Category Archives: Diggers & Dumpers

Our fine local developers

SICK COUNCILLORS PUT PARK ON ROAD TO RUIN

jon-wellington-1462720144

SPADstic and Lazy in happier times before they decided to fuck up one of the city’s parks and become objects of mass derision

We have an early entrant for our IDLE SELF-PUBLICIST COUNCILLOR of the year award. Please step forward Labour’s councillor for Windmill Hill, “Lazy” Lucy Whittle.

LIVID RESIDENTS of Windmill Hill and Totterdown – fuming over her and her politically ambitious colleague Jon “SPADstic” Wellington’s top secret plan to build a bloody great ROAD through their beloved Victoria Park – were desperately emailing Lazy Lucy in December only to be greeted by an out of office message.

“Thank you for contacting me, I am currently on SICK LEAVE but expect to be able to return to work within a few weeks, hopefully at the end of December,” bleated Lucy.

Fair enough. We all get ill and can’t work. But wait! What should pop through residents’ doors in late December/early January but a copy of the South Bristol Voice newspaper featuring a ‘Your councillors’ column written by none other than LAZY LUCY, merrily wittering away, without a care in the world, about the awfulness of the cuts she’ll be voting to implement this year.

What type of STRANGE ILLNESS is this that afflicted Lazy Lucy over the Christmas holidays? Too ill to reply to residents’ emails but well enough to write an article promoting herself and taking advantage of free PR in the local freesheet? Truly, an extraordinary condition.

Lazy Lucy and sidekick, SPADstic, may be trying to avoid residents after they supported a SECRET three month public consultation by cycling and concrete charity, Sustrans, into the so-called ‘Filwood Quietway’ through Victoria Park.

This is basically a plan – going to a planning committee next week – for a FIVE METRE WIDE ROAD for cyclists to SPEED through the park on. And, despite Lazy and SPADstic’s comprehensive three month consultation over the summer, virtually no residents knew anything about it!

Unless, that is, they happened to wander into a BICYLE REPAIR GAZEBO in Victoria Park on the afternoon of Wednesday 31 August or they were invited to a few mysterious PRIVATE, invitation-only meetings with the mendacious pair of Labour councillors and Sustrans’ posh engagement manager, Anais “Nincompoop “Leger-Smith.

To add INSULT TO INJURY, Lazy Lucy even used her South Bristol Voice PR column in October to discuss her road-through-the-park plan in vague terms, telling residents, “we are really interested in what the community thinks. So do let us know your thoughts,” a week after the consultation CLOSED!

Lazy Lucy also gave the road Labour’s SUPPORT in her column, telling residents, “[SPADstic and I] see this as an improvement to Bristol’s cycling infrastructure that will bring benefits to communities along its route.”

Now SPADstic, apparently alone and abandoned by sickly Lazy Lucy, and desperate to salvage his six-month car crash career is attempting a REVERSE FERRET at the kind of furious speeds cyclists will soon be doing across his local park.

As hundreds of objections pour in from residents – as they finally find out about the road SPADstic forgot to tell them about – SPADstick is desperately issuing VAGUE and PISS WEAK promises to support the residents he deliberately sidelined and ignored during the three month consultation.

Too little; too late we say. Why did Lazy Lucy and SPADstic DELIBERATELY allow this plan get to a planning committee before telling residents? And why – if their consultation with Anais NIncompoop from cycling’s concrete kings – has been such a comprehensive listening exercise, are HUNDREDS of residents and every community group and school in the area UP IN ARMS about it?

The plan needs to go back to the drawing board and these idiot councillors need to apologise to their residents for their appalling conduct and start doing their jobs properly. Or else.

OFFSHORE REGEN SCHEME SCANDAL

More local gossip: Shut down and offshored

More local gossip: Shut down and offshored

We kid you not … A flagship New Labour regeneration scheme in south Bristol, once described by former MP “Dim Prawn” Primarolo as “a dream come true”, has been moved OFFSHORE to avoid tax!

Touted as a solution for jobs, long term economic decline and inequality in a deprived part of south Bristol, the Morrison’s supermarket scheme on the site of the old council-owned Symes Avenue shopping centre in Hartcliffe opened to HUGE FANFARE in 2007.

Along with a supermarket paying CRAP WAGES and an enormous and under-used car park, this “first class district centre in which we can all take pride” included a community centre, a library and EIGHT smaller shop units that were supposed to accommodate LOCAL BUSINESSES AND RETAILERS and tick the “mixed use” regeneration box.

Bristol City Council assembled the land for this scheme at considerable EXPENSE to us. Paying through the nose to buy back – through compulsory purchase – their long-term lease on the old Symes Avenue shopping centre that had been shifted to an asset stripping firm, Panther Securities.

They also used their compulsory purchase powers to seize sections of residents’ back gardens in Holbrook Crescent so that these gardens could be transformed into an unused and abandoned section of supermarket car park. Again, at a CONSIDERABLE COST to us.

Once the costly development site had been assembled, the council handed the whole lot over to Morrison’s for FREE as a ‘sweetener’ to get the supermarket and its associated ‘benefits’ built.

Fast forward to 2014 and – with remarkably little fanfare – Morrison’s engaged in their own little land and property transaction and SOLD THE LEASE for the eight ‘local’ shop units on the site to a property firm based offshore in tax haven Jersey – BNP PARIBAS!

Now, in 2016, we learn that the locally owned and run hairdressers’ on the site – ‘The Local Gossip’  – has CLOSED after they were landed with an enormous RENT HIKE by their new offshore owners. And we learn the locally owned and run Post Office on the site is on the verge of CLOSURE due to the huge RENT INCREASE!

We are happy to report, however, that the four distinctly unlocal corporate retailers occupying the remaining units, like bookies, Ladbrokes, are having no problem affording the new high cost rents.

Meanwhile, shareholders at BNP Paribas are, no doubt, appreciating the cool double whammy of easy extra rental income extracted from a deprived area while not having to bother with the expense of paying much tax to help the community they’re BLEEDING DRY.

Now that’s what we call regeneration! Trebles all round!

SKUMMY SKANSKA SKAM

skanskaOur old friends over at wealthy Skandi uber-developers, SKANSKA, are working a new skam on Bristolians.

In an effort to get fashionable and down wit’ da kidz, the building firm with lots of local interests decided it wanted any hoardings around its HIGH VALUE LAND HOLDINGS at Temple Meads – now the subject of a new SECRET FINANCING DEAL with Bristol City Council – to be painted by local artists.

So out went the call from the multinational, which turned over HALF A BILLION POUNDS last year and earns a good slice of £73m a year from PFI deals with Bristol City Council alone, to a variety of edgy Bristolian street artists.

A few artists even responded. And some even asked how much they were gonna get paid by Skumska for their work? “NOTHING,” came the reply. “But you will get some great  exposure”!

These wealthy Skandi skum are taking the piss out of us aren’t they?

PARANORMAL PLANNING NEWS

Bristol Arena by night (Populous Arena team)

Paranormality at Bristol’s arena

Oh my aching sides … The DEFERRAL two weeks ago of planning permission for George’s deranged arena plan due to a complete lack of any transport planning was rather predictable wasn’t it?

How exactly did Mayor Congestion think he was going to get 12,000 people in and out of one of Bristol’s most CONGESTED areas without either a sizeable car park or some coherent public transport provision?

Less predictable, however, was the response of our old friend, Labour’s council leader HRH HELEN OF HOLLAND. Speaking about the transport planning shambles, she told the planning meeting, “I don’t blame the officers for that – the answers are just not out there.”

Really? So where are these bloody answers then if they’re “just not out there”? Should we get Mulder and Scully in to investigate this PARANORMAL EPISODE? Or maybe launch an expedition to find the LOST CITY OF ATLANTIS in case our arena transport plans are buried there? Or perhaps the little green men from Mars flew down and abucted these plans?

Because, of course, none of this fiasco can possibly be the fault of useless sad sack, INCOMPETENT COUNCIL BOSSES can it? After all, they only devised and promoted the arena development. What blame could possibly be attached to them if there’s not a basic transport plan?

The poor dears, struggling by on SIX FIGURE SALARIES and looking forward to a pay rise for being skilled experts in their fields, can’t be expected to produce plans at, er, a planning meeting for a multi-million pound development can they?

Not according to their Bristol City Councillor bosses anyway.

MAYOR: DEPRIVED? (OF ANY SENSE)

MAYOR- DEPRIVED? (OF ANY SENSE)On the same day it emerged that Mayor Hubris was spending up to £150m (and counting …) of OUR MONEY  on a series of pet commercial development projects around Temple Meads, he published a CRAZED ARTICLE on posh people’s website, the Huffington Post, explaining how he was tackling inequality in Bristol.

“We are targeting investment in the most highly deprived areas,” blustered the old fool. Although capital investment by the council in deprived areas such as Avonmouth, Hartcliffe and Southmead is NON EXISTENT. While basic public services run by the council in these areas such as youth, housing and libraries have been consistently CUT by Mayor Deluded.

Even a proposed HARTCLIFFE RECYCLING CENTRE, a useful public service and a source of employment in a deprived area, has been on the backburner because George alleges he can’t find the £3m necessary to open it. So is a polluted old diesel yard next to Temple Meads Station – the subject of about £130m of council investment so far for an arena – one of these “most HIGHLY DEPRIVED AREAS” then?

Other “MOST HIGHLY DEPRIVED AREAS” – all conveniently situated around Temple Meads and worthy of the mayor’s energies and lots of our cash – include the City Point office building directly opposite the station purchased with £9m of our money; derelict land at Temple Meads owned by Skanska and subject to a SECRET financing deal with the mayor and the George Hotel site at Temple Gate, which Mayor Moneybags wants to purchase for an UNDISCLOSED FEE amounting to millions in public money.

Or how about an uncosted eight-storey car park on the Bath Road being built entirely for the benefit of the “most highly deprived” ARENA OPERATORS? Or the former Post Office site at Temple Meads, which George is fattening up for sale in the hope it will pay for some of his over budget arena?

Try to find similar financial commitments in any of Bristol’s REALLY deprived areas and there’s none. Quite the reverse. Deprived areas are subsidising commercial property developments at Temple Meads on an epic scale.

Instead, as George explains in the Huffington Post, he’s tackling any genuine inequality and deprivation with a bunch of CHEAP, INADEQUATE AND LAUGHABLE policies. Any old policy pursued by George over the last three years has been hastily assembled into a list by a council PR and then abstractly rebranded as an anti-poverty measure.

“From 20mph, to RPZ, to metrobus, to engagement hubs, to 10,000 new primary school places, to children planting 30,000 trees, to a rainbow cabinet – all these are integral evidence-based policies that help secure a foundation to position Bristol to sustainability and fiercely tackle inequality,” waffles Mayor Gonad.

Really? Reducing traffic speed tackles poverty and inequality? Likewise, surely even the most DEMENTED of hippies is unlikely to claim children planting trees is a realistic solution to poverty and deprivation?

We could just conclude, at this point, that our mayor is a crackpot in need of a long lie down but anyone who thinks providing deprived areas with a few road signs and a tree planting project for kids counts as serious investment while simultaneously funnelling HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS to corporate property interests is clearly mendacious.

Vote him out in May.

ARENA: BREAKING THE BANK?

IS THERE A BLACK HOLE IN THE WHITE ELEPHANT?

Bristol Arena - white elephant - Dru Marland

The budget for mayor “Uncle” George Ferguson’s major VANITY PROJECT and RE-ELECTION STRATEGY is spiralling dangerously out of control.

Despite efforts from the mayor to GAG councillors from revealing the financial shambles, we know that CANCELLATION of any on-site car parking and the LOSS of revenue has smashed a £10m-sized budget black hole into mayor’s £90m Arena project.

Meanwhile a council Scrutiny Committee in August UNCOVERED a further £4m worth of costs for the project, pushing the total budget up to at least £94m.

Now it’s been revealed that the owners of the land, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), are DEMANDING payment for their land, which the council had originally claimed would be a freebie. The HCA are believed to want around £4m for the land.

So just a year into the project and costs have been already pushed up by around NINE PER CENT to £98m before a shovel’s got anywhere near the site. The total FUNDING GAP for the project is now at least £18m and this will have to be met by council taxpayers and through cuts to services already being hammered by austerity.

Concerns have also been expressed about other aspects of Uncle George’s funding proposals. He claims £53m will come from the City Deal ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FUND.

A complicated mechanism based on borrowing against any increased receipts from business rates in the TEMPLE QUARTER ENTERPRISE ZONE. At present there’s little sign of much growth in these receipts, which leaves Bristol council taxpayers, as lenders of the last resort, to pick up that tab too.

Uncle George claims a further £38m of funding will come from rental and operating income from the arena. Although this figure has been described to us as “VERY AMBITIOUS” and, again, any shortfall will have to be met by the council taxpayer.

Uncle George, however, remains wedded to his basketcase project, which was one of the few actual promises he made in his election campaign. Delivering an arena, regardless of cost, may also be the only chance this highly unpopular mayor has of getting RE-ELECTED.

So worried is Uncle George about these PRECARIOUS FINANCES being revealed, he got his useless new legal boss SANJAY “UNDER” PRASHAR to invent a so-called ‘BLANKET EXEMPT STATUS’ gag to stop anyone discussing them.

Uncle George now has also removed the responsibility for the arena from the council’s PLACE SCRUTINY COMMISSION who had been asking some tricky questions and given it to the friendlier OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMISSION.

The commission’s Labour Chair, STEVE PEARCE, has already been quoted as saying “I won’t be pushing the mayor too hard on this.”

Thanks Steve. Nice to know you’re looking after us so well.

LEAKED DOCUMENT!!! WHAT THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT BRT!

BRT leak-1

Click to view document

We’ve been LABOURing over this cabinet report LEAK about the financial black hole emerging in the city’s white elephant BRT bus project.

The report that we’re publishing and which has no council managers’ name anywhere near it to take ownership and responsibility for the shambles, lists a series of overspends due to the inflated FINANCIAL DEMANDS of corporate civil engineering firms for work on the Ashton Vale – Temple Meads bus route.

So far, before any work has even begun, costs for works on the Ashton Avenue Bridge; bridges at the Bathurst Basin due to Fergo’s rerouting plans and on the so-called “Cumberland Busway” (Cumberland Road to me and you) amount to £9.12m MORE than was originally budgeted for.

The council’s proposals for covering these losses are equally interesting.

One plan is to shave £2.4m off the budget by a REDUCING FLOOD DEFENCE measures along the New Cut on Cumberland Road.

Another is to TARGET PEDESTRIANS and not bother with street lighting, except at bus stops, over the whole route. Another is to inexplicably “reduce the cost of city centre work” for the BRT scheme by £1.1m. Yet more corners cut then.

Another is to simply reallocate £1.5m to “OTHER SCHEMES”, which is likely to be transport budgets – so don’t expect any new pedestrian crossings any time soon in your community.

Yet another is to “reallocate” £0.4m from the CYCLING AMBITION FUND and spend it on the Bathurst Basin bridges. In other words money for cycling will be spent on buses!

A further £1.1m will be absorbed by “ADDITIONAL FUNDING”, whatever that is.

Is all this legal? Council budgets raided and tax payers money diverted – in secret – to corporations on the authority of unsigned confidential council cabinet reports?

The full report is here: BRT leak

THE KING PRAWN CALABRESE IS OFF: MORE DODGY CONDUCT FROM COUNCIL PLANNER

king prawnMore dodgy conduct from Bristol’s dodgiest planning officer, ANGELO “KING PRAWN” CALABRESE.

Having tried and failed to award corporates NEXTERRA and BALFOUR BEATTY planning permission for a biomass plant in Avonmouth under DELEGATED POWERS he didn’t have and then, just days later, apparently ‘losing’ all the paperwork relating to the episode, King Prawn’s now trying to RIG the information going to councillors on the planning committee considering the application.

Over the last few days, 56 Avonmouth residents have signed and dated LETTERS on paper objecting to the plant and delivered them to the council. This brings the number of objections from Avonmouth residents to well OVER 100 in the space of just TEN DAYS.

Meanwhile, the only letter vaguely in favour comes from Tory councillor and Port of Bristol employee WAYNE “DEE” HARVEY.

Entirely coincidentally – and despite it being a GLARING OMISSION in the King Prawn’s planning report – between 50- 90 per cent of the wood for the biomass plant is likely to be IMPORTED for a fat fee through the, er, port!

However, in a crude attempt to REDUCE the number of formal objection letters from residents, King Prawn has listed these 56 letters as a PETITION! Conveniently reducing the number of objections by around 30 – 40 per cent!

One local resident told The BRISTOLIAN, “I hope Calabrese understands that many of us here in Avonmouth are taking his conduct personally. He has utter contempt for us and has shown us nothing but disrespect and proved he doesn’t give a toss about Avonmouth residents, our families or our health.

“He cares about big corporations making big money off our backs. If planning permission for this cancerous death plant is passed on the basis of the false and misleading information he has supported and rubberstamped throughout this process, he can rest assured we will be holding him personally accountable.

“You can’t lie, cheat, hoodwink and mislead a whole community in Bristol without consequences.”

Please – someone – can’t you put everyone out of their misery here and just fire this revolting little corporate shill as a matter of urgency?

ARE COUNCIL BOSSES BARRA MAC RUAIRI AND ANGELO CALABRESI BENT? (SLIGHT RETURN)

NOW ‘ADVICE’ TO A CHAIR OF A PLANNING COMMITTEE HAS BEEN ‘DISAPPEARED’!

Shred

Until around the 20 October, Bristol City Council planning officer ANGELO “KING PRAWN” CALABRESE was set to make an unconstitutional delegated decision to give planning permission to the Nexterra/Balfour Beatty AVONMOUTH BIOMASS PLANT.

However, a major u-turn ensued after an outcry from an unholy coalition of The BRISTOLIAN, members of the public, MPs, prospective parliamentary candidates and councillors of all parties demanding that this decision went to a planning committee as the King Prawn’s OWN GUIDELINES demanded.

The BRISTOLIAN has already remarked that KING PRAWN‘s conduct and – by association – his boss BARRA MAC“ NUGGET” RUAIRI‘s conduct of this process looks extremely dubious.

So to further explore what had been going on, a Freedom of Information request was put in:

Dear Bristol City Council,

The above planning application is to be decided by officers under
delegated powers.

1. Please can you provide me with any information held in any form
by Bristol City Council as to why this application can be
considered under delegated powers.

2. Please can you provide me with any information held in any form
by Bristol City Council and provided to the chair of the relevant
planning committee, Cllr Alex Woodman, by city council officers as
to why this application can be considered under delegated powers.

Yours faithfully,

And back, in a matter of days, came a reply from someone called Steve Knight, masquerading under the minimalist job title, ‘Place’:

This application is being determined at committee level on 5^th November
2014 rather than under delegated powers. As the information is not held,
we are therefore unable to have that information communicated to you.
The application details are available via the council’s Planning online
facility
[1]http://planningonline.bristol.gov.uk/onl…
. The details of the committee meeting will be available a week before the
committee meeting via
[2]https://www.bristol.gov.uk/CommitteeMeet…

“The information is not held”. How strange. Because on 18 October, the chair of the planning committee, Alex Woodman, announced on Twitter:

Woodman

How, one wonders, did councillor Woodman offer his opinion about something for which no information exists?

Of course this information exists. How could King Prawn have possibly formed any opinion, communicated it to a variety of third parties and got to within two days of making a decision otherwise?

So what’s happened to this information? Has it been lost? Mislaid? Shredded? Rest assured The BRISTOLIAN will be chasing this.

And we’ve said it once – and we’ll say it again – this whole planning process needs to be HALTED and Bristol City Council needs to start an immediate investigation into King Prawn and McNugget for potential breaches of THE BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION ACT.

Something doesn’t add up. There’s something rotten in Denmark.