Monday, September 15, 2008

What place for legitimate nature conservation, environmental and amenity concerns in the face of high development pressures?

My MP, Bristol East's Kerry McCarthy, has been cajoled by myself and other local bloggers (here), into debating the sell-off of biodiverse green space on the Bristol to Bath Railway Path and the pros and cons of the proposed development on/near this land (see planning application details and form to submit comments, objections etc here). I was distinctly unimpressed with her initial unwillingness to engage in discussing the issue (she tried using her blog rules to try to avoid discussion at first but then engaged after further pressure from both the Bristol Blogger and Green Bristol Blog author Chris Hutt).

At least we have discussion somewhere now, thanks to bloggers and concerned locals. Bristol City Council has not consulted on the land sale, though the planning process now has to be gone through. I've not had a reply from Cllr Rosalie Walker (see here) on why this land is, apparently, not covered by the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy and have written to Kerry expressing concern about procedures and asking her to look into it.

I strongly disagree with the views my MP was pressed into giving on her blog, which appear to favour development on this high value green space which is home to such protected wildlife as badgers and sloworms (see Kerry's comments in italics below). What priority is Kerry giving to legitimate nature conservation, environmental and amenity value issues? Wouldn't we just build, on a small scale if its just a matter of scale*, anywhere eg Bristol's Downs, Leigh Woods, Ashton Court... if we shared Kerry's apparent attitude? The plans could and should in my view be scaled back and/or modified in the eastern portion at least, as the Railway Path is one of Bristol East's few good quality green spaces. This would address some of these issues whilst not impacting the development as a whole that much. Is this too much to ask??

MP Kerry McCarthy's view '...I've seen the Bloggers site, the Green Bristol site and others. I've looked at Square Peg's plans for the 'cycle houses' and am now following it up with various people (although I think I'm right in saying that no constituent has contacted me directly). I just haven't chosen to blog about it, and I'm not going to let other people dictate to me what I do and don't blog about. My initial view is that it doesn't look as if very much land is involved*, but I want to see for myself how the land is currently being used and whether the development would have a detrimental effect on the enjoyment/ use of the cycle path, or mean a significant loss of green space*. From the plans, it doesn't look as if that would be the case, but I take on board people's comments that the plans may be misleading.As for Kevin - several campaign leaflets have gone out to everyone in SGW and he's replying to everyone who has written back. If anyone raises this issue - and it hasn't come up on the doorsteps so far, not that I know - I'm sure he'll respond to them with his views.'

And more of her views '....And as for the railway path, as I've said it's a very small section* (100 metres acc to Chris) and I'm not opposed either to building upwards (I think it's overstating it a bit to call it a tower block) - how else would you suggest we find space for homes for the 19,000 people on the council waiting list? Obviously brownfield sites must be the priority, but it's not the entire solution. I'm also concerned about the number of houses being turned into flats, with associated problems re parking, and often anti-social behaviour from the people who rent them. We need family homes - but they've got to be built somewhere. Where do you suggest?'

Well, her own party's policy in Bristol says not on high quality green spaces !!