More misguided building

by Green land lover
on Sunday 18 Aug 2013

type: News Report
topic: The Environment
region: Bristol
Council Approves £200 million Bendy Bus Plan Bendy Bus Plans, Bendy Legislation! What Stapleton Allotments will look like Last night, the council met in a Cabinet Meeting and approved the ‘North Fringe to Hengrove Package’. Despite the objections of allotment tenants, smallholders and many local residents, the overall scheme that includes the controversial M32 Park & Ride has been agreed by Bristol City Councillors. The bid for funding from central government has to be submitted by the government’s deadline on March 31st. It is expected that the Department for Transport will fund the majority of the £200 million development, amounting to some £168 million. The remainder is to be divided between Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire. Allotment holders such as myself do not believe the Council have truly considered alternatives to the M32 Park & Ride site, and we have no guarantee that there will be any mitigation measures. Even if there was, allotment land should never be developed, especially when it is not surplus to demand. The high quality of topsoil that is present on our site has been cultivated for generations, and it is irreplaceable. It takes over 500 years to form 2.5cm of topsoil; needless to say, agricultural and allotment land is being developed far quicker than it can ever be replaced. Stapleton Allotments has existed for over 50 years, and before that it was agricultural land, and always has been. Much of the land alongside the M32 is considered the last bastion of quality, arable land capable of producing a variety of food crops near central Bristol. The M32 Park and Ride is one of the main components of the new transport plan. To quote the travelplus website: "The three interrelated projects which make up the Package are: 1. Rapid transit route connecting Hengrove with the city centre 2. Rapid transit routes connecting the North and East Fringe with the city centre and the Stoke Gifford Transport Link 3. M32 park and Ride" The Park and Ride will comprise a car park with spaces for 1,500 cars, new roads to access the car park, a new motorway junction, and a new motorway bridge over the M32. The rest of the plan consists of remodeling some of the city centre to accommodate the bendy buses, in addition to buying the vehicles, bus stops and other street furniture. It is not hard to see where £200 million will be spent. However, much of the news coverage of the cabinet meeting was devoted to, yes you’ve guessed it. Car parking!!! It seems there’s nothing quite like a resident’s car parking scheme to provoke local outrage. The Council had to deal with two hot potatoes last night. The cynics among us will say there’s nothing like a good day to bury bad news. Our demo was not mentioned in the local press, despite support from local residents, politicians and environment groups interested in our small band of gardeners. We appreciate all of your support and thank you all for attending the demo last night. What will happen to the site? A picture is better than a thousand words, if you look at the illustration above (BCC, 2009) and compare the image to google maps, (showing the site a while ago, before it was fully occupied), note our Site Representative's polytunnels as a landmark: Allowing for discrepancies in the artistic impression, as the diagram has been pieced together from the google image, it looks like at least half the allotment site, plus the surrounding green fields and smallholdings will be gone. In addition to the development of allotment land, there are serious questions to be raised about the environmental credentials of this scheme. The Council have not committed to using low-emission vehicles as touted in the Travelplus literature, and they have neglected to consider any of the long term food production strategies that would be needed as a result of Peak Oil and Climate Change (see link below). The Council are still promoting the use of cars by blindly developing a Park & Ride system. Even if the car park was full to capacity, it will not have much impact on the traffic flow down the M32, and the potential visitors may not even use the site, preferring the multistorey car park at Cabot Circus instead. Overall, the rapid transport scheme may promote the use of public transport, but this will not be as a result of the Park & Ride. It will be because there are better bus routes and quicker payment methods. Although the scheme is promoted as helping to spread the prosperity of the South West, the new bus routes do not even go through areas of Bristol like Hartcliffe or Easton. Councillors have also ignored pleas from many Bristol residents to improve or re-open local train stations or consider light rail alternatives. At one time you could travel across Bristol by rail. Link to the Council Report: Why has this development gone ‘unnoticed’ until now? Our site has a high proportion of retired gardeners, some are not in the best of health. People are unaware of what is happening or don’t know what they can do about it. Perhaps some of us feel that we can’t do anything. We are not activists, and we know little of how local government operates. Many allotment gardeners on our site do not use email or the internet. Many of us have young families and cannot go to meetings that last all evening. Yesterday was the first Council meeting where we could voice our views in a public forum. What’s in a name? The development has caused confusion from the start. It is called the “North Fringe to Hengrove Package” with no mention of the M32 Park and Ride being sited at Stapleton until November 2009, then it took while for the news to filter back to the plotholders. Stapleton Allotments is still not mentioned on the Travelplus website. We knew from word of mouth that our site was one of five to be considered. If it was called “M32 Park and Ride at Stapleton” perhaps more people would know. Then there is Travelplus. Who are Travelplus? Do we vote for Travelplus? They are the West of England Partnership of the main unitary authorities in the South West. Even when you click on the North Fringe to Hengrove Package on their website, you are not given the exact details of the Park & Ride. To find it you need to search the annals of Bristol Councils’ website. This is the document, it is called the "North Fringe to Hengrove Exhibition Banner" there are many similar publications, most do not include the last section about Stapleton Allotments. This states that the Park and Ride is to be sited at Stapleton, many people did not realise the Package had any local relevance, or that the allotment site had been chosen. Confusing isn’t it? It’s as clear as mud. What happens next? • The funding bid needs to be approved by the Department of Transport • Consent for the disposal of allotment land has to be given by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government • Planning Permission has to be given for Grade 1 Agricultural Land to build the car park and access roads • Work is expected to start in 2013, just about when our apple trees should be starting to crop well! What really leaves a level of distaste, in my view, is the double standards and Greenwash. Councils can 'bendy' the rules whenever they want. Many people across the country who want to live a low impact lifestyle, perhaps even on their own land, are not allowed to because they will never get planning permission. When a council wants to develop Grade 1 agricultural land in the name of improving public transport and building a car park, then all of this legislation is overlooked. All of the Allotment legislation is put aside, despite the foresight of our predecessors who provided allotment land, councils seemingly view the land as a resource to be exploited. What Bristol could be doing is creating allotment gardens and smallholdings along the M32 corridor, and really show the UK what it means to be a Green Capital and Transition City. We would not have an allotment shortage again.