We send out a regular email newsletter to any residents of Ashley ward who are interested in what is happening in their area and in what Gus Hoyt and Rob Telford, their Green councillors, have been doing. If you would like to subscribe to this newsletter, please email ashley-news.
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Welcome to another edition of the Ashley e-newsletter. It’s been a busy time here with a lot of great stuff going on. As always we can only really scratch the surface of what we have both been up to but we hope this makes informative reading and keeps you up to speed with activities in the ward we call home.
If there is something specific you would like us to know about or cover in our newsletters, our contact details are at the end of this email.
Thanks for reading and we hope you have a fantastic November.
Gus and Rob
In January, we will begin our regular councillor surgeries. These are an opportunity for any resident to speak to their councillor/s about any matter of concern. They will happen on Tuesdays between 6 and 8pm.
St Werburghs Community Centre (2014 dates): Tuesday 7th January, Tuesday 7th January, Tuesday 4th March, Tuesday 6th May, Tuesday 1st July, Tuesday 2nd September, Tuesday 4th November
St Pauls Learning & Family Centre (2014 dates): Tuesday 4th February, Tuesday 1st April, Tuesday 3rd June, Tuesday 5th August, Tuesday 7th October, Tuesday 2nd December
The biggest bit of news has to be Lynmouth Road allotments. For those not involved, this is a much used and loved communal growing plot on private land. The owner went into liquidation and the land was to be auctioned to the highest bidder for development. The strong local community-led action and protest chimed with Gus and Rob’s commitment to inner city green spaces - a formidable campaign was unleashed.
Unfortunately the liquidators were only interested in the highest price but luckily the assistant mayor responsible for allotments and green spaces is just as committed (it’s Gus) and so a tough bargain was struck after months of negotiations.
The upshot of which is that the land is now owned by the council for the continued use of the community in an area which is below quota for council allotments.
Thanks to an employee who lives nearby, the insurance company Friends Life came to town on one of their workplace community challenges and tended to the much loved but often abused Rosa Parks Lane in mid-October. You should go take a look if you haven’t - it looks great again!
The Saxon Road Green Space Group has been meeting regularly and hopes to use the disused plot behind Saxon Road up to the railway line as a wild meadow and children’s play area.
They have strong local backing and a great sense of community but are battling against those who just want to build and the old excuse of ‘contaminated’ land. As Rob lives nearby he has been taking the lead on this though obviously the group has the support of both local councillors – even if Gus does want to build a natural lido there like on Hampstead Heath.
Portland and Brunswick Square Residents' Association are seeking a solution to the many cyclists that go the wrong way around the road systems. Gus has also alerted local PCSOs to this and they will be keeping a keen eye out to advise on safer cycling.
Albany Green has now got a final design – agreed upon by local residents, schools, officers and local councillors. This is for a Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA) and an enclosed dog-free younger children’s play area. The work has gone out to tender but due to us entering into winter; it will go ahead in early 2014. Funds (though greatly increased for this project) are limited and tight. If work had to start/stop it would go over budget and aspects would be cut. Both Gus and Rob are confident that this will be the case and are eagerly awaiting the new park’s opening day.
The Friends Of St Andrews Park have for a long time been concerned about the danger of children leaving the park at the Leopold Road/Effingham Road exit and encountering fast-moving traffic on the latter road. A proposal was made by the Council’s parks department to install a chicane to prevent this danger, and the work will be carried out soon.
Lastly, St Werburghs Apple Day got off to a cracking start and locals could bring their crops – harvested or foraged – and hand-press them into delicious fresh juice. The weather was against them though and unfortunately it wasn’t as well attended as hoped. Apparently the Farm Pub did a roaring trade though.
Roads and traffic
The Safe Crossing on Ashley Hill campaign is nearer their goal of a crossing safe for children (and adults) to use by the railway bridge is a step closer. Councillors received the first draft of the consultation document that will be circulated to residents in early November. Thanks again to the support of all local residents who have made this possible.
The route is a much used one and because of the location of two footpaths (both open now the dangerous wooden bridge has been fixed) and it is a very popular walking route to and from school. At present the traffic islands offer no real protection and there’s not enough room for a pram or a cycle and certainly not for a parent with two young children. The council does move slowly but the movement is all in the right direction and the process is running smoothly.
There was also consultation on the new Brook Hill/York Road scheme where local campaigners and transport officers drew up plans so that the top of Brook Hill would be one-way (down) only and all ‘up’ traffic was to be channelled along Cobourg Road. This must have been drawn-up without a site visit as Cobourg is perhaps the narrowest road in Bristol (historically just for deliveries) and drivers are ‘forced’ up onto the pavement just inches from the front doors of the houses near the corner.
Apart from being extremely dangerous, pedestrians have rights too and so Gus put in an official complaint and explained to officers exactly why the scheme was unviable. A local family also printed detailed leaflets of the issue and delivered them to every house on the road. This led to a torrent of official complaints to the transport department and it looks like the scheme is now on hold.
What is needed is a Greater Montpelier traffic plan – like that which has been drawn up by residents in St Werburghs – to tackle the area and not just force one problem elsewhere.
The St Werburghs traffic group plan has been instrumental in road improvements being put in process, and the Council has used many of the traffic group’s suggestions in the initial designs for the St Werburghs improvements, which are now progressing to their final stages.
As you all will have noticed Bristol Water have been doing a lot of work in the ward and this has caused quite a bit of disruption. The only major complaints we have received have been around their signage and safety barriers and we have acted promptly in every event and the workmen/office staff have been very cooperative and helpful.
There is also local concern on Bath Buildings that the entrance to the Dolphin School extension will bring about gridlock during the school-runs as parents stop to drop their kids off. Both local councillors will work with the school and community to try and avert this through encouraging the school to promote an active travel plan and carless trips to the school gates.
Rob hosted a Stokes Croft bike meeting at the Full Moon with the specific aim of developing a strategy for the area around bike stands. It’s great that more people are cycling to and around Stokes Croft but there is a dire shortage of bike stands and we all often have to chain our bikes up to signs, fencing and lampposts. A strategic approach to this problem has begun and Rob would like to hear any suggestions for sites or any solutions that come to mind. Both councillors’ contact details are below.
You may have noticed that there is a new and free cashpoint on Grosvenor Road outside Mr Ali’s shop, the Grosvenor Supermarket. This has been a long standing campaign of the Green Party and for Rob personally here in Bristol. Access to cash in less affluent areas normally requires a fee of a pound or more. This is ethically wrong and hits those with the least the hardest. This campaign has been a great success and comes on the back of the free machine installed at the Best-One shop in St Werburghs back in January.
For many, the hottest traffic topic in Ashley ward is Residents' Parking. The comprehensive report which both local councillors compiled by actively seeking as much feedback from all communities and neighbourhoods, was completed earlier this week. We are the only councillors who have submitted a ward-specific report to the Mayor and council officers. You can read and download the report here: www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/ashley-residents-rps-view.
There is ongoing discussion between ward councillors and the Dolphin School regarding a revision to their catchment area. The council requested for Colston’s Girls School in Montpelier to provide a new primary facility to meet rising demand in the Redland and Cotham areas, with specific postcodes targeted. Children who live in Montpelier, St Pauls and St Werburghs already attend Dolphin School and it has one of the most diverse cohorts in Bristol. The controversy surrounds the catchment area not stretching very far into Montpelier. Changes in demand since the original decision mean that there is a good case for widening the catchment to include more of Montpelier, while making sure not to reach into areas covered by the M32 corridor schools likes Cabot and Millpond, who need to remain fully subscribed. Both Gus and Rob are on record as wanting a wider catchment area, and the school’s governing body will be deciding in late 2013/early 2014 how to proceed, with any new policy being in place for the September 2015 intake.
The majority of parents and carers seem to have been successful in gaining places for their children at their preferred places at both primary and secondary levels.
The pre-planning consultation process for a new annexe to St Werburghs Primary School has begun. While it is recognised that it is important to increase the number of primary school places, residents have expressed concerns at the traffic and road safety impact of this development, particularly on Stafford Road and Mogg Street. There is a feeling that we need to look again to community strategies that take in the broadest view of the traffic situation in the area, so we don’t just push vehicles elsewhere. Community-led solutions & DIY Streets approaches will be increasingly necessary.
We are committed to working with our excellent local community centres and have been meeting with those that run them and discussing the future. Obviously with the massive budget cuts (25%) that are being imposed on us by the government some services will suffer. Our concern is that though these resources are not ‘statutorily required’, they do provide such immense social benefit.
St Pauls Unlimited are to complete a survey of services offered by the centres in St Pauls and come up with a suggested strategy so that duplication is avoided and that each can operate in conjunction with the others and not in competition. They are also hoping to explore the possibilities of Community Asset Transfers (CAT) which essentially means the community owns and runs them.
We also met with the manager of St Werburghs Centre to explore the possibilities of the council renting ‘Hot Desks’ for council employees. The obvious benefits here are that the centres would receive more funds and the workers wouldn’t have to commute into town and could go home for lunch. Gus then took this up with the City Director (the most senior council employee) and the Mayor’s assistant who loved the idea. During the new work change process this will now be explored in more detail and hopefully brought into play.
Montpelier Health Centre has just completed a major expansion of the facility, with all those registered at Sussex Place Surgery now being transferred to the updated site. The new and improved Health Centre opens on Monday 4th November.
We have worked quite closely with the pubs in Ashley this last month – and sometimes in them – stretching all across the ward from St Werburghs to St Pauls and Stokes Croft. Although all pubs will receive noise complaints now and again, we have had persistent complaints about one pub in particular and will continue to work with licensing, the local support officers, the community and landlords to reach a reasonable way forward. We have received two other on-going noise complaints from two others and will continue to work constructively with both establishments. Gus was a Landlord in Camden in the late 1990s so understands the delicate balance between serving the community and running a successful business and of the many pressures on independent and chain pubs as well.
Street Drinking has been an on-going problem in the inner city area and is brought up at almost every open local meeting. Rob sits on a multi-agency working group which is focused on long-term approaches to the problem. It is a very difficult problem as we cannot simply turn our backs on those people with genuine addiction problems. In some cities in America they are simply banned from the city – but this forces them into ‘tent cities’ – without sanitation and fresh water.
However there are certain initiatives we can take that allow us to work together to minimise the impact it has on our communities that also help those with addictive personalities. In Stokes Croft a few years back there was a very successful scheme involving local shops, community, council and the police. Many people are calling for a re-run of such a scheme.
We think the time has come for an open dialogue on how we go forward on this issue. There are many excellent schemes from other UK councils that we could emulate – or take ‘best practice’ from many to build our own distinct Bristol model. We have already opened discussions with the Salvation Army and would have the support of Safer Bristol and the mayor on this and we feel it is something we as a ward could perhaps champion.
Gus put this on the agenda for Informal Cabinet on the 22nd October where the Mayor committed to following a scheme similar to that run in Ipswich. Rob asked questions on this topic at the Cabinet meeting on the 31st and received very positive replies from the Mayor. Both local councillors are confident we will soon see progress on this.
Recently we have both had an increase in the incidents of street harassment – especially from female residents and visitors. This is a very serious issue and one with its own set of complications, especially as, until a real crime is committed, the police are often powerless to intervene.
Most incidents reported to us have happened in the early evening and dark, and as the clocks have now gone back this could make this behaviour more prevalent and it is up to all of us as citizens to ensure that we both do not partake in this behaviour and also that we do not accept it from others. This behaviour is often portrayed as ‘harmless fun’ but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
To get a better perspective of the problem and to see how women are ‘fighting back’ here is one article on the subject and a link to the group Hollaback (which started in the US) and the work that they do to raise awareness and to abolish the cultural acceptance of sexual harassment.
Though we are both keen cyclists and work continuously to make cycling safer, easier and generally more acceptable, we do receive complaints about dangerous cyclists. Again this is a constant problem in the ward (and city) and leads to a ‘them and us’ confrontation instead of just accepting that we are all people just trying to move around the city with our preferred mode of transport.
Some complaints are concerned with pavement cycling. This can be a real threat to others when performed discourteously and at speed. Cycling on the pavement is not necessarily a crime and sometimes is a necessity, but cycling dangerously IS. We must also remember the less agile and hearing- and sight-impaired members of our community who are greatly affected by sudden shocks or fast moving objects.
Then there are those without lights…normally cycling on busy roads wearing nothing but dark clothes. This is finable by up to £60 on the spot. We have been working with PCSOs and Safer Bristol on these two issues and hope to combat them now the nights have drawn in. Something Gus is working on is seeing whether the £60 fine can be exchanged against money spent on buying lights – which would encourage those without to get the more decent and visible ones rather than the most affordable options. The Mayor is on board, as are the police, and we would probably follow a similar scheme to that used in Oxford.
We all need to respect each other if we are to share the roadways and it is critical that we are seen if we expect motorists not to clip or run into us.
National Campaigns -> Local action
Fracking (and coal gas extraction) are real threats to us in the Bristol region and especially for us as we sit on a rich coal stream. We could face potential planning applications in the south of our city as it is a prime location. As we note in our Motion to Full Council (which has been resubmitted for the December meeting):
“In Ashton Park borehole thin high gamma ray shales, with pyrite, phosphates, fish debris, cherts and a marine fauna are present, interbedded with sandstones. If these shales thicken to the south, which is likely, and maintain their high gamma ray characteristic they could provide a realistic shale gas target.”
Considering dangerous chemicals and gases can leech into our drinking water we must also look beyond our city boundaries, the motion also notes:
“Although perhaps having no relevance to shale gas prospectivity, the tectonic morphology of the South Wales-Bristol Basin is remarkably similar to, but much smaller than the Fort Worth Basin (USA) containing the Barnett Shale.”
Here is a link to a local group dedicated to stopping Fracking locally:
Another national campaign with local relevance concerns the “Gagging Law” which could see all highly concerned charities and pressure groups silenced on forming better legislation for our nation by applying the same rules designed to stop multi-national corporations from buying their way into the parliamentary chambers.
A Bristol meeting was held a couple of weeks ago by 38degrees but the main speaker, having just voted for the Bill, refused to turn up. The event was held anyway. It has passed through the House of Commons but still has to go through the House of Lords. You still have time to stop this draconian act by joining the campaign. Read more below:
Both Rob and Gus are now doing regular “Ward Walks”. This offers a great opportunity to walk around together and check up on works the council should have completed, talk to residents about specific issues on location and investigate reported problems together to get a better perspective.
On the last one, the main issue concerned bins and litter (from communal to fixed street litter bins) and took them over the entire ward. They also checked the wooden bridge behind the Farm pathway, checked on the parks and specific complaints and on a property where a problem neighbour is digging into the foundations. They also checked on the Montpelier station (information screen was still down) and chatted about the problem of young men on motorbikes racing through the residential streets. The walk also took in traffic issues on Ashley Hill, Hurlingham Rd, Cobourg Rd and Sevier St. and via the Lynmouth Road allotments and the City Farm.
Though we were dealing predominantly with complaints and problems, we had a wonderful afternoon and were reminded what a magical and beautiful place it is where we live.
Gus Hoyt, Ex-Councillor for Ashley
Rob Telford, Ex-Councillor for Ashley
Contact the Ashley team
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