Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

HandS ON the levers of local democracy!

HandS ON - Hengrove and Stockwood Online Neighbourhood - is our web forum and blog, just launched. It's set up to share news and views across the two wards, and to widen interest in Hengrove and Stockwood's Neighbourhood Partnership in its many forms.

HandS ON has the support of the Neighbourhood Partnership, but it is independent. The ward councillors welcome it; Hengrove's Sylvia Doubell promptly registered, and the others say they will! We've even bribed them with an 'announcement' forum where no-one can heckle!

The sites have been developed by Toni Massari and me (Toni providing the know-how!).

Now comes the real test, getting enough residents interested and putting stuff on it, to make it useful and effective.

The forum's the key to that. For instance, a couple of instant controversies....

The Area Green Space Plans. Parks want to settle on a list of local priorities within the next few weeks (starting at an open meeting next Tuesday). Taking the debate online will make it a little less exclusive!

A BMX track alongside the railway path - great for kids, potentially good for wildlife, threatening for the neighbours. How do we cater for (and involve) everyone?

The forum's public on the web, but only registered users can post to it - and we're asking people to use their real names, not hide behind an anonymous username (else we might get like the Evening Post comment columns!)

If you live in Hengrove or Stockwood, please sign up.


Paul Bemmy Down said...

Hi Pete. I find the Forums of more benefit because the issues are far more "local". As for the Partnerships, it's a good chance for those motivated to "do their bit" to get together, but it's usually the same faces and, however hard they try, can hardly be called democratic. Not one single person in my area put themselves forward for election so there is along way to go!

Interested said...

Hello Pete.

I note you describe Stockwood as,
"...........first settled by city expats back in the fifties. Leafy, open, and close to the countryside.... until they grub up the Green Belt and open spaces to build an 'urban extension".

I suppose if the environmental lobby had been as strong in the 1950s as it is now the Stockwood estate would never have been built, as it sits on what were then Somerset open fields.

It would follow that the Stockwood community as we know it would not exist and may of the current residents would be living in two-up, two-down dwellings in the inner city, or in even more multi-storey flats.

Do you think you would have opposed the Stockwood estate being built on green fields if you'd been around here in the 1950s?

Stockwood Pete said...

I have no idea, interested. The situation is very different now, though.

It's always going to be a dilemma, balancing the different demands on using such a vital, but finite, resource as land. Homes, jobs, recreation, agriculture, fuel... which one gets it, and what shortages does that cause for the others?

I'd agree that when it's simply NIMBY, the case is far less persuasive. In other words, the principle has to be right, not just the self-interest.

Whilst I can see that we need more and better quality homes, I think the scale of it is exaggerated. Ask why we need ever-bigger houses (extra garages, extra bathrooms etc), why we need to 'grow' the population of the city through immigration from other parts of the country or beyond, why we can't first make use of unused buildings or brownfield sites, why we need second homes, why some owners use the buy-to-let system as an investment rather than to provide homes that are needed. The answers challenge the simplistic notion that we must build more homes on greenfield sites to solve the housing crisis. It's much deeper than that.

Paul Bemmy Down said...

Excellent reply Pete, and there was me thinking members of the Green Party were banned from even thinking about immigration as an issue. As you rightly say, it's not straightforward. One man robs your pension, "buy to let" seems a better option. No more Boom and Bust so why not borrow more than you can afford and have a second home. Self-certified mortgages, lie about your income. Banks pester you to borrow so max out your credit card. As for the "inner city": I suppose you could argue that even that was countryside at one time.

Stockwood Pete said...

Hi Paul

Thanks. Work on it, and I might even mention population as a problem!

Must admit, though, that I'm an immigrant myself, ie not a Bristolian. I can only claim that my grandmother-in-law (work it out) was born in Bedminster. Me, I'm Estuary, but came here after 40 years in the north-east. And that was the kind of immigration I mostly had in mind. So many towns there dying for lack of investment, housing surpluses, but no jobs so the more able younger people are forced to move south. It makes no sense.

between-the-lines said...

"So many towns there dying for lack of investment, housing surpluses ..."

Yup, the ideal place for setting up a major demonstration eco-village.

There's quite a few towns up north where an active and together group of people could raise the funds and make whole streets and even areas of retrofitted eco-friendly houses, food-growing and housing co-ops, all sorts of great stuff ....

Green regeneration!

Before you ask, yes, I've tried dropping the idea in a few ears, but no-one else seems to think what a great opportunity it could be.

Interested said...


Thank you for your reply to my question about past expansion of Bristol into the green fields though I think it's a politician's answer to a large extent.

If it's wrong now to expand the city further why might it have been all right in the past? The principle is the same.

I can't help thinking that those of us who live on former green field sites (probably the majority) and who oppose further expansion are behaving somewhat hypocritically.

Bristol like all cities has gradually grown outwards for centuries to take account of expanding populations. Is it realistic to think that this can suddenly stop?

I wholeheartedly agree that brown field sites should be used first where appropriate and there is an argument to curtail second homes (though there is an element of social engineering in that) as there is to try to curb buy-to-let purchases (perhaps by introducing a draconian tax implication), though I don't believe that a principle should be established where Bristol, or anywhere else, will be constrained within its present limits forever.

Is it fair to try to stop people coming to such a lovely part of the world to live and, hopefully, work merely because their presence would increase the population and thus the need for further housing?

Paul Bemmy Down said...

I was visited yesterday by an old friend who, 30yrs ago, had returned to live in torbay, the area where he was born and raised. Comparing Bristols' traffic with where he now lives he said that he would never had returned there had he known how it would so massively develope. And thats the problem. Nicer the area, more people attracted, area deteriorates. Is it right to restrict growth for the benefit of those already living here? Perhaps it's a matter of degrees, but you can always build upwards instead of outwards, like some of the great cities of the world, and living close together does not seem to have had an adverse effect on places like Clifton, Southville, Redland, or Hotwells which seem more popular areas than most.