Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Friday, 30 July 2010


Well, Bristol's transport certainly needs some radical thinking, and it won't come from First.

FreeBus is little more than an idea right now - next it needs people to commit time, money, imagination and/or enthusiasm to make it - or something like it - a reality.

Thursday, 29 July 2010


We've got a couple of benches (simple, railway sleeper type) on the Open Space now, since the 'Friends' group reminded the Wildlife Trust that they had the funds to do it. One's on the northern edge of the copse at the Coots (great view!), the other's at the foot of the stepped path from Holsom Road.

It looks like there'll be money available for a couple more. One looks like being further down the main path towards Briz. As for the other, I thought this should be a prime site - on the steep but well used path between Showering Road and the Hollway Road shops.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Green Spaces - and the dark side of party politics

Soon after the council's plans to sell off bits of our green spaces were announced, Stockwood's LibDem candidate in the last election wrote to the other parties (including me, as his opposite number in the Green Party) to suggest that we link up in all-party (therefore no-party) opposition to it. Seemed like a good idea to me, and I said so - but it didn't have the same appeal for the Labour party, nor, more importantly, for either of our two current councillors, both of them Tories. So I'm sorry to say that a Stockwood all party consensus is a non-starter - even if we all feel the same!

There is, though, a heavy whiff of hypocrisy in the air. Selling land is a vital element of the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy, welcomed by LibDems, Tories, and Labour alike a couple of years ago. They all voted for it. And if they didn't see it coming, it's because they didn't listen to the Green Party, who pointed out at the time that selling the family silver is neither sustainable nor desirable.

I shall sign the petition being raised by our Tory councillors against selling off open green spaces as development sites, because it is as bad a policy now as it was when they voted it through. But I feel angry that they're now making party political capital out of opposing something that they both voted for in the first place.

As for the LibDems, equally responsible for the sell-off strategy, their leadership seems quite happy to hand over publicly owned land to the off-shore owner of the football club, virtually for free, while it sells off our green space here to offset some of the deep public service cuts it's making (and to employ a parkie or two elsewhere).

Friday, 23 July 2010

A pretty good day in Itahari

The decision's been made - the new regional stadium will be at Itahari. (above - pic copyright Ragu Dangal. Note the football!)

The Himalayan Times reports that
"At the celebrations rally today held at the call of the Regional Stadium Struggle Committee, political parties, social organisations, chamber of commerce and industries, various ethnic organizations, businessmen, athletes, civil society and the general public attended."

"The rally went round various parts of Itahari town. Later the local also illuminated their respective homes and exchanged greetings and happiness."

Sounds good. But I suspect that the Itahari stadium won't be built on the Bristol business model (private ownership, single club, public subsidy). Would there be a similar outpouring of spontaneous happiness here?

Other 'regional stadia' revealed by a cursory google search include Port Macquarie NSW, Wellington NZ, and South Bend Indiana - but none of them answered the question - What IS a regional stadium?

So far as I can see, the new, bigger stadium proposed at Long Ashton will be the Bristol City FC stadium, just the same as Ashton Gate (though it will probably have some sponsors name attached to it). There'll be commercial opportunities to attract conferences and guests at the linked hotel, and maybe other functions - but essentially it's simply a football ground.

The phrase 'regional stadium' seems to have come from the club itself, and the fans and the politicians and (of course) the BEP have picked it up and are using it at every opportunity.

But does anyone know what it means?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

News from the 'greenest government ever'

Thursday dawns - and it's another bad day for the planet. The government's due to kill off its sustainability watchdog, the Sustainable Development Commission.

Still, why pay £3m a year for the skills of 60-odd people to give you first class (and much needed) expert advice, when instead you can have the saloon bar pundits, the Daily Mail, and Pickles ?

Why do the LibDems tolerate it? No, don't tell me, I know....

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Thumbs Up for the Sainsburys Thumbs Down

Tonight saw the refusal of planning permission for a Sainsburys megastore at the current BCFC ground at Ashton Gate.

This was all the more welcome after the Evening Post's blatant attempts to sway the outcome in favour of the supermarket, the club owners, and others who want to see the city expand into yet another traffic-intensive urban sprawl to the south west.

I don't think this was the first time that the Post has featured, alongside its editorial attempts to whip up public fervour, the names and pictures of the councillors who must make the decision. It had a strong element of 'we know where you live' about it, and it's a brave councillor who stands up to that kind of bullying.

I expect they'll find a way of funding a new stadium anyway. If so, lets hope that the old Ashton Gate site gets turned into something Bristol can really be proud of. A supermarket was never going to do that.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Coalition... Environment.... Localism: the Tory Way

10th June 2010:
Bristol's LibDem Cabinet agrees to run a pilot scheme penalising residents who persist in putting 'black box' recyclable waste into the 'residual waste' wheelie bins. Grounds? - 25% of wheelie bin contents could have been recycled from the kerb-side.

15th July 2010:
Council leader Barbara Janke meets with top LibDems in government. “With Lib Dems in power nationally,” she said, “we will ensure that the city’s needs, concerns and ambitions are understood by ministers and do everything to reinforce the need for closer relations.”

16th July 2010:
Environment Secretary Caroline Spellman announces changes to the Climate Change Act to prevent councils trialling or implementing 'pay-as-you-throw' schemes. It's particularly aimed at the Bristol initiative, and is (honest!) part of the Tory 'Localism' agenda.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

The Cabinet Casino

For some compulsive gamblers, it's the spin of the roulette wheel. For the council, it's the prospect of World Cup Bristol 2018.

For some, it's their own money. For Bristol City Council, it's ours.

And for both, it gets to be an obsession that denies reality.

The bid by multi-millionaire tax exile Steve Lansdowne and his Bristol City Football Club to own a new stadium complex at Ashton Vale really has got the council hooked. A half promise of hosting some World Cup preliminaries (terms and conditions apply) in eight years time has turned normally fairly rational people into obsessives . So now, at a time of severe cuts in public services, we're still throwing money at Lansdowne. The multimillion giveaway has been beautifully lampooned on the Aurea Mediocritas blog

No matter that the new stadium could been built by the city's football establishment without public cost. There's no reason why Rovers and City couldn't both achieve their ambitions by sharing a spanking new stadium and splitting the cost. And there was no reason why the fans couldn't invest in the club to seal the (alleged) funding gap. No public subsidy either way.

In February, the Planning Committee (South and East) gave the OK to Lansdowne for his stadium, hotel, fast food outlet, and housing estate. In the process, they accepted that Bristol's Green Belt is expendable, by taking a chunk out of it. I can't guess what money value Green Belt has as a 'community asset', but most would say it's substantial. That's just in terms of health, wellbeing, and quality of life.

What's more, to help the club finance the scheme, the council agreed to waive the rules and let them build houses that will be 100% unaffordable to the people who need them most. Lost value to the community - £3.2m. Value to the club - 1.25m. That's business. (source, p13.)

In the next week or so, the council intends to gamble away even more. The next stage is to hand over the freehold of council-owned land to the football club. That's a big part of the Ald. Moore allotment site (where the unaffordable houses will go) and the part of the present stadium site that BCFC lease for car parking.

To enable the deal, both sites have been given capital valuations. Alderman Moore (rebranded 'Moorelands' by the developers) comes in at £3.4m - inexplicably reduced from the £5m quoted last November.

The car park site is said to be worth £1.15m, though that presupposes that the planning committee will do its bit to bring the World Cup to Bristol by letting Sainsburys build a megastore there. That's another 'community cost' of course - the impact on retail centres throughout South Bristol and beyond.

None of this cash will help replenish the council's depleted reserves, though. Instead, we'll be settling for 'services' provided by the club - like the occasional use of rooms, subsidised gym places, even the pitch itself (once a year). Expect to see more council 'events' move here from the usual venues, like @Bristol, the Pavilion, and Broadmead Baptist Church.

The test should really be whether the council would have bought these services from the club anyway - otherwise the notional 'value' of the services is meaningless. My guess is that, when cutting back on so many relatively essential services, and with a broad range of providers ready to offer competitive services, they wouldn't dare.

I always thought there were rules about competitive tendering for council contracts. But then I'm not that fussy about the 2018 World Cup (why should I be, I was in Middlesbrough in 1966?). Maybe I've got the wrong priorities.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Probably the only car promotion this blog will ever carry

Mu looks promising - even if it does encourage you to 'rent a mobility solution'.

Car Clubs may be just the job for those who need a vehicle occasionally - unless that means once or twice a year, in which case they're quite pricey.

Here's a rather different scheme being launched by Peugeot from two of their UK dealers - one being Robins and Day, in Bristol. Also includes vans, scooters and bikes.

Tea for Two

We added to our carbon footprint with a bit of luxuriating in first class seats between Bristol and Swansea the other day.

Not that sitting in the First Class had any more impact than our usual journey in the lower class end of the train. As the only passengers in Coach G, it's fair to say that by merely changing ends we made no difference.

The impact was in the perks... first class passengers get a free cuppa and a snack (and, if you want, a copy of The Times). Not so long ago that would mean someone put a cup in front of you, and someone else pouring the required refreshment into it. Once enjoyed, the cup would be removed, to be reused further down the line.

Not now. It's a DIY job. This is what was left to be thrown away.

Still, we needn't be self critical. At least we didn't take sugar. Or the cake. Or The Times.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Still Waiting......

Nice new bus shelters have appeared along the Bath Road corridor. This one's at Arnos Vale, outside Burger King.

It's turned around so that waiting passengers now face the road, not the fast food outlet (a mixed blessing). It boasts a wider roof than the old one, and, to add a bit of class, the seat has armrests. Most would agree that it's an improvement, along with a few other things along the same corridor.

But, inescapably, it's just a bus stop. Truth is, it's still part of one of the negative elements of public transport - the Wait. Don't let anyone call it a step change in the public transport consumer offer.

It begs the question, though, of what would provide that change: if you have to wait for your transport, what are the ideals to make it tolerable, even enjoyable?

For a start, INFORMATION. You need to know when it's coming before you make any decisions about how to spend the time. Go for a cuppa, or a beer, or some last minute shopping? You need to know, in real time. And if it's an unfamiliar journey, it helps to know fares and what the alternative routes are.

Then there's SHELTER. Bus stops might be getting prettier, but they're still not nice places to be on a dark wet night when the wind's blowing and the traffic's splashing past. The ideal would be something more enclosed, well-lit, and with some oversight or SECURITY.

A mobile phone and entertainment you may well already have, but you may not want to flaunt the fancier stuff. Not here, anyway. So let's look for economies of size to provide the oversight, safety and shelter. Where there's a complex of bus stops, why not provide all this in a WAITING ROOM; the real time info will make sure there's time to get to the actual stop as the bus approaches.

In the biggest waiting rooms, more services might be viable - even commercially viable - on site. A cafe. A shop. An enquiry point. Toilets. Vending machines. Ticket machines. Local information. (Note: I was in Oxford yesterday, not a city that I know well. Very little information at the station, poor signage, no bus maps. And there were too many crocodiles. Harrumph.)

Where's all this leading?

Clearly we won't see all of this at your average Bath Road stop (though the Park and Ride could be an exception). But it has potential in the Centre, at Broadmead, and, above all, at this place where the building's just waiting to provide all this and lots more.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

An Engagement is Announced....

It was the West of England Partnership's annual 'Transport Forum' this morning. It was used to introduce the emerging Joint Local Transport Plan (aka JLTP3), intended to take us through to 2026.

They've already taken soundings from various formal 'stakeholders', but now it's the turn of us, the public to have a say, and we've got until 4th October to say it. Not in a 'consultation' this time. This one is billed as an 'engagement'.

If there are any new 'big ideas', they must be in the small print. The Major Schemes look much the same. There's a new slogan, though, to go along with the engagement - "Let's Talk: Transport Matters". On the web, it's all at

The workshops revealed a number of perceived weaknesses in JLTP3 - many of them listed on this feedback slide:

Two of the WoEP Transport Exec Members (Charles Gerrish of BaNES and Brian Allinson of S.Glos) turned up for the Forum/launch, but neither the N. Somerset dinosaur nor our own Gary Hopkins found the time to engage with us.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Who's Losing Ground?

The consultation now under way for the 'Site Allocations' and the Area Green Space Plans is structured around the Neighbourhood Partnerships - those arbitrary non-neighbourhoods engineered to provide administrative convenience for the council's devolution ambitions.

Today it was was our turn in "Hengrove and Stockwood" to enjoy a 'drop-in session' to examine the plans.

It was very well attended too - and with the emphasis strongly on the suggested 'site disposals' required by the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy that our councillors approved in a rare display of cross-party consensus (well, apart from the Greens, but technically they don't count as a party) a couple of years ago.

The strategy relies on the sale of 'low value' land to help finance restoration and improvement of Bristol's long-neglected parks.

There's a list of all the drop-in sessions on the council web pages, partnership by partnership. Each runs from noon till 8.

Here's a shortlist. You might expect more local interest at the ones marked with an asterisk. They're the ones where the council hopes to sell off public green spaces for development. Asterisk free = threat free.

Date:     Neighbourhood Partnership Area:
30-Jun     *Filwood, Knowle & Windmill Hill
05-Jul     *Hengrove & Stockwood
12-Jul     Cabot, Clifton & Clifton East
14-Jul     *Horfield & Lockleaze
22-Jul     *Greater Fishponds Area
26-Jul     *St George
01-Sep     *Greater Fishponds Area
02-Sep     *Brislington
06-Sep     *Hartcliffe, Whitchurch Park & Bishopsworth
13-Sep     Bishopston, Cotham & Redland
15-Sep     *Avonmouth & Kingsweston
20-Sep     Henleaze, Stoke Bishop & Westbury-on-Trym
22-Sep     Ashley, Easton & Lawrence Hill
27-Sep     *Henbury & Southmead
29-Sep     Greater Bedminster
04-Oct     *St George
06-Oct     City-wide
07-Oct     City-wide

You might even see a pattern emerging.