Saturday, 12 December 2009

Broadmead German Market: Planning Department turning blind eye to Council’s rule breaking?

Throughout the new Bristol City FC stadium planning process and especially where the proposed new supermarket at Ashton Gate is concerned, Bristol City Council has gone to great pains to claim that as a planning authority their work and decisions are entirely independent from their own political, personal or corporate agenda. They even describe the city's planning process as "quasi-judicial".

So it is instructional to see how they apply this independent, "quasi-judicial process" to themselves. A Parliamentary note placed in the House of Commons library on 9 December 2008 (and updated April 2009) sets out their obligations clearly:

“The general principle underlying the 1992 regulations is that local planning authorities must make planning applications in the same way as any other person, and must apply for planning permission. Except in special circumstances, they must follow the same procedures as would apply to applications made by anyone else.” - SN/SC/1195 available here (pdf)

Meanwhile on the council's website:

“BCC is taking a pragmatic approach in terms of planning permission. Taking into account DCLG guidance, BCC will not request planning permission for ‘temporary’ uses for up to 28 days. All ‘temporary’ changes of use of more than 28 days will need planning permission.”
Application Guidance Notes: Empty Shops and Promotion Initiative (pdf)

So how have Bristol City Council, as the local planning authority, interpreted these clear rules in relation to their own 'temporary' German Christmas Market in Broadmead? Advertising for the event says it runs from 12 November to 20 December (38 days), which means that the council is obliged to obtain planning permission for the market.

If you have a look at the council's planning website, the market is indeed listed on there, although surprisingly it is still 'pending consideration'. In other words Bristol City Council has not obtained planning permission for its own temporary structure, despite it being in place for over 28 days now.

So will the council, as the "quasi-judicial" planning authority be taking enforcement action against itself "in the same way as any other person"?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Should the Council swap Hengrove Park for Ashton Gate?

The story so far…..

Bristol City FC would like a new stadium and would like to build it at Ashton Vale. The City Council, by and large, would like them to have that new stadium, especially as this may offer the opportunity for Bristol to be a host city for the World Cup if England is selected as the host for the 2018 tournament (which, we are told, will bring untold wealth to the city). However, Bristol City FC have said that the only way that they can fund their new stadium is by selling their existing stadium at Ashton Gate for somewhere in the region of £20m.

In the current economic climate it appears that the only way to raise £20m for Ashton Gate is by getting planning permission for a new supermarket on the site. Therein lies the rub, because existing planning policy and independent surveys all point to there being no need for a new supermarket in South West Bristol or even any major expansion of existing convenience retail in that part of the city.

A previous proposal for a Tesco at Ashton Gate was withdrawn when it became clear that planners were going to recommend refusal – hence the new plan to relocate Sainsburys. However any relocation involving a significantly expanded store would come up against similar planning objections as the previous application, whilst a store of the same size could potentially fail the sequential test (because its existing site already meets the need) and would not appear to make commercial good sense for Sainsburys (why spend £20m on a site plus another £20m building a new store just to end up with what you’ve already had before?)

The Core Strategy of the Bristol Development Framework published last week, does however highlight a potential need for additional retail in South Central/ South East Bristol. A site for a new centre, to be underpinned by retail, has been vaguely identified for somewhere near the focus of South Bristol’s regeneration at Hengrove Park.

Policy BCS1 of the Core Strategy includes; “…A new centre, either on a new site or at an enhanced existing centre, may be appropriate in South Bristol, acting as a new focus for the area and helping to improve provision of shops, services, employment and community facilities”.

The exact details and location for this new centre will be guided by the results of a South Bristol Retail and Centres Study which is in the process of being completed. However, the second worst kept secret in South Bristol is that Computershare will not be moving from their Bedminster Down offices to a new 19,000m2 office and warehouse development at Hengrove Park. This, perhaps, opens up an opportunity for a new centre on the site at Hengrove Park intended for Computershare – a new centre which could include some form of convenience retail as part of a more sustainable retail-led development incorporating District Heat and Power and linked to the other public buildings proposed for the area (the community hospital, the Healthplex, and the Skillscentre).

With Morrisons at Hartcliffe, Asda in Whitchurch, and Tesco at Brislington and Imperial Park, this leaves Sainsbury’s as the only one of the Big Four retailers unrepresented in the eastern half of South Bristol and thus they could well be interested in an opportunity to move into the area. However the land involved is owned by Bristol City Council not Bristol City FC, and Sainsburys are in discussions about new retail opportunities with Bristol City FC not Bristol City Council.

Let’s revisit the original problem.

Bristol City FC own land at Ashton Gate which they want to sell to a retailer to build a supermarket, but Ashton Gate is located where a supermarket is not needed. Bristol City Council doesn’t want retail at Ashton Gate but do want retail (which will almost certainly include a supermarket) at Hengrove Park. They also want Bristol City FC to have their stadium because they feel it will benefit the city as a whole. But for Bristol City FC to get their stadium they need to sell land to a retailer and the only land they have is at Ashton Gate and we are back where we started.

I have already mentioned the second worst kept secret in South Bristol, now it is time to introduce the first. Bristol City FC and their development partners are (allegedly) in negotiations with the South West Regional Development Agency to swap the piece of land at Ashton Vale now known as “Southlands” for land owned by the SWRDA, almost certainly on the site originally identified for an Arena near Temple Meads. If the “land swap” is successful the SWRDA will seek to build an Arena at “Southlands”, whilst BCFC and their partners will be able to acquire residential planning permission for their newly acquired land at Temple Meads and sell it on to a developer to raise funds towards the new stadium (replacing the funds that they had originally anticipated coming from housing permission for “Southlands”).

What I am suggesting is that Bristol City Council and Bristol City FC pick up the phone and discuss whether a similar land swap involving potential retail land at Hengrove Park being exchanged for potential residential land at Ashton Gate is viable and offers the best consideration for Bristol City Council taxpayers and a better solution for Bristol City Football Club then squaring the circle of building a superstore where it isn't needed.

There may well be perfectly obvious showstopping reasons why my suggestion is completely absurd, but if there is even a chance that it could form a basis for a solution to the problem…….

Just one phone call…….is it too much to ask?

Friday, 16 October 2009

Land Disposal will be Cabinet Decision

Over on the Bristol Blogger web-site, in reference to the disposal of council-owned land at Ashton Gate, Cllr Gary Hopkins has stated that "Any decisions on this sort of issue will be taken in open cabinet and this has already been confirmed in writing"

I suspect he may be referring, in part, to an email sent by Cllr Barbara Janke to myself and copied to the rest of the cabinet members (including Cllr Hopkins of course) which included the following statement of mine, and agreed with by Cllr Janke;

" if, as a result of the entirely separate planning process regarding the proposal for a food store at Ashton Gate, there arises the need to consider the future of the council-owned land included in that development, that the decision on this land will be taken at Cabinet level and will not be delegated down to officer level"

The email above followed on from a discussion that Cllr Janke and myself had following an event hosted by the Bristol Civic Society on Thursday 8th October.

That conversation itself followed on from the full council meeting of 15th September, where Cllr Simon Cook, in response to a question from a member of the public, provided a written statement that;

"BCFC have been in discussion with BCC officers around the possible acquisition of the freehold of land owned by BCC. These discussions are on-going and a report will be taken to Cabinet when negotiations are complete and the planning applications determined. This is likely to be in the next few months."

In that same meeting, in response to my own question;
"Has a valuation been placed upon this land by Bristol City Council in the event of it being sold for redevelopment?"

Cllr Cook provided the following written response;
"No value has been placed on this land at present as this is dependent upon any successful planning application for a change of use"

So, to summarise, BCFC have been in negotiations with BCC about acquiring the freehold of the council-owned land, but the value of the land is dependent upon any successful planning application. In addition, the decision regarding any potential land disposal will not be delegated down to officer level, but will be taken in open cabinet, sometime in the next few months but after planning permission has been determined.

If anybody thinks that I have misrepresented the statements of Cllrs Janke, Cook and Hopkins, please feel free to let me know by adding a comment below. I am also emailing the councillors concerned so that they can correct any errors on my part.

Friday, 2 October 2009

More Questions than Answers

Questions put forward for Wednesday's (1st October) Cabinet Meeting of Bristol City Council:

Question for the Executive Member with responsibility for land disposals (Cllr Simon Cook)

In response to my question to full council on the 15th September detailed below;

"Q4 Does Bristol City Council intend to consult directly with local residents regarding the future use of this land prior to the 5th November when planning application 09/03208/P is scheduled to be determined?" You replied;

"A4 It is not intended to hold a public consultation on the future of this land. There has been considerable discussion and consultation over the development as a whole where individuals have had many opportunities to express their views."

My question for cabinet is as follows;

Does the executive member not accept that until the publication of the responses to public questions for the full council meeting of the 15th September, there had been no official announcement or acknowledgement by the City Council that it was, in fact, the owner of a significant portion of the land which planning application 09/03208/P refers to, and does he not further accept that individuals may have responded differently to consultations or offered alternative viewpoints in discussions regarding the proposed development if they were aware that a vital and necessary portion of the land was and is in public ownership as opposed to being in the private ownership of the developers themselves?

If the executive member believes that there has been an official announcement or acknowledgement by the City Council of its ownership of this land, could he detail the methods used to make this information public knowledge?

The answer I received at the cabinet meeting was;

Planning applications are frequently made for sites where the applicant for planning consent is not the owner. The ownership of the site is not a determining factor in relation to the planning process, and the fact that an applicant does not own the site would not be something that would prevent the Local Planning Authority from making a decision about the application. Equally if representations were made about the applicant's lack of ownership to the LPA, this would not be something that it would have to take into account in deciding whether or not to grant consent. The applicant is responsible for obtaining the necessary legal interests to let it implement the consent.

As a consequence of this there was no requirement or need for the Council to make any form of announcement or disclosure of its ownership of part of the existing car park - although the ownership is a matter of public record at the Land Registry where full details of the Council's ownership can be found by searching the public register.

So in effect, in response to my questions about whether the Council has adequately consulted with local residents on the future of council owned land at Ashton Gate the answer is;

1) We don't need to,

2) and anyway, the details of public ownership 'were on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet, stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard" ' and if you, as a private individual, are not prepared to take the time to perform a Land Registry search for every single planning application on the off-chance that public land might be involved, I fail to see why you should expect us, elected public representatives of the local authority responsible for protecting the interests of local residents, to make that easier for you by actually telling you when public land is involved.

3) as to whether Cllr Cook does or does not accept that people might have responded differently to the "many opportunities to express their views" if they were aware of the public ownership of the land - we still don't know because he chose not to answer that question.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Supplementary Questions: The Lord Mayor’s Cut

"We believe local people know what is best for their needs and that better decisions will be taken with better services as a result."
Cllr Barbara Janke, Leader of Bristol City Council, 8th September 2009

“It is not intended to hold a public consultation on the future of this land”
Cllr Simon Cook, Deputy Leader, 15th September 2009

“You don’t know what you’re doing!”
Football fans everywhere and Bristolians especially

Below, once again, are my questions for the full council meeting of the 15th September. As the next full council meeting is not until the 10th November, AFTER the planning application is scheduled to be determined, I have now included the written answers that were provided, and the supplementary questions I would have asked of Cllr S Cook (who replaced Cllr J Rogers due to matters of individual portfolio responsibility), if I had been allowed to do so. I have emailed both Cllrs Cook and Rogers with a copy of this blog post, and they are welcome, in the spirit of openness and transparency, to respond to my supplementary questions. I am quite happy for either to respond –as the decision to proceed with any land sale will be the collective responsibility of the cabinet.



In the planning application 09/03208/P for a food store at Ashton Gate, Bristol City Council are identified as holding the freehold title of part of the land proposed to be redeveloped; namely the car park between the stadium itself and Winterstoke Road - without this Council owned land the proposed retail development would appear to be unviable.

Q1 Can you confirm that this land is currently in council ownership?

A1 The council does own the car park as identified. It is let to BCFC on a 125 year lease whch commenced in 1985.

S1 Can you confirm that this lease restricts BCFC’s use of the land to car and coach parking only?

Q2 Has a valuation been placed upon this land by Bristol City Council in the event of it being sold for redevelopment?

A2 No valuation has been placed on this land at present as this is dependent upon any successful planning application for a change of use.

S2a You appear to be suggesting that Bristol City Council can only place a valuation on land when it has been the object of a successful planning application – can you clarify this, as it appears to call in to question, for example, the statement made by your colleague Cllr Hopkins to cabinet on the 30 July 2009 that the disposal of some 9.3 hectares of surplus allotment land would raise approximately £6 million despite a lack of any successful planning applications for the land concerned?

S2b If the perceived suggestion is incorrect, what is the current valuation of the land?

Q3 Will the valuation of the site be significantly greater with planning permission for a supermarket than for alternative uses, (e.g. housing and leisure)?

A3 Actual valuations will be dependent upon the particular design solutions, however, it would be anticipated that a planning approval for a supermarket would be at the higher end of any valuations.

S3 Given that the applicants have, in their planning application, described the proposals for Ashton Gate as “enabling development” whereby a development that may offer significant “disbenefits” is approved because it will provide greater “benefits” by enabling the development of another asset or piece of land, and given that this type of development is reliant upon the financial outputs from the enabling development being robust, does not the vagueness of the member’s responses regarding financial valuations, coupled with the admittance elsewhere that the value of the public land will not be calculated until AFTER any successful planning permission has been achieved, completely undermine any ability of the relevant Development Control Committee to determine whether the application will achieve this stated role as enabling development?

Q4 Does Bristol City Council intend to consult directly with local residents regarding the future use of this land prior to the 5th November when planning application 09/03208/P is scheduled to be determined?

A4 It is not intended to hold a public consultation on the future of this land. There has been considerable discussion and consultation over the development as a whole where individuals have had many opportunities to express their views.

S4 Does the executive member not accept that until the publication of the agenda for this meeting, there had been no official announcement or acknowledgement by the City Council that it was, in fact, the owner of a significant portion of the land which the planning application concerned refers to, and does he not further accept that individuals may have responded differently to consultations or offered alternative viewpoints in discussions regarding the proposed development if they were aware that a vital and necessary portion of the land was and is in public ownership as opposed to being in the private ownership of the developers themselves?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


New film to be shown at BERATE public meeting, St.Francis Church, North Street, 7.30pm.

Bedminster based documentary film maker, Lucy Swingler, has produced a new film that documents the campaign to prevent the building of a Tesco Extra superstore at Ashton Gate Stadium. During the 10 minute film, local residents and shop keepers in North Street, South Bristol, describe the history of the street, their shops and the area, and explain why its such a great community to be part of. They also explain why they don't want the new superstore at the stadium site and what they would like to see there instead.

Lucy, who has worked on a range of historical and factual programmes* says that she was motivated to create the film after talking to shop keepers about their worries over the store. "I use the North Street shops a lot, so I wanted to show the real fear that some have that a store will put their livelihoods at risk and jeopardise the regeneration thats taken place here. I also wanted to capture the central role that North Street now plays in the community."

The film will be shown publicly for the first time at the meeting arranged for tomorrow night at St.Francis's Church on North Street (7.30pm). Local politicians, councillors and members of the city's planning committee, as well as a representative from Bristol City Football Club and local community groups have been invited to come along to discuss the proposed store and see the film.

Chris Uttley, speaking for the campaign said "We hope the film will be viewed as part of our submission to the planning application. Hopefully it demonstrates to the council and others the human face behind the damage that we believe the store will do to our community and why we value what we have now a great deal"

The film is now available to watch or download on YouTube at:

The meeting is being held at St.Francis Church on North Street at 7.30pm.
Bedminster Residents Against Tesco's Expansion into Ashton Gate

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Shock News; I Agree With The Lib Dems!

Two Press Releases from Bristol City Council caught my eye this week.

The first one, released on Tuesday, announced plans to give Bristolians a bigger say in decisions affecting their local communities. Council leader Barbara Janke is quoted saying “We believe local people know what is best for their needs and that better decisions will be taken with better services as a result."

The second, released the day after, announced that a major new scheme for building council housing in Bristol had been given the green light after receiving funding from the Homes and Community Agency. Mark Wright, Cabinet Member for Housing and Service Improvement; "Despite the property crash we are still very short of affordable housing in Bristol, and these new council houses will, I hope, be the first of many”.

I had to pinch myself, two statements by members of the Liberal Democrat executive that, taken at face value, I find myself in full agreement with – “local people know what is best for their needs” and that we are “short of affordable housing in Bristol”. I have made a note in my diary of the date and time so that I can record it for posterity.

I am sure that the above news will be welcomed by the residents of Southville and Bedminster wards which together make up a Neighbourhood Partnership Network for Greater Bedminster, one of the local community organisations through which local residents will be given the opportunity to have a bigger say in the decisions affecting their own communities.

Similarly, given the length of housing waiting lists, the news that funding is available to build housing that the majority of local residents can actually afford is equally very welcome. The average house price in Bristol is over 7 times the average earnings, approaching 8 times for first-time buyers (A New Housing Strategy for Bristol, Paper 3: Housing Demand and Supply, figs 11 and 12 on page 13). Those most in need in Bristol simply cannot afford the overpriced houses that private developers want to build on the Green Belt.

Of course, in order to build the council houses welcomed by Councillor Wright, it is vital that Bristol City Council makes efficient use of any urban or brown-field sites that it currently owns so that it avoids the pressure to build on Green Belt land – after all, this is the same Liberal Democrat party that promised during the election campaign to “Fight Labour’s Green Belt grab and preserve our green spaces”. In the same context, in order to meet the objectives set by Councillor Janke of involving local people more fully in the local decision-making process, it will be important that the council directly consult local residents on the future use of any council-owned or managed land before they offer it to private developers.

In fact, if the Lib Dems are serious about their promises to involve local people in decisions and to build more council houses whilst protecting the Green Belt and preserving green spaces, they have an opportunity to demonstrate this on Tuesday at the full council meeting.

I have put in a number of questions regarding the future use of the council owned land adjacent to the Ashton Gate stadium, of which the last one is;

d) Does Bristol City Council intend to consult directly with local residents regarding the future use of this land prior to the 5th November when planning application 09/03208/P is scheduled to be determined?

If the Lib Dems want their promises about involving local people to be taken seriously then the only answer to the above has to be Yes. And when this direct consultation takes place, one of the questions asked should be whether, if the land is to be developed, the Council should seek a further slice of the funding from the Homes and Communities Agency to build affordable housing on that land – which at housing densities similar to those for Southville as a whole could provide another 45 affordable houses.

Let’s be blunt – many commenters have been critical of the performance of previous Labour-led council administrations, accusing them of ignoring local communities, making decisions behind closed doors, and “greenwashing” environmental issues. Many of those at the forefront of the criticisms are councillors in the Liberal Democrat party which now has majority control of the City Council. It is time for those same councillors to either deliver on their promises or to be guilty of hypocritically doing the very same things they were so loudly accusing their political opponents of doing less than 12 months ago.

September 15th, 2009 may see another entry go in to my diary for posterity. It is up to the Bristol Liberal Democrats to determine whether it will be for positive reasons or negative ones.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

£3.6 million public subsidy for new stadium?

The Bristol Blogger has commented on the fact that a key portion of the land that Bristol City Football Club are proposing for development as a supermarket is actually owned by the City Council.

It is in relation to this piece of land that I have submitted the following questions for the full council meeting scheduled for the 15th September;

In the planning application 09/03208/P for a food store at Ashton Gate, Bristol City Council are identified as holding the freehold title of part of the land proposed to be redeveloped; namely the car park between the stadium itself and Winterstoke Road - without this Council owned land the proposed retail development would appear to be unviable.

a) Can you confirm that this land is currently in council ownership?

b) Has a valuation been placed upon this land by Bristol City Council in the event of it being sold for redevelopment?

c) Will the valuation of the site be significantly greater with planning permission for a supermarket than for alternative uses, (eg housing and leisure)?

d) Does Bristol City Council intend to consult directly with local residents regarding the future use of this land prior to the 5th November when planning application 09/03208/P is scheduled to be determined?

To a certain extent I suspect that I already know that the answers to both a) and c) will be "yes" although I think that the differential involved in c) is not as high as people might suspect, and thus the answer might include all sorts of caveats about market conditions. Then again, it is likely that Dr Jon Rogers will be the executive member answering the questions and he does have a reputation for answering council questions with a straight Yes or No. I would also be amazed if the answer to b) is anything other than yes.

That brings us to d). I am hoping that Jon will respond with a straight Yes to this one as well. So far Bristol City Football Club have employed Trimedia to perform a "public consultation" exercise on their future plans for the Ashton Gate stadium. But many of us have serious concerns about how the response to this was interpreted. There are also concerns that other efforts to demonstrate local opinion have been undermined by the lobbying of those outside the area that will be most affected by the proposed superstore.

There is an opportunity here for the Liberal Democrats if they have the courage to grasp the nettle. An opportunity to demonstrate that, even in this age where trust in the democratic system has been undermined by the actions of so many of our elected representatives, that there still exists the ability for local communities to make their voice heard, and, more importantly, not just heard but responded to. In the face of tremendous pressure from third parties, this first-ever majority Liberal Democrat council can show that it isn't the same as those tired reactionary parties that have had control of this city for so long and that we, as law-abiding residents can, via the democratic process, make a difference to what is happening in our streets, our neighbourhoods, our community.

It is time to take the CON out of Consultation.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Banksy versus Tesco Superstore

Yesterday’s copy of the Bristol Evening Post told us how the recent Banksy vs Bristol Museum exhibition attracted over 300,000 visitors in 12 weeks. It also quotes Kate Davenport, Services Director for Economic and Cultural Development at Bristol City Council as saying that “hotels, restaurants and shops had made about £10,000,000 because of the extra people coming to Bristol for the exhibition”.
Now, I have little faith in council officers who make unsubstantiated claims about the economic effects of specific events on the local economy (e.g Stephen Wray’s £100 million World Cup “benefit”) but, apparently those in charge at the council house appear to believe the figures – which leads us to some interesting thoughts. The figures would appear to imply that the average visitor was willing to spend at least £30 in order to see the Banksy exhibition, and so this might imply a potential ticket price.

There appeared to be no let up in the demand to see the Banksy show – it is quite likely that if the exhibition had been allowed to continue it would have continued to attract large crowds. As well as the 300,000 who queued to see it, another 600,000 viewed a video of the exhibition, and there have been several public comments by people who would have been happy to see the exhibition but did not want to queue for three hours or so – and would have been willing to pay to avoid the loss of their time due to queuing.

What if a large exhibition area could be found for a further run of the exhibition, perhaps with a few new exhibits (a caricature of Brian Sewell must have a chance) in which tickets could be bought, either online or by phone with a timeslot for attendance thus avoiding the queues. If the tickets were sold at £30 each, then 500,000 visitors would generate £15,000,000.

Bristol City FC say that the reason why they need to sell the existing ground to Tesco to fund a new stadium is because there is a £15 million gap between the value of the land as housing and it’s value as retail. But the site’s value as retail is reliant on it obtaining planning permission, which is why Tesco have told City that they will only buy the land if this is achieved beforehand. Colin Sexstone insists that there is no alternative to Tesco but perhaps he needs to talk to a Bristol City fan with greater imagination – someone like Banksy.

1) Bristol City FC have the Dolman Exhibition Hall with a floorspace of 1700 sq m, plus an experienced ticketing office familiar with dealing with massive demand.

2) Banksy has made no secret of his love for Bristol City and, although he insisted on free admission for Banksy versus Bristol Museum, he also held a special "charity night" which charged a £45 entrance fee.

3) Bristol City Council has said that although they would have liked to have continued the Banksy exhibition, other events were booked in preventing an extension of the exhibition.

Combine the three and you have an opportunity to generate the £15 million funding needed for the new stadium whilst also leaving something behind for the local community that does not threaten their community and their local shops. A mixed use proposal that included housing would almost certainly get local community approval AND would place fewer obstacles in the way of planning permission being granted. Even better, Bristol City FC might even discover that the best solution for the existing football stadium is to redevelop it as a new football stadium.

Friday, 28 August 2009


Without a hint of irony Thursday’s Bristol Evening Post published another instalment in its increasing thick portfolio of promotional literature for Bristol City FC, this time about how important Bristol's "green credentials" might be in capturing the World Cup 2018 for England. A World Cup bid in which Bristol’s contribution so far consists of proposals for a superstore that will generate massive numbers of car journeys and the building of a new stadium, hotel, drive-thru restaurant, and 250+ houses on statutory Green Belt.

To heighten the hypocrisy, the article refers to Bristol's "green spaces" as being a major factor in boosting the city’s chances of becoming a host city and even illustrates the story with a photo of a green space, followed by a picture of the stadium.

It refers to FIFA's "green goal" campaign and then tells us that the greener England’s bid is the greater the chance of England being chosen to host the 2018 World Cup. It then goes on to talk about Bristol having a head start because of its “fine reputation on environmental issues”. An eclectic list of various areas where Bristol is perceived to be green ensues, before the obligatory quote from cheerleader in chief Stephen Wray:

"This is a key part of the England bid team's strategy to be ahead of the opposition. We are fortunate to have experts within the city and we are already setting new standards.”

And just in case anybody is in any doubt, the paper reminds us that “Bristol's bid hangs on the provision of a brand new stadium in Ashton Vale”.

It becomes blindingly obvious that the Evening Post and Stephen Wray have either not read the available documentation on the Green Goal programme or have simply failed to understand it. Either that or they are hoping that nobody else bothers to read it.

Let’s clarify what the Green Goal programme is and what it isn’t.

Firstly, what it isn’t. It isn’t about how many parks you have, it isn’t about how much recycling of domestic waste you do, it isn’t about how many wind turbines you have built in the city, it isn’t about how many people cycle or walk to work and it isn’t about how much of the city’s waste you send to landfill or incinerators. It isn’t even really about the level of carbon emissions per capita produced by the city – it is about the carbon emissions generated by the World Cup itself.

Green Goal is about the environmental impact of preparing for, and delivering, the World Cup. It seeks to reduce the environmental impact of the stadia themselves (construction has to be carbon neutral, materials should be recycled), the environmental effects of the usage of the stadia (carbon emissions from the stadium itself, water recycling, energy efficiency, reusable drinks and food containers) and of how fans travel to the stadia and to fan parks (minimisation of private cars, free public transport with matchday tickets).

By basing its World Cup Bid on the building of a brand new stadium on a green field site with a large amount of enabling development including a car-hungry superstore, Bristol is entering the campaign with a major handicap compared to those cities that will be extending or rebuilding existing stadia. Contrary to the Evening Post report, Bristol is already behind the game if the new stadium is, as proposed, built on green fields, and further handicapped if it is funded by the building of a giant superstore.

In Germany in 2006, only one stadium (Munich) was newly built on a new site and as a result its carbon emissions were, at 100,000 tonnes, twice as high as the next most carbon expensive stadium, and three times as high as the third. In addition another 60,000 tonnes of carbon emissions were produced constructing the car parking for the Munich stadium. As part of the Green Goal programme, the German World Cup Bid team had agreed to offset any net carbon emissions by paying for carbon offsets. Based on the 2006 financial figures, offsetting 160,000 tonnes of carbon emissions would have cost the organising committee close to £2 million. They could have reduced that risk to £380,000 simply by choosing a redeveloped stadium over a new stadium. Unfortunately for them, Munich is home to Germany’s most famous football club with a status in German football similar to that held by the Manchester area in England. They could not contemplate a World Cup without Munich, as England could not without Manchester, and thus they had to work hard to find other means to reduce the climate impact of the tournament. Bristol, on the other hand, holds no such status in English football – the easy option would be to drop the lame duck.

The Green Goal programme has four main themes; Waste, Water, Energy, and Transport which all together are targeted to provide a Carbon Neutral World Cup. As we have limited space lets look at Energy.


The Sustainability Statement for the proposed new stadium at Ashton Vale calculates that its annual energy consumption will be in the region of 2,200 mWh and that it will emit 694 tonnes of carbon emissions per year after its proposed completion in 2012/13 as a 30,000 seater stadium. The architects proudly boast that its passive design technologies and highest levels of energy efficiency will see an 11% reduction in energy use from standard stadia.

Sounds good until you realise that the Green Goal programme was published back 2004 and set a target of a 20% reduction in energy use for World Cup stadiums, which means that the Ashton Vale stadium would need to reduce its emissions by another nine percentage points to meat targets that were considered attainable 6 years ago, equivalent to an 80% increase in the level of anticipated reduced carbon emissions. In addition, the figures for energy use and carbon emissions are for a 30,000 seat stadium whereas the stadium will need to have its capacity boosted by 40% to host World Cup games, with a related increase in energy use and carbon emissions.

During his recent tax-payers funded trip to Hannover, presumably Stephen Wray visited the city’s World Cup stadium – if so, he would have had the opportunity to see the District Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system used in the stadium to improve energy efficiency, an innovation that is especially significant as District CHP is currently being promoted by his employer Bristol City Council as making a major contribution to its Climate Change Policies for the Development Framework that will guide Bristol’s future development. District CHP could have a major impact on the energy efficiency of a new stadium, despite this the Sustainability Statement for the proposed stadium at Ashton Vale says “it is not proposed to install a district energy system at this stage of design”

To avoid carbon emissions altogether Renewable Energy was also a key component of the Green Goal programme for 2006. Several stadiums had photovoltaic plants installed with the Kaiserlautern stadium seeing the largest plant ever installed in a German stadium, covering three of its stands (an area of 6,000 sq m) and generating 720,000 kWh of electricity per year, enough for 200 detached houses and eliminating 500 tonnes of CO2 emissions per annum. Furthermore Kaiserlautern municipal council used the Green Goal initiative as an exemplar model for the installation of photovoltaic plants on public and industrial buildings as well as on private houses – as of 2008, 4,300 mWh of electricity was being produced by photovoltaic plants with associated carbon emission reductions of 2,600 tonnes per annum. Despite this, Kaiserlautern did not consider entering itself for the title of European Green Capital.

As for Bristol City’s proposed stadium? “Renewable energy technologies have not been incorporated into the building design at this stage”

Meanwhile we haven’t even touched upon the energy produced in running an 110,000 square foot superstore. A 30,000 seat football stadium is quite an act to follow but a supermarket is in a different class. The proposed stadium’s 2,200 mWh per year is easily surpassed by the 4,800 mWh per year that would be produced by the size of superstore proposed for Ashton Gate (based on figures from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution).

Carbon Neutrality

Germany aimed to be carbon neutral for 2006 – they missed their target by 92,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. If just one stadium, Munich the only newly built venue, had not been selected, they would have hit their target. England’s World Cup Bid team will be aware of that, as a result those stadiums which are newly built and thus bring with them the largest carbon emissions are those most likely to hear the words “thanks, but no thanks”, especially if their efforts at energy efficiency and use of renewable energy technologies are, umm, outdated.

Bristol does indeed have a high level of expertise in environmental technologies – as normal they are being totally ignored with the result that if, indeed, green credentials are as important to the England World Cup bid as the Evening Post says it is – Bristol is in the process of entering a bid that will make England’s bid less likely to be successful.
To use another sporting analogy – if the race to become World Cup Hosts is like the Epsom Derby, Bristol look like they are about to offer a carthorse as their entry.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Three graphs that tell a story.

1) Where the new Tesco expects its customers to come from;

2) Where those who have signed the No petition live;

3) Where those who have signed the Yes petition live;

It would seem that those who are supposed to “benefit” from the new store are the ones that least want it, whilst those who are outside the catchment area of the store and thus not expected to “benefit” from it are those most in favour. Or could there be another reason why so many people from North Bristol and South Gloucestershire have signed in support of a supermarket in Ashton Gate?

Monday, 24 August 2009

Ashton Gate and subjective objectivity

Are Trimedia deliberately misrepresenting the results of the public consultation over the proposed Tesco at Ashton Gate or is it just a problem of lack of objectivity?

Trimedia are the PR Agency and Communications Consultancy who prepared the Community Involvement Statement (CIS) for the proposed Redevelopment of Ashton Gate Stadium on behalf of Ashton Gate Limited, the stadium owners.

In the CIS, mention is made of over 160 completed feedback forms and representations from the public. On Page 7 of the CIS, Trimedia provide a Summary of Feedback, which “considers the responses provided to each question on the feedback forms.”

The first question on the form was not about the proposal for a superstore at all, it was a leading question about supporting Bristol City’s ambition for a new stadium, and thus part of the ongoing effort by Bristol City to encourage the public and councillors to think of the separate applications for Ashton Vale and Ashton Gate as if they were one application. The second question (and the first about the development itself) was;

Q2 What are your views on the proposal to develop a food store on the existing Ashton Gate site?

In the CIS, Trimedia summarise the responses as follows;

A range of views and opinions were submitted on the proposals to develop a food store on the existing Ashton Gate stadium site. On the 153 feedback forms received, 375 separate comments looking at various aspects for the proposal were noted. Where there were clear themes, they have been grouped into headings below.

Of these, 18% of comments submitted expressed concern about or opposition to a food store on the site, and felt there was no need for this amenity in the area. This equates to the comment being made on approximately 40% of forms submitted.

After reading the above I was left a little confused, did they mean that 18% of respondents were concerned about a food store, or did they mean that 40% of respondents were concerned about various aspects of the development of which 18% were concerned about a food store? Or did they mean something else entirely?

Luckily, the feedback forms have been scanned onto the Bristol City Council online planning portal – so I decided to look at the feedback forms myself and do my own analysis.

This proved a little more difficult than anticipated – several of the feedback forms have been copied twice, and a few have attached sheets with additional comments. One or two have also only had only part of the feedback form scanned in. In the end, I managed to collate information on 151 feedback forms, with the following result;

63% of the forms objected to the proposal to build a food store at Ashton Gate.
10% of the forms, apart from those above, included comments that might be taken as objections to the proposals but either needed clarification or were associated with other comments on the same form that might be taken as supporting the proposal. Some example quotes;

"Bound to affect other stores and local shops"
"Not sure about needing another food store so near to Asda, Sainsburys and Aldi"
"I am not sure we need another supermarket"
"concerned over additional noise and traffic"
"24 hour opening must not be permitted"
"Worried that there are already lots of retail outlets and also the impact it will make on small shops in the area. Don't think it should be 24hrs"
"[prefer] new stadium on the same site"
"it will surely impact on Sainsbury, Aldi and the shops in North Street"
"Do we need another supermarket in the area?"
"Housing is needed [more] than a retail store"

9% of the forms supported a food store but expressed reservations or conditions;

"we have no objections to a store, however we would not like 24hr opening hours or 24hrs delivery
"I am in favour of a food store providing traffic concerns are solved"
"I am not opposed but concerned about 24 hour noise"
"We are happy for the food store to be built provided the new link road from the A38 to the A370 is in place, there is currently far too much traffic on Winterstoke and increased volumes would bring it to a standstill"
No objections "if provision for residents parking can be accommodated"
"I don't like the thought of a petrol station close to a residential area"
"I am concerned that your proposals show delivery vehicles/plant is situated right behind the gardens of residents like myself in Raynes Road"
"fine provided the local residents are happy with it"

Finally, 18% were fully supportive of a food store. The graph below summarises the result.

So we find ourselves in a situation where Trimedia’s analysis of the feedback forms would appear to indicate that at least 60% of respondents have no objections to the store whilst only 18% of comments were against it - whereas my own analysis shows that only 18% of respondents are fully supportive and over 60% of respondents are against the superstore. An interesting comparison!

This difference in the results of the analysis could be due to subjectivity – I have made no secret of my opposition to the superstore proposal and it may well be that, despite my best intentions, I may have allowed a certain bias to colour my reading of the comments – although it is quite hard to misinterpret the phrase “No Tesco at any cost” scrawled all over a form! Equally, Trimedia have been employed by those in favour of the proposal and may similarly be predisposed to interpret the feedback forms as being in favour of the development.

This is why we need independent and unbiased analysis of the facts – not just for comments on feedback forms in a consultation process but also for transport assessments, retail studies, environmental impact assessments, economic studies and so on. Only in this context can we have some confidence that the data is not being manipulated in some way (either consciously or sub-consciously) to fit a pre-determined conclusion. Studies funded directly by the developers themselves are unlikely to be objective. I am sure that those behind the proposal for a superstore would be unhappy if the only reports used to determine the application were based on my own efforts, because I am sure that however much I tried I would be unable to completely eliminate any element of bias against the proposal. Yet, at present, we are in a situation where the opposite is allowed – with most of the reports being used to assess the suitability of the application being provided by those with a financial incentive for supporting the application.

I would anticipate that the councillors who will be asked to make the decision regarding planning permission are unlikely to read each and every feedback form – and thus they will base their decision on the assumption that Trimedia’s conclusion that 60% of local residents held no objections to a superstore at Ashton Gate is accurate. In my view, however, Trimedia's conclusion is simply not supported by the evidence, which in fact demonstrates almost the complete opposite with over 60% of respondents to the consultation process voicing opposition to the proposed superstore.

NOTE: The feedback forms are available online here, so anybody else with a few hours to spare can trawl through the forms and make up their own minds about what percentage of respondents are for or against the superstore proposal.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Sympathy for the Devil

On Saturday, Bristol City beat Crystal Palace 1-0 however the game has made the headlines nationally for a "goal" that wasn't given. A Palace shot hit the stanchion at the back of the net and shot straight back out again - this deceived the match officials who failed to award the goal. Ian Bone, on his blog, wondered if this was the hand of Bansky but, other, less forgiving views have taken hold, with the Palace chairman and several national newspapers being less than charitable and calling Bristol City cheats.

Bristol City and its fans now find themselves besieged from all sides. The press have come out in favour of the other side, providing plenty of column inches to anybody who wants to pour scorn on the Robins. Even the refereeing boss, Keith Hackett, who is supposed to take an even-handed approach and wait for the referee's report, pre-empted the normal process by apologising to the Palace manager. Bristol City meanwhile point out that their players were just doing their job and playing to the referee's whistle.
Meanwhile they ponder how different the reaction was a few years ago when the Manchester United goalkeeper Roy Carroll pulled a ball back over the line and the referee failed to award the goal. Bristol City might point out that none of their players behaved in the way that Carroll did, yet there were no similar outcries at that time in the press for the match to be replayed - it seems there is one rule for the small guys like City and another for the giant corporations of the Premier League.

At this point, Bristol City fans must be wondering if there is anybody who can empathise with their situation.

They might not have to look far: there is another group who have done nothing wrong, have merely tried to get on with their jobs and abide by the rules but now find themselves in the position of being the small guys battling against a giant corporation whilst the press runs a massive media campaign against them and even those who they hoped would take a balanced view already seem to be pre-empting any decision by making supportive comments in the press.

Somehow however, I doubt if Steve Lansdown and Gary Johnson will be contacting BERATE to say "I know just how you feel!"

Monday, 10 August 2009

INSULTATIONS: How to win funds and alienate people.

As part of their plans to build a new football stadium and associated enabling development, Bristol City Football Club and their partners say that they have delivered 23,000 letters of invitations to local residents and key stakeholders inviting them to consultation events - in response they received 250 feedback forms over the three stages of the consultation process. In the first stage of this consultation process, 11,000 letters of invitations were sent to local residents regarding exhibitions of the proposals, and the events were also advertised in local libraries, community centres and the media – 450 attended the events and feedback forms were distributed, of which 104 were returned along with 20 responses by phone.

At this first stage and only at this stage was the question asked “What are your thoughts on the idea of the provision for a new stadium for Bristol City Football Club, in south Bristol? Note that the question does not ask specifically about a stadium in Ashton Vale nor a stadium on Green Belt land, merely about the concept of a stadium in south Bristol (see Framing)

Analysis of the 124 responses showed that 46% (about 57 respondents) were in favour of the new stadium, another 15% were generally in favour of a new stadium but had concerns about the proposed location (they obviously chose to interpret the question more precisely than the questioner may have wanted them to). Another 11% were against and 28% were undecided.

In other words just 124 people out of 11,000 felt that it was worth responding to the consultation, and of those only 57 people were potentially in favour of the new stadium in its proposed location. Nevertheless the 124 responses are seen by the developers as evidence that “the level of involvement in the consultation has been high throughout the process, and residents of the areas nearest to the site have contributed at all three stages” whilst the 57 people who were in favour of the new stadium in the (loosely specified) location “indicates that there are high levels of support for the proposal”. (Statement of Community Involvement)

In the meantime, in a separate but related development proposal, Tesco PLC are looking to put forward a proposal for a superstore on land that they don’t own; the Ashton Gate stadium that Bristol City FC will vacate if the new stadium is approved. In response, concerned local residents set up a campaign group – BERATE – and a paper-based petition that has attracted more than 600 signatures against the proposal. After canvassing houses around the stadium site and getting an overwhelming response against the proposals, the local Green Party councillor set up an e-petition against the superstore proposal in support of BERATE; this has now been signed to date by over 730 people of whom the vast majority live in the Bedminster or Southville wards. A counter e-petition in support of the superstore proposal, set up by a football fan living in Knowle has attracted some 70 signatures so far with only a dozen identifying themselves as residents of Bedminster and Southville.

One suspects that whilst 57 people out of 11,000 is seen as “high levels of support” for the new stadium, over a thousand against the separate superstore proposal will be labelled as unrepresentative of the local community rather than “high levels of opposition” to the superstore.

This anticipation of the developer’s response is not entirely speculation. Back in 2006, concerned about the level of bad press it was receiving, Tesco launched its “good neighbour” policy promising more community consultation when proposing new stores. But when asked what would happen if the consultation response was that a new store wasn’t wanted, Sir Terry Leahy (Tesco CEO) responded that the company would have to seek out the "silent majority" who would be in favour. In other words, the community response was only valid if it was in favour of a new store, otherwise it was unrepresentative.

The above highlights one of the fundamental flaws of the public consultation process for a specific development; by the time the developer has reached the stage where they are ready to look at consulting the public they have already decided that the development is valid: thus the question asked in the consultation process is “what modifications might you suggest for our development?” whereas the question that the petition signatories want to answer (both for and against) is “do you want this development at all?

In Bristol there is of course a structure intended to guide developers as to what sort of developments would be appropriate or acceptable to the local community – a structure that, in theory, has been created by a process of consultation with the local community. This structure is the Local Plan and consists of a series of policies covering various aspects of the potential development of the Bristol area, which have been informed by a series of expert studies and public consultations. It “provides the statutory basis for decisions on land use and development in the city” (Helen Holland, Executive Member, Environment, Transport and Leisure).

The Local Plan includes the following policies ;

S1 Protection of Shopping Facilities – which emphasises the importance of existing shopping centres and the need to sustain and enhance their vitality and viability.
S7 Local shops – which emphasises the need to restrict retail development outside of existing shopping centres if it may harm the level of shopping service provided.
S9 Out of Centre shopping – which says that the development of new retail stores outside existing centres will only be permitted where it will not affect the vitality and viability of existing centres, and
L8 Sports Stadia – which says that existing sports stadia, including Ashton Gate, will be protected from development which would erode the community’s opportunity to participate in sport and will be promoted as sports stadia.

If the Local Plan is intended to guide what type of development is put forward, at the other end of the Planning process is the Development Control Committees (DCCs) which are intended to ensure that planning applications for development are consistent with planning guidelines including the Local Plan. DCCs are made up of elected councillors who are expected to make unbiased decisions about whether complex or contentious planning applications should be Granted or Refused planning permission. For the Ashton Gate area this is the Development Control (South and East) Committee. Since June 2006, this committee has considered 105 planning applications. Of those 105 Planning Applications, Planning Officers have recommended refusal of just 10 applications. Planning Officers recommended that permission be granted on 86 occasions and the committee has refused permission against officer advice on just 7 of those 86 occasions. The conclusion has to be that, on the main, councillors serving on the Development Control (South and East) Committee generally rely upon the recommendations of the City Council’s Planning Officers who themselves are likely to be in favour of a planning application by the time it arrives at committee level..

Planning Officers are also tasked with doing their best to ensure that developments are successfully brought forward and implemented successfully. At an early stage, a developer will contact the Planning Officers to discuss a proposal, and from that stage a symbiotic relationship is established in which both developer and Planning Officer are looking to ensure the development proceeds smoothly to a successful approval of a planning application, along with any S.106 funding associated with the development.

Not only is the Planning Officer judge (they provide most of the expert opinion used to develop the local plan to guide the planning process) and jury (they provide the expert opinions on which DCC members base their decisions), they are also the lawyer advising one of the litigants essentially on a “no win – no fee” basis. Win the case (achieve planning permission), win the funds (S.106).

What of the other litigant? By this we mean the local community – who represents them?

Bristol City Council’s Code of Conduct for Members and Officers - Planning Matters includes the following statement;

“The aim of the planning process is to control development in the public interest”

The public interest obviously includes the views of the local community so the local community is represented by Councillors and Planning Officers – but as Councillors tend to follow the recommendations of Planning Officers, this means that the local community is effectively represented by the Planning Officers. Not only are the Planning Officers the judge, jury, and representing the other side, they’re also representing you, but in your case they are doing it pro bono – it is not hard to imagine a conflict of interest and also a conflict of client priorities.

The Code of Conduct continues;

“The role of members and officers in the planning process is to make planning decisions openly, impartially and with sound judgement for justifiable planning reasons.”

“When this code applies – to all members of the development control committees and officers at all times when they are involved in the planning process”

At this point it is worth noting that planning process also includes any discussion at the “pre-application stage”. In other words, as soon as a potential developer discusses proposals with the planning officer regarding a specific site the code applies and the officer is required to be open and impartial.

How does this work out in practice?

The first that the general public knew of the proposal for a new superstore at Ashton Gate was when it was leaked on 29th April on the Bristol Blogger website, but it has become apparent that Planning Officers knew of this proposal some considerable time before this, possibly in November/December of the previous year. There was thus a time-period of several months when it could be argued that Planning Officers were not operating in an “impartial and open” manner within the planning process because no attempt was made to inform the general public of the proposal for a Tesco superstore at Ashton Gate.

If the aim of the planning process is to control development in the public interest and members and officers are required to make decisions openly and impartially throughout the planning process, including the pre-application stage, then the only way to conform to this is to ensure that the general public are kept abreast of all meetings as they take place. It cannot be open and impartial to engage in discussions with one side of the process (the developer) whilst failing to inform the other side (the local community) that these discussions are even taking place.

It is bad enough that Planning Officers are both judge and jury AND the lawyer representing each side but to then find out that the lawyer whom you assumed was representing your views had been having regular face-to-face meetings for several months with the opposite side to help them build their case without your knowledge whilst you had to rely on a brief note from a third party to let you know that there is even a case against you does not meet the criteria of impartiality and openness.

Consultation on the planning process appears designed to insult our intelligence - it might help Planning Officers to win funding for required infrastructure but, in doing so, it is likely to alienate the very communities whose interests it is supposed to be representing.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Bread and Circuses

Duas tantum res anxius optat,
Panem et circenses


In the period when the Antonine Emperors ruled Rome, the privileged elite enjoyed a level of wealth previously unknown. However the underlying mass of the Roman people saw their own standard of living fall – to placate their discontent, Roman politicians adopted populist methods such as providing free bread and arranging large scale entertainments (circuses).

Of course, nowadays we like to think that we are not so gullible that we can be distracted from the effects of a recession causing mass employment and financial hardship simply by being promised the chance to watch some circus games: even if it is the Olympics (2012), the Rugby World Cup (2015) or, maybe, the FIFA World Cup (2018). So instead we are told that the games will not only entertain us, they will also;

1) boost the economy,
2) create jobs,
3) bring in infrastructure investment,
4) increase the number of tourists spending their money in the host cities
5) and, as if this wasn’t enough, the broadcasting of the event across the world will also serve to advertise host cities across the world thus attracting even more investment and even more free-spending tourists in the future.

To support this enticing argument, for nearly every major sporting event that has taken place over the last 30 years or so, you will be able to find forecasts full of ex ante predictions of massive and positive economic impacts for countries staging a major sporting event. Unfortunately, what are harder to find are studies measuring the impact AFTER the sporting event have taken place to see if the predicted benefits actually materialised. In the small number of instances where comparisons are able to be made it becomes clear that the benefits are invariably greatly exaggerated, the costs are considerably underestimated, and the longer-term benefits are…well….negligible.

1)Boosting the economy

Hosting a major sports event is simply not a very effective way of boosting either the national or local economy. The investment bank HSBC analysed the effects of several major sporting events and concluded;

Host countries economies underperform world growth by 0.4% in the 12 months before a tournament and by the same in the year after.”

In the United States, where there have been repeated instances of professional sports teams moving from one city to another allowing comparative analysis to take place, several studies (including this one) have shown that rather than having a positive effect on the local economy, professional sport often has a negative effect.

The reality is that despite all the attention it receives in the media, professional sport only makes up a small percentage of our economic performance. The Premier League, for example, is recognised as the richest league in the world with a turnover of approximately £1.8 billion per annum, with the Football League adding in the region of another £350 million. Yet that £2.2 billion is a tiny percentage of the overall economic performance of the UK at large with its GDP of roughly £1,600 billion. It is little more than 1/8th of 1 percent of GDP.

In Germany in 2006 (where the Bundesliga had a turnover of just over £1 billion) the Germans invested nearly £5 billion specifically for the World Cup. This investment was all made in the expectation of a net economic benefit of £2.2 billion. (German Institute of Economic Research)

So what effect did the World Cup have on German economic performance – here are the figures for Germany’s real economic growth (i.e after allowing for inflation):

2005 +1.7%
2006 (World Cup year) +0.9%
2007 +2.7%
2008 +2.5%
As was recognised after the World Cup, the effects were negligible.

2) Job creation

This is always included in any bid for staging a major sports event. At the moment the England World Cup bid site includes the statement that “85,000 jobs were created by the [2006] tournament” which sounds OK until you chase up the figures; this leads you firstly to FIFA’s own site which tells us that “85,158 people worked on behalf of the LOC [local organising committee] during the event”.

However this includes;
15,000 volunteers, and,
1,000 volunteer drivers

It also includes;
280 temporary LOC staff
2,500 artists for opening and closing ceremony
19,200 security stewards
8,000 medical staff
800 hostesses
400 ticketing staff

As you guess most of the above were temporary jobs that only existed for the month or so of the tournament. In the event it was estimated by the German Institute for Economic Research (see above) that perhaps 9,000 permanent jobs would be created. It is also likely that many of these permanent positions are connected to infrastructure investment that would have happened in any case, regardless of the World Cup.

3) Infrastructure investment

For 2006, the German tourism authority calculated that £1.3 billion was spent on building and/or improving the football stadia used to host events whilst another £3 billion was spent on transport infrastructure. Looking at Bristol’s twin city of Hanover the figures were £55 million and £265 million.

Meanwhile for the 2010 World Cup the South African government is looking at a £1.3 billion spend on stadia (original estimate £630m) and another £1.2 billion spent on transport infrastructure (original estimate £680m) as costs begin to rocket.

The Brazilian government, in preparation for World Cup 2014, is currently forecasting a £550 million investment in stadia and has no idea how much it will need to invest in its creaking transport infrastructure.

The problem with the investment figure for stadia above is two-fold. Firstly, often stadia become “white elephants” after the events; the “bird’s nest” stadium in Peking, for example, has not hosted a single sports event since the Olympics whilst the Zentralstadion in Leipzig was completely rebuilt for World Cup 2006 to a capacity of 44,000 at a cost of £100 million. It now hosts FC Sachsen Leipzig who attract an average crowd of 7,500. Secondly, as mentioned before, the stadia themselves only directly benefit a small minority of the general population – the followers of the football clubs whose stadia are rebuilt or upgraded.

As for transport infrastructure – often expenditure on this is included as part of a major sports event bid even if it was destined to take place regardless of whether the event happened or not. In Bristol the likely example will be the BRT Route from Ashton Vale which is increasingly being mentioned in relation to the World Cup bid despite having no funding connection with it at all.

4) Boosting tourism

A constant in the World Cup 2006 benefit equation was that Germany would receive a million foreign tourists who would bring in additional expenditure of £1.6 billion. In fact post event studies of tourism show that Germany received closer to 2 million foreign tourists for the World Cup – the bad news is that the economic uplift for tourism in Germany in 2006 was £340m – well short of the anticipated £1.6 billion. Instead of receiving £1600 per tourist – the German economy benefited from just £170 per tourist.

Did the World Cup really boost German tourism? At first glance the figures would appear to say so. In 2005, Germany received 21.5 million international visitors whilst in 2006 that figure went up to 23.6 million – an increase of 2.1 million or roughly the number of international visitors that arrived during the World Cup. This is a rise of approximately 9.7%. However, in that same year the UK’s international visitor numbers also increased by 9.3%, whilst Italy’s went up by 12.4% without the assistance of a World Cup. In fact, every country in Europe with the exception of Hungary and Turkey saw their tourism numbers increase but only Germany spent billions on a World Cup. How much would Germany's figures have risen even without the World Cup? - the average for Europe was 5%, which is more than half the German increase. In fact, at least two German cities reported a decrease in hotel bookings as high-spending business visitors stayed away to avoid the crowds.

5) Marketing

The final benefit put forward to justify major sports events is the concept that by being a venue for a major sports event this will somehow publicise the city and attract future business and tourism revenues.

The two main ways in which this is usually said to happen is through foreign visitors who come to a city to watch sport and through the TV audience who will see the sports event taking place in the city and think “that looks like a nice city, I will go and visit it myself”.

In the last set of tourism figures (from 2007), Bristol attracted 470,000 foreign visitors an increase from the 403,000 of 2006. Based on the figures from Germany, where a third of tickets were sold to overseas visitors whilst of the 18 million who went to the Fan Parks about a million were from overseas that would give us a figure of just under a 100,000 foreign tourists coming to Bristol – an increase of just over 20%. Based on the figures from Germany this would see £17m added to Bristol’s tourism figures. But based on Hannover’s expenditure figures it would have cost £320 million to get them here, alternatively based on the figures for Rustenberg in South Africa which is similar in population to Bristol it would have cost £65 million. Not a good return on investment.

Never mind there are always the billions watching on TV….well, lets think about that a moment. Do you know anybody who watched the World Cup in 2006 and said “saw the World Cup, really impressed with Leipzig, so we've booked a holiday there”? You watch football to see a football game not to scout out your next family holiday.

The Premier League is broadcast to 600 million households in over 200 countries and is believed to be watched by 1.2 billion people a week. If the idea that a large audience watching a game of football on television increases tourism than we would see two things: we would see cities that have teams in the Premier League attracting large numbers of tourists, and we would also see changes in tourism visits for cities that either get promoted or relegated from the Premier League. Neither holds up when looking at the figures – London dominated the tourist market followed by Edinburgh and then the larger cities of Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Liverpool. The list then proceeds through Oxford, Bristol, Cardiff, Cambridge before reaching Newcastle and Leeds. We then have the “footballing hotbeds” of Brighton, York, Inverness and Bath before we get to Nottingham. The list is finished with Reading, Aberdeen and finally Chester.

There is no place for the following places that had a Premier League side in at least one of the four seasons prior to the year the figures were collated; Blackburn, Wigan, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth, Bolton, West Bromwich, Norwich, Southampton, Leicester and Wolverhampton. Simply put, the number of tourists visiting your city is probably not influenced by the fact that the TV shows a game played in your city to a worldwide audience, and there appears to be no correlation in changes in tourism figures after, for example, Leeds, West Bromwich, Southampton, Leicester, Portsmouth, etc were either relegated or promoted.

So the conclusion has to be that hosting the World Cup will fail to deliver in pretty much every one of the five areas that it is being sold on. In the end, we are back to the Antonine Emperors – the only good reason for hosting the World Cup is because it might be entertaining, and if we are being entertained and kept happy we tend not to complain as much as we ought.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Bristol's Carbon Emissions by Postcode

A Daily Telegraph article reports on research produced for the Greenaware programme by Experian and the Stockhom Environmental Institute which used data from various official sources to calculate the average carbon emissions per household for individual postcodes for the UK.

Purely by chance BS postcodes are equally represented in both the 1,000 highest carbon emitting postcodes and the 1,000 lowest carbon emitting postcodes with 12 entries in each.

So which postcodes in the Bristol area are environmentally friendly and which are the fossil-burning dinosaurs?

The 12 BS postcodes with the highest carbon emissions per household are;

1) BS9 1 Stoke Bishop, Sneyd Park at 28.88 tonnes of carbon per year
2) BS8 3 Clifton, Abbots Leigh, Failand at 28.59
3) BS40 8 Winford, Chew Magna at 28.25
4) BS48 3 Backwell, Barrow Gurney at 27.94
5) BS32 4 Almondsbury, Tockington at 27.65
6) BS48 4 Nailsea, Brockley, Backwell at 27.57
7) BS6 7 Westbury, Redland at 27.5
8) BS9 3 Westbury-on-Trym at 27.45
9) BS28 4 Wedmore, Blackford, Theale at 27.21
10) BS40 5 Wrington, Langford, Redhill at 27.1
11) BS20 8 Portishead, Weston-in-Gordano at 26.68
12) BS31 3 Saltford at 26.28

Whilst the 12 BS postcodes with the lowest carbon emissions per household are;

1) BS2 0 St Philips, St Philip's Marsh at 15.63
2) BS13 0 Hartcliffe at 16.01
3) BS5 0 Easton, Lawrence Hill at 16.63
4) BS13 9 Withywood at 16.81
5) BS5 9 Redfield, Barton Hill at 17
6) BS23 1 Beach Road, Weston super Mare at 17.06
7) BS11 0 Shirehampton, Lawrence Weston at 17.08
8) BS4 1 Knowle at 17.2
9) BS23 3 Locking Road, Weston super Mare at 17.73
10) BS2 8 Kingsdown, St Pauls, St James at 17.87
11) BS13 8 Bishopsworth at 18.3
12) BS10 5 Westbury-on-Trym, Southmead at 18.41

The obvious, and depressing conclusion looking at the two lists is that, in general, people's effect upon the environment has much more to do with their level of disposable income than with any conscious effort to behave in a more environmentally aware manner - a conclusion that has been apparent to most of us in the environmental movement for some time. Simply put, and allowing for some rare exceptions, the richer people are, the more they pollute.

A short travel journey north from Redland to Southmead will see you move from one of the areas with the largest emissions to one of those with the lowest - the reason for the difference of some 10 tonnes of CO2 per annum is almost certainly due to the fact that if you lived in one area you would almost certainly make that journey by car whilst if you lived in the other you may have to rely on public transport and that this reliance upon public transport in unlikely to be one of free choice.

The level of any individual commitment to a "greener" lifestyle appears to be of small impact in the overall scheme of things and is almost lost amongst the underlying level of emissions produced. This highlights the biggest barrier for future efforts to reduce the level of carbon emissions - individuals are unlikely to vote for a programme which involves any apparent reduction in their standard of living, a measurement which has become inextricably linked with the accumulation of possessions despite increasing evidence that an increasing number of possessions fails to improve the well-being and self-esteem of individuals once their basic needs have been met.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Save Our Green Spaces Press Release

Save Our Green Spaces
Bristol City Football Club use the populist issue of a new football stadium to get stuck into local green belt land.

West of England’s Green Belt campaigners are united against the application by Bristol City Football Club for a 62 acre mixed development of housing, bars/restaurants and a hotel on fields to the south of the city. It seems the Club would rather destroy land identified as a ‘Wildlife Network Site’ and a ‘High Risk Flood Zone’ than redevelop its stadium on the existing site, which is easily accessible with established transport links and infrastructure.

* What’s worse, the site designated is green belt land, supposedly protected from such inappropriate building developments. The club are claiming exceptional circumstances because, they say, there is nowhere else to put a new stadium. That is of course if you overlook the fact that they intend to sell their current stadium site, at Ashton Gate, to Tesco for development as a superstore.

Mary Walsh of the Whitchurch Action Group says “If this goes ahead then no green belt land is safe from any kind of development anywhere in the country. If they agree to this, the city’s LibDems will long be remembered around Bristol as the party which single-handedly destroyed 50 years of local government planning policy in their first major political decision.”

* The club cannot currently afford the stadium and so, as part of the application, approval is sought for an “enabling development” of 253 houses, also on green belt land, to help finance the whole package. If agreed, this means that any urban based company could seek to re-locate to plush new premises in the green belt and apply for an “enabling development” to finance the whole project.

Mike Parsons of Protect Whitchurch Green Belt Alliance says “Any planning inspector giving the go ahead for this project would also be giving the green light for every other cash strapped urban factory owner to move onto a green field site and build a giant housing estate to finance the whole package.”

*The club are pressing Bristol City Council to compress the whole planning approval process into a few short months in order to fit into the Football Association’s 2018 World Cup bid programme. The Leader of the council and the City Council’s Chief Executive have both appeared in full page articles in the local paper endorsing the campaign for 2018 World Cup Host City status, yet the success of this bid is dependent upon this planning application being approved.

Ron Morton of Shortwood Green Belt Campaign says “The club is attempting to bamboozle the council into approval. How can there now be any kind of unbiased decision making at local level on this particular planning application? The Secretary of State has now got to call in this application, blowing any chance of meeting the FIFA schedule for designating Host City status for Bristol. Sadly for the club and the city, it’s an ‘own goal’.”

He continues, “We’re worried that if this development on green belt land is given the go ahead it will kick start the highly profitable and environmentally dubious plans of creating 250,000 new homes on green land in the south west over the next 20 years. Green land equivalent to the area of 15,000 football pitches could be lost.”

And finally,

* The only logical way forward now is for the City Council and Bristol City Football Club to work co-operatively and find a way of building a 21st Century, state of the art, multi-purpose stadium – on the current stadium site in Ashton Gate.

Jacquie Stephens of the Warmley & Siston Save Our Green Spaces group says “For 100 years Ashton Gate has been the home of Bristol City Football Club and given a free choice, fans, supporters and season ticket holders would all say ‘Give us World Cup football and Premier League football at Ashton Gate!’ So why have they never been given any opportunity to say just that?”

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Greater Bedminster Residents meet to form “No-Superstore” Campaign Group


5th July 2009

More than 70 people from Greater Bedminster packed into a meeting room at the Southville Centre on Friday night, to hear more about the proposed Tesco superstore development at Ashton Gate Stadium.

Local residents, Chris Uttley and Tom Griffin, who organised the meeting said, “Whilst we are seeing plenty of information about the supposed benefits, there has been no opportunity for public discussion about the massive increase in traffic, noise, air pollution and disruption created by a store that opens 7 days a week for virtually all day.

“We wanted to give all residents and traders an opportunity to voice their concerns without the stage-managed atmosphere of the Public Relations devised consultation they have had so far”

Traders from North Street, people who live in close proximity to the stadium and residents from throughout the area, including many Bristol City Football Club supporters, heard more about the plans and were given an opportunity to voice their concerns.

Many people at the meeting commented on how inappropriate the proposal seems. Abigail Stollar, a Southville resident said, “ I shop all the time on North Street. What’s being proposed will contribute very little to the local community and will have a massive impact on the existing shops and businesses. I like the fact I can walk round the corner with my kids to buy virtually everything I need”.

Some residents highlighted the rushed manner in which they were being consulted and the ad-hoc way in which information is being released. In many cases, people who live very close to the stadium had not been consulted at all. Only 3 people raised their hands when asked how many had been approached directly for their views.

People were particularly angry at the way this development has been linked with plans for a new stadium and the Bristol World Cup bid and the attempt to brand those who oppose a new superstore as anti-World cup and anti-Bristol City. Many people said this was “cynical”, “ill-judged” and “divisive”.

George Ferguson, owner of the Tobacco Factory, summed up the feeling from the meeting saying, “There is nothing like a major threat to its future to galvanise a community. This is an appalling proposal – another giant shopping shed set in a massive sea of car parking. The potential economic and environmental damage to this area is immense. I fully recognise the importance of Bristol City’s success but it is quite wrong to imply that a new supermarket is something to do with the new stadium or the World Cup – the two issues have to be de-coupled. It is inappropriate and legally dubious to consider the applications for the new stadium and the new supermarket simultaneously”.

The proposal to create a group to fight the proposal was welcomed by all those who attended and many volunteered to be directly involved. BERATE has now begun a petition against the superstore and will continue to oppose the plans and gauge the response of a larger cross-section of the community towards the development.

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