulden, the LibDems had a local candidate this time, and I'm glad to see that he's now blogging too. If only our councillors did the same. I suggested that we exchange links ("you show mine and I'll show yours") but he declined. Proper politicians don't do that sort of thing. But just this once, I'll provide the link anyway.

Michael must have been encouraged by his vote in May, because he's evidently been to the LibDem Focus Academy, and successfully completed their foundation 'Pointing at Potholes' module. It's been the launchpad for many a successful political career.

The chosen pothole is a Co-op pothole, so Michael's clearly stolen a march on Labour to claim it as his own. Anyway, it's in the run-down area behind the Hollway Road shops, and he assures us that "The Lib Dems are acting on this appalling, dangerous, unsightly mess"

On the afternoon of Monday 16th August, this appalling, dangerous, unsightly mess is due to be cleaned up by a team from Community Payback. It's prompted by the Stockwood Neighbourhood Forum (previously PACT), where residents prioritised the shopping centre for urgent attention.

Question is, which party will claim the credit?

The Neighbourhood Forum itself meets on August 12 at the Christ the Servant Church, to hear what's been done so far and to look at future priorities.

In Praise of the Tesco Approach

The Tesco superstore at Brislington must be near-unique in the high quality of its off-road approaches by bike or on foot.

True, approaching from Stockwood there are steps to be negotiated at the West Town crossing, but this could easily be corrected by shifting the path to the other side of the school. Cycling City like the idea, but it's doubtful whether there'll be enough time or money to do it.

Otherwise, there's a quiet, level, almost rural off-road route from every direction...




and West.

Of course, once you get there you still have to navigate the car park, as with nearly every other store... but it must be worth it to reach the goodies inside.