Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Friday, 18 January 2013

How to save us all (except the lawyers) a stash of cash, to spend on something useful instead.

The coalition puppeteers in London may be pulling the strings, but maybe we can guide the Mayor's knife-arm a little, using the budget consultation?

Here's one small suggestion. It's about Town Greens, and the work and income they provide for an often irrelevant bunch of lawyers.

At the moment the city council, at public expense, immediately calls in its own lawyers plus the inspectorate whenever anyone has the nerve to suggest a bit of council owned land deserves 'Town Green' protection.  All too often, it means getting the barristers in, too.  Top barristers

It doesn't actually have to be like that. They can simply take a look at the request, and agree to register. Just do it. Voluntarily.

True, registration means that the land in question immediately loses some of its 'book' value – because it won't attract premium development prices. But that's never a relevant factor unless the council is actually contemplating selling it. And it can, instead, recognise that public 'wellbeing' should come first, and consolidate that through registration.

Not all open spaces would deserve such preference – but it's not beyond the capability of the PROWG Committee, which adjudicates such things, to establish whether a particular open space merits voluntary registration, without first having to call in the lawyers and setting up a protracted legal fight with the applicants.

In fact, among the last four applications that have gone right through the process, the PROWG committee considered that two (Castle Park and Cotswold Road) may not fulfil the legal tests to the letter, but nonetheless merited voluntary registration.   (By the time they reached that conclusion, the lawyers had already taken their slice of the council's budget).

In a third case (Briery Leaze / Whitchurch Green) the council threw a six-figure sum at 'protecting' its asset against market devaluation and local residents, and still lost.   The public benefit of that futile and costly exercise is that Hengrove people now have a much valued 'Town Green'.

Whitchurch Green

I don't know the sums involved (it would probably need a persistent and long-winded FoI request to get anywhere near the truth), but they're obviously substantial, and could be used to offset some of the unkinder cuts to more sensitive parts of the council's body.

Any change would, I'm sure, be strongly resisted by the main beneficiaries of the present system, the City Hall lawyers and bean counters. But it only needs a small change to the present procedure, and, crucially,  an acknowledgement by the mayor that (as PROWG already knows) sometimes voluntary registration is the right thing to do. 

I've put it in the budget consultation, anyway.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

+ 1

Couldn't agree more

(Except for the bit about the lawyers. Not "all" of them)