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My views on the EU, Brexit, democracy, neoliberal economics, Corbynism and Labour

In the 2014 European elections (they seem an age ago now), I subscribed to the policy platform of the Green Party – “three Yeses”.

1. Yes to reform of Europe
2. Yes to a referendum on whether the UK should stay in the EU
3. Yes to staying in Europe

I will use these statements as starting points for explaining my views.

1. Yes to reform of Europe

Out of the three, I was and still am most interested in the first yes. The European Union – in line with the global economic system – is a neoliberal institution that too closely aligns national governments within and into this orthodoxy. The reforms necessary to shift the EU and its institutions towards a radical progressive platform with redistributive tackling of inequality at its heart are sizeable, and I understand the scepticism of some about the ability of nation states, political blocs within the European Parliament and individual MEPs, never mind national polities (e.g. the UK public), to enact radical reform easily.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that the alternative to this priority – giving up on the European project in its institutional/democratic spheres as a lost cause – is so much worse, particularly for a country with the colonial history and isolationist tendencies of the UK that has still sat in a prominent place within European politics.

It is not just the economic settlement where I would like to see reform. I think the democratic understanding of most people in the United Kingdom of the procedures and processes of the European Parliament is poor to non-existent. I see the need for legislation in the UK Parliament (perhaps in reform of the BBC charter and the way the media works generally) to ensure that EP sessions are included regularly on national media and on channels such as BBC Parliament for people to understand how democracy works in the European system. The European Parliament – on paper at least, if not in its perceived distance from the UK public – is a MORE democratic institution than the UK Parliament in pretty much every single way. This diagram explains this better than I can.

EU democracy

So, yes to reform of Europe, with UK MEPs and the people playing a strong, organised role in pushing for reform. This is what, I hope, would have happened if the referendum had gone a different way. It’s to the referendum that I now turn.

2. Yes to a referendum on whether the UK should stay in the EU

Ironically, given the current positions of both parties, the Labour Party was not offering a referendum on our membership of the EU heading into the 2014 European elections and the 2015 General Election and the Green Party was. At the time, the Labour policy struck me as being quite anti-democratic. My view then was that: a) people who had never had a say on our membership (i.e. who weren’t alive or old enough to vote in the 1975 membership referendum) should be able to have a say on it now and b) that if the vote – as I think most people expected – returned a Remain vote, that that would put the issue to bed for another generation, which in my eyes would mean we could focus more closely on more important things – like campaigning for EU reform, introducing proportional representation, taking bold steps to fight against climate change, and tackling income inequality and the housing crisis.

I can already hear people screaming “hypocrisy!” at me. How can I be in favour of the result putting the issue to bed if it went the way I wanted it, but not be willing to accept the result if it went the other way?

It’s a fair criticism, I suppose. At the same time, if people in UKIP (and eurosceptics in Labour and the Tories) had continued to campaign against our membership of the European Union after a Remain vote, I would not have thought that was anti-democratic or poor form, just a bit eccentric. That is completely up to them and it is a vital aspect of our democracy that people believe strongly in something (however much I think it is unimportant or settled) to continue to campaign for what they believe in. I would of course have supported the UK government (ugh!) in (presumably?) ignoring their pleas.

And so now that we have had a Leave vote, there is nothing to stop Remainers from continuing to call for what they want: to Remain in the European Union and for a referendum on the terms of the negotiated deal.

There are also numerous more reasons to question the referendum itself:

a)  The referendum question was a simple yes/no question, which does not lead to a firm conclusion as to the method of the UK leaving the EU.
b) The referendum was not legally binding in the same way as the Scottish Independence referendum was. This means that although different sides would need to accept the stated democratic will of the vote, the final settlement of the exact kind of exit from the EU was not clear. This calls into question whether the vote can be meaningfully called a democratic expression of the will of the people, as there was not a detailed picture of what leaving the EU would mean in practical outcome for the UK.
c) The Electoral Commission has ruled that the Leave campaign broke electoral law. This casts doubt over the whole referendum as a democratic procedure.
d) As there was a previous referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU in 1975, there was now a precedent set constitutionally that the UK does not see membership of the EU as a “once and for all” vote, allowing subsequent votes.
e) The circumstances and specific content of the terms of UK exit are yet to be decided and, democratically speaking, if the public has had a say over WHETHER the UK should leave, it should also get a say over HOW the UK leaves, given the numerous options (no deal, hard, soft and remain after all) that will present themselves when the Government finally reveals the deal it has got with the EU.

3. Yes to staying in Europe

My priority in politics reads thus: what position and politics will lead us – at the local, regional, national, continental and global stages – to tackle climate change and social inequality effectively?

I do not believe that the UK can tackle climate change without cooperation, dialogue and international working as part of the EU. I also trust the European Parliament and EU to bring in strong legislation on climate change more than I trust the current UK government to do similar. Other European democracies have a better record than the UK does on this. We need a seat at the table and to be able to use our voice for change in that institution. As a cooperative, democratic institution, the UK is a vital peace project. Some of its economic and social policies are downright terrible – on Greece, or on the refugee crisis, for instance – but I believe the sum total of our collective wisdom needs to be supported in its institutional form, even while we criticise and attempt to reform its flaws.

The politics at play right now

It is clear that the Conservative Party is split on the EU still, and continues to procrastinate, argue and muddle through. MPs who campaigned to Remain are now adamantly for the hardest of Brexits because they are scared of the 10% or so they gained from UKIP in 2017 going back to them and stopping them from being the largest party at a subsequent general election. Irrespective of this, the Tories are in a bind anyway as, if the economy collapses if we leave the EU (whether no deal, hard or soft), it will be them who will be clearly shown to be terrible at handling the economy.

The Labour Party is also split on the EU, but their muddle-through is slightly easier because they are in opposition, they improved their position in the 2017 general election, and their party leader is seen as at best a “soft remainer” and at worst an “ardent Eurosceptic Brexiteer”. The difficulty they have is there are a majority of Labour Party members – on the left, centre, right, and wherever else – who are intelligent, see the EU as an important institution for the aims of international social democracy and solidarity, and have noticed that the polls show regret over the Leave vote (see image below), with the majority of Labour-held constituencies now being in favour of Remain.

Brexit mind change

This means that Jeremy Corbyn, who – if you remember – immediately called for the triggering of Article 50 on the day after the referendum in June 2016, finds himself on the wrong side of his party membership, the voters he needs to convince to continue voting Labour at the next general election, and the public at large. Refusing to support a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal may not ultimately prove to be his undoing, due to the weak, divided leadership of the Tories, the economy cratering and – to be honest – a bunch of people who will vote Labour whatever, whether out of fear of the Tories, support of a local candidate, or as “the only progressive option”. This is what Corbyn supporters perceive as “playing the long game” in terms of strategy.

The difficulty with this strategy is clear. Firstly, Corbyn will continue to be attacked on three fronts: by the Conservatives and other parties, by non-Corbynist MPs and members in his party, and by influential media sources who support the continuation of Conservative government. On the first, he may develop some good lines and play the same timid game Labour always plays in opposition of slowly winning trust in the country (this is for people who don’t realise or understand what a calamity Brexit would be). On the second, he will struggle – as we have seen with the anti-Semitism row. And on the third, he will without the tabloid press (and, let’s be frank, a positive media profile and perception that he is a moderate) find it hard to win over that extra 3-5% in the so-called centre ground of British politics that saw Tony Blair deliver two landslide election victories. Even as a leftist, I do not believe that the Labour Party just serves people who have leftwing politics. It reaches parts of the country my own party cannot yet hope to reach and we need it to continue to do so, at least for the timebeing.

As a Green, I find it more and more perturbing how easily some of Corbyn’s supporters gloss over the gap between Corbyn’s “straight-talking, honest politics” and the fact he doesn’t have straightforward answers on whether the UK will be better off economically outside the EU. We won’t be. Even the Government’s own forecasts show we won’t be under three different exit scenarios.
UK Brexit economy forecasts

If Corbyn is such a change from the norm, why can’t he just say “the forecasts show that we might not be better off, but if we are elected after Brexit has occurred, we will have to do our best with the situation we have inherited from the Tories”? Why is such an idealistic movement as Momentum prepared to put up with such a lack of idealism and leadership? And how will this help Labour’s electoral chances if they enable the Tories in pushing through whatever Brexit they negotiate without a chance for the public to say “nope, this will make things worse in every way”?

So, in summary (and quite obviously), I support a People’s Vote, I think the Labour Party needs to support it, I think Labour should have a strong Remainer who is on the left or soft left of the party as their leader, and I think only these outcomes will potentially stop economic catastrophe, further years of even worse Tory austerity and even more time wasted in tackling climate change and the unequal economic settlement that Corbyn and his supporters say they want to radically reform.

Rob Bryher
Wednesday 22nd August 2018

Deprivation, employment and the effect of Arena siting on Lawrence Hill residents

Statement to Extraordinary Full Council meeting, Monday 3rd September 2018
Deprivation, employment and the effect of Arena siting on Lawrence Hill residents

Multiple deprivations in Lawrence Hill and lack of employment opportunity

As a resident of Lawrence Hill ward, I am particularly concerned by the missed opportunity building the Arena in the centre of Bristol will have on communities here.

Lawrence Hill has, according to Bristol City Council’s own Deprivation in Bristol 2015 report, five Lower Super Output Areas in the top 20 most deprived in Bristol (Easton Road, Stapleton Road, St Philips, Cabot Circus and Barton Hill). All LSOAs in Lawrence Hill ward are within the most deprived 10% nationally. Overall, the ward is the fourth most deprived and has the second highest percentage of people who are employment-deprived in Bristol, with 3,240 (25% of the population). More than a third of people in Lawrence Hill are income deprived (7,060, or 36%). Almost half of all children live in income deprived households (2,235, or 46%)

I do not believe that the siting of an Arena is a panacea for this deprivation and the wider income inequalities in Bristol and the UK. However, if we think for just a few seconds about the kind of work that will be made available by this development – regular work in the service and hospitality industry – this is exactly the kind of role suitable for people who are long-term unemployed and with skills and education deprivation.

Journey times for Lawrence Hill residents to Temple Meads quicker and cheaper than to Brabazon Hangar

The siting of the Arena is a factor on people within Lawrence Hill accessing the Arena’s jobs. The route connections from our area of the city to the Filton area are poor. Even from the most northerly point of Lawrence Hill (where the M32 intersects with the railway line), the minimum journey times to the Brabazon Hangar are currently:

Walking: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cycling: 30 minutes
Bus: 50 minutes (with at least one change of bus)
Train: 54 minutes (requires a change to bus)

For comparison, here are the journey times to Bristol Temple Meads, adjacent to Arena Island:

Walking: 34 minutes
Cycling: 11 minutes
Bus: 22 minutes (includes 12 minutes’ walk)
Train: 13 minutes (direct train)

This shows that the siting of the Arena will have a substantial and direct impact on the cost and desirability for Lawrence Hill residents taking jobs at the Arena. Additionally, the anti-social hours that employees of an Arena may need to hold are not necessarily conducive to the use of public transport.

Conclusion

The Arena Island site represents a substantial opportunity for residents in deprived areas like Lawrence Hill (as well as other areas of inner city Bristol, both north and south of the river) to access good-quality jobs within walking, cycling and public transport distance. I hope that the Labour Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, considers the people who need jobs most before he decides to move the Arena project away from these employment-deprived areas.

Rob Bryher
Lawrence Hill resident

The design and application of neighbourhood planning in England acts effectively to constrain local autonomy and inhibit public participation in planning. Discuss.

Introduction

The introduction of neighbourhood planning (NP) has been met with critical discussion both inside and outside of planning literature. I will argue that NP processes have produced some positive participative practice but within a framework that does not allow for local autonomy or inclusive participative practice at the sub-local authority area. I will go on to recommend strategies for reforming the structures that have been put in place.

What is neighbourhood planning?

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government (2010-15) introduced neighbourhood planning as part of the 2011 Localism Act (DCLG, 2011b). The preamble to the government’s neighbourhood planning guidance claims that NP “gives communities direct power”, allows them to “choose where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built” and provides “a powerful set of tools for local people to ensure that they get the right types of development for their community” (DCLG, 2014). Both academic and non-academic critique often includes the contention that the government has seen NP as a tool to encourage neighbourhoods to accept further development, particularly housing (Parker and Salter, 2017).

In direct practical terms, this new statutory power allows, in coordination with their local authority, any set of 21 citizens to become a “qualifying body”, designate a neighbourhood development plan area, write a neighbourhood development plan (NDP), put this plan out to consultation, have it assessed by an independent examiner, and then ask for the NDP to be approved by the local community through a referendum. NDP policies must conform with the Local Plan and the Government’s newly introduced National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF, 2012). The NDP then becomes a statutory part of the development plan, alongside the Local Plan for the area designated.

Parker et al (2015) suggest that NP is a significant statutory shift that local authorities cannot ignore and is unlikely to be abandoned. The 2011 Act was the culmination of a building political rhetoric around the terms localism and decentralisation for both government parties whilst in opposition, with Copus et al (2017) suggesting the localist political shift may relate to the effect of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish devolution on English provincial thinking. NP represents the first time a statutory right of this kind has been granted to communities at the sub-local authority area, but as we will now discuss is not the first instance of attempts to sub-localise the planning system.

The pre-2010 context of neighbourhood planning

NP was thus a departure from the previous Labour government’s (1997-2010) policies if not its language of ‘new localism’. The unformalised ‘local strategic partnerships’ were the New Labour precursor of sorts to NP. However, specific sub-local authority governance structures such as parish councils and urban-based neighbourhood forums had hitherto not had any planning powers, leading to an unsatisfactory situation where local authorities could choose to adopt or ignore non-statutory sub-local plans (Gallent 2013). Parish Plans, produced since 2000, were an example of community-led planning used regularly prior to 2010, almost exclusively in rural areas. Parker and Murray (2012) state that pre-2010 consultations on these plans would “rarely carry quality criteria which are applied or enforced”. However, in April 2009, the Labour government did introduce a wide-ranging ‘duty to involve’ powers on local authorities (DCLG, 2008) and a Central-Local Concordat in conjunction with the LGA (HM Government and LGA, 2007, cited in Bailey and Elliott, 2009). The Coalition reforms can be said to, at least rhetorically, respond to New Labour’s ‘managerial’ localism (Sturzaker and Gordon, 2017), although Brookfield (2017) argues that the Coalition were echoing the New Labour rhetoric, and adopting a neo-liberal justification for localism.

Local autonomy’s non-existence

Planning literature in the aftermath of the 2011 Act refers largely to decentralisation and localism, rather than autonomy, perhaps for the reason that the former are concepts perceived as less political and more operational in orientation. There is no agreed definition of local autonomy within democratic theory, with Clark (1984) stating that its meaning “remains opaque”. However within the NP context we are clearly discussing any ‘autonomy’ that exists at the sub-local authority (i.e. neighbourhood) level. Internationally, the term ‘local autonomy’ is used synonymously with ‘local self-government’ (i.e. local government) with one 2014 assessment (see Ladner et al, 2016, 344) measuring the UK as 31st out of 39 European countries. Pratchett (2004) makes a strong claim that local autonomy and local democracy are conceptually not the same, with Clark (1984) defining two aspects of autonomy in governance terms. Immunity is “the power of localities to function free from the oversight authority of higher tiers of the state”. Initiative is “the power of localities to legislate and regulate the behaviour of residents”. These aspects are closely mirrored by Pratchett (2004) as “freedom from central interference” and “freedom to effect particular outcomes”, stating a further aspect, “reflection of local identity”, an addition that brings participatory governance into our analysis of autonomy’s definition. It’s clear that a qualifying body could affect particular outcomes in a positive way by delineating land use more specifically than its attendant Local Plan currently does. However, this does not in itself represent an autonomous state of affairs, merely an ability to change some aspects of the local authority’s development planning documentation in line with what already exists or will exist.

I contend (under the auspices of traditional anarchist thought and the definitions of the aforementioned thinkers) that autonomy only exists independently of prescribed democratic and institutional structures, in arenas where local citizens make their own rules and practices, what Parker and Murray (2012) describe (from a non-anarchist perspective) as a “direct challenge to established decision-making models”. Indeed, Gallent (2013) differentiates democracy as a top-down, “provider-led” approach, and governance as a bottom-up approach (with the crucial caveat that it is liable to myopia and a lack of detail and coordination). The introduction, therefore, of NP can be said to have had a negligible effect on local autonomy, as NDPs are required to be submitted both to the local authority and the planning inspectorate (an executive agency of HM Government) for approval, as well as conforming closely and working within the Local Plan policies and the NPPF (Parker et al, 2015), with no variation on this pattern legally condoned. As local autonomous governance structures are thus only theoretically possible and currently non-existent, it is difficult to say whether “they” are constrained or not. Regardless, this conclusion does not preclude the possibility of improved public participation under NP, a subject to which we now turn.


Public participation in neighbourhood planning

Public participation has been part of planning law since the 1968 Town & Country Planning Act (HM Government, 1968), although it was almost immediately followed by the Skeffington Report (DoE, 1969) which critiqued the Act’s top-down solutions and recommended a far more neighbourhood-orientated approach (recommendations 1 and 2, appendix 1). Today, there are still charges that public participation can be tokenistic, with Parker and Murray (2012) describing participation opportunities as “little more than rhetorical bulwarks used by politicians seeking public support and legitimation for particular policies”. Certainly the Localism Act’s emphasis on delivering growth by a neo-liberal economic model could be characterised this way, but are there opportunities afforded by NP for authentic communicative practice?

Vigar et al (2017) posit two dominant schools of thought within communicative practice – a participative-deliberative tradition and a radical-agonistic one – suggesting that the latter is the dominant contemporary planning paradigm. Forester (1999) recognises the role of emotion in planning but takes the deliberative position, describing planners as crucial to facilitating any “joint gains” that can be made between “conflicting claimants” (p. 12-13).

I agree with Parker et al (2015) that NP presents as a dialogic space (see Wegerif, 2016) of rational actors (see Rydin and Pennington’s (2000) five rational choice questions) but that in reality its public participation remit is limited and the design of its structures preclude agonist practice. Brookfield (2017) notes that planners are not ‘levelled down’ to the status of another stakeholder as is typically an interest of collaborative planning. Also, as Parker and Murray (2012, p.8) note, individuals don’t always act rationally or in some narrow self-interested sense, implying that some people engage if others (and particularly others ‘like them’) engage. Overall, for NP, “the benefits and problems of participation are likely to be mixed and fluid; reflecting the so-called fuzziness of neo-liberal institutions” (Parker et al, 2017). The design of NP, to which we now turn, is also one of the main factors in assessing NP’s public participation credentials.

The design of neighbourhood planning

Neighbourhood planning has been communicated and legislated maximally but resourced minimally. The government’s 200 or so pilot areas each received £20,000 up front (Bailey and Pill, 2015). Up to £9,000 is available to qualifying bodies from DCLG through Locality’s website (2018), a sum which hypothetically allows payment of a living wage to a dedicated planning employee for a little over 27 weeks of full-time employment. The median time for an NDP to progress to referendum is 29 months (Parker and Salter, 2017), which makes it logistically unfeasible to offer anything other than part-time, freelance work to a planning consultant, who may or may not be able to work in the way that conveniences the designated neighbourhood forum (DNF). In one study (Parker et al, 2015), it was found that 69% of NDPs relied on consultant support. Staff resource from local authorities is not specified quantifiably in the legislation, so the DNF must negotiate support resources (DCLG, 2014). The local authority has responsibility for setting timetables and time limits, but the emphasis as regards advice and assistance is on what planning officers “consider appropriate” (which of course could be minimised to solely the aforementioned time factors) (DCLG, 2011b).

The concern expressed by some (e.g. Lord et al, 2017) about the risk of the de-professionalisation of planning comes to the fore in light of this design, with the overall neo-liberal framework not being hidden by the government (Parker et al, 2015) when they state that local authorities will have “more freedom to work with others in new ways to drive down costs” (DCLG, 2011a, p.7). Parker et al (2017) suggest that New Public Management theories lead to a “wider traducement of public sector planning” for a performative end. However, Brookfield (2017) notes two specific benefits for communities after an NDP has been adopted: the retention of 25% (as opposed to the regular 15%) of any Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) raised on local development and (for plans that promote housing development) the New Homes Bonus, an unringfenced grant where government matches the Council Tax raised on each new home for six years. (Both positives are contingent, of course, on the NDP promoting rather than restraining development.) Parker (2017) also notes that local authorities receive a £30,000 ‘burdens’ payment on plan completion.

As regards inter-relational aspects of NP design, Davoudi and Cowie (2013) state that the self-selecting character of NP groups may result in the favouring of better educated, well-off and more vocal social groups who may have the time, capacity and inclination to engage. Although the NDP must go to referendum to be judged by the public, there are questions about the legitimacy of unelected bodies acting on behalf of the wider community before this occurs, particularly as the DNF proposes the extent of the area covered.

Overall, there are some basic problems with NP design and with the necessity to conform to the Local Plan and NPPF, what Bailey and Pill (2015) call ‘framing and constraining’ activity. These tight controls on NDP content ensure that ideas, policies and priorities will be “rescripted” to ensure conformity, with their obligatory passage acting as a means of control on participants (Parker et al, 2015).

The application and practice of neighbourhood planning

The non-compulsory nature of NP will always mean patchwork rather than blanket coverage, with 2,228 projects applied for as of October 2017 and only 349 having been formally adopted into local development plans (Planning Resource, 2017), with only 10% of neighbourhoods who could have initiated NDPs doing so (Parker and Salter, 2017). Reasons for lack of uptake have been variously cited, but government assumptions about willingness and capacity, homogeneity and ability to put aside self-interest may also be a factor. The government’s professed light touch approach may have acted to create a degree of confusion rather than enable or expedite processes.

The government forecasts for overall take-up of NP, but not for regions or wider demographic factors (Parker and Salter, 2017). It is observable that the south (comprising just two of England’s nine regions) accounts for 41% of NP take-up (Parker and Salter, 2017). Only six of the neighbourhood areas to have passed referendum by October 2016 were in the 20% most deprived areas of England with 60.8% of plans being produced by those in the 40% least deprived areas (Parker and Salter, 2017). NP has undoubtedly been taken to more in rural, parished areas, although there are examples of large cities, such as Leeds (see Brookfield, 2017), taking a proactive approach, with council officers recommending to the executive board an overall approach to give equality of opportunity, although even in this instance there were participation challenges.

On the issue of whether NDPs have representational legitimacy, although 21 named local individuals are necessary to become a qualifying body, it has been noted (Parker et al, 2015) that a small group of people usually steer things, not the whole of the qualifying body or larger community. Davoudi and Cowie (2013) suggest that the key assessment criterion of this “symbolic representation” is the extent to which DNFs are accepted among local communities and trusted by them to draw up NDPs, highlighting the poor turnout at referenda as a sign of lack of acceptance, despite the figure (32.4%) being commensurate with local election turnout figures (Carpenter, 2016).

There are also clear examples of inequality of implementation. North Shields Fish Quay in North Tyneside was in 2011 part of the government’s ‘Frontrunner’ programme, but even after spending substantial time and effort on developing an NDP, opted instead to formulate a supplementary planning document as result of delayed guidance from government and the group’s “fatigue” (Parker and Salter, 2017).

More positively, some NDPs have taken the opportunity to advance socially and environmentally sustainable solutions, protect heritage assets, and ensure local housing needs, with slightly more control over the type, mix and location of new development than previously (Parker and Salter, 2017). The example of West Berkshire by Parker and Murray (2012) provides some clues for ensuring success. National funding was granted by the Countryside Agency and action was taken and resources allocated by the local authority chief executive, with the LA enjoying a good pre-existing reputation. This enabled trust to be built between the local authority and participants with a neutral agency (the Rural Community Council) providing a valuable brokering role. There is also evidence that – in contradistinction to my earlier analysis of funding – influence on LAs and a resulting access to resources and networks has emerged, an example of the ‘foot in the door’ thesis and allowing for “some limited orientation” (Parker et al, 2017). A counter-example in Exeter involved the DNF negotiation design changes of a development after their NDP adoption, but this could have been managed without the work going into the NDP, with the DNF opining that NP powers are “not as strong as promoted” (Lord et al, 2017) and that “the council did not have to consult us or check whether we were satisfied with their interpretation of neighbourhood plan policies…and they didn’t” (Sturzaker and Gordon, 2017). Blackpool and Manchester are also given as examples where NP has been said to have had negligible impact (Lord et al, 2017).

Parker et al (2015) report that more than two-thirds of people get involved with NP because they want more influence, greater say and to shape a local vision. By any reading, NP can be seen as a positive development in this regard, even if the process overall may struggle to meet these expectations. Parker et al (2017) show that “known co-production” (i.e. diverse actors working together on NDPs) is actually occurring. More critically, the government’s aim could be seen to be reducing local conflict through this consensus-building in order to increase housing supply (Gallent, 2013), although conversely a report from Turley (2014) found that the key theme of 55% of NDPs was the preservation and protection of what already exists (Lord et al, 2017). This suggests that NP may not currently be meeting government’s expectations.

On one analysis (Parker and Salter, 2015), it was recognised that planning skills were crucial but that for most groups the lack of this expertise delayed but didn’t prove fatal to their NDPs (Parker et al, 2015). The implication is that local authorities were then required to intervene or, for wealthier areas, private resources were utilised to fund a consultant tasked to plan-write. At this stage, community aspirations are likely to be rescripted into ‘planning language’, with some suggesting that this, combined with interactions with the local authority, led to a feeling of lost ownership. This “instruction from authority” and tendency for the instrumental pragmatism of “getting things done” can limit the “imagineering of alternatives” and has an effect on the rational choice realities mentioned earlier leading to a ‘why bother?’ result amongst some groups. Conservatism, self-regulation and self-censorship were observed in particular in the latter stages of the process (Parker et al, 2017).

There are instances where a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) has informed a Local Plan (rather than vice versa), with over 1,138 areas being designated in areas with no up-to-date (post-NPPF) Local Plan (Parker and Salter, 2017). This represents an ability of DNFs to use NDPs to shape policy, and potentially re-opens our whole debate around local autonomy. The government guidance itself states that NDPs “can be developed before or at the same time as the local planning authority is producing its Local Plan”, yet simultaneously a draft NDP “must be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the development plan in force”, with additional guidance that qualifying bodies and local authorities should discuss and aim to agree the relationship between policies (DCLG, 2014). Anecdotally (Parker and Salter, 2017), some forums and parishes have slowed their processes to wait for a Local Plan to be adopted in order to know what policies they should follow. This ambiguity in precedence has been tested at examination, with one examiner comically citing Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialism in defence of allowing an NDP to not conform to a non-existent Local Plan (Sturzaker and Gordon, 2017). In general, though, the LA-DNF relationship is characterised by Parker et al (2017) as a “critical dependency” rather than a “truly co-creative relationship”. Mutual exchange only delivers desired outcomes when there is trust, transparency and accountability and Gallent (2013) suggests that there is a structural hole that needs bridging by incidental mediators, giving the example of Ashford where housing (rather than planning) officers were effective at connecting group members to the local authority.

Superficially, it might be observed that a DNF’s powers can be described thus: “Although it cannot choose what to do, once given a specific task it can implement it in any way thought consistent with its tasks.” (Clark 1984, p. 201). Neighbourhood planning groups do choose what emphasis to take (if not exactly choosing what to do). Nevertheless, this gives the impression that their deliberations have a weight that the Localism Act ill affords them in terms of setting planning policy.

Parker et al’s (2015) assessment of their user experience study with Locality of 120 neighbourhoods uncovered a feeling that a local authority ‘duty to support’ needs to be operationalised through memoranda of understanding, which could set out clearer guidance for how to plan rather than just what to plan. The study also found that managing expectations and investing in the early stages to raise awareness in the community paid dividends. Parker et al (2017) believe the relations, knowledge and understanding built by NP may influence new forms of community engagement. More critically, Davoudi and Cowie (2013) argue that for inclusivity to improve we should consider not just how to incorporate marginal groups, but also how to limit the influence of privileged groups. Parker et al (2015) similarly query how we “proof” neighbourhood planning against dominant actors and a ‘managerialist’ consensus. Agonistic practice may have some of the answers in allowing dissensus to reveal power differences within the process (Vigar et al, 2017), but must be used sensitively by well-trained, ‘bridging’ mediators. The user experience study also noted the challenge of designating NP areas in urban settings, recommending a simplification of the process and more targeted, clear guidance for groups. The study also found that clarity around the referendum rules, consistency around resourcing, and clearer messages around the continuation of DNFs (with the view of reviewing or amending the NDPs) as further ways to practically improve the NP process (Parker et al, 2014).

Conclusion

I have argued that neighbourhood planning does not act to constrict local autonomy, because local autonomy does not exist in the English democratic system at the sub-local authority level. Using Clark’s description of the concept of local autonomy, I have suggested that only a wholesale, near-revolutionary change in the British democratic system would allow for this conception to make sense on its own terms of “local self-rule”. NP is fundamentally a state-led and state-run activity, regardless of how specifically the initial bottom-up inception of processes occurs, as it is limited by both central and local state’s policy framework on what local communities can prescribe in their NDPs. However, this does not in itself preclude the possibility of public participation in NP.

There has been limited research thus far into the comparative uptake of local planning participation before and after the 2011 Act. Nevertheless, I have found substantive examples of neighbourhood planning producing forms of public participation which were hitherto unrealised. Even a mechanism so tightly scripted by state actors has the potential for delivering non-state actors’ priorities into local development schemes. My concerns with these processes are almost wholly to do with who is participating and how NP can be reformed and developed to ensure a greater breadth of uptake amongst diverse communities, urban areas and English “non-southern” regions. The cited example of Leeds gave me some hope that urban areas can respond to the current set-up through strong leadership to encourage a joined-up process at the local authority level.

Thus, I would contend that there is a need to directly link neighbourhood planning to strategic planning timetables, so that Local Plans and NDPs are concurrently produced. This could be linked to a statutory responsibility on all local authorities to review and consult on their Local Plan (a consolidated document covering all local and neighbourhood plans) every five years. This would dispel fears of a lack of consistency in a two-tier system (Lord et al, 2017), potentially widen the breadth of topics found in NDPs, and allow all councils to plan for ‘big bang’ engagement at regular intervals. Needless to say, this would require substantial financial investment and new revenue-raising powers for local authorities. It would be perceived as a retreat from ‘localism’ and a centralisation of power. However, to release greater participation and community dialogue (particularly in deprived areas), it is imperative that neighbourhood planning is well-resourced. This seems to be the only effective way to ensure a coherent planning system that allows local innovation, increased diverse and inclusive participation and outcomes that effectively and fairly balance local and national planning priorities.

Bibliography

Bailey, N. and Pill, M. (2015) Can the state empower communities through localism? An evaluation of recent approaches to neighbourhood governance in England. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 33, pp.289–304

Bailey, S. and Elliott, M. (2009) Taking Local Government Seriously: democracy, autonomy and the constitution, Cambridge Law Journal, 68(2), pp. 436–472.

Brookfield, K. (2017) Getting involved in plan-making: Participation in neighbourhood planning in England, Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space 2017, 35(3), pp. 397–416.

Carpenter, B. (2016) Analysis finds average neighbourhood plan turnout of 32.4%. Available at: http://www.planningresource.co.uk/article/1406239/analysis-finds-average-neighbourhood-plan-turnout-324 [Accessed 8 January 2018]

Clark, G.L. (1984), A theory of local autonomy, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 74(2), pp.195–208.

Copus, C., Roberts, M and Wall, R. (2017) Local Government in England: Centralisation, Autonomy and Control. London: Palgrave MacMillan.

Davoudi, S. & Cowie, P. (2013) Are English neighbourhood forums democratically legitimate? Planning Theory and Practice, 14(4), pp. 562–566.

Davoudi, S. and Madanipour, A. (2013) Localism and neo-liberal governmentality, Town Planning Review, 84:5, pp. 551-561.

Department for Communities and Local Government (2008) Communities in Control: real people, real power London: HM Government.

Department for Communities and Local Government (2011) A Plain English Guide to the Localism Act. London: DCLG. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/5959/1896534.pdf [Accessed 8 January 2018]

Department for Communities and Local Government (2011) The Localism Act 2011. London: DCLG. Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2011/20/schedule/10/enacted [Accessed 8 January 2018]

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Forester, J. (1999) The Deliberative Practitioner: Encouraging Participatory Planning Processes, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England

Gallent, N. (2013), ‘Re-connecting “people and planning”: parish plans and the English localism agenda’, Town Planning Review, 84, pp. 371–96.

HM Government (1968) Town & Country Planning Act 1968. London: HM Stationery Office. Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1968/72/contents/enacted [Accessed 8 January 2018]

HM Government and Local Government Association (2007), Central-Local Concordat. Available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100403032639/http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/localgovernment/pdf/601000.pdf [Accessed 7 January 2018]

Ladner, A., Keuffer N. and Baldersheim, H. (2016) Measuring Local Autonomy in 39 Countries (1990–2014), Regional & Federal Studies, 26:3, pp. 321-357.

Locality (2018) Neighbourhood planning. Available at: http://locality.org.uk/projects/building-community/ [Accessed 8 January 2018]

Lord, A., Mair, M., Sturzaker, J.,  and Jones, P. (2017) ‘The planners’ dream goes wrong?’ Questioning citizen-centred planning, Local Government Studies, 43:3, pp. 344-363.

Parker G. (2017), The uneven geographies of neighbourhood planning in England. In: Brownill, S. and Bradley Q., eds., Localism and neighbourhood planning: Power to the people?, pp. 75-91.

Parker, G., Lynn, T. and Wargent, M. (2015) Sticking to the script? The co-production of neighbourhood planning in England, Town Planning Review, 86:5, pp. 519-535.

Parker, G.,  Lynn, T. & Wargent, M. (2017) Contestation and conservatism in neighbourhood planning in England: reconciling agonism and collaboration?, Planning Theory & Practice, 18:3, pp. 446-465.

Parker, G., Lynn, T., Wargent, M. and Locality (2014), User Experience of Neighbourhood Planning, published report, October 2014, London, Locality.

Parker, G. & Murray, C. (2012) Beyond tokenism? Community-led planning and rational choices: Findings from participants in local agenda-setting at the neighbourhood scale in England. Town Planning Review, 83(1), pp. 1–28.

Parker, G. and Salter, K. (2017) Taking Stock of Neighbourhood Planning in England 2011–2016, Planning Practice & Research, 32:4, pp. 478-490.

Planning Resource (2017) Map: neighbourhood plan applications. Available at: http://www.planningresource.co.uk/article/1212813/map-neighbourhood-plan-applications [Accessed 8 January 2018]

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Sturzaker, J and Gordon, M. (2017) Democratic tensions in decentralised planning – Rhetoric, legislation and reality in England. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 35(7), pp. 1324-1339.

Turley Associates (2014). Neighbourhood Planning – Plan and Deliver? London: Turley Associates, London.

Vigar, G. Gunn, S. and Brooks, E. (2017) Governing our neighbours: participation and conflict in neighbourhood planning, Town Planning Review, 88(4), pp. 423-442.

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Why voting Green in Bristol West will NOT let the Tories in

We’ve already knocked on thousands of doors in Bristol West in this campaign, and the most common reaction we get is “we must keep the Tories out”.

As Greens, we agree. As a party, we have led on attempts to negotiate deals in seats the Conservatives hold or threaten to take without a strong, singular progressive-minded voice on the ballot paper.

However, Bristol West is different. The result in 2015 shows a few things:

1. Labour just beat the Greens last time leaving the Lib Dems and the Tories in a distant third and fourth place.
2. Even if the entire UKIP vote from 2015 went to the Tories, they would still be in fourth.
3. The Tories cannot win this seat (and won’t be attempting to), so progressive voters can back the Greens and make history by electing Bristol’s first Green MP.

A Green MP would work cooperatively with other progressive MPs but hold Labour to account where the party’s policies veer away from the progressive values this constituency holds dear.

The differences between a Green MP and the Labour Party’s approach are profound:

  • A Green MP would campaign for a final referendum on the negotiated terms of Brexit. The Labour Party are not in favour of this referendum, preferring to let Theresa May push through her plans rather than let the people decide.
  • A Green MP would campaign to halt NHS privatisation and invest in our health. The Labour Party did not back Caroline Lucas’ NHS Reinstatement Bill and during the last Labour government, began the process of privatisation through PFI schemes.
  • A Green MP would campaign for a fairer voting system to make votes matter. The Labour Party are divided on the issue and have made no clear statement that they would change to a proportional voting system.
  • A Green MP would campaign for action on climate change. The Labour Party barely ever mention climate change, the country’s greatest threat to security.

A second Green MP would do more to push a Labour or Conservative government to do what is right by providing effective opposition and critique when it matters.

Theresa May does not want another Caroline Lucas in Parliament. She does not want Molly Scott Cato to be elected – an economist who can lay bare the inadequacies and falsehoods of the Conservatives’ disastrous economic policies.

If you want a future to believe in, it’s time for a Green MP in Bristol.

#TonyFirst: Why you should give Tony Dyer your first preference vote on Thursday 5th May

Why you should give Tony Dyer your first preference vote on Thursday 5th May

I’ve known Tony for quite a while. I can’t remember exactly when I met him, but like many people in the Bristol blogosphere I was impressed by his incredibly detailed writing  for a previous incarnation of the website Bristol 24/7. He clearly puts the time and effort in to understand a subject. It might not seem like a big deal, but Tony reads books, and he learns things from them. I think this is hugely important in terms of the over-arching reasons for voting for him. Intelligence, principle and pragmatism are Tony’s chief qualities – he knows the issues inside out, he knows what the right thing to do is on those issues, and he knows which issues it is realistic to focus on for his term of office.

If you’re reading this, perhaps you’ve already made your mind up about some of the candidates. But if you’re still thinking about who would make the best Mayor, I would implore to look closely at Tony’s proposals, available here: http://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/mayor2016

Let me tell you more about Tony. Tony is a kind, genuine, funny and down-to-earth person. He is undoubtedly a policy wonk, but he wears it lightly…and anyway, since when was it a bad thing to know what we should do to make things better? When he suggested his idea for an immediate call for George Osborne to allow us to keep our business rates in Bristol (already Osborne’s policy, but Tony would negotiate speeding the process up in exchange for  freezing council tax, a Tory sacred cow), it would  free up millions of pounds he could then use for infrastructure spending. In an era of Conservative government-imposed austerity, we need someone who has genuinely tried to think of alternatives that are achievable and workable, who isn’t just accepting austerity as a necessity, and who knows what he wants to get out of central government.

Tony is well-liked by people, even his political opponents. He is known to be straight-talking with everyone he meets, frames all of his conversation positively and doesn’t belittle others – in fact, he believes he needs people from all political persuasions and none if there is any chance for economic, social and environmental justice to be advanced in any meaningful way. If elected as Mayor, he would be collaborative to a far greater degree than any of the other main candidates, utilising his Cabinet’s expertise in far deeper ways than is presently being achieved, listening to communities first rather than imposing solutions straight away, and – yes, it’s important to acknowledge, given the other candidates’ situations – being consultative with the local Green Party, who will hold him accountable for his decisions on a regular basis through our democratic structures.

The media had formed their narrative on this mayoral election campaign before it even started. For them, it was between Ferguson and Rees again…and they seemed to be ignorant of the large increase of the Green vote share year after year in  Bristol. Another jump, and we will get a Green Mayor. This would cause a national shockwave in a way that no other half-likely result will and will instantaneously make Bristol the most progressive and forward-thinking city in the country.

And just one more thing. You may be aware that the voting system for this election allows you a first and a second preference. That means you can vote for who you really want to win first, and who you would put up with second. Above all, Tony really needs your first preference – so put #TonyFirst!

General Election 2015 Election night result at Brislington Enterprise College for  Bristol South Tony Dyer - Green Party candidate Date: 07/05/15 Photographer: Michael Lloyd/Freelance Copyright: Local World
Photographer: Michael Lloyd/Freelance
Copyright: Local World

LEADER’S BLOG: October 2015

A monthly look at what assorted Green councillors in Bristol have been getting up to…

Jerome Thomas (Clifton councillor)
Councillor page: https://bristol.gov.uk/councillorfinder/?Task=name&CouncillorId=28

Bristol Green Party page: http://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/Clifton
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGnAN_THWdwQLNlSUduIe7A
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bristoljerome
Jerome@RegAt a City level I have been working with the Green Party Transport Group to propose Transport policy and campaigns for 2016. With that group and with the Green Party councillors we have been looking at Air Quality in Bristol and have  proposed our approach for the launch of a low emissions zone in central Bristol. We will be consulting on that with Green party members in the coming weeks. In Clifton we have been progressing an enhanced role for Clifton Library. On Tuesday 6 October we held a very well attended Friends of Clifton Library meeting. This was led by local Green Party member Paula O’Rourke.

I’ve been working with John Grimshaw (founder of Sustrans) on his proposal for a zebra crossing on Jacobs Wells Road and better access onto Brandon Hill. I’ve also met with the council’s cycling officers about the unacceptable life risks to cyclists on the Jacobs Wells roundabout and have proposed a number of measures, some of them very low cost, which will reduce those risks to acceptable levels.

Gus Hoyt (Ashley councillor)
Councillor page: https://bristol.gov.uk/councillorfinder/?Task=name&CouncillorId=91

Bristol Green Party page: http://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/Ashley
Blog: https://greengus.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MrGreenGus
Cllr Gus Hoyt
The main issue locally has continued to be the Carriageworks (Westmoreland House – the derelict building on the corner of Ashley Rd and Stokes Croft). The developer Fifth Capital London has worked closely with the community liaison group (CAG) since their planning application was deferred at committee in April. This leads many to believe the development is likely to go ahead despite 25 years of set-backs.

The main concern is that there is local representation on a future management committee so that future use is in keeping with the Community Vision. The decision is going to planning committee on the 14th October. Following on the housing theme, I was the only councillor not on Place Scrutiny to attend an excellent full day for the Bristol Housing Enquiry where we explored the situation in Bristol and looked to other authorities and organisations to see what they are doing around the country to solve the housing crisis.

Prior to this I joined other councillors and members for the formulation of the Green Housing Policy working group which met for an evening to discuss what our short, medium and long term goals need to be within the city. This will feed into the Mayoral Manifesto for next May’s elections.

Earlier this week I also met with local campaigners who want to solve the growing problem of homelessness faced by the city. The aim is to creating temporary shelter leading to continued support to those who have found themselves in the downward spiral of homelessness. The main problem at this stage is lack of suitable buildings available and I will be working with Cabot Cllr Ani Stafford Townsend as this issue crosses both our wards.

Likewise litter, fly-tipping and the general rubbish on our streets is continuing to be the number one complaint, and rightly so. Lower Montpelier and St Pauls are continuing to be blighted by a dismal street-scene and it is hoped that now the waste contract is brought back ‘in house’ that some progress can be made.

Interestingly, we are being approached by residents in St Andrews asking for an extension to residents parking as the displacement of extra and commuter cars are spreading further north now the zone is active in Montpelier.

Carla Denyer (Clifton East)
Councillor page: https://bristol.gov.uk/councillorfinder/?Task=name&CouncillorId=30
Bristol Green Party page: http://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/Clifton-East
Twitter: https://twitter.com/carla_denyer

CarlaRather than summarising a whole month, this time here’s a day in the life of Cllr Carla Denyer. This was 7th October, slightly busier than the average day, but far from unusual.

9:30am-10:30am – Emails (backlog = 378, as I was at a conference last week)
11:00am-12:00pm – Met a business-owner in my ward to address waste collection and fly-tipping issues on her property, complicated by neighbour relations. One of them did not take kindly to being asked well-meaning questions… sometimes being a councillor entails being a counsellor too. I am now following up on the issues with the Waste Services team.
12:20pm-2:00pm – Lunch and scheduling
2:00pm-3:00pm – Budget briefing from the Finance Service Director at Bristol City Council to the Green councillors
3:00pm-4:00pm – Jointly drafted the Green councillors’ contribution to the West of England Spatial Strategy (how and where to build the tens of thousands of new homes needed in Bristol)
4:00pm-5:45pm – Emails
5:45pm-6:00pm – Grabbed a quick supper
6:00pm-7:00pm – Meeting of the Environment Sub Group of my local Neighbourhood Partnership to discuss how to spend delegated money on environmental improvements. (Left 1 hour early to get to…)
7:00pm-9:00pm – Meeting of Bristol Green Party to discuss policy proposals and campaign ideas
9:30pm – Home

Martin Fodor (Redland)
Councillor page: https://bristol.gov.uk/councillorfinder/?Task=name&CouncillorId=74
Bristol Green Party page: http://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/Redland
Blog: http://martinfodor.com/
martin-fodor-bristol-2013Redland councillors are now grappling with continuing problems over the Bristol North Baths Redevelopment (a new library, medical centre, flats and toilets above the car park on Gloucester Rd). Since the Medical Practice serving most of Bishopston announced they will no longer seek to relocate there many questions have come up.

While the plan adopted was controversial and some residents are saying now is the time to revisit the shape of the project, with a close to completion development it makes sense to get the best from the investment, protect the council’s interests as freeholder, and ensure local medical services are not jeopardised. We want our local library to open and Drs to have a base with more facilities.

We are pressing hard for the long awaited proposals on review of the new Residents Parking schemes to be published so that those affected by the commuter parking around our current zone get a solution, and the proposed minor changes to the existing scheme can be implemented. There is widespread support for the scheme now in place and many outside it are very keen to see parking managed. We’re committed to getting as many local residents and traders’ ideas incorporated as possible so the scheme is shaped by people using it.

Months ago the Gloucester Rd and many other local streets were resurfaced. We are still pressing for reinstatement of all the markings which still fail to restore the cycle tracks that provide some protection for cycle users on the city’s busiest cycle road.

Daniella Radice (Bishopston councillor and Assistant Mayor for Neighbourhoods)
Councillor page:
https://bristol.gov.uk/councillorfinder/?Task=name&CouncillorId=82
Bristol Green Party page: http://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/Bishopston
Blog: http://bishopstongreencouncillors.info
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GreenDaniella
daniellaAlthough I haven’t had any major papers to take to cabinet this month, it hasn’t been that quiet. I seem to get about 100 e-mails a day, a variety of issues relating to my portfolio, dealings with officers and of course ward work.

This week I spoke at a conference on rethinking parks, attended a celebration of the Playing out charity and also chaired a meeting of the partnership advisory group for Muslim women which is planning a conference for Muslim women next year. As part of my role in Sports I am helping convene an open space session to help start a women’s sports strategy for the city next month. Part of my work involves being part of the sports commission shadow board which is setting itself up as a community interest company. I am also now the Green representative on the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership that runs the festival of ideas.

Steve Clarke (Southville councillor)
Councillor page: https://bristol.gov.uk/councillorfinder/?Task=name&CouncillorId=29
Bristol Green Party page: http://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/about-stephen
Blog: http://votegreeninsouthville.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/southvillesteve
photo-cllr-stephen-clarkeI have attended a number of council and commission meetings (including a cabinet meeting on 6.10.15 where I asked a question about the environmental sustainability of the Arena). There was a very informative Housing Inquiry Day (with four separate briefing meetings beforehand) where councillors, experts and officers discussed innovative ways for Bristol to try and tackle the housing crisis.

I have also had a busy month dealing with a number of urgent local issues. Regarding the stadium parking, we now seem to have engaged the Council’s senior leadership team (including Assistant Mayor Simon Cook and Transport Service Director Peter Mann) in a meaningful effort to try to come to some worthwhile solutions regarding the parking and travel issues. They seem to be talking to Bristol Sport again and we we will watch closely where that goes. Unfortunately, there looks like little danger of City getting promoted in the near future in any event so we may not feel the full impact of the 27,000 seater stadium for a while…

I met an interesting delegation of citizens from Hanover (one of Bristol’s twin-towns) and discovered that they have many of the same problems that we do; public transport, air-quality, lack of really affordable housing etc. I enjoyed meeting them and they loved Bristol.

Finally, myself and Charlie Bolton (co-councillor for Southville) are continuing with our initiative to talk to the voters in the nine tower blocks in our patch by having regular surgeries. The biggest issues are dog-free blocks and illegal tenancies. Generally the residents are very pleased to see us as they have been ignored and forgotten for a long time.

Green group

LEADER’S BLOG: September 2015

A monthly look at what assorted Green councillors in Bristol have been getting up to…

Daniella Radice (Bishopston councillor and Assistant Mayor for Neighbourhoods)
Councillor page: https://bristol.gov.uk/councillorfinder/?Task=name&CouncillorId=82
Bristol Green Party page: http://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/Bishopston
Blog: http://bishopstongreencouncillors.info
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GreenDaniella
daniella

The big event for me this month was the Cabinet meeting where the Mayor took the decision on the future of Bristol’s Libraries. I gave a speech summarising how we got to where we are, and published it on our website (see above for link). The headlines that are that we have reduced the scale of the cuts to the libraries and are keeping 27 out 28 libraries in their current locations and moving one into Lockleaze. Regrettably, there will be reductions to library opening hours across the city, but with the libraries being kept open, there is potential to increase their accessibility in time.

This has been a really difficult time for me, like many of us I have an emotional connection with libraries I hate to see reductions in opening hours. However, money is tight and having been given an insight into the looming impacts of welfare reform, the government’s policies on right to buy and rents, on top of more spending cuts, I know that from a council perspective things are going to get more and more difficult over the next few years for the most vulnerable people in our city.

Charlie Bolton (Southville councillor and Chair of the Place scrutiny committee, which covers Transport)
Councillor page: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/councillorfinder/?Task=name&CouncillorId=39
Bristol Green Party page: http://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/about-charlie
Blog: http://southvillegreenparty.blogspot.co.uk
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CharlieBGP

photo-cllr-charlie-boltonAmongst many other things, Charlie has been championing the need for a Henbury Loop rather than a Henbury Spur. You can read more about this case in Charlie’s recent blog:
http://southvillegreenparty.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/henbury-loop-analysis-well-moan.html

Steve Clarke (Southville councillor)
Councillor page: https://bristol.gov.uk/councillorfinder/?Task=name&CouncillorId=29
Bristol Green Party page: http://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/about-stephen
Blog: http://votegreeninsouthville.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/southvillesteve
photo-cllr-stephen-clarkeAs well as attending council meetings and his committee meetings (Business Change Scrutiny, Human Resources and Appeals Committees), Steve has had a busy month dealing with a number of urgent local issues.

The longest running issue on the table is the terrible traffic problems that are already being created by the new stadium at Ashton Gate (even though it is only half-built. Steve is a lifelong Bristol City supporter so he is enjoying watching the the brand new 27,000 seater stadium rising from the mists of Ashton but he (and most of the residents) have no idea where all the cars are going to go. There is no local Metrobus stop, no new Ashton Gate train station, Long Ashton Park and Ride is closed during match times (yes really!). Meanwhile, hundreds of cars cruise around Southville and Ashton and residents cower behind their net curtains… Anyway, Steve and Charlie are trying to help. They have met the Mayor for a one-to-one, met Bristol Sport’s MD (who was incredibly frustrated with the council), started a petition and are generally creating a stink.

Another issue that has just flared up is Ashton Gate Primary School. This has just opened in a new site with a lovely new school and extensive playground. The trouble is that there is a road between the school and playground. Unbelievably, no one has bothered to put a zebra crossing, bollards or anything else to stop the local cars ignoring the 20mph speed limit and potentially mowing down the little ones. Not surprisingly, the local parents are apoplectic and we have received lots of irate emails. Again, we are trying to get urgent changes to the road layout.

Finally, we are continuing with our initiative to talk to the voters in the nine tower blocks in our patch by having regular surgeries. Generally the residents are very pleased to see us as they have been ignored and forgotten for a long time.

Deb Joffe (Windmill Hill)
Councillor page:
https://www.bristol.gov.uk/councillorfinder/?Task=name&CouncillorId=14
Bristol Green Party page: http://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/about-deb
Blog: http://debjoffe.blogspot.co.uk/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WindmillHGreens

DebJoffeI’ve been working on some ward issues, especially calling for an RPZ in Windmill Hill ward and asking for more public consultation on the Arena and sustainable transport plans for accessing Temple Quarter from Bath and Wells Roads ( a neglected route in my opinion).

I’m the vice-Chair on People Scrutiny where we (Dani Glazzard and I) are focusing on mental health and early years provision. The re-commissioning of the children’s community health services is a major topic now that the only NHS provider has withdrawn from the contract for next year. I am looking at ways to ensure that NHS bidders are encouraged in the longterm.

I also sit on the Police and Crime Panel which scrutinises the Police Commissioner. This is quite controversial since the Chief Constable was suspended and has now been asked to resign.

Councillor round-up…in Easton, Cllr Anna McMullen has been promoting jobs fairs and meeting with local landlords about provision in the private rented sector…in Clifton, Cllr Jerome Thomas is helping residents who would like a community centre in the Jacobs Well Road area…in Redland, Cllrs Martin Fodor and Fi Hance have been frustrated by the slow progress on the Bristol North Baths development…in Cabot, Cllr Ani Stafford-Townsend has been encouraged by community days and is monitoring closely the extent of student accomodation being proposed in the ward…and finally, in Ashley, Gus and I are pleased the Carriageworks Action Group (CAG) have got many concessions from the developer, Fifth Capital London, before it is due back to the planning committee in October, and we have more and more people approaching us from St Andrews and St Werburghs asking for Residents’ Parking Schemes to be introduced (as a result of the knock-on effect of  recent schemes in St Pauls and Montpelier).

Green group