Monday, 12 January 2009

Second bite of the Cherry Trees

First published on Green Bristol Blog Saturday, 13 September 2008

Poking into the background of Squarepeg's plans for the Chocolate Factory at Greenbank keeps throwing up new discoveries. Having highlighted the clandestine sale of part of the Railway Path land on the part of the Council, Squarepeg's dishonesty in declaring the status of the land purchase in their newsletter and the vacuity of George Ferguson's claims for his cycle houses, I now have more to reveal.

Back around the year 2000 there was a planning application for the construction of a row of what George Ferguson would have us call cycle houses, namely bog standard rabbit hutches, along the embankment slope of the Railway Path just to the east of the Chocolate Factory site facing onto Greenbank Road. The application was made on behalf of Greenbank Developments who had bought the land from British Rail Property Board (the City Council having declined to purchase the former railway land when it was originally offered to them for a peppercorn).

The land (the pale green and pale yellow sections of the embankment on the map above - click to expand) owned by Greenbank Developments included the Railway Path embankment slope as far southwest as the land now being sold by the Council to Squarepeg. The land included a mature hedgerow (an extension of the very same hedgerow now threatened by Squarepeg) which the Council's Nature Conservation and Landscape Officers were anxious to preserve. Concerns were also registered over the impact on slow worms and badgers, both protected species, which were both known to be present on the land.

In the event Greenbank Developments were only permitted to construct on the section of the embankment slope which ran directly alongside Greenbank Road, on condition that the hedgerow was preserved, and the remaining embankment slope land that continued alongside the Chocolate Factory car park was left undeveloped. This residual land included an area near the car park entrance which was specifically identified in the Planning Permission as to be preserved as a wildlife area (below) on account of its collection of mature trees.

All the residual land, including the designated wildlife reserve, has recently been purchased from Greenbank Developments by Squarepeg and now forms part of their development proposals. As with the land being sold to Squarepeg by the Council, the intensive development proposed will totally destroy the hedgerow and the designated wildlife area will be largely obliterated and replaced by two 4 storey blocks of flats!

Now it is inconceivable that Squarepeg did not already know about the planning history affecting their proposals. They will have had preliminary discussions with a variety of Council Officers, some of whom must have been aware of such recent planning decisions. Besides which the documents recording the planning decisions are easily found on the web (so much for my investigative prowess). Yet I can find nothing referring to this issue on the Chocolate Factory web site.

Perhaps Squarepeg thought the destruction of over 150 metres of mature hedgerow (above) and a designated wildlife site were obscure details that would not interest local residents. Or perhaps they deliberately kept quiet about this, as they have about the details of land purchases, in the now forlorn hope that nobody would notice until it was too late.

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