Friday, 29 January 2010

Cabinet Meeting 28 January 2010

An interesting Cabinet meeting last night - with potential for an entire week of blog posts.

However, I should start with the responses from Councillor Cook to the questions I put forward regarding Bristol's World Cup Bid 2018.  Unfortunately thanks to the lamentable state of our public transport system (not just in Bristol but also beyond), I managed to arrive at the Cabinet meeting just in time to hear the leader of the Council ask if I had any supplementary questions!

As I hadn't even read Cllr Cook's answers I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and declined to ask any supplementaries - I am sure that I detected a certain note of disappointment on Cllr Cook's face upon hearing that, however upon reading Cllrs Cook lengthy responses, I am glad I did so as they deserve a more detailed response than a neccesarily hurried and hasty reading is capable of providing.

Here are the questions and the answers received - I will give my response to them in a later post(s).

Questions to Cabinet – 28 January 2010-01-29

Answers to questions (from Tony Dyer to Cllr Simon Cook)

Economic Impact of World Cup on Bristol

Bristol City Council has now submitted its bid to be a Host City for the 2018 World Cup - by doing so, the council has signed a binding legal agreement which has severe restrictions in terms of its ability to withdraw from the bid process without, potentially, facing financial penalty or loss of prestige.

The decision to proceed has been justified on the basis of potential economic benefit to the City, it's businesses, and its residents, but at present the only estimates regarding the possible economic benefits resulting from this decision appear to be a generic model produced by PriceWaterhouseCoopers in which they say that, largely based on data collected from the 2006 World Cup, a successful bid would generate £150m in economic impact for a Host City.

Question 1: Has any analysis been done on the potential economic benefits of becoming a host city based on Bristol's specific proposal and circumstances?

Answer 1: I am advised that some work has been undertaken to assess the possible value to the Bristol economy of staging World Cup matches. It is important however to state at the outset that estimating the value of events and festivals is a somewhat complex and inexact process and is based upon a number of suppositions as much as established research. Work undertaken by Deloitte, Cardiff Marketing and Cardiff City Council identified that the FA Cup Final in Cardiff in 2001generated £4.2 million of spending, based almost solely on day trippers. The PR value of that one match which was watched by 600 million people around the world was estimated at £100 million.

Each World Cup match hosted in Bristol will be certainly be worth many £millions to the economy of the city and the sub-region. It is impossible to put an exact figure on it simply because so many factors are involved:- who is playing, the amount of TV exposure we can secure, our capacity to host the thousands of fans who will want to watch the match in the stadium (42,000) or in the Fan Fests (104,000), etc. It is clear that money will be spent in hotels, camp sites, in restaurants, supermarkets, shops and on travel. This will in turn generate employment within the city and stimulate spending by local people.

In 2008/9 Bristol’s hotels estimated to take in the region of £0.75 million on room charges each night with the same guests spending a further £0.75 million on food and drink, transport and shopping. This equates to a spend profile of £375 per room per night with occupancy at an average of 76% over the June/July period. In World Cup year and assuming 100% occupancy but no increase in spend, £51.2 million could be generated over the 26 days of the tournament.

In addition, a further £74.4 million could be generated through those attending Fan Fests assuming variable occupancy rates (50% capacity for home matches, 30% capacity for final/semi-final and 25% capacity for other matches) and an average spend of £100 per day at current rates. This equates to a direct economic return of £125 million over the 31 days of the tournament.

Deloitte has produced an economic impact study of the Rugby World Cup which shows that the tournament, which is one third of the size of the FIFA Football World Cup, generates between £200 million and £800 million in additional expenditure in a host country with indirect spending pushing this to over £2 billion if the event is staged in an European host country.

Question 2: Has any reverse checking been done on the robustness of the PwC model, by, for example, feeding in the actual number of attendees at the stadium and fan parks for Hannover (a similar city to Bristol in many ways) in 2006 and comparing the results with those predicted by the PwC model?

Answer 2: No detailed comparison has been undertaken as you describe as I understand that the data is not available from Hannover for the economic effect of staging the event. In fact officers have advised that no individual city studies were undertaken as far as they have been able to ascertain. The only study that we have available is an analysis undertaken by the German National Tourist Board which was referenced in the original report to Cabinet.

Question 3: The PwC model is largely based on the economic impact of non-domestic visitors and assumes that the percentage of Fan Park attendees from overseas will be 40%. Has the executive member been given any indication by those involved in running Bristol's bid that the level of overseas visitors is likely to be lower than that figure?

Answer 3: I am advised that FIFA ticket sales for attendance at World Cup matches are controlled and that the host nation can expect to get between 33% and 40% of those available. In Germany (2006) 3.2 million tickets were issued world wide of which 1.2 million were made available in Germany. From this we can deduce that approximately 60% of match ticket holders were non German nationals. The availability of match tickets also directly impacts on the attractiveness of the FanFests as an alternative destination. In 2006 in addition to the 3.2 million who watched matches in stadia in the 12 host cities, a further 21 million (approximately) visited the official FanFests in those cities. It is highly likely that FanFests would have attracted large number of domestic visitors which would impact on the percentage of foreign visitors overall but it not possible to provide an accurate breakdown of those numbers as, to our knowledge, no analysis was undertaken. The German Tourist Board however report 2.5 million more overnight stays by visitors from abroad in the first half of 2006 compared to the same period in 2005.

Question 4: Has any estimate been made of what percentage of ALL stadium and fan park attendees will:

a) be visitors from outside the City of Bristol, both domestic and international?

Answer 4 a): Ticket sales for the World Cup normally operate on a lottery basis and fans elect to bid for tickets for whichever matches they wish to attend. Most domestic fans and all visiting fans are likely to consider travelling to a number of different venues when deciding their options. The likelihood of securing the tickets you want is governed by the demand for particular matches and the overall demand for the tournament.

In Germany demand was extremely high and many fans were disappointed in not securing all the tickets they sought. By contrast reports from South Africa in 2010 suggest that the anticipated demand from across the African continent has not been realised and as a result more ticket are being offered to countries with high demand, eg England and the USA.

An analysis of the percentage change in overnight stays in host city hotels in Germany in June 2006 by foreign visitors identified a range of returns. The cities showing the least change, eg Munich and Berlin are recognisably international cities of note, yet still showed an increase in foreign visitor numbers of 17.4% and 31.2% respectively for the period. At the other end of the spectrum, cities like Dortmund and Gelsenkirchen showed increases of 285.6% and 262.7% respectively for the same period. Bristol’s twin city Hannover saw a 56.6% increase in foreign visitors over the month of the tournament.

b) and how many of the above will stay in the City of Bristol itself, as opposed to surrounding areas or elsewhere in the UK?

Answer 4 b): It is very difficult to predict the likely numbers who will opt to stay in Bristol during the World Cup in 2018. This will be governed by a number of factors:

i The number of matches and the attractiveness of the fixtures that Bristol secures during the tournament
ii The capacity and quality of the entertainment and cultural offer at the FanFest sites and within the city as a whole.
iii The range, availability and cost of the accommodation offer in Bristol and the surrounding area.
iv The ease of travel to and from Bristol and its connectivity with other host cities by public transport.

Question 5: What is the currently capacity for overnight visitors staying within the city of Bristol?

Answer 5: Destination Bristol advise that there are currently 4,826 graded hotel rooms within the Bristol conurbation plus 9,611 university halls of residence, and 2,471 self catering apartments. In addition, Bristol’s bid assumes that we will provide quality camping facilities for 20,000 in the city.

In addition to Bristol’s offer there are approximately 4,000 additional hotel rooms within a 20 mile radius of the City Centre plus a further 4,689 units of student accommodation associated with Bath and Bath Spa Universities.

Question 6: What has been the average occupancy levels for the above for each of the months of June, July and August for the last five years?

Thursday, 21 January 2010

New superstore at Ashton Gate: It's bigger and it's orange

Sainsbury's have now got round to revealing details of their proposed store for Ashton Gate. For comparison here is the previous application;

So what's different?'s orange. And it is much bigger, in fact the new store is big enough to be two stores, for example;

Existing Sainsbury's = 5,126 sq metres
Existing Asda = 4,733 sq metres
Total Floorspace = 9,859 sq metres

New Sainsbury's = 9,300 sq metres

But maybe that's the cunning plan (Baldrick is a City fan after all), maybe they think that if they say it's not a new store just a relocation of an existing store that the planners won't notice how big it is, and will change their mind about their conclusion stated in the officer's report (pdf) for the withdrawn Tesco proposal that "no need has been identified for the proposed store, and the locality of the site is already very well served for convenience shopping with two large superstores located within a mile of the site and numerous other smaller stores".  Shame it will be bright orange or will orange be rebranded as Sainsburys Red ready for next seasons new kit?

They will of course be building houses and workspaces on the old Sainsbury's site which will look like this:

Oops, my mistake. That's George Ferguson's proposal for Ashton Gate.

Building houses and workspaces apparently won't work at Ashton Gate, it will only work at the current Sainsbury's site 500 metres away because it obviously makes sense to knock down a stadium to build a new supermarket and then knock down the old supermarket to build houses - that is much more sensible and sustainable then just knocking down the stadium and building the houses whilst keeping the existing store.   Here is the mixed used development of the type that won't work at Ashton Gate;

The real reason why mixed use won't work at Ashton Gate is that Bristol City FC need to sell Ashton Gate for £20m as a supermarket as enabling development to fund the new stadium (apparently BCFC didn't consider to ask Sainsbury's how much they'd be willing to pay to NOT have a rival supermarket there, and then for the club to invest that in developing Ashton Gate themselves as mixed use).  The problem here is that the planners have already said "taking into account the relatively limited degree to which the stadium would be reliant on the funds generated by any granting of planning permission for this application (17.5 %), the tenuous link between the stadium proposals and the extensive harm that would result from the proposed supermarket, officers conclude that its value as “enabling development” would not outweigh the extensive harm that would be caused. Therefore officers recommend that this application should be refused"  So the store will have to be approved on its own merits as a superstore.

Which brings us back to whether planners (and the members of the planning committee) will perform an abrupt U-turn and approve a superstore that, to quote the BBC will, at 9,300 square metres "be larger than Asda at Cribbs Causeway which, when it was built 10 years ago, was the biggest supermarket in Europe" even though they have already said in regard to the earlier Tesco application that "no need has been demonstrated for additional convenience or comparison retail floorspace, either in qualitative or quantative terms" and that Bedminster town centre "would experience reduced footfall, and, in time, investment plans leading to increased numbers of vacancies and more poorly maintained buildings. The quality, attractiveness physical condition and character of the centre would all suffer and its vitality and viability would be further undermined."

It may well be that the most important document in all this is the one referred to in the Officer's Report for the previous application;

"The Council has commissioned a report to assess the existing centres in South Bristol, and the potential for the creation of a new or improved centre or centres. This will be used to develop the retail strategy for South Bristol and inform the further development of draft Core Strategy policy BCS 1, but this will not be completed until late November 2009 after the application has been considered by Committee."

If that report concludes that additonal retail floorspace in the Bedminster/Southville/Ashton Gate area can be provided without affecting those areas where "the Council have identified a disparity of retail provision across the south of the city, with many disadvantaged communities further to the south being poorly served in terms of access to facilities" then planners may feel that they have reason to perform a u-turn.  Let's hope however, that they don't make the mistake of "providing additional retail capacity in advance of an identified need" in such a way that "the proposals may fetter opportunities for the Council to intervene in the market and provide a new or improved retail centre or centres to address these issues of deprivation" in other parts of south Bristol. 

It would be embarrassing for the council if, in their efforts to promote the regeneration of South Bristol, they succeeded in competely undermining their efforts to truly regenerate South Bristol.

Monday, 18 January 2010

The Rebranding of Nuclear Power?

Naomi Klein contributed an article in the Guardian on Saturday regarding the rebranding of America since Barack Obama’s victory in the presidential election. The US is essentially the same America it was before his election, with the same ingredients, using the same processes it used before - but Obama’s America is now cool and appreciated by people who wouldn’t have had Bush’s America if it came with a Buy One, Get One Free offer.

The nuclear power industry has also been attempting to do the re-branding thing but much less successfully and over a longer time scale. They are trying to rid themselves of their association with the nuclear arms race of the Cold War, Windscale, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and instead are rebranding themselves as providers of low-carbon energy. Instead of threatening the planet, they are now, they say, ready to save the planet.

The nuclear industry has the power to generate deep divisions and passionate arguments, both in the general public and within the environmental movement. Some well respected environmentalists such as James Lovelock are pro-nuclear as is the author and journalist Mark Lynas. Others, almost certainly the majority, are anti-nuclear.

Personally speaking, I have no ideological objection to nuclear power - I just don't think the supply-side figures add up in terms of extracting the necessary uranium. The more I look at it, the less I am convinced that nuclear fission is a long-term solution with some of the claims made on its behalf based on unproven or doubtful potential technological advances which may lead to nuclear proliferation, whilst the lead times required to build a new power station rules nuclear energy out as a short- or medium-term solution.

In the case of the UK in particular there is also the fact that we have, largely, no home-grown sources of uranium and thus will be dependent on others for our supplies, and therefore, our energy.

This weakening of Britain’s control over its own energy makes it even odder that the political party most in favour of the expansion of nuclear energy is the Conservative Party who are usually so keen to campaign against any decisions that they perceive as weakening British Sovereign powers, but in the case of nuclear energy appear happy to see the UK replace reliance on oil and gas (where supply to the UK is dependent upon the decisions of other countries beyond our sovereign powers) with nuclear power which is dependent on another fuel source (uranium) the supply of which is, once again, dependent upon the decisions of other countries. The result will be that the ability of the British Parliament to act in an independent and sovereign manner based on democratic processes and ethical considerations will continue to be constrained by the ability of other countries to switch off its energy supplies - and lead to a similar level of realpolitik decision-making that involves us in wars and the propping up of vicious and undemocratic regimes.

Unless the UK decides to start mining for uranium in the Orkneys or Caithness - a decision that even Margaret Thatcher felt was beyond the pale and which will still only supply a tiny percentage of our existing uranium needs in return for massive environmental damage - we are total dependent on foreign imports for uranium. This is repeated across the EU as a whole which supplies less than 3% of its current uranium needs from within the borders of its member states.  Similarly the US only supplies 8% of its own needs domestically. Although two of the largest providers of uranium are relatively stable and democratic countries - Canada and Australia (although even here, only the result of a recent election saw Western Australia re-open its uranium mines) - any major increases in reliance upon nuclear power at a worldwide level will inevitably lead to a greater reliance on less stable, less democratic countries like Kazakhstan, Niger, Uzbekistan and so on. There is even talk of exploiting uranium deposits in Greenland by over-turning a 20-year ban and over-riding objections from the local Inuit population.

At present, Russia is the single largest supplier to both the EU (25% of the EU's uranium requirements) and the US (33%), largely from uranium released as part of the decommissioning of cold war nuclear warheads. In total, decommissioned warheads account for 20,000 tonnes of the 65,000 tonnes or so of Uranium currently consumed each year. This 65,000 tonnes provides approx 15% of World electricity generation. I have seen figures that suggest that 122,000 tonnes p.a of uranium will be required by 2030 - to increase electricity capacity by 80% if all proposed and suggested nuclear power stations are built but this will still only supply a quarter of today's world electricity production

Once the Russians have used up their decommissioned warheads, we will find Europe and the US competing for additional uranium resources both with each other and with China (which is embarking on a major nuclear expansion of its own), repeating the same scenario that has caused so much anguish in the past, except that instead of counting the body bags from Iraq and Afghanistan, they may well be flown in from Kazakhstan instead.

Wind, wave, and solar energy are delivered to this country free of charge, and free of political decision-making elsewhere, and are utilised without leaving any waste behind. To ignore these natural resources would be the height of stupidity.  It is time to move on from 19th and 20th century energy systems like coal, oil and gas and move on to the appliance of 21st century science to the renewables.

Tomorrow, Tuesday the 19th January – a motion has been put forward to Full Council proposing that Bristol City Council oppose expansion of Oldbury and Hinckley Point nuclear power stations. Prior to the full council meeting (which starts at 2pm), a protest has been organised for 1:40pm at the Council House. If you too feel that nuclear energy is not the solution to the UK’s energy needs, please come along and add your voice.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Knowle West: Lessons Learned or Lessons Spurned?

In an earlier post I described how successive generations of my family had gradually moved (or been moved) from central Bristol slums to Knowle West and on to Hartcliffe. The midpoint of that journey - Knowle West (or Filwood Park if you prefer – an early example of rebranding) - is currently the focus for regeneration efforts and I have recently been reading two documents concerning some of the issues facing Knowle West/Filwood Park and thus the challenges for those seeking its regeneration.

The first document highlights that “the area has the largest population of children and young people out of all Bristol wards” and this, combined with “a low average household income” leads to a number of resulting issues. The second document also mentions “the high proportion of young people” and refers to “exceptional proverty” due in part to the “high incidence of unemployment”.

The first document goes on to mention multiple levels of deprivation in relation to “income, employment, education, health and crime” whilst the second mentions that “nearly half” of children were actually "below the ‘poverty’ line”, and that many illnesses such as asthma were “still far too prevalent” among children, there were also concerns about women’s health issues, whilst hooliganism and crime gave the area a bad reputation the stigma of which “left a lasting impression”, the last echoed by the first document which agrees that the area “suffers a poor image and reputation”.

Both documents agree that unemployment levels in the area are well above the average for Bristol whilst other shared conclusions refer to limited community, social and leisure facilities, poor transport connectivity especially with the City Centre, and poor retail provision within the area. Another key element is that the mix of house types in the area is limited, with the second document pointing to this causing many young couples to leave the area.

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that two documents studying the same area should arrive at the same conclusions – except that the first document referred to here is the “Knowle West Regeneration Framework” published in 2009, whilst the second is “Housing Estates: A study of Bristol Corporation policy and practice between the wars” published in 1949 and based on studies that took place before 1939. In other words, two studies separated by 70 years but, in that time, very little appears to have changed to alleviate the poverty and deprivation suffered by many of those living in Knowle West. That must be difficult reading for all those who have been in a position of power in Bristol over the past seven decades.

Jevons and Madge, the authors of the earlier study, called for better design to include such things as better retail provision including small local shops, higher incidence of parks and play areas, provision of crèches, public amenities from the start and cheap (or even free) transport to the city centre. The authors castigate planners for failing to understand the needs of residents; “many planners have failed to appreciate the implications of living in central areas” which are “of primary importance as a guide” to what is required in [new] neighbourhoods. It also points to the need to provide choice and not to allow over-dependence on one provider - “one big pub is often a poor alternative for three small ones”. The authors' final conclusion was that “denied its traditional institutions and amenities, denied the life and variety which course through the veins of a central area, ....a neighbourhood feels the full burden of its own poverty”.

It seems that their advice fell on deaf years - within two years of the book’s publication, Bristol Corporation had, in 1951, acquired more land on the northern slopes of Dundry where it proceeded to repeat all the errors it had made in Knowle West on an even larger scale. Ironically, growing up on this new estate of Hartcliffe, I remember having to travel to Knowle for many facilities including swimming, the cinema, and for more extensive shopping than the limited choice available locally. I suspect that similar stories of lack of neighbourhood facilities can be heard from those brought up on other estates built in the 50’s and into the 60’s and 70’s. Even with the move away from council planned estates, I am sure the early residents of Bradley Stoke can empathise with the lack of local amenities and public infrastructure.

We can only hope that, this time, the regeneration (or should it be simply “generation”) of Knowle West learns from those early mistakes, that it seeks to fully understand the needs and wants of the local community, and works hard to engage that community in making real and critical decisions about the future of Knowle West. The planners may find it hard to get the local community to involve themselves, 70 years of neglect and unfulfilled promises tends to generate a certain level of understandable cynicism and wariness, but planners should not give up too easily and resort to assuming that a "silent majority" means compliancy,  and it is additionally to be hoped that no promises are made that cannot be realistically delivered.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Snow Clearing, Obama and People Power

Not wishing to be the only blogger in the village not jumping on the gritting bandwagon – although worried that, given the icy conditions, I might slip and hurt myself in the process of leaping on board - in which case, according to some, my difficulties will have just begun as I try to figure out who to sue - I have decided to join Chris Hutt, BristolKRS, Bristol Blogger and even Charlie Bolton as well as the local Twitter community in commenting about Bristol’s preparation for, and attitude to, snow and/or ice.

We are in good company with even President Obama complaining about local schools closing due to the weather;

"As my children pointed out, in Chicago school is never canceled," …..He said that in their old hometown, "you'd go outside for recess in weather like this. You wouldn't even stay indoors."

(OK, he might have been talking about Washington DC not Bristol but give me some leeway here).

All joking aside, the issue seems to be boiling down to who is responsible for the pavement being cleared of snow and/or ice?

Staying with the North American angle, my wife used to live in a semi-rural community in Connecticut. A key item kept in the garage was a snow plough ready to be attached to the front of a 4WD Pickup truck to clear a route to the nearest cleared highway. There were no concerns about pedestrian access because nobody walked anywhere. In the nearby township where pedestrian access was required, local ordinances put the responsibility for the clearing of sidewalks firmly in the hands of individual property owners (both commercial and domestic). Once snow had reached 2 inches or had begun to freeze over, you were responsible for clearing the sidewalk adjacent to your property within 24 hours. There was even a local “rat on your neighbour” phone number you could call if somebody didn’t do their part of the sidewalk. Penalties for failing to do your bit could be a hefty fine plus being charged for the cost of the local authority clearing it for you (via a private company – who could also be booked directly by businesses and residents).

My own experience of the American attitude to snow on the pavement is due to the dominance of Microsoft in my line of work which meant that for quite some time myself and several of my European colleagues spent so much time in the Seattle area that it became more cost-effective to lease a property in the city rather than pay hotel bills. As a result I became familiar with the operations of Seattle’s Department of Transport (SDOT). SDOT was very keen on communicating information (they now have a blog and also use twitter and facebook) about Winter Storms. They publish a downloadable map showing what roads would be treated and the level of treatment for those roads – all lanes cleared from kerb to kerb, one lane each way, or sanding on hills to aid tyre grip. As in Connecticut, individual property owners are responsible for clearing sidewalks including providing access to bus stops next to their part of the sidewalk and also ensuring that drains were kept clear.

In Seattle, this concept of individual citizens and businesses being at least partially responsible for their bit of the sidewalk has moved on to the idea of having a greater say in how it is used - for example for adjacent parking. In Seattle, if you have a driveway, you can pop down to SDOT and pick up a pot of “Official Traffic Authority” yellow paint with which you can paint the kerbside for 5 feet either side of your driveway to prevent cars parking there.

But that is only a small example of individual empowerment – you can also download “The Parking Tool” which is part of a much broader set of guidelines allowing communities to guide decision making on parking provision within their neighbourhoods. As long as a majority of residents and businesses in the neighbourhood can agree on a neighbourhood plan it can then be put forward to SDOT for implementation.

The “Parking Tool” is, in turn, just one small element of Seattle’s neighbourhood approach whereby funding from Seattle’s budget is matched by neighbourhood matching funding (which can be in the form of volunteer hours or donated materials not just cash) via four funds to implement initiatives determined by the local community. In the 20 years since its inception, the scheme has seen $45m transferred from the city to local districts with another $68m generated by the community themselves. 3,800 projects have been involved engaging some 80,000 volunteers donating 560,000 hours.

Back home, the Bristol Liberal Democrat cabinet have started out on a project for deferring funding and the guidance of local decision-making to Neighbourhood Partnerships – so far, it is small steps along an uncertain path. If it is successful, perhaps next winter we might not be worrying about who is responsible for clearing the pavements of snow because we will be the ones with the power to make decisions about what is allowed to happen upon our own local streets, and with power comes responsibility.

Or as Obama might have said "Can we fix it? Yes we can" (Or was that Bob the Builder?)

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

City Council To Become Co-Owners of Ashton Vale Stadium?

Whilst much attention recently has been directed at divisions within Bristol City Council in general, and the Lib Dems in particular, about support for a new football stadium at Ashton Vale set to be funded by the development of a massive Sainsbury’s at Ashton Gate, it now appears that there are signs of dissension within the ranks at Bristol City Football Club itself.

Whilst Steve Lansdown and Colin Sexstone continue to publicly insist that despite planning officers already recommending refusal of a 5,500 m2 Tesco superstore, these same planners will perform an abrupt U-turn and recommend that permission be granted for a 9,000 m2 Sainsbury’s superstore, other senior figures have expressed concerns that the club, having effectively gained planning permission for the stadium itself and with  high confidence of reversing North Somerset Council’s decision on the access road, are about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

A source at the club has confided that “an almost fanatical obsession with a bloody supermarket” and a distrust verging on contempt for the public sector as represented by Bristol City Council is poisoning any attempt to consider realistic alternatives – “it all comes down to egos, certain people refuse to accept that if you keep banging your head against a brick wall all you get is a headache”.

The decision that has made this well-respected  insider angry enough to express his concerns publicly?

The less than enthusiastic response by Lansdown and Sexstone to an offer by Bristol City Council to become junior partners in the company that will own and operate the new football stadium in order to release significant public sector investment opportunities. The City Council proposal is also linked to a commitment towards the development of an indoor arena alongside the new stadium.

However, it appears that the top brass at Bristol City FC are reluctant to concede even a minority share to the City Council in an effort to maintain the impression of the stadium development being a purely privately funded operation - despite the fact that the project is already reliant on public sector land being provided at favourable terms below commercial valuations.

Lansdown has no sympathy for the problems faced by the Council in selling this to the public beyond Bristol City supporters, he is only concerned with what he sees as the club’s needs and is unwilling to consider compromise – as a result we could end up with nothing

But discussions like this are all about compromises – both sides need to be able to walk away with something that they can go back to their side and say ‘we had to give away this but in return we got this’ – we are sending the City Council away with next to nothing

The exact details of the proposed offer remain shrouded in secrecy but it is understood that there is increasing concern that the likelihood of planning permission for a new superstore at Ashton Gate is increasingly remote, and alternative options will fall considerably short of the estimated £20m estimated to be available from Sainsbury’s – although the shortfall will not be as great as the £15m difference previously mentioned in public. The expansion of the project to involve an indoor arena, will, it is believed, provide opportunities to release additional funding streams unavailable to a purely private sector operation as well as providing a more secure footing for attracting local business investment towards the estimated £25-£30m gross expenditure for the World Cup.

However, fears are increasing that if a deal is not done soon that the new stadium will fail to be delivered because of a funding gap, and this will signal the end of any opportunities to host World Cup games in 2018. An opportunity that has been widely touted as having considerable economic benefit for Bristol’s business community.

Update: Both Bristol City FC and a senior Lib Dem have denied that any such deal has been proposed - see Jones the News for more details.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Bristol energy usage by neighbourhood

On the 23rd of December the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) released its latest series of data regarding energy consumption by local authorities.

The figures for metered Electricity and Gas energy usage within Bristol are also available for Lower-level Super output Areas (LSOAs) as part of a pilot project for half a dozen local authorities – essentially this breaks the local authority information down into smaller “neighbourhood” areas. For Bristol there are 252 of these LSOAs with average populations of 1,500 each. The DECC data allows us to break down the domestic energy consumption for Gas and Electricity as an average per household within each of these local areas (the figures for households estimates for the LSOAs are from the 2001 census figures).

No. 1 on the Bristol list is University Halls which is a bit of an anomaly because of the classification of the University Halls of Residence as single households. As a result the average household size for University Halls is 5.99 compared to the Bristol average of 2.35 (apart from University Halls, the next highest average household size for any ward is 2.78 for Fonthill in Southmead ward at 100 on the list). Stoke Bishop North at No.2 on the other hand has an average household size of 2.25 and thus is a good contender for Bristol's top energy guzzling neighbourhood, with a per household consumption over 40% higher than the average Bristol household, and nearly 3 times that of the average household in Redcliffe, the local area with the lowest energy usage per household.

Looking through the list below, as might be expected the top end of the list is dominated by neighbourhoods in Stoke Bishop, Henleaze, and Westbury-on-Trym wards which have 8 of the top ten energy using neighbourhoods, however there are nevertheless some thought provoking disparities further down the list.

It might be tempting to assume that the jump in household energy usage that the brief walk across Bristol or Redcliffe bridge entails (Redcliffe 9,588.80 KWh, City Centre & Queen Square 26,183.19 KWh) could be explained by the fact that since 2001, the population of the later area has increased by nearly 20% - until you realise that Redcliffe has increased by 45% over the same period. The answer must lie elsewhere than population change.

For myself, having spent 16 of the first 18 years of my life living in Fulford Road North in Hartcliffe, I find it difficult to work out why it's energy consumption is more than 50% higher per household than Fulford Road South where I lived the other 2 years - perhaps Paul Smith, a child of Fulford Road South, has a possible explanation?

You might wish to compare this post with an earlier post I did about carbon emissions by postcode in which I speculated that the level of carbon emissions had much more to do with people's level of personal wealth rather than any ideological commitment to a low carbon lifestyle. It seems that many people have relatively low carbon lifestyles forced upon them by relative poverty rather than by choice. As many of those areas in the list below that have the lowest energy usage (and, thus presumably, the lowest carbon emissions) are areas targeted for regeneration (and, hopefully, improved levels of personal wealth), then there is an onus on those of us who recognise the need for a reduction in future energy use and carbon emissions to tackle the immensely difficult task of ensuring that a low carbon lifestyle is one that people make as a choice, rather than because they had no alternative. A task that if failed has implications far beyond the borders of Bristol.

Here is the full list (if you don't know which LSOA neighbourhood you live in, the best way to find out is to use the City Council's ward finder, where, after selecting your home ward, you can download the Ward Super Output Area Map);

rank/ LSOA, Ward / kWh per household

1 University Halls, Stoke Bishop = 31,649.62
2 Stoke Bishop North, Stoke Bishop = 28,696.46
3 Sheridan Road, Horfield = 28,387.22
4 North View, Henleaze = 27,712.72
5 Henleaze North, Henleaze = 27,436.13
6 Sneyd Park & the Downs, Stoke Bishop = 27,038.87
7 Canford Lane, Westbury-on-Trym = 26,913.65
8 Cranbrook Road, Redland = 26,754.74
9 Rockleaze, Stoke Bishop = 26,754.48
10 Canford Park, Westbury-on-Trym = 26,712.02
11 Hazelbury, Stockwood = 26,574.36
12 City Centre & Harbourside, Cabot = 26,545.46
13 Stapleton Road, Lawrence Hill = 26,249.87
14 West Broadway, Henleaze = 26,229.73
15 City Centre & Queen Square, Cabot = 26,183.19
16 Upper Montpelier, Ashley = 26,168.22
17 Golden Hill, Henleaze = 25,822.47
18 Clifton Down, Clifton = 25,734.36
19 Henleaze West, Henleaze = 25,720.29
20 Robertson Rd, Easton = 25,592.11
21 Stoke Bishop South, Stoke Bishop = 25,216.05
22 St Pauls, Ashley = 25,138.23
23 Elmlea, Westbury-on-Trym = 25,129.85
24 Lower Redland Rd, Cotham = 24,884.09
25 Chester Park, Hillfields = 24,873.23
26 Cromwell Road, Ashley = 24,842.32
27 Cricket Ground, Bishopston = 24,632.99
28 Westbury Park North, Henleaze = 24,267.84
29 Ashley Hill, Ashley = 24,200.08
30 St Mark's Rd, Easton = 24,167.42
31 Henleaze South, Henleaze = 24,153.58
32 Wessex Avenue, Horfield = 24,078.80
33 Westbury Village, Westbury-on-Trym = 23,955.94
34 Upper Knowle, Knowle = 23,948.88
35 Redcatch, Knowle = 23,861.29
36 Westbury Park South, Redland = 23,849.59
37 University, Cabot = 23,827.56
38 West St, Bedminster = 23,623.29
39 Southmead East, Southmead = 23,587.42
40 Fishponds Rd, Eastville = 23,343.95
41 St Agnes, Ashley = 23,337.86
42 Talbot Hill, Knowle = 23,292.17
43 Somerville Rd, Bishopston = 23,192.63
44 Eastgate, Lockleaze = 23,173.27
45 Radnor Road, Bishopston = 23,082.77
46 Callington Road, Brislington West = 23,082.26
47 Old Sneed Park, Stoke Bishop = 22,696.95
48 Fishponds, Frome Vale = 22,614.72
49 Brentry East, Henbury = 22,558.80
50 Hengrove East, Hengrove = 22,551.31
51 Two Mile Hill East, St George East = 22,548.98
52 Alma Road, Clifton East = 22,495.90
53 Hillfields West, Hillfields = 22,442.11
54 St Bonaventures, Bishopston = 22,406.72
55 Berkeley Road South, Redland = 22,176.32
56 St Judes, Lawrence Hill = 22,101.65
57 Cotham Park, Cotham = 22,092.29
58 Zetland Road, Redland = 22,087.13
59 Hengrove Lane, Hengrove = 22,016.37
60 Easton Road, Lawrence Hill = 22,013.69
61 Manor Park, Redland = 21,942.21
62 Bridgwater Rd, Bishopsworth = 21,890.71
63 Coombe Dingle East, Kingsweston = 21,839.56
64 Eldonwall, Brislington West = 21,802.26
65 Ashley Down, Bishopston = 21,758.29
66 Avonmouth Docks, Avonmouth = 21,754.73
67 Wellington Hill, Horfield = 21,739.58
68 Seymour Rd, Bishopston = 21,543.36
69 Court Farm Road, Whitchurch Park = 21,471.04
70 Redland Court Road, Redland = 21,412.88
71 Clifton College, Clifton = 21,308.50
72 Whitchurch Road, Hartcliffe = 21,297.36
73 Downend West, Frome Vale = 21,286.99
74 Red Lion Hill, Knowle = 21,247.85
75 Wedmore Vale, Filwood = 21,189.52
76 Parson St, Bedminster = 21,184.15
77 Kensington Park, Brislington West = 21,141.23
78 Whitchurch, Whitchurch Park = 21,136.72
79 Monks Park, Horfield = 21,121.69
80 Winterstoke Rd, Bedminster = 21,115.13
81 Victoria Park, Windmill Hill = 21,037.44
82 Henbury Hill, Westbury-on-Trym = 21,033.96
83 Manor Farm, Horfield = 21,017.75
84 Birchwood Rd, Brislington East = 20,940.16
85 Brentry West, Henbury = 20,906.81
86 Bryants Hill, St George East = 20,901.41
87 Mayfield Park, Hillfields = 20,874.75
88 Bishop Road, Bishopston = 20,855.25
89 Whitehall, Easton = 20,811.38
90 Bedminster, Southville = 20,793.23
91 Blackberry Hill, Frome Vale = 20,782.83
92 Chelsea Park, Easton = 20,769.46
93 Worral Road, Clifton East = 20,744.21
94 Broadwalk, Knowle = 20,706.94
95 Hamilton Road, Southville = 20,635.52
96 Windmill Hill West, Windmill Hill = 20,630.36
97 Woodleigh Gardens, Stockwood = 20,577.17
98 Bath Road, Brislington West = 20,575.01
99 Blaise Hamlet, Henbury = 20,540.46
100 Fonthill, Southmead = 20,523.86
101 Old Market & The Dings, Lawrence Hill = 20,499.46
102 Memorial Stadium, Bishopston = 20,492.28
103 Keys Avenue, Horfield = 20,454.41
104 Kings Head Park, Bishopsworth = 20,425.01
105 Coronation Rd East, Southville = 20,407.53
106 Clifton Village, Clifton = 20,400.44
107 Nags Head Hill, St George East = 20,343.15
108 Novers, Filwood = 20,334.35
109 Westbury North, Westbury-on-Trym = 20,259.97
110 Stackpool Road, Southville = 20,256.56
111 Woodwell Road, Avonmouth = 20,241.71
112 Ashton, Southville = 20,228.48
113 St Johns Lane, Windmill Hill = 20,203.00
114 Hillfields North, Hillfields = 20,199.63
115 Sea Mills North, Kingsweston = 20,188.25
116 Two Mile Hill West, St George East = 20,185.25
117 Ilchester Crescent, Bishopsworth = 20,139.76
118 Knowle Park, Knowle = 20,132.72
119 Conham Valley, St George East = 20,093.96
Bristol average = 19,998.29
120 West St George, St George West = 19,992.66
121 Stockwood Lane South, Stockwood = 19,984.81
122 Burchells Green, St George East = 19,981.47
123 Fulford Road North, Hartcliffe = 19,948.43
124 Hotwells East, Clifton = 19,910.71
125 Whatley Road, Clifton East = 19,850.52
126 Stockwood Lane North, Stockwood = 19,762.78
127 Lower Montpelier, Ashley = 19,737.27
128 Avonmouth Village, Avonmouth = 19,734.41
129 Stapleton, Eastville = 19,713.19
130 Wells Road, Windmill Hill = 19,710.86
131 Netham, Easton = 19,677.58
132 Lodge Hill, Hillfields = 19,667.07
133 Southmead West, Southmead = 19,653.15
134 Kingsway, St George East = 19,517.58
135 Blaise Castle, Henbury = 19,475.65
136 Sandy Park Rd, Brislington West = 19,456.34
137 Imperial Park, Hartcliffe = 19,428.28
138 Bedminster Rd, Bedminster = 19,426.20
139 Manworthy Rd, Brislington East = 19,414.84
140 Leinster Avenue, Filwood = 19,400.96
141 Greenbank, Eastville = 19,391.59
142 Coombe Dingle West, Kingsweston = 19,358.97
143 Broomhill Rd, Brislington East = 19,316.46
144 Glyn Vale, Filwood = 19,250.24
145 Hotwells, Clifton = 19,246.45
146 Staple Hill Rd North, Frome Vale = 19,238.32
147 Tanorth Road, Whitchurch Park = 19,232.61
148 Highridge Common, Bishopsworth = 19,170.72
149 Southmead North, Southmead = 19,140.54
150 East St George, St George West = 19,139.13
151 Kensington Rd, Cotham = 19,087.50
152 Eastville Park, Eastville = 19,084.25
153 Kingsweston Avenue, Avonmouth = 19,070.02
154 Windmill Hill East, Windmill Hill = 19,001.10
155 Fortfield West, Hengrove = 18,972.36
156 Barrow Hill, Avonmouth = 18,945.71
157 Upper Eastville, Eastville = 18,944.90
158 Filton Ave South, Lockleaze = 18,924.63
159 Redland Grove, Cotham = 18,890.37
160 Ashton Vale, Bedminster = 18,887.83
161 Bedminster Down, Bishopsworth = 18,878.70
162 Throgmorton Rd, Filwood = 18,793.19
163 Rose Green, Eastville = 18,788.15
164 Plummers Hill, St George West = 18,710.49
165 Clyde Road, Cotham = 18,689.61
166 Headley Park, Hartcliffe = 18,670.74
167 Charlton Mead, Southmead = 18,650.12
168 Lawrence Weston West, Avonmouth = 18,626.98
169 Whiteway, St George West = 18,623.18
170 Kingsdown Parade, Cabot = 18,596.21
171 Highridge, Bishopsworth = 18,538.62
172 Mina Road, Ashley = 18,530.80
173 Gilbert Road, Easton = 18,529.64
174 Shirehampton Portway, Avonmouth = 18,511.95
175 Filwood Broadway, Filwood = 18,485.12
176 St Andrews Park, Redland = 18,445.45
177 Hillfields East, Hillfields = 18,410.99
178 Hengrove Park, Hengrove = 18,383.24
179 Whitefield Fishponds, Eastville = 18,318.17
180 Uppr Totterdown, Windmill Hill = 18,307.12
181 Trymside, Southmead = 18,249.41
182 Horfield Sports Ground, Lockleaze = 18,221.37
183 Muller Road, Lockleaze = 18,198.79
184 Filton Road, Horfield = 18,195.78
185 Oldbury Court, Frome Vale = 18,193.06
186 Two Acres, Hengrove = 18,174.45
187 Woodland Rd, Cabot = 18,170.66
188 Speedwell, Hillfields = 18,152.71
189 Cotham Brow, Cotham = 18,139.49
190 Lawrence Weston East, Kingsweston = 18,134.15
191 Newbridge Rd, Brislington East = 18,121.59
192 Clifton Central, Clifton = 17,997.51
193 Marksbury Road, Windmill Hill = 17,944.33
194 Ilminster Ave East, Knowle = 17,935.89
195 Lockleaze South, Lockleaze = 17,860.27
196 Allison Road, Brislington East = 17,852.54
197 Redfield, St George West = 17,847.94
198 Lockleaze North, Lockleaze = 17,795.61
199 Whitchurch Lane, Hartcliffe = 17,726.78
200 Fair Furlong, Hartcliffe = 17,709.95
201 Inns Court, Filwood = 17,670.52
202 Fortfield East, Hengrove = 17,656.06
203 Sherrin Way, Bishopsworth = 17,636.03
204 St Georges Park, St George West = 17,614.00
205 Crews Hole, St George East = 17,530.08
206 Broomhill, Frome Vale = 17,486.36
207 Sandholme Rd, Brislington West = 17,450.67
208 Luckwell Rd, Bedminster = 17,431.49
209 Bishport Ave East, Whitchurch Park = 17,430.68
210 Queens Road, Clifton East = 17,409.47
211 Chessel St, Bedminster = 17,399.42
212 Horfield Common, Horfield = 17,360.01
213 Henbury, Henbury = 17,328.59
214 The Coots, Stockwood = 17,245.72
215 Staple Hill Rd South, Hillfields = 17,217.15
216 Hareclive, Whitchurch Park = 17,142.40
217 Church Road, Easton = 17,099.01
218 School Rd, Brislington East = 17,049.62
219 Lake Road, Westbury-on-Trym = 17,014.86
220 Bishport Ave West, Hartcliffe = 16,947.82
221 Hengrove West, Hengrove = 16,896.48
222 Sea Mills South, Kingsweston = 16,706.05
223 Ilminster Ave West, Filwood = 16,678.47
224 Filton Ave North, Lockleaze = 16,538.43
225 Southmead Central, Southmead = 16,420.01
226 St Annes Park, Brislington East = 16,362.16
227 Whitchurch Park, Whitchurch Park = 16,146.17
228 Burnbush Hill, Stockwood = 16,066.96
229 Lawrence Weston South, Kingsweston = 16,066.26
230 Cliftonwood, Clifton = 16,064.06
231 Hicks Gate, Brislington West = 15,744.87
232 Withywood, Hartcliffe = 15,721.88
233 Wharnecliffe Gdns, Hengrove = 15,714.86
234 Four Acres, Bishopsworth = 15,571.09
235 Gill Avenue, Frome Vale = 15,445.20
236 Oakfield Grove, Clifton East = 15,381.38
237 Bower Ashton, Southville = 15,293.45
238 Cotham Hill, Cotham = 15,063.97
239 Lawrence Weston Parade, Kingsweston = 15,059.93
240 Clouds Hill, St George West = 15,028.58
241 Coronation Rd West, Southville = 14,903.25
242 Burnbush, Stockwood = 14,761.77
243 Crow Lane, Henbury = 14,574.80
244 Lwr Totterdown, Windmill Hill = 14,526.09
245 Wootton Road, Brislington East = 14,417.88
246 Lower Clifton Hill, Clifton East = 14,341.00
247 Shirehampton Centre, Avonmouth = 13,931.84
248 Barton Hill Road, Lawrence Hill = 13,773.57
249 St James Barton, Cabot = 13,070.97
250 Fulford Road South, Whitchurch Park = 12,841.55
251 St Philips, Lawrence Hill = 9,689.41
252 Redcliffe, Lawrence Hill = 9,588.80

The consumption figures for electricity and gas are based on domestic meter readings over the course of 2007.

Friday, 1 January 2010

First Bristolians in Space?

Back in November, the Guardian published a brief article about how thousands of worms were carried into space on board the space shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-129 to the International Space Station.

What got my interest was the fact that the worms concerned were from Bristol – having been collected from a local rubbish tip shortly after the end of World War II.

This seemed like a good basis for a somewhat tongue-in-cheek New Year blogpiece that if some relatively simple creatures from Bristol can make it all the way into space, that perhaps over the course of this coming year it might not be too much to ask that some more advanced Bristolian creatures might be able to work together to solve some more down-to-earth problems – like traffic congestion, job creation, homelessness, health care provision, etc, etc.

However, it seems that I may have underestimated the Bristol worms. Space travel is just one of their achievements and perhaps not even their greatest accomplishment.

The worms concerned are nematodes known as Caenorhabdtis elegans, or C. elegans for short, and usually about 1mm in length. The Bristol strain of C. elegans was isolated from mushroom compost by the National Agricultural Advisory Service, mainly to study the effect of C. elegans on mushroom yields. By 1949, the Bristol version of C. elegans had made their way to the Universite de Lyon’s Victor Nigon. Nigon had collected another strain of C. elegans from Bergerac in France but the Bergerac strain could not be cultured at temperatures above 18 degrees as they became infertile, thus restricting their usefulness – the Bristolians on the other hand were happy to mate at temperatures well beyond this.

Nigon and an American scientist called Ellsworth Dougherty did some classic mating studies using the Bristol worms, and began to realise that they were prime candidates for genetic studies; C. elegans is a multicellular eurkaryotic organism that is relatively simple to study, cheap to breed, and able to be frozen yet still remain viable when thawed allowing for easy storage and transfer. It is also transparent allowing the study of cellular differentiation and, finally, it is one of the simplest organisms to also have a nervous system.

News of the work by Nigon and Dougherty made its way to Britain’s Medical Research Council (MRC) and, in particular, the South African molecular biologist Sydney Brenner.

In April 1953, with the support of the MRC, Crick and Watson had modelled the structure of DNA at Cambridge University. Within a few days of this discovery, Brenner travelled to Cambridge and soon realised that many fundamental genetic questions were hard to tackle by studying higher animals. Therefore, a genetically amenable and multicellular model organism simpler than mammals was required. After meeting with Dougherty, Brenner (now also working at the MRC labs) collected some nematodes from his own back garden in Cambridge which he called the N1 strain but it was only when he received some of the Bristol worms, which he rechristened N2, that his work really progressed. Virtually all C. elegans genetics has since been done with the Bristol (N2) strain.

In 1998, N2 became the first multicellular animal to have its entire genome mapped, (paving the way for the decoding of the Human Genome completed in 2003).

In 2002, Brenner and two other scientists (H. Robert Horvitz and John Sulston) received a Nobel Prize for their work on C. elegans. Their work identified key genes regulating organ development and programmed cell death and has shown that corresponding genes exist in higher species, including ourselves. The discoveries are important for medical research and have shed new light on the pathogenesis of many diseases. In his acceptance speech, Brenner said “Without doubt the fourth winner of the Noble prize this year is Caenorhabdtis elegans; it deserves all the honour”.

One of the aspects of the research was the identification of the genes involved in programmed cell death. By identifying the C. elegans genes involved in initiating cell death, and with the knowledge that a third of C. elegans genes are shared with humans, it was possible to begin research into the possibility of programming genes to initiate cell death in cancer cells – in other words a potential cure for cancer that didn’t involve being subjected to debilitating treatments.

In 2006, the Bristol worms provided the basis for research that produced another Nobel Prize, this time for Andrew Fire and Craig Mellow for their discovery of RNA interference in C. elegans. In simplistic terms, Fire and Mellow discovered that they could affect how DNA is copied and prevent some proteins from being reproduced – this has important consequences for diseases which are caused by an overproduction of a particular protein. One proposed use which is being tested is as a means to treat age-related degeneration of part of the retina. This condition is common among elderly people and can severely reduce eyesight, and is caused by the growth of blood vessels, largely due to a substance called VEGF. An injection can reduce the growth rate of VEGF. It is also being tested as a method to combat Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which can cause severe respiratory infections in small children. The principle behind the treatment is that, via inhalation, viruses in the lung will be deactivated and the infection will be terminated.

A third Nobel Prize came the way of C. elegans in 2008. Martin Chalfie received a one third share for his work on green fluourescent protein (GFP) in C. elegans. Chalfie realised that, given the fact that C. elegans is transparent, it would be a perfect way of mapping the activities in its cells and in particular the activation of genes to produce proteins.

For instance, when you have eaten a big bag of sweets and your blood-sugar level is too high, the insulin gene in the pancreatic beta cells is switched on and the insulin gene begins to be copied. The copy of the insulin gene is used to bring the amino acids together, forming the protein insulin. The insulin is released into the bloodstream where it sticks to muscle and fat cells, which absorb and store sugar from the blood. Chalfie’s idea was that by connecting the gene for GFP with various gene switches he would be able to watch cells gene switches activate and he would be able to see where different proteins were produced. The possibilities are obvious when you realise that the C. elegans gene daf-2 bears a remarkable resemblance to the human gene that encodes the insulin receptor and thus understanding how this gene operates may help to provide a cure for diabetes.

I consider this year’s Prize to be the third worm prize” Chalfie’s Nobel Lecture.

As well as research into potential cures for Cancer and Diabetes, the Bristol worms have also formed the basis for research into;

Aging – and in particular how the Bristol worms are able to switch from a more active genetic model to a “sleep mode” enabling longer cell life. This has implications for age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Type 2 Diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases that tend to result from cellular decay.

Muscle Atrophy – the reason for the Bristol worms flight into space mentioned earlier was to study the affect of weightlessness on muscle development – but this research is not just for astronauts, it also has useful results for the long-term bedridden and also in geriatrics.

Nicotine – a 2006 discovery is that the Bristol worms have a similar physical reaction to nicotine as humans, opening a route to the possibility of providing a quick and permanent cure for tobacco addiction.

So, to conclude, C. elegans “Bristol (N2)" has managed to travel into space, has paved the way for the mapping of the Human Genome, produced three Nobel Prizes, and may yet offer up cures for or treatments for the prevention of; Cancer, Diabetes, Alzheimers, Heart Attacks, RSV and blindness. It may even provide a quick and painless route to give up smoking.

Not bad for some worms from a Bristol compost heap.