Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Stupidity? Irresponsibility? Ticking the boxes for Plot 6.

Plot 6, alongside Temple Meads rail station, is arguably the finest opportunity to do what bendy buses won't do, and what trams or Portishead reopening wouldn't do; to turn around Bristol's woeful public transport network so that everyone can get everywhere in two hops at most, with safe and comfortable interchange on the way. The sort of thing that might actually be better than using the car. Cross-ticketing and good real time information can offer 'soft' infrastructure to make it all seamless, and an Integrated Transport Authority can provide the essential governance. Not rocket science. Easy. Job done.

Except.... that the soft infrastructure is being developed only very slowly, sometimes actively opposed by key players, and the ITA isn't being pursued at all. All the energy and the public money is going into Bus Rapid Transit (and, in the case of the South Bristol Link, into the completion of a southern ring road masquerading as sustainable transport).

Worst of all, the Plot 6 site itself, and all its potential, is set to be buried for ever under a new development of retail, office, and car parking.

You might think such folly is impossible. After all, don't the politicians of all parties now officially recognise that Plot 6 has fantastic potential as a transport hub? Didn't the new Local Enterprise Partnership at their very first formal meeting acknowledge the importance of the site for transport interchange to serve economic development? . And they're the unelected quango gifted with the powers to turn this designated 'local enterprise zone' into an employment hub at the heart of a transport network. Everything's in place to make it happen.

BUT this last week, Bristol24/7 published a story that had until then only circulated informally; Plot 6 will not be used as a transport hub. Best we'll get (perhaps) is a BRT stop over in the Friary (Pipe Lane) to serve the station, while the 8/9 buses and the airport flyer that currently stop on the main station approach ramp would be relegated to the same place.

Significantly, the council's rapid rebuttal unit, and the Executive member, have remained strangely silent.

And today, we've seen the pictures of the Prime Minister re-enacting the Thatcher 'Walk in the Wilderness' alongside Temple Meads, in the company of the Local Enterprise Partnership's chair, Colin Skellet. Again, the covering press statements are full of promised opportunities for commercial development across the zone; not a word about its transport potential.

So where's the debate, where's the accountability?

Over on 'Ask Bristol' we've just been invited to discuss the pros and cons of the three bendy-bus routes, just after the council's made its decision to bid for them (while committing to raising the best part of £100 million locally to pay toward the cost). And the politicians are just starting their annual August break from public meetings.

Treating the public with contempt is nothing new, and neither is breaking promises - but the Plot 6 debacle takes stupidity, short-sightedness, and irresponsibility to quite unprecedented levels.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

A Stockwood Miscellany

Time to catch up.....

Residents of Harden Road will welcome the reports that we'll 'soon' be getting the long-promised kerbside recycling service for plastics. The inadequate bin behind the Co-op does get overfilled, or more often just littered by people who can't be bothered to actually put stuff into it.

Meanwhile, across Hollway Road, Leadbitters, the contractors for the new Chestnut Court complex, have put in their own fairly comprehensive recycling bank. It's only a few large bins set behind slots in the site fencing, but it's a welcome addition to Stockwood's barely existent recycling facilities. The same contractors have offered to provide a recycling centre at the completed site, too.

Down at the Orchard.....
Looks like we can expect a good harvest from the 'official' fruits of the orchard on the Open Space (some 'unofficial' crops of nettles, elderflowers and plums have already been put to good use). A recent count of the trees along the informal path north of the new picnic table (thanks, FoSOS, Parks, and the Neighbourhood Partnership) found fifty apples, four pears and a plum; and there are plenty more in the uncharted scrublands to the east of that.
In October, Friends of Stockwood Open Spaces expect to bring in an apple press to make the most of it. If enough people help organise the day, it could be our own Oktoberfest.

Stockwood Green School buildings

.... are not to become the community resource that we'd hoped for. Instead, from September, they're the new home for the Whitehouse Centre, a 'pupil referral centre' which is moving from inadequate premises over in Hartcliffe. It's a short stay unit for pupils who haven't coped with mainstream schooling (or vice versa), who'll be bussed to and from the new unit each day.
A new head teacher and staff are keen to build good relationships with the Stockwood community. The Evening Post quotes the acting head: "We will be able to make extensive use of the tranquil grounds and hope to create a kitchen garden and outside space which would benefit from community involvement." A good oportunity for allotmenteers! "I'd also welcome any local people who would like to take an active role in our management committee." . Looks like there'll still be opportunities for community use of the buildings in the evenings, too.

Local Food Project
It looks like the Whitehouse Centre and the two primary schools will be leading the way with initiatives to put local food on the table, and maybe in the shops. It coincides with members of the Neighbourhood Partnership actively encouraging the use of public sites to grow food to share - one of the first signs of that will be planters/raised beds in public places. There's also whatever we can gather from the orchard and the sprinkling of fruit and nut trees around the ward. But in the end it's people power that's the key.

Nice to see this bit of thriving guerrilla gardening alongside Chatterton's house on Redcliffe Way. All the more so on such a busy public site that must be vulnerable to vandalism. Presumably the work of the people occupying (and looking after) the long-neglected building?

High Growth Investments?
One initiative that doesn't tick the right boxes is the arrival of hanging baskets around the Stockwood shops. They're absurdly high up, and ridiculously awkward to maintain and water. Fail.

Write your own news....

The badly revamped Evening Post website makes it possible to dream up your own news story and present it as fact on the main news pages.
I was briefly delighted to see the announcement that the 55 bus (Stockwood via Wells Road) is to be restored. Until it turned out to be a bit of mischief from an anonymous contributor to their 'forum' pages, elevated to the news page because it attracted comments.
The fiction seems to be a response to improvements made to bus stops along Wells Road - which are, I guess, more to do with introducing a 'showcase' route between Bristol, Midsomer Norton and Radstock. That won't be before time, though you have to wonder what it will do to the Wells/Street service.

and thinking of buses....

What an asset Alan Peters' A-bus service is! Cheap, but never predictable.
(and, added a day later)
Work should be starting (at last) on the upgraded BMX track behind the Whittock Road allotments tomorrow (Monday).