Opposition to green-spaces sell-off plan's overwhelming
MORE than 15,000 people have signed petitions against Bristol City Council's plan to sell of green spaces – but not a single person appears to have signed any petition in support.
The council's cabinet is due to make the final decision on the plan on Thursday, but despite the public backlash still intends to push ahead with it.
Originally it wanted to sell off 64 green spaces to help raise money for improvements to up to 200 more parks.
Following months of consultation, 10 are proposed for withdrawal from the scheme, five deferred for further discussion, two given to schools and one could still be developed but over a smaller area.
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But that still leaves 46 under threat of being sold off for development.
There has been a record response to the consultation, with 15,592 residents signing 32 petitions opposing either individual sales or the principle of selling off green spaces in general.
When the council has consulted on other contentious issues there have been petitions in support as well as against – Residents Parking Zones is one example.
But the council documentation published last week on the consultation results shows no residents' group fighting in support of the green strategy with petitions.
The petitions cover 23 areas under threat, but further comments have been submitted either by email, letter or council surveys.
Comments picked up in the survey repeatedly show objections to the sale of any green space.
But in the officers' 279-page report on the consultation, due to be considered by cabinet on Thursday, any reference to blanket objection is countered with the following statement – "the principle of selling green space to raise money to improve other spaces was adopted in the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy in 2008".
Nearly every criticism of the scheme mentioned in the consultation is contradicted in the officers' report.
Of the 33 people surveyed, 12 letters and two emails on Daisy Field in Sea Mills, none appear to support the proposed sale. One person even points out that the area was canvassed, with no public support for the disposal.
Yet it is still recommended for sale.
In a number of cases, the cabinet intends to go against officer recommendations to sell some of the sites.
But it has yet to explain how the decision to save some and not others was taken, and even when some areas have received the same number of signatures on petitions the response has not been consistent.
A joint petition of 2,424 signatures was submitted against the selling of part of St Anne's Park and Newbridge Road but while the cabinet says it will save the former it is still recommending sale of the latter. Officers had argued that new houses on St Anne's Park would cut down anti-social behaviour problems. Residents argued there had not been any major problems in the last two years and obtained statistics from the police using the Freedom of Information Act that backed up their argument.
Figures for 2009 showed seven incidents and so far in 2010 there have been six.
Officers insist problems exist, even if there is no record of them. They quote older figures – 30 potential incidents in 2007/08 and 18 in 2008/09 – despite being told by residents that there has been a decline year on year.
They also state: "We do understand that in some areas, anti-social behaviour and crime is simply not reported and therefore will not appear on records."
City council spokesman James Easey said: "The officer report details the variety of responses to the consultation on the proposals for individual sites through public drop-ins, community meetings, letters and emails, and petitions. Clearly there is opposition expressed – and the report details these – but equally it reflects the support shown for the benefits that would come from investment in sites across the city.
"And the city's community parks organisation – the Parks Forum – has shown continued support for the strategy. It's sent in public statements of support for this week's scrutiny and cabinet meetings."
Consultation responses can be found at www.bristol.gov.uk under cabinet meeting December 16.