Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Silencing of Mr Grouchy

It was a bad evening for Mr Grouchy. 

First, he wished it had been him that used the platform of the Neighbourhood Puppetship to point out to our councillors that it's the City of London where businesses elect them to do their will.  Not Stockwood.  It's people that vote here.

It was Miss Moneypenny that got in first with that line.  The occasion was the 10 minute discussion of one local shopping parade, brought under the heading 'You Said, We Did' which is usually reserved for items raised by residents in the Ward Forums.  This one hadn't gone anywhere near a Forum.  It turned out that our Stockwood councillors have taken on board a raft of business proposals that not only include all the things the council should be doing anyway to look after the highway; they also want to grub up Stockwood's only tree-lined public square to provide an extended car park (although, if some businessmen are to be believed, those parking spaces would become an informal park and ride, permanently occupied during the day).  The whole package, said the councillors, should be added to the Puppetship's Local Action Plan - we had only to rubber-stamp the councillors' wishes before the ten minutes were up and we could move on to the next business.

It all brought echoes of the Great Double Yellow Cover Up of 2010

Miss Moneypenny, getting into her stride, also managed to point out that the very same councillors are desperate to stop new homes being built in the derelict car park behind the shops, although they've complained loud and long about the anti-social behaviour that now plagues the site, and about the failure of the owner to make it fit for the cars of shopkeepers, shoppers, and school-run mums who park on it uninvited.

Not that either of Miss Moneypenny's comments made much difference; the chair-councillor quickly abandoned the neutrality of her role and started arguing.  In the end, the whole thing was put on ice for a couple of months.  I think.  Perhaps the Minutes will tell us. We don't do voting here.

With one item left on the agenda, Mr Grouchy was still determined to have his day.  Even before the Partnership had gathered, he'd been trying, and failing, to get the four ward councillors interested in facing up to the biggest decision they're to take so far; which, if any, of seven green spaces in Stockwood they'll agree to sell off, and how they'll test public opinion on the matter.  Mr Grouchy himself doesn't want them to sell any, but that's not the point.  Anyway, he'd secured a foothold in the agenda - an item about the sell-off, to be used by the NP business managers to explain that since confirmation from the City Cabinet wasn't due for another 48 hours, it couldn't possibly be discussed now.  48 hours, in this case, becoming 8 weeks in the slow-moving cycle of the puppetship.

Anticipating this, Mr Grouchy put his Cunning Plan into action. It was a public statement briefly explaining the things that should have been in a background report - had one been written.  How we've won the right to have these decisions made locally, how quickly the ward councillors are expected to reach a decision, and how any income will be split between the central pot and the Hengrove and Stockwood parks (the local share rises from near-zero (few sites sold) to 70% (all sites sold)).  There was mention that the occasional meetings of busy NP committees wouldn't be enough to sound out popular opinion in this whole new ball-game; and, for good measure, an appeal that during the hoped-for public debate, an option should be considered to ask for 'voluntary' Town Green protection for saved sites.

But Mr Grouchy got nowhere.  His statement had to be delivered in bits, because the councillor chair once again abandoned the neutrality of office, interrupted, challenged, refuted, made speeches, and filibustered.  The other councillors looked a bit uncomfortable, but didn't intervene.  Eventually it all petered out, as the 9pm scheduled end of the meeting passed.  There was no vote, no conclusion, and plenty more problems for the minute taker.

So, with the fate of seven of Stockwood's green spaces hanging in the balance, there is still no plan to involve the wider public.  The councillors who make the decisions are showing not the slightest interest in how best to involve the rest of us. 

And Mr Grouchy is grouchier still.

(Mr Grouchy also tips his hat to Mrs Angry, in Broken Barnet )

[Added late on 26/1/12]
Cabinet confirmed decision this evening, as expected.
More background in this blog 6/12/11 and 26/11/11

Join Local online discussion  on the HandS ON Forum

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Transport Planning

You wouldn't believe it.

Question to Bristol's Cabinet Member for Transport:    of bus passengers travelling into the city, what proportion continue their journey beyond the central area on a) the same bus, or b) by another route?

Answer. Don't know. No idea.  

Supplementary question: Wouldn't it be a good idea to find out? It would help, for instance, with deciding what the need is for better interchange facilities.  

Supplementary answer:   Maybe. We could ask the bus operators, but even if they know and they tell us, we couldn't tell anyone because of commercial confidentiality.  

How on earth can we ever get a fit for purpose public transport network if we can't even find out where people actually travel?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Imprudential borrowing

It's barely credible that these days, such things as providing school places and 'extra-care' provision for the elderly should not be a routine part of a council's budget.

Not in Bristol, though.  Not in today's climate, under today's government.   It seems that the only way to provide such things is by borrowing.  What kind of sustainable economics is that?

Still, there is one part of the proposal to borrow an extra £50 million that is easily explained.  A £10 million chunk of the £83 million-plus local contribution towards completing a South Bristol Ring Road and an under-used loss-making rapid transit.  It's the first cut in the plan to raise cash from a city-centre workplace parking charge.

Take a look round the back of the Bristol Evening Paste, and you can see one good reason.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Met de Stroom Mee reaches the Council Chamber

Just published - the Greens' first 'golden motion' on the council order paper, i.e. the one that's sure to get debated.   It brings together the linked issues of fuel poverty, renewable energy, climate change and peak oil in one neat package in which Bristol could take a real lead.

Here's what the council is being asked to agree at next weeks meeting (Tues 17th, 2pm):



The costs of energy are rising steadily, leading to widespread fuel poverty in the UK and at the same time we are facing serious climate change caused by our profligate use of fossil fuels.

For many ‘shopping around’ for the best energy tariffs is confusing and time-consuming and it is often those working the longest hours or earning the least who are unable to take advantage of cheaper rates. This motion aims to address this issue of energy injustice. We also aim to stimulate the UK renewables market and make us a world leader in providing our citizens with affordable clean energy.

For the purpose of this motion we define clean energy as energy derived only from renewable resources i.e. excluding all fossil fuels and nuclear processes.

We propose that BCC leads the way to co-ordinate a national ‘energy bulk-purchase’ scheme of clean energy on behalf of UK residents based on an existing Dutch scheme ‘Met de Stroom Mee’. We had hoped to implement this solely for Bristol but cheaper tariffs have to be available nationwide by law.

A network of councils would be able to negotiate cheaper costs through bulk purchase both for their own needs and those of citizens. The scheme should also include incentives to reduce consumption.

This scheme will require investment to set up, but it is intended that this will be shared across authorities and it is likely that savings from the scheme will make it self supporting in the future.


This council requests the Sustainable City team (a team within Bristol City Council) prepare a report to consider the above and to consider how to:

· Initiate and form a national network of authorities able to negotiate together a good rate of clean energy purchase

· Implement a scheme with this network to allow all UK citizens to buy cheap clean energy (where clean energy is defined as energy derived from non-fossil fuel and non-nuclear sources)

Council regards this a matter of urgency and requests this report if at all possible, be presented to the June Cabinet meeting and that the report specifically considers the possibility of implementing the scheme by December 2012.

There's a pdf. summary here of Met de Stroom Mee, prepared by the New Local Government Network, a think tank supported by a number of corporations and local authorities (not including Bristol)

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Council Questions:

Asking questions for written reply in council meetings isn't always what it seems.

Sometimes you already know the answer, just want to get them to admit it on paper so it becomes part of the written record.

Sometimes, it's a way of putting a Cabinet member on the spot; the question's less important than the opportunity to put a 'supplementary' verbal question in the meeting itself.  Cabinet ministers are adept at avoiding such traps, though.

Sometimes it's a bit of grandstanding (yes, I've seen it happen...) to score a party political point.  This kind of question is especially favoured by councillors.

Sometimes it's designed to bring a Cabinet Member's attention to a particular issue that they'd otherwise ignore.

And sometimes it's simply an attempt to find something out.  Here are three such questions, all transport related, that I've tabled for the next council meeting, on the 17th:

Bus journeys

Through journeys by bus via the city centre
[This question tries to validate (or not) the importance of having through cross-city bus routes that pass through the city centre ]

Do the city's public transport surveys, or other data made available by the bus operators, indicate what proportion of passengers on buses entering the city centre are continuing their journey beyond the central area, on either
a) the same route, or
b) another route?

Callington Road (Cycle) Link

The Cycling City programme included an ambition to use the 'Callington Link' alignment (the old Whitchurch Railway trackbed) to provide a safe off-road alternative to the present 'Whitchurch Way' route with its crossing of the A4 Bath Road at Arnos Vale.  We were told at the time that negotiations were in progress to acquire the land.

a)  Has there been any progress in acquiring the land? and
b)  What is the current situation regarding this project's development?

Predicted usage of the South Bristol Link Road

In an answer at the full September council meeting, you confirmed that only 10% of peak hour journeys on the South Bristol Link Road are expected to start or finish in those more deprived suburbs of South Bristol which the road is purported to regenerate (ie 90% would be through traffic either diverted from other cross-town routes or newly generated through journeys.)  You agreed (webcast 2hr 20min) that these figures were a cause for concern and that you would revisit them for further analysis.

Have you discovered anything new?

Monday, 2 January 2012

Confrontation at the Hollway Road shops

It's time for a Town Brown application at Stockwood shops. 

Here we are, accustomed since the year dot to park our cars, collect the kids, do the shopping, dodge the delivery vehicles and the potholes, and set fire to the waste bins behind the shops, and what happens?   Some developer fellow from London comes along and wants to build all over it!  Turns out that he actually owns it.

You really wouldn't credit it!  Thank heavens our councillors are there defending the motorists and the juggernauts against the landowners.  

Lets face it....  if the speculators get away with this, Tesco may decide there's not enough access to go ahead with their (rumoured) takeover of the Post Office.  And the school-run mums will spread like a plague throughout the neighbourhood, as they fight for the nearest alternative parking that will keep them free of any obligation to walk the kids to school.

Planning Application
Evening Post article
HandS ON forum topic