Eastside Voice Out on the Streets

by Josh Hart
on Thursday 15 Jan 2009

type: News Report
topic: The Environment
region: Bristol
While many believe that the redevelopment of the Elizabeth Shaw Chocolate Factory in Greenbank will have positive benefits for the community overall, many are increasingly concerned about the sale of a strip of publicly owned land along the Bristol and Bath Railway Path, currently the subject of a consultation by Bristol City Council. If the sale is approved, the 170m long strip of mature hedgerow- habitat for foxes, badgers, and birds- would be destroyed and developed into a 7-storey tower block and “cycle houses.” There is also concern about the 250 parking spaces proposed for the development, likely to generate a significant amount of traffic in this currently quiet corner of Easton.

The land sale consultation comes after embarrassing e-mails (obtained by a Freedom of Information request) between the Planning Director David Bishop and the chief architect for the project, George Ferguson revealed that council officers were planning to dispose of the land against the recommendation of wildlife and parks officers, and without any input from the public or local councillors. “These kinds of backroom deals make a mockery of local democracy,” says Caroline Lee-Smith, a Whitehall resident who works for an environmental charity.

The plan also violates the Bristol Local Plan that states, “It is vital that the wildlife network is as continuous as possible… any severance can seriously reduce the nature conservation and landscape value of a corridor.” According to Kingsley Rd. resident Tom Beale, “The Railway Path is not only a strip of concrete- it is a linear park and important “breathing place” for the community. It is also critical habitat and a migratory route for wildlife, who use the railway path much as humans do, to get safely from one area of Bristol to another.”

Jan Walters, Bristol’s Nature Conservation Officer, has stated that “(if this project is approved) the character of the path will change fundamentally. It will set a precedent for further development pressure along the Railway Path. While I applaud the scheme’s intentions to retain and reuse the existing buildings and capitalise on the links with the Railway Path, this should not be at the cost of loss of integrity of the (wildlife corridor).”

The land sale consultation so far has been far from fair and honest, with leading questions on the official questionnaire such as, “do you think regeneration is important for Easton?” implying that if the sale of the land does not get approved, the whole project will be ditched- an unlikely scenario. Local residents who have called the “public information line” have discovered to their dismay that this is not a Council number, but in fact a private firm, PPS. There are even reports that PPS has refused to convey unfavourable feedback to the Council. According to Camelford Rd. resident Josh Hart, “If public feedback is being filtered to obtain a desired outcome that will benefit developers at the expense of local people and the environment, that is an insult to our community.”

Local residents are urged to attend the open house on Saturday the 17th of January from 10am- 4pm at the Pickle Factory, 13 All Hallows Rd. Easton and send the enclosed postcard to the Council. You can also find out more about the proposed land sale, and provide specific comments to jane.greenaway@bristol.gov.uk or 922 2694 (do this even if you have completed the online survey or responded by phone). You can also still make comments or queries about the planning application to chanelle.brodie@bristol.gov.uk or 922 3031

Further details and background on the development and proposed land sale available at http://keepgreenbankgreen.blogspot.com More info about the threatened hedgerow at http://thestoryofahedge.blogspot.com/

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