Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A couple of quick updates

Apologies - I've been a little quiet on the blogging front of late. I have been busy with 'real life' work and a little under the weather. A couple of quick updates on some on-going casework :

1. Colston's School road safety - I met with residents and the manager of the housing for older and disabled people that is opposite the school last week. I hadn't realised, but they have road use and safety issues too. I am looking to see whether we can incorporate their ideas into what is planned for the school. In particular, we are looking at ways of protecting parking areas for their use so that they don't compromise the school safety (e.g. by delivery lorries parking on the zigzags) and so that the residents who are mobile are able to remain so.

2. Cotham School trees - I also met last week with senior planning and schools officers about the lost trees at Cotham School. After four months of kicking up a fuss, we are finally drawing towards some sort of closure. There is now an acceptance that mistakes were made both by the Council (failure to handle the paperwork correctly) and Skanska (failure to follow due process), although neither appears to have acted with deliberate malice now that all the facts are on the table. Local residents will be getting a formal written apology in the near future and will have a say in the remaining outstanding issues on the site. Also, the Council are taking a range of measures to help ensure that things like this don't happen again in the future.

What did worry me from the meeting, though, was the low premium placed on community involvement on school sites. There does not currently seem to be an acceptance that the wider community has a role in how schools develop and that they are a key part of the local landscape. This attitude seems to have come in particular from one senior officer who has now left the Council. I am hopeful that this debacle has helped to highlight the falseness of this viewpoint and that the Council will be more open and engaging in the future around school building projects.


PZZZ said...

Re Cotham trees

But what penalties/sanctions for Skanska?

They cut down mature trees in a Conservation area without permission and so far have got away with it.

Now we are blighted with a huge lit sign on their crane advertising SKANSKA for all of Cotham to see - again without planning consent.

They are taking the mickey and the council is letting them.

Lets stop pretending that if this were not a school site the response would have been very different from the council.

Neil Harrison said...

PZZZ - whether they had permission or not is now moot. There is a disagreement about the wording and interpretation of the planning conditions. The latest advice I have is that they did have 'permission', but they didn't follow due process - and apparently more due to cock-up then conspiracy. I'm not sure that I accept that, but I am running out of arguments and people to decide.

I actually wish I could be confident that you are right about a school site being treated differently. In reality, I think the Council's control of trees generally is weak and this case has helped to highlight that.

That said, it is clear to me that a particular Council officer has been busy clearing up behind Skanska and letting them off the hook. They have now gone and I have renewed my call for Skanska to put things right.

I didn't know about the sign - I'll find out the position on this one. I have another unreasonable advertising sign to deal with too.