Bristol Greens condemn “shaky” green spaces sale evidence

16 January 2011

The Green Party in Bristol has condemned the “shaky evidence” used for the controversial plans to sell off so-called ‘low-value’ green spaces in the city.

Bristol Liberal Democrats were jeered, interrupted and heckled by the public as the Cabinet agreed plans to sell more than 40 parks and green spaces across the city.

The plan aims to fund improvements to up to 200 Bristol parks by selling off green spaces over a 20-year period.

A public consultation was held to gather evidence and views, but Southville Green Party councillor Tess Green has spoken out after documents were released following a delayed response to a Freedom of Information request from Stockwood resident Pete Goodwin.

“A quick look at some of the sites shows just how weak some of the recommendations were; there are too many assumptions made, evidence is disregarded, and public opinion seems to be something to be overcome, not to be weighed up as part of the decision.

“What we’re left with is an over-hasty decision bulldozed through on the flimsiest of evidence, that will lose much valued
green space without any great benefit to the remaining parks. If only the other parties had listened to the Greens before they agreed this disastrous strategy to pay for park improvements.

“People who value these spaces will now have to defend them using the planning process, or other legal moves.”

Her fellow Green Mr Goodwin, who had put up a case against selling the Stockwood sites, added: ”With no way of knowing why particular sites were judged as low value, it was very difficult to challenge the plans. That’s why I lodged the Freedom of Information request. The information should have been made public much earlier, certainly in time for the decisions in council. The legal deadline was November 19, and the documents themselves date from summer of 2009, but it’s only been released now. There can’t be any excuse for that delay.

“It appears that a few Parks officers were set impossible targets, then had to cope with the massive public reaction to
their proposals while still following a political mandate. The whole exercise has been a travesty.”

Council leader Barbara Janke said at the end of last year that the plans would be of “great benefit to the city”, and a long-term investment into the city’s great parks and green spaces.

A Bristol City Council spokesman told Bristol24-7: “In assessing these sites, officers sought the services of professionals in the council and external stakeholders. From the council, at least 55 officers provided information covering at least 12 disciplines.

“This has included park management, development management, strategic planning, property services, legal services, sports services, pollution control, nature conservation officers, urban design, landscape design, tree officers and archaeology.  This assessment resulted in 97% of green spaces not being considered for disposal.

“On the consultation there was a very detailed and thorough consultation process. In total at least 125 consultation meetings were held across the city over an 18-month period. In each of our 14 Neighbourhood Partnerships, officers held at least three meetings specifically on elements of the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy in relation to that neighbourhood.”

Article found on Bristol247 available here