Plans for the council to build housing on the Western Slopes on the fringes of Knowle West are causing a bit of a stir at this election.
Here’s a south Bristol resident’s letter to the Mayor and Cabinet on the issue after the Cabinet agreed in March to transfer this land to their housing company, Goram Homes, in preparation for building on this valued open space. There was very little debate or discussion about the transfer, which you can watch on YouTube, and green space/ecological issues weren’t mentioned. There was also an ambiguous comment about the planning process:
Dear Mayor and Cabinet Members
I understand the need for housing in Bristol and appreciate the difficulties involved in how to build enough council or affordable housing. I also recognise the difficulty in addressing this need whilst balancing it against the ecological and climate emergencies.
I’m writing to you about the Cabinet meeting held on 9 March 2021.I was disappointed by the lack of any meaningful debate on item 11, Goram Homes Land Disposal. I note that these meetings are public and agendas published, but most residents of Bristol do not follow these meetings at all and there seems very little effort to engage disadvantaged communities in understanding the implications of the items being discussed and the decisions being made.
The Mayor spoke about sustainability in building. That’s welcome but is really just the standard of building now.Councillor Shah, Cabinet Member with responsibility for climate, ecology and sustainable growth, made no comment about any environmental effects of transferring so much land to your housing company. I don’t know all of the 12 sites in detail and many do seem to be genuinely brownfield. However some of the sites are environmentally rich, semi wild spaces, or sites that are rewilding themselves (Western Slopes/Novers Hill), or perhaps were brownfield but could now commonly be thought of as a green space (New Fosseway), or unambiguously a green space that is in high use (Knowle West Health Park).
There was also no mention of the well being effects of green spaces, especially in poorer neighbourhoods and seemingly no recognition of the value of such spaces in reducing the need for costly use of NHS services.
As all but one of you in the register of interests lists your ‘land in the property of the authority’ as ‘sensitive interest’, it is impossible to see if your decisions are affected by self interest to any property you own that may increase in value if these sites are developed. Your land is classed as ‘sensitive interest’ or ‘confidential for reasons of security’, presumably because these are your home addresses.
I invite you to add more transparency to the decision. What is the mechanism to allow this to be looked at? Can council officers who are allowed to see your registered interests check the locations and review whether conflicts of interest should have been declared for this decision?
“Where we own the land we have greater influence in the planning system. The planning system has some teeth, but where you’re the landowner it can really kind of add value and get the outcomes that we’re looking for, so a combination of that sort of regen thinking and where we also have Goram Homes involved it makes me very positive about the future of some of those locations and so I really look forward to…. I’m so glad Gorham are going to have that certainty and now we can look forward to cracking on with those sites.”
I invite you to clarify what was meant, as there are possible different interpretations. On the one hand it could be a positive statement about the benefit to the council of achieving what it wants to on those sites, on the other it carries a threat of extra power in the planning process to push through whatever you want to build. Given the comment is ambiguous and unclear, I think some clarity is needed.
You seem to have created a tension between your housing aims and your ecological aims. The choice of housing or ecological richness. For some of these sites the ecological loss is just too great. All but one of you have wards in the north of the city, I’m very happy to meet you at the Western Slopes and show you around, so that you can actually experience the site for yourself.
In the week that the ridiculous Guardian newspaper ran a story funded by a bank – ‘Meet the man who was part of a social housing revolution‘ – featuring Paul ‘Wolfie’ Smith, the Reverend Rees’s housing supremo who ran away, a new banner appears on Hengrove Way. The latest attempt to sell glamorous new build flats next to a dual carriageway?
Buy-to-let flats? How revolutionary. By strange coincidence, the other side of Creswicke Road, overlooking this new banner lies the Reverend’s new corporate chipboard housing project courtesy of Ikea:
The 3 bedroom homes here are currently listed on Rightmove at a price point of £275K.
The Reverend Rees’s deranged efforts to
build his way out of his carefully branded “HOUSING CRISIS” is
hitting south Bristol and its open spaces very hard. Following last month’s
unveiling of the Reverend’s IKEA/BOKLOKS housing solution, giving his loopey
evangelical mate Jez “I’m no housing expert” Sweetland free rein to
build 200 IKEA chipboard homes for the DESPERATE and the VULNERABLE on the
narrow verge of a trunk road in Hengrove, comes news of another attempt to grab
open space in south Bristol.
Filwood residents expressed their
displeasure at Rees’s madcap “CHIPBOARD AND PRAYER” plans for
the Airport Road at a cabinet meeting last month and community GROUP KNOWLE
WEST FUTURE asked that the council, at least, reduce the number of homes
planned for the small and narrow tree-filled site to 100. The group said, “A
possible 400 people emanating from this site would be a significant addition to
that area and if that is to happen other parts of community retail and
infrastructure need to be improved.”
Meanwhile, less than a mile away at
Broadbury Road in the heart of Knowle West, Curo Housing Association have
unveiled plans for 47 homes on a small piece of COUNCIL-OWNED OPEN SPACE
WITH A PLAYGROUND behind Broad Plain House. And the community are not
impressed that their wildlife and rights of way are to be traded away by the
council for concrete, traffic and overshadowing by large buildings.
Residents have also pointed out that
the site is part of GARDEN CITY PLANNING PRINCIPLES and that the area
was built to have green spaces. However, principles, planning or otherwise, are
in short supply at Rees’s DUMBED DOWN FREE MARKET COUNCIL or at even
dumber Curo. Instead Curo Communications Manager Valentina Warren gives the
game away by gormlessly explaining the complex planning vision underpinning the
Reverend’s “housing crisis”. “You can’t build new homes and have
green space at the same time,” she’s announced.
So that’s south Bristol’s NEW
ENVIRONMENTAL AND PLANNING STRATEGY sorted by Rees and his ragbag of
religious looney mates, voluntary sector morons and second rate Counts Louse
planning officials, then:
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.