As the 18 October deadline looms for public submissions on the ‘Central Area Action Plan’ (which will seal the fate of Castle Park and decide just how much of the city centre green space will be COVERED IN CONCRETE) a recent music festival was an interesting test of the council’s resolve.
Having won a reprieve for its turn-it-into-a-shopping-mall strategy with the knocking back of the Town Green application in 2009, Bristol City Council has since tried to tread softly with the passionate Park Users’ Group. That is, of course, until this weekend just gone, when with less than a month before the CAAP consultation closes they rented out the popular urban park – despite all the public rights of access involved – to £30-a-head commercial event Tokyo Dub. Given infamous local unwillingness to spend money to get into public spaces, and with just sixty security (85% of them from that well-known Bristol neighbourhood Brighton) to watch over a licensed crowd of 5,000 with only rickety Heras fencing to contain them, this was certainly a BOLD MOVE.
CAAP February 2012 (development area in orange)
But it’s by no means the boldest move being made at Castle Park: that honour would appear to go to our old friend MAYOR GEORGE FERGUSON. Despite being a man who as a graduate of the University of Bristol and a qualified architect presumably knows how to use a ruler and read a map, poor old Fergo has been having some proper trouble with sizes and scales when faced with angry Bristolians who accused him of putting Castle Park under threat. Under threat? Fergo?? How!?
Well, by SNEAKILY EXTENDING THE BORDERS of the potential development area. Fergo, though, claimed not to be able to see how the September 2013 ‘Preferred Options’ map of the Castle Park development clearly covers a larger area that that on February 2012’s ‘Options Consultation’ document, which only identified the empty bank buildings and car park at the St Mary-le-Port end of the park as suitable for development. In fact, the February 2012 map even clearly marks out the surrounding parkland as ‘Important Open Space’, signalling its protection.
CAAP September 2013 (development area bounded in white)
Not so on Fergo’s watch though, as the millionaire mayor made clear in EVER MORE FEVERISH tweets in which he effectively claimed that black was white and up was down… “It’s a decrease [in development size] if anything,” blurted out the panicky Merchant Venturer, before retreating away from the argument as fast as he could.
But then despite his well-cultivated image of being a touchy-feely, save-the-trees kinda guy, Fergo’s was after all the go-to hip architect for the COUNCIL’S PREFERRED DEVELOPERS Deeley Freed, back during Fergo’s pre-mayor days and when they needed a bit of local credibility due to public opinion being very much against them.
This time though it’s Fergo feeling the lash of the public’s tongue – especially now his spin doctor Claudia Jean has left the building (though not before rather unsuccessfully attempting to combine aloofness, charm and hey-guys-I-can-laugh-at-myself sense of humour) leaving Gorgeous George with only LONG-SUFFERING BAG-CARRIER ZOE SEAR to keep him from sticking his foot in his mouth more than once a day (or “setting the news agenda” as those meejah professionals in Shitty Hall like to call it). Whether this will prove a good or a bad thing for Castle Park remains to be seen.
As does the reason behind why a supposed environmentalist like Fergo is so keen to see trees chopped down, green spaces removed from public use and a much-loved park extensively concreted over…