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?


  1. Excellent. I look forward to reading the responses from the councillors.

  2. In respone to the answer regarding consultation. How can the Councillor possibly assert that there has been ample opportunity to comment on the application thus far, when it was not widely known of the Councils involvement in the sale of the land. It would be interesting to see what pre application communication between BCC and developers has occured. There should be full and early public consultaion over the sale of this piece of land as it is fundamental to both applications. As more and more information trickles out out about this whole affair, it becomes more and more difficult to have any faith in any due process.

  3. I'm hearing rumours that - despite Jolly Jon saying on my blog on 16 September" "You can ask your supplementary questions in writing or email" - that the council is completely ignoring these supplementary questions.

    Have you had any kind of response Tony?

    Has Jolly Jon been caught telling friendly-sounding porkies again?

  4. I have had no response to the emails I sent to the two councillors, nor, as you can see, have they responded online.

    Guess I will have to send my questions to be answered at the Cabinet meeting for the 1st October.

    Apparently we are not alone, I am told that Cllr Cook is also refusing to respond to questions from the Evening Post following the publication of the independent assessment of the Retail Statement that accompanied the superstore proposal.

  5. Cook was quoted in today's hard copy of the Post as "no comment" on the retail statement.

    There's also now an online FoI request to BCC about Ashton Gate they've allowed to go over time.

    The supplementary questions Jolly Jon said would be answered haven't been.

    And Jolly Jon either changes the subject or runs away when I ask him "when did you know BCC owned land at Ashton Gate".

    Add this all together and it seems both the political leadership and the senior officer class at BCC are in utter disarray.

    They daren't answer the questions put to them; they have no clear policy on Ashton Gate in place and they have no communications strategy.

    Meanwhile their new Head of Communications spends his time Twittering about his favourite glossy "place marketing" ads!

    Even by BCC standards this is monumentally disastrous stuff. With £2m per year of strategic leadership expertise surely this shouldn't happen?

    If they don't get a grip, careers will be on the line soon.