Improving the city green space

St Andrews Park with iron railings that went in World War II (photo courtesy David Cemlyn)

The Parks and Green Space strategy for Bristol has been at least 4 years in development.

As a new councillor I went to all party meetings to discuss the principles on which Bristol’s approach to Green Space could be developed over the next 20 years.

That work led to the agreed Strategy which seeks to ensure that people have access to good quality parks and green spaces of different types, close to where they live. It was adopted by the city council’s Cabinet on Thursday 21 February 2008.

Officers then used mapping data to see how close the different types of green space were to people’s homes so that all of us should have reasonable access to a variety of green space; children and young people’s space, formal green space, informal green space, natural green space and active sports space.

It is sometimes said that Bristol is great on strategies, but poor on implementation.

The challenge implementing this strategy has been funding. The strategy states that in addition to Section 106 money, council revenue and capital and potential matched grant funding, there would be sale of and development on “low amenity value green space”.

Officers used the criteria in the Area Green Space Strategy to draw up a list of 62 such suggested sites and they were published earlier in the summer as the “Area Green Space Plans ideas and options consultation”.  http://www/.bristol.gov.uk/agsp In suggesting those sites, officers reflected on whether there was similar alternative green space close by, the amount of green space locally, whether development might allow other green space to be “looked over” to reduce anti-social behaviour and allow childrens play areas to be safely built, etc, etc.

Many thousands of people have responded to the consultation, with emails, letters and petitions, public meetings and site visits.  There has been extensive press and internet coverage.  The consultation has raised new issues for consideration and indicated how well loved and well used some of those sites are.

The consultation results are now in, the officers are revising their recommendations in the light of that feedback and the Cabinet will need to decide whether to accept, amend or reject the officer recommendations.

The Cabinet must listen and be seen to listen.

We will have the benefit of hearing the views of the all party scrutiny committee who will consider the recommendations at their extra meeting on 15th December before the Cabinet meets to decide on 16th December.

I am well aware that this will be a sensitive and difficult decision. We have had calls to scrap the strategy altogether, or refer all decisions to neighbourhood partnerships.  In making my decision I will find it useful to remind myself of the aims outlined and agreed in the January 2008 report…

  • an increase of up to 70 new play spaces across the city
  • introduction of natural play spaces
  • improved facilities for young people
  • Parks Keepers in all the main traditional parks across the city as a minimum
  • ensuring there is a good quality traditional park within easy reach
  • safeguarding key historic estates and parks
  • establishing a network of 16 Local Nature Reserves
  • making natural green spaces more accessible and welcoming
  • improving grounds maintenance
  • tackling anti-social behaviour
  • improving the quality of sports pitches
  • creating dog free areas and tackling dog fouling
  • developing and redesigning some backland sites

They were right then and they are still right today. Bristol needs to maintain, invest and develop our parks and green spaces over the next 20 years and this offers a way to do it.

Posted in Communities | 16 Comments

Dozens of new public toilets?

Mina Road Park urinal

Mina Road Park urinal - the only official public toilet in Ashley ward as at November 2010

Bristol Old People’s Forum BOPF have been campaigning for many years for more public toilets in the city.

They presented a petition in 2007, against a background of council public toilet closures. Since then more toilets have closed.
If we want to encourage walking, cycling and a true sense of community then improving access to toilets is not just important to older people but everyone.
Local campaigner Waliur Rahman and I have been investigating how we might reverse the trend of the last few years, against the background of financial austerity.
We now have a council electronic map that shows many publicly accessible toilets in the city. http://www.bristol.gov.uk/publictoilets and enter your postcode or street
Here is the result for York Road in Montpelier:
Cowmead Road Urinal 590
St Andrews Park 651
Gloucester Road 967
St James Barton 1109
The picture above is of the closest – “Cowmead Road urinal”!
It is a beautiful, and still fully functional, urinal in Mina Road Park in St Werburghs and currently the only recorded public toilet in Ashley ward! The next nearest is up the hill in St Andrews Park, which is outside Ashley ward in Redland ward, as are the toilets on Gloucester Road.
But hang on (literally!) couldn’t people use the toilets in one of the pubs or cafés in Montpelier, or perhaps Montpelier Health Centre?
Montpelier Health Centre and opening hours

Montpelier Health Centre - are residents and visitors able to "use their facilities"?

As a result of discussions with Val Jenkins of the BOPF, my own surgery at Avonmouth Medical Centre is listed, and we understand that all NHS surgeries were approached by the council to include on the map. A number have been included. Others have said they are happy for people to call in, but they don’t want to advertise the fact!
Thanks to the hard and persistent work of BOPF the council is about to publish the map of publicly accessible toilets as a booklet.  It would be good if when it was next published more sites could be included.
Do let us know your ideas! Perhaps this could be raised through the Neighbourhood Partnerships?
Posted in Communities, Streets | 3 Comments

Council passes £5m to community to spend

New swing in St Agnes Park

In a move with all party support, Bristol City Cabinet has devolved control of money paid to the council by property developers.  Known as Section 106 money, it has been put under the control of Neighbourhood Partnerships to spend locally.

The money can be used in parks, for minor transport schemes or other developments agreed by the local ward councillors in consultation with local residents, businesses and organisations.

This has been talked about for years – it is great to see it finally happening! There will be no shortage of good ideas to put the money to use!

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Communal bins – solving street problems?

Communal bins in Drummond Road, St Pauls (photo courtesy of Evening Post)

We are always looking for innovative ways to support our community. Here is an idea, common on the continent, working in St Pauls.

These residual waste bins and recycling bins have helped clear the streets of wheely bins, black bins and kitchen waste bins.

Results from a communal bin scheme launched earlier in the year for 80 homes in Drummond Road and Gwyn Street showed 100 per cent of people thought their streets were cleaner and 96 per cent wanted to keep the new scheme.

The new scheme is a pilot, and feedback from residents is welcome. Initial feedback is generally, but not universally good, so we will need to continue to respond to comments.

The latest survey results show

“Ninety-four percent of residents have said that they want to keep them.

The survey, carried out by Bristol City Council staff to gain the views of residents, also shows that:

  • 93% of respondents think the streets’ appearance has improved
  • 89% like the communal bins
  • 93% felt that the bins were easy to use
  • 70% recycled more since they have been installed

Householders in St Pauls trialed the new scheme for their household waste and recycling, because there was little off-street space for individual bins and boxes.”

If other areas would like to be considered for communal bins, then do let your councillor know.

Posted in Communities, Streets | 3 Comments

Dancing the night away

Bristol is well known as the Street Party Capital of England!

And of course our Windsor Road Street Party is one of the best! These two revellers pictured dancing the night away to some excellent live music.

Bristol is seriously advanced as it offers free help with arranging closure of your street for the party. A road closure application available from Highways:

  • is free-of-charge to external applicants
  • needs a minimum of six weeks notice for council to process

Search for “street party” on http://www.bristol.gov.uk for more information.

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Families, friends and time for reflection

Morning tea in an unfamiliar bedroom

Morning tea in an unfamiliar bedroom

Time for reflection with a few days away to celebrate my father in law’s 80th birthday.

Sharing time, food, drink and ideas and a chance to catch up, not least with our own four children!

Talked about life, love, politics, integrity, holidays, enterprise, films, challenges, opportunities, memories, absent friends, education, learning and the weather!

Phew! Slept well in own bed last night.

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Volunteers to support residents in Care Homes

Privileged to hear a positive and thoughtful contribution from Ken Dolbear at the Care Providers Forum this morning.

He described how RSVP Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme in the West is setting up a pilot for a project in which trained volunteers will visit Care Homes to meet residents in order to discuss the services and support they receive.

It is clear to me that people who receive services are often very reluctant to comment or complain for fear of “causing trouble”, and yet constructive feedback can help us all improve. I saw this at first hand with the BOPF Bristol Older Peoples Forum survey of residents after the loss of resident wardens. The council had one recorded comment, but the survey returned hundreds of comments, voicing many concerns about the changes. I am in the process of writing to residents about how their issues might be addressed.

Specially selected and trained volunteers will spend time with residents, particularly those who have no relatives or friends they can call on for help. The volunteers will take up any concern raised by a resident or relative with the home to try to resolve the problem.

I wish the scheme every success. If you are over 50 and think you could help – why not volunteer?  Details at http://www.rsvp-west.org.uk/carehomes.html

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