Bristol City Council’s new planning boss Simone “The Concrete Queen” Wilding is off to an interesting start.
The Concrete Queen was headhunted by the council’s underperforming Chief Exec Stephen “Captain” Peacock and they are very friendly having worked together at that business-friendly clusterfuck, the SWRDA.
Since starting in May, the Concrete Queen has:
– attempted to ban councillors from calling in planning applications for a committee to consider to “streamline the process”.
– pulled a video of a planning meeting from 9 August where her officers tried to rig the minutes of a previous planning meeting regarding the controversial Broadwalk planning application.
– failed to take action after planning committee chair, Richard ‘Bunter’ Eddy, politically attacked a member of his non-political ‘quasi judicial’ committee in the Nazi Post for voting against an application Bunter voted for.
– lied to councillors at a 7 September planning meeting, claiming alternative sites had been looked at for the cemetery expansion into Yew Tree Farm on south Bristol’s greenbelt
– At the same meeting, she withheld from councillors a report by a contamination officer recommending refusal of the cemetery application.
– Attempted to rip up all SNCI (Site of Nature Conservation Interest) designations in Bristol by claiming they can be built on if the effect is mitigated elsewhere.
How long will the people of Bristol be subjected to this dreadful woman?
The recent successful Judicial Review by the Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society of the planning permission granted by Bristol City Council to build 62 homes on Bristol Zoo’s car park puts a spotlight on the planning officer responsible, Peter “Deemed Consent” Westbury.
A judge agreed that permission for this “major scar on the landscape” was unlawful because it ignored Historic England Advice while Westbury’s report to councillors failed to consider the harm to heritage and weigh up the harm and public benefit.
Westbury also produced and presented the planning report for the controversial “monolithic blocks” on St Mary-le-Port at Castle Park. An application granted by councillors in December 2021. This has now been referred to the Planning Inspectorate by Bristol Civic Society for a public enquiry.
One concern is that Westbury’s report and the public forum at the planning meeting included the support of the ‘Friends of Castle Park’. However, it transpires that the support of the ‘Friends of Castle Park’ is actually the support of one person, Russ Leith. The self appointed moderator and “leader” of a ‘Friends of Castle Park Facebook group, he provided an ‘analysis’ of comments on his Facebook page to Westbury that allege public support for the application.
Word out of Bristol City council’s planning department is that Westbury, who also happens to be an elder at the Reverend Rees’s church, The Hope in Hotwells – enjoys a very poor reputation among planning colleagues. “Can’t administer policy for toffee, we’ve been told and “he’s the patsy they put on any scheme the mayor wants to go through.”
An old FoI request about the dodgy Bristol City Council/L&G Arena island deal catches the eye. It reveals L&G execs operating inside Number 10 [Downing Street] in 2015 and meeting Bristol City council property bosses who were supposed to be building an arena on the controversial site:
The bizarre deal The Reverend has now struck with L&G execs is that they get the prime Arena Island site after £32m of public investment and BCC get a 40 year lease on one of the proposed L&G corporate office slabs proposed for the site … And both sides get to avoid any procurement or open sale that might upset the cosy arrangement.
But what the hell were L&G execs doing in Downing Street at the heart of power in 2015? The answer is John Godfrey, L&G’s longtime Corporate Affairs Director – basically their chief political lobbyist. The former Tory Parliamentary candidate worked at Number Ten as Head of Policy for Prime Minister Theresa May from 2015-17. At the time, this L&G/Downing Street revolving door generated headlines in the Financial Times like, “Legal & General gives Toryism a reboot“.
At the same time the Legal & General CEO was musing on his blog that “UK cities are not overbuilt but under-demolished”. The company also developed an interest in fiscal policy (basically government spending money on infrastructure); called on taxpayers to invest with savings groups such as, er, L&G and argued that planning laws should be eased to defeat ‘Nimbies’.
Alongside L&G’s political capture of Downing Street, another front opened. In 2016, John Kingman was appointed Group Chairman of Legal and General plc. Prior to this, Kingman was a senior Treasury official and, among other things, led a research project looking at the tax treatment of buy-to-let property, which led to major policy changes in the 2015 Budget.
The specific change was Section 24 of the Finance Act 2015-16, setting mortgage tax allowance for individual landlords to 20 per cent. A change that didn’t apply to corporate landlords or property rental companies. Corporates, effectively, were allowed to operate at a state-engineered advantage to smaller competitors in the property market.
With the political and legal environment in place to fill their boots, L&G now required gullible twerps from the provinces who think they’re big shot property players with access to public land. Please step forward on 12 December 2017 Marvin’s £1.5k a day ‘property expert’ Colin Molton.
He walked into L&G’s offices in London desperate to offload Arena Island quickly so that the Reverend’s favoured multinational, YTL, could dodge the ‘sequential test‘ designed to favour inner city sites over out-of-town and get planning permission for an arena in Filton. L&G were happy to oblige with a self-serving deal and advice on how BCC could dodge procurement regulations and hand them the land.
As an added sweetener May’s L&G-friendly Downing Street operation stepped up, hinting to the Reverend and Molton that £100m of government money was on the table towards the Temple Quarter regeneration.
However, since the demise of May in 2019, L&G’s influence in the corridors of power has waned and the Johnson government with its levelling-up agenda focussed on the Red Wall seems uninterested in handing over £100m to the Reverend to regenerate Temple Meads.
In fact, they’ve now knocked back two funding applications from Bristol. Leaving the people of Bristol shortchanged and Tory L&G with a prime piece of public land in Bristol to cash in on.
No, not the opening treatment for a new horror movie being shot soon in Bristol but a local resident’s comments about proposed tower blocks for Mead Street in the shadow of Totterdown. The developers of the scheme are a pension fund fronted by corporate real estate business DTZ Investors and the architects are “award winning” Sheppard Robson.
Someone urgently needs to drive a stake into the hearts of these bloodsuckers.
By our Engineering Correspondent You may have heard the local Labour and Green parties, followed by our esteemed Mayor, making very public declarations about their plans to make Bristol Carbon Neutral in the coming decade. Very sensible given the recent UN statement that we only have twelve years to avoid climate catastrophe … And counting.
They’ve talked the talk, now they’ve got a chance to walk the walk. With Bristol’s very own ‘Tidal Lagoon’, a term actually used by the Green party. Although it’s usually called the ‘Floating Harbour’. In January the Mayor, Labour, and all Green Councillors were mailed, pointing out the unequalled opportunity to generate significant amounts of carbon neutral electricity at minimal cost, from Bristol’s water system.
You can think of the harbour as a tidal lagoon, in which case it’s got the highest tidal range, at its gates, in a city, in the world. Two massive surges every day. Or you can look at it as a simple reservoir and dam, fed by two rivers, both used historically for power generation.
Actually, it’s both. With a flood control outlet (at Tesco on the M32) that leads via a straight tunnel to Sea Mills. It’s difficult to imagine a better set-up for water-based power generation. Every weir, from the main inlet at the Netham on the Avon and Snuff Mills on the Frome, right down to the Underfall Yard and Sea Mills flood control outlets, are capable of making useful power.
Unlike the Swansea tidal lagoon scheme, the entire infrastructure already exists. All the dams, weirs and flood control features are in place. Some have been there for over a century. Literally all that’s needed is the installation of appropriate turbines, themselves stock production items already in use all over Europe.
First step is the not hugely expensive job of producing a map of the whole water system, including details of all the potential power generation points. This map can be taken to European water power specialists, currently being contacted, to get an accurate estimate of potential outputs and costs. If Bristol doesn’t have this data it will be compiled from Google Maps plus photos and video. Then it’s decision time. Given satisfactory figures and effective management (executive ‘action this day’) it would be feasible to have power coming out of the easiest installations this year.
Response so far? Zero. Nada. They’ll all be mailed again In March (eleven years and nine months…) It’s not totally surprising. BCC is an institution and the first instinct of all institutions is to ignore inputs from outside. But they don’t really have that option. This is an emergency. All solutions must be considered. Bristol City has to step up to the plate, if nothing else for their revolting children.
This is where we find out if our glorious leaders Can Do, or are just useless politicians.
Bearing a large marketing budget and a tireless PR team, BRISTOL HOUSING FESTIVAL launches itself upon an unsuspecting city. “Bristol is a city of innovation and creativity. It is a city that is prepared to stand up and lead. It is a city that punches above its weight,” runs the insufferable PR bullshit.
But what does it all mean? A recent spate of articles in the local press gushing about “INNOVATION” and “CREATIVITY” in housing have highlighted such creative ideas as dumping the homeless in shipping containers; plonking cheap flats on top of multi-storey car parks for key workers and grabbing gardens in Knowle West for trailer-sized eco homes for god knows who?
And who’s behind this shameless five year MARKETING DRIVE to warehouse the city’s poor in cheap, crap accommodation? Please step forward Patrick “Shit” Shine, a “specialist in global fixed income and derivatives” who’s now an employee of London-based Tory thinktank, the SHAFTESBURY PARTNERSHIP.
According to its website, the Shaftesbury Partnership is a “SOCIAL BUSINESS” and a “practice of professionals committed to large scale 21st Century social reform”. While the Co-founder of the Shaftesbury Partnership is Nat “Wee” Wei, a former MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT for McKinsey, the notorious right wing management consultancy, turned venture capitalist.
And, if you still have any doubt about what Wei means by “21ST CENTURY SOCIAL REFORM“, in 2010 he was made a life peer and appointed Chief Adviser on the Big Society by David Cameron. This was after the Shaftesbury Partnership under the management of Wee Wei and Shit Shine set up the “Challenge Network”, which got a big share of CASH from David Cameron’s Big Society scheme, the National Citizens Service, to send children to summer camps at a cost of £1,182 PER CHILD.
Now these deep blue Tories have pitched up in Bristol to “innovate” and “create” in the ruins of our public housing services by shoving the poor in crates. And the first to applaud their efforts and climb aboard this MARKET SOLUTION bandwagon are none other than Labour bigwigs, the Reverend Rees and his housing sidekick, Paul “Wolfie” Smith.
“The festival will turn Bristol into a showcase of the latest innovation in housing building and financing,” The Reverend BREATHLESSLY ANNOUNCED from his tedious blog while Wolfie booked himself in with the Tory boys to deliver a KEYNOTE SPEECH to help kick off this festival of crap housing for the poor.
And guess who’s chief executive of this miserable little Tory bandwagon? Please step forward failed lawyer Jez Sweetland who admits “I’M NO HOUSING EXPERT“. He is, however, a regular at the Reverend’s church, The Hope Church in Hotwells.
Another month and more greedy bastard builders are taking the piss out of our city by refusing to provide social and affordable homes on land owned by us and handed over to PRIVATE DEVELOPERS for housing by Bristol City Council who then grant them planning permission.
First, over to Speedwell where Crossman Homes, a chiselling shower of shit from Bath, are will be DEMOLISHING our amazing art deco swimming pool building and replace it with a HIDEOUS cell block of flats.
Out of the 31 flats being built on our land, Crossman Homes are providing only FOUR “affordable” – whatever that means – homes. Just 14 per cent of the total. Way below the council’s target of 40 per cent or around 12 of these homes.
Not surprisingly the Speedwell community is up in arms about this. Not only are they losing a popular and locally listed community building, they won’t even get any housing anyone in their community will be able to AFFORD. Another win for Bristol City Council?
Locally listed baths: will be demolished for flats
Meanwhile, over at REDCLIFF WHARF, council-owned and the last undeveloped site on the docks, another affordable homes FIASCO unfolds on this prime development land.
A special purpose vehicle – Complex Development Projects Ltd – quickly set up last December by businessmen from HERTFORDSHIRE in search of a fast, unaccountable buck are applying for planning permission to build a wanky mixed use development there. There’s lots of waffle (and cost) with this one about the need for a “HIGH QUALITY PUBLIC REALM” to appease Redcliff’s posh folk who want a poncy development that befits their status.
This means that, while over a MILLION QUID is poured into “public realm” improvements, granite suppliers and the provision of one tree, there’s sod all money left for affordable housing. In fact the dodgy developers are proposing NONE whatsoever!
Our brave council planners have rejected this LUDICROUS PROPOSAL out of hand, however, and told the developers that they must provide THREE one bed flats as affordable housing. Or about ONEFIFTHof the affordable housing requirement for the site.
Sod that. The council must take our land back from these dodgy developers and snooty wankers immediately and use the site for 100 PER CENT SOCIAL HOUSING.
And, if the posh fuckers of Redcliff don’t like more council housing on their doorstep they can always fuck off to the Cotswolds.
Reverend Rees’s housing tsar, Paul “Wolfie” Smith’s promises to “build communities not just houses” on Hengrove Park have collapsed on first contact with the public.
The recent first round of public consultation in Hengrove found Wolfie’s Major Projects Team openly admit they will be providing NO FACILITIES as part of the development because “THEY ARE ALREADY HERE“. So don’t move there expecting anything other than McDonalds, KFC and Premier Inn to service your needs.
The only public investment planners are agreeing to will be a GP surgery – somewhere – which is already urgently required in the Whitchurch/Hengrove area due to CHRONIC over-subscription of the existing GP service – and more primary school places.
However, there will be NO NEW SCHOOLS. Instead, existing primary schools in the working class area – highly regarded for their leafy and spacious grounds – will be extended and expanded. Conveniently REMOVING playing fields and open space from the schools and leaving more prime development land for corporate developers to transform into high density rabbit hutches (surely exciting sustainable housing in the ‘Bristol Vernacular’ style? Ed.).
The highlight of this major development shambles, mainly designed to place large sums of cash into corporate developers coffers, however, is the plan to SHUT the recently opened Family Cycling Centre on the old Whitchurch Athletics Track and build a main access road over it!
Not only does this plan DEMOLISH one of the few public facilities still allowed in the area, it also demonstrates Bristol City Council’s real level of commitment to so-called “sustainable transport” and “active travel” once the hard cash for corporates is on the table.
The council’s current Quality of Life Survey lists the number of commuters cycling to work in the area as ZERO PER CENT while 60 per cent use their car. And car use will only increase once Wolfie throws up 2,000 extra homes with car parking spaces. Why would anyone want to promote cycling here?
Residents in and around Bamfield in Whitchurch are especially up in arms since their residential road is set to become the MAIN VEHICLE ACCESS to all this new housing. Thousands of vehicles will be encouraged to drive down Bamfield every day and then drive directly over the ex-running track to access Wolfie’s new “community”. Locals predict traffic chaos and say the level of congestion and pollution likely to be generated by this plan is “HUGE“.
Meanwhile, the obvious road access to the development, directly off Hengrove Way – a MAIN TRUNK ROAD specifically designed for heavy traffic – will be buses only and blocked to private cars!
Another day, another development before a planning committee of councillors in Bristol with absolutely NO affordable housing.
We’ve learned our dear old friends, the PG Group, the local multi-million property empire of dubious priest, Friar Gregory “Satan” Grant, have acquired a listed building, the EMPIRE SPORTS CLUB and its unlisted car park on Newfoundland Road, St Pauls. And, in a neat sleight of hand, they’ve put in two planning applications.
One for TEN HOUSES on the car park and another for 22 APARTMENTS in the listed building. All very convenient because the development on the car park falls below the minimum requirement for affordable housing while the listed Empire Sports building apparently qualifies for Vacant Building Credit (VBC) and is exempt from any affordable housing requirement.
So that’s a requirement for thirteen affordable units reduced to ZERO by the millionaire man of God. The only question now is whether councillors will let Friar Satan get away with this bullshit.