Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Monday, 26 December 2011

2011 meets 2012

The climate change deniers always (and rightly) warn against taking warmer weather as conclusive evidence of a warming trend. Not that it stops them citing every cold snap as evidence of the opposite!

I'll just settle for these images.  Another local sign of the impacts of human behaviour on the global climate?  Or just plain weird?

This Christmas, we still have  (well, until we ate them) a few raspberries and nasturtiums in the garden.

Down the road at the Callington Road nature reserve, 2012's primroses are already showing.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Keeping the Lord Mayor mobile

At last, the answer to the question that's got all Bristol talking.

What to do about the Lord Mayoral Limo?  The tired old Daimler has been all but written off, since a little contretemps with a traffic bollard at the foot of the Council House ramp damaged its underside beyond economic repair.

Finding a replacement in these times of austerity was never going to be easy.  The civic leader of Bristol must have a civic vehicle to match the city's international standing. But we're skint.

The answer is inspired by Chooseday.

Remember Chooseday?   Probably not.  It was launched with a big fanfare a few years ago by the great and good of Bristol.  The idea was that Chooseday should be a the brand  (yes, brand) for sustainable initiatives in the city.  For starters, motorists were asked to give up their cars one day a week (on Tuesdays, believe it or not), and use their legs, bikes or public transport.  Once that habit got established, other initiatives would be developed to expand the Chooseday brand.

It was never going to work, of course.  Can you imagine if it did?  Every Tuesday, instead of the usual congestion crippling Bristol, everyone would be piling on to buses and trains that simply weren't equipped for the sudden influx.   Result... public transport totally discredited as an alternative to the car. 

Within a few days, Chooseday became history.

Until now. Using the Chooseday model, the Mayoral Limo can be resurrected for nowt.  The city and its Lord Mayor get a 'timeshare' vehicle, different on each day of the week, provided by the good example of the city bosses.

For three days, the leaders of the main parties will set the Chooseday example, putting their own vehicles at the Lord Mayor's disposal, while they find more sustainable ways to get around. 

The fourth day, it's the Greens' turn.  Tess Green, in fact.  Sorry, Tess, you'll have to walk.  Just pedal up to the Mansion House in Clifton, and leave your bike there.

Days 5 and 6, lets have the real city bosses join in. 

Merchant Venturer John Savage should certainly be up for it - he was one of the first spokesmen for the Chooseday launch.  On the day he volunteers his own car for civic use, he can still get to work at Business West on the newly upgraded 357/358 bus.  No problem there then.

On Day 6, perhaps it should be left to the business community to select one of their own.  Maybe by ballot among members of the Local Enterprise Partnership?

For the seventh day there can be only one volunteer - and one vehicle.  Steve Lansdown already owes a debt of gratitude to Bristol, for all its efforts to turn his dream stadium and the assets around it into a reality, and to oppose anything and anyone that might get in the way.  Steve, it is said, has a part share in a private jet based at the airport.  He must be able to spare it one day a week; come here too much and he might have to start paying taxes, and anyway, he could always use the Weymouth train and the ferry to get home to Guernsey.  So let this jet plane be the cherry on the mayoral transport cake - something to reflect the very special stature of the city, and to help attract the most ambitious candidates if, in future, we're to elect an all-powerful city Mayor.  What other city could compete with that?

Not that the Lord Mayor should use the Lansdown jet, of course, other than for photo-opportunities.  Just keeping it on the ground would do the city, and the planet, a favour.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Headbangers of the world unite

As falls go, it wasn't a big one - just a tumble off a pushbike onto concrete a few yards from home on a quiet residential street.  The biggest immediate response was embarrassment - did anyone see?

After lying there a few secs, I picked up myself, then the bike, and went home.  Checked for injury - just a grazed knee and elbow.

After a few minutes, though, everything went fuzzy.  I wasn't sure who I was or where I lived, let alone what had just happened.  I vaguely remember a paramedic asking me questions, an ambulance arrived, and my wife and I were whisked off to A&E.  On the way, memories returned - though not (and still not) of the half-hour or so blank spot after the bump. 

Walked cautiously into A&E where some routine tests and checks were quickly done, all of it very reassuring.  There was a wait for the CT scan (others' need were greater than mine) but after a few hours all was declared OK, and we caught the bus home.

The lessons:
  • Value the NHS - it's marvellous.  Don't let them kill it.
  • Always wear a helmet, even for little low-traffic local trips.  It was by chance I'd had one on this time, and it took enough hammering in the fall enough to split the side.  If I'd not been wearing it, this would have been another, much darker, story, if it had been written at all.

Now, off to get a new one.....

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The price of a kiss

TescoValue - £3

Street price - zilch

The 54 bus goes national !

.......  or at least it's attracted  plenty of comments on fixmytransport, after one Will Spurr used the site to ask for 'real time' displays along the 54 route.

The comments have brought plenty of info about what happens elsewhere in the UK, about different costs, and some original suggestions for making real time info more accessible.

No response yet from BCC though.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Neighbourhood Partnerships? or Councillors holding court?

The city council's decision to delegate the controversial green space sales to 'neighbourhood' level will thrust these emergent local democratic structures into a very public spotlight.   Will they deliver?  In this corner of the city, the indications aren't good.

Even at the council meeting, Cllr Gus Hoyt (Green) had to correct the euphoric Labour speakers with a reminder that they'd passed the big decisions not to the people, but to the Neighbourhood Committees.  That is, to the four or six councillors for those wards where sales will be considered.   How those councillors pick which (if any) sites to sell will be their own responsibility.  As will the converse - which sites to retain, thus losing a share of whatever income they might have produced to improve what's left.

In Hengrove and Stockwood, there's no sign that the residents will be involved to any degree.   My own attempt to start a dialogue between councillors, partnership members, and residents, fell at the first hurdle at the 'Stockwood Ward Forum' a couple of weeks ago.   There's no rush, said our councillor, we don't yet know the details, and we already know what our electors think.   No need to be alarmed that the government wants to force councils to sell everything in sight.  Calm down, dear, don't worry, we'll tell the people about it in our Conservative ward newsletter.

Sadly, our Stockwood councillors keep well away from 'open access' fora - whether third party public meetings, like election hustings, or on-line discussions (including even the Neighbourhood Partnership's own 'HandS ON' forum).  Party-funded ward newsletters offer a much more tightly controlled medium to set the agenda, the words, and the response.

But while Stockwood has seven sites on the parks hit list, our Hengrove partners have none, not since a group of residents succeeded in getting Brierley Leaze off the list by forcing a reluctant council to admit it met all the criteria for a Town Green.   So Hengrove has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, from Stockwood's land being sold for development, and their two councillors – one LibDem, one Labour - must be aware of that.   And they form half the Neighbourhood Committee, alongside our two Tory conservative councillors. 

Each Partnership meets four times a year for the Neighbourhood Committee to make formal spending decisions.   In practice, the agendas are long and there's no time for in-depth discussion, let alone consensus building at the 90-minute meeting, especially on complex site-by-site issues such as this.   We're assured that land sales won't be rushed into the January meeting.   The next ones are in March and then nothing till June.

So for now, it looks like any decision will be down to four councillors, with little or no reference to the park users or, indeed, to anyone who might put a case for development. They will, of course, take representations from anyone who cares to make them, including their close local advisers and their 'party line'. But the Neighbourhood Partnerships, set up for the purpose, look like being excluded from the discussions. 

There will be no attempt at the tricky task of building a popular consensus. Leave that sort of radicalism to the College Green Occupiers.

Cosmetic Surgery

This new sign appeared outside our local GP practice.  What does it mean?

OK, the words are clear enough (though fingers crossed that 'we care' relates to the patients).  But what on earth is the blue hexagon about?   It can't be a cube - the yellow disc and the letters would be angled differently.   Has the practice manager been on a course about blue sky thinking, perhaps?   Or was it just some novelty drawing software ?   I think we should be told