Monday, 12 January 2009

Square Pegs and Round Holes

First published on Green Bristol Blog Wednesday 3 September 2008

Since my previous post more details have emerged about the clandestine deal whereby one of the embankment slopes (pictured below) of the Railway Path is being sold off by Bristol City Council to a property developer, Squarepeg, to allow the construction of housing including a twin tower block which will loom over this section of the Path.

Contrary to the claim made by Squarepeg in their newsletter dated 1st July, the sale has not yet been completed (although now at an advanced stage), even two months later. So anyone concerned about the loss of parts of the Railway Path green corridor would have been under the impression that the sale was a done deal, a fait accompli, and would have concluded that it was too late to make objections to the sale.

And people are concerned. The land in question is an integral part of the former railway land and supports mature vegetation and bushes rising to at least 5 metres above Path, so providing a green wall (screening off the derelict car park beyond) and of course a valuable wildlife corridor. Despite the sale appearing to have gone through concerns are being expressed by those anxious to preserve the rural ambiance of the Path (running along the left edge of the sketch below).

The Squarepeg newsletter states "... the development area could be significantly improved with the inclusion of two small pockets of undeveloped land immediately adjacent to the site. .... negotiations to purchase both plots of land have been successful and the application now includes ... a strip of land that runs along the cycle path."

Now anyone reading "negotiations to purchase....have been successful" can only conclude that the deal has been done, yet we now know at that stage negotiations were far from complete. To compound this, er, economy with the actuality on the part of Squarepeg the other party to the deal, Bristol City Council, took the view that they had no obligation to consult with anyone whatsoever. That may conceivably be correct on a technicality, but, as noted elsewhere, it hardly sits well with the spirit of their policies relating to the sell-off of our parks and green spaces.

But returning to Squarepeg, they have made much of their willingness to consult in depth with local people and appear to have gone to some trouble to do so. No doubt the Planning Application due to be submitted any day now will make much of these consultations and the extent to which their proposals enjoy local support.

But in view of what appears to be a significant misrepresentation we must now look again at the legitimacy of those consultations and in the meantime the sale of the embankment slope should be put on hold until proper consultation has been carried out.

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