Monday, 12 January 2009

Not green: grey

First published on Green Bristol Blog Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Back in March thousands of Bristolians were out making a public show of how much they loved the Bristol & Bath Railway Path. The most popular railway-to-path conversion in Britain, this path is said to attract 2.4 million trips a year on foot and on bike; walking to school, cycling to work, running for fitness, walking the dog, enjoying the greenery. The proposals to run Bus Rapid Transit down the path shocked everyone who used the path, who couldn't believe that their path, their park, was going to be taken away. Yes, a cycle lane would remain down the side of the path, but there would be little greenery, just concrete and buses.



We stopped it. Together, those thousands of people created the single largest on-line petition in Bristol's history, while the walk down the Path and College Green rally was one of the largest demonstrations the city has seen in the past decade -a friendly and peaceful day out for everyone involved. When the council leaders announced their change of heart, we all breathed a sigh of relief.

We breathed too soon. Because while the councillors were agreeing with us -the Railway Path is a special part of East Bristol- the council officers were talking to George Ferguson's architects and developer Squarepeg about building houses on the green margins of the Path up at the old Chocolate Factory site in Easton. This is a development where the community successfully prevented the previous developers from creating a featureless cul-de-sac of suburban houses, and we were all looking forward to the development. Imagine then, our surprise and disappointment when the proposal included building on the green margins of the path, with stairs to provide "bicycle access" to the path. Because as everyone knows: bikes and stairs are such a perfect combination.



Imagine our even greater surprise when the freedom of information requests gave us the email discussions going on behind the scenes, where we discovered that:
  1. Negotiations over use of the park land has been ongoing since March.
  2. Both the BRT planners and the Parks department said they needed the land
  3. One council officer, David Bishop, managed to fix things by overriding the other officers and the local Green Space strategy
Given that most of these 'cycle houses' will have steps to the path, they are more accessible by bicycle from the other side, from their garages. Why then has George Ferguson's team chosen to push anti-cycling houses onto the Bristol-Bath path? One email shows the reason: to add 25 more parking spaces.

For more information see:
Stop press....1.30 pm



Seeing red. George arriving late at the Watershed this morning for the 'this green and pleasant land' conference, only to be confronted by our leafletteer, publicising the Chocolate Factory controversy. His comment? "Go do something useful".

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