Green spaces in Bristol proposed for sale, despite being 'important to local people'
BRISTOL City Council has revealed more documents that show green spaces in the city were proposed for sale despite staff being aware they were important to local people.
Campaigners have used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain "value assessments" on threatened sites in St George, Shirehampton, Bishopsworth, Knowle and other parts of the city.
The council earmarked 62 sites for potential sale last June in a bid to raise money to fund improvements in up to 200 parks and green areas.
The area green space plan attracted a record level of public response, with more than 16,000 people signing petitions against sales.
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Value assessments were produced for all but four of the sites under threat. These are one-page summaries that show research carried out in each area by council employees.
They looked at a range of issues, including level of use, anti-social behaviour levels and whether there were any obstacles to development such as flooding.
Residents and the Evening Post have been asking to see the documents since September, to help understand why certain sites were proposed for sale.
Although half were provided in November – nearly three weeks after the public consultation had ended – the rest have taken much longer.
Some four months after the initial requests, the remaining documents have now been provided under the FOI Act, but even then the council failed to provide them within the legally required time limit.
The assessments seen in November showed officers put forward some sites despite knowing there would be public opposition, and appeared to make a series of assumptions on the level of use.
The latest documents show a similar approach was taken for the other sites earmarked for sale, many of which have now been agreed for sale despite public opposition.
For example for the two sites in Valley Walk in Hartcliffe, officers stated: "Stakeholder consultation indicates that open space as a whole is highly valued for nature conservation reasons by local residents, who would oppose any loss of space."
Yet it was still put forward for sale, a recommendation the cabinet approved in December despite a petition of more than 200 signatures against it.
And for Portway Tip in Shirehampton, better known as Daisy Field, officers said: "It is not thought that the community would be disadvantaged if the space was not available."
The many residents who wrote in objecting to the sale during the 20-week consultation period disagreed, but again this site will be sold. The documents also repeatedly show surveys of the level of use were not carried out.
Most of the assessments were requested by Pete Goodwin, of the residents group Stockwood Open Spaces. He said: "Everyone who witnessed the decision will be well aware that the cabinet rode roughshod over massive opposition and demonstrable flaws in the consultation process – and still reached a decision that doesn't actually provide the funding that the city's parks are said to need.
"The idea behind the request was to get vital background information, on which the council was basing its decisions, into the public domain. How else could the accuracy of its evidence be challenged?"
The council hopes to raise up to £16 million from selling around 40 sites, of which £11 million will be spent on improvements for others parks across Bristol.
Although this is much lower than the original investment target of £41 million, the authority says the money is needed to tackle decades of low investment in the city's parks.
Council spokesman James Easey said: "All sites would have been visited by the area green spaces team several times in putting together the plans leading up to the launch of the consultation.
"When drawing up a plan like this covering 62 sites, we have come to the conclusion that a site could be deemed for low amenity value for a number of reasons. And in many cases usage of the amenity will continue.
"Take those examples where there are proposals to sell off a strip of land, the rest of the park would of course still be used. With the extra investment that would come, it would be an improved amenity.
"The same can be said for those examples where it is proposed to move a playground to a suggested improved location.
"It is because it is used that we want to create a better amenity."