Friday, 28 October 2011
1. Refurbishing your Victorian or Georgian Home: Eco-advice day
Saturday 5th November, 11am to 3.30pm (free drop in) at the CREATE Centre, Smeaton Road, Cumberland Basin, Bristol BS1 6XN.
An excellent opportunity to meet experts including conservation officers, energy advisors and eco-refurbishment specialists who can help you find out about:
- planning permission and listed building consent,
- grants and funding
- materials and suppliers
- renewable technologies including solar.
Get practical advice and see real-life case studies in a programme of short, free talks.
2. "WARM: creating energy efficient homes" Exhibition
At the Architecture Centre (on the harbourside, next to the Arnolfini) from 16th November to 18th December, in conjunction with the Council, Green Capital and the Green Register. Drop and have a look at the latest thinking - I believe that there will also be a programme of talks too.
There is also a conference for architects coming up at the Watershed organised by RIBA, but I can't seem to find any details about this at the moment.
It's also worth remembering that the Council produces a leaflet on eco-refurbishment of historic buildings and I have pushing officers for a review and updating in the light of the coming Green Deal - something I'll be blogging on in due course.
Thursday, 27 October 2011
While the demographics of this part of the city are quite young on average, there are plenty of older people here too and I am very willing to bet that there are dozens who don't have loving families who could tap into this as a way of making new friends and staying in touch with society. So, please do have a think about people who you think might benefit and put them in touch with Contact The Elderly. I've cut-and-pasted their press release below as it has all the contact details and more information about how the charity operates.
CHARITY INVITES OLDER PEOPLE IN WEST BRISTOL TO JOIN THEM FOR A CUPPA, CAKE and GOOD COMPANY!
Contact the Elderly, the charity solely dedicated to tackling loneliness and isolation among older people, is inviting local residents to join up to new local friendship groups in the West Bristol area and enjoy free, regular, monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties.
The charity, with the support of a volunteer network, aims to relieve the acute loneliness and isolation of people over the age of 75 who live alone, without the help of nearby family, by organising monthly Sunday tea parties for small groups of older people within their local community.
Each older person is collected from their home by a volunteer driver and taken to a volunteer host’s home for the afternoon. The group is warmly welcomed by a different host each month, but the drivers remain the same which means that over the months and years, acquaintances turn into friends and loneliness is replaced by companionship.
We are launching 3 new groups in the areas of Clifton, Redland and Neighbours, and Outer NW Bristol so we have capacity for a number of new guests to join and the charity is keen to raise awareness of these openings among the local community.
Contact the Elderly’s Bristol Development Officer, Helen Ker, said: “The charity is committed to offering a lifeline of friendship to the oldest and loneliest people in Bristol, but by their very nature, it’s often a challenge to get the word out to those who would benefit most from joining. We therefore wanted to make people aware that these groups are looking for new members and to encourage anyone interested in coming along, or those who know of people to whom it might appeal, to get in touch with us.
“Our friendship group represents a great opportunity to make new friends within the community, to get out of the house, and to generally have a good time! Perfect for those looking for ways to brighten up a weekend.”
Wednesday, 26 October 2011
My position on residents parking has changed somewhat since I've seen how well the Kingsdown zone has worked for the people living in it. Some of the Kingsdown residents have been interviewed for a little video which is pretty compelling - especially the trader who talks about getting it wrong!
I am now positive about moving forwards with this, though I will honour my old promise to only proceed if the majority of people living in the area (or a sensible subset it) back it.
As far as the Cotham plans go, there is a page explaining it all on the Council website, including a pretty neat zoomable online map. The consultation period is running until the 2nd December and a decision about whether to proceed will be taken after that.
There are two drop-in sessions being held at Cheltenham Road Library where residents can go along and ask questions about how the scheme might work and to pass on their comments to the traffic officers.
- Wednesday 2nd November : 3-8pm
- Friday 18th November : 3-8pm
Also, Sustainable Redland have produced a very interesting and engaging document about why they are supporting residents parking from a climate change, safety and sustainability perspective. It's well worth a read to remind yourself about the 'big picture' reasons why controlling car use is a good idea.
Thursday, 13 October 2011
Hopefully needless to say, flytipping is illegal. The Council now routinely looks through what's been dumped to try to trace the culprit and they do often get caught and fined. CCTV cameras are also used. Let's just say that flytippers aren't always the brightest of bulbs...
Anyway, the Council have a policy of removing flytipping within 48 hours of it being reported. You can phone in to report it (9222100) or e-mail email@example.com - experience tells me that phone is a more reliable way of getting action, for some reason.
Recently this work has been put to good use. Bristol applied, with the neighbouring council areas, to the national Local Sustainable Transport Fund (established by Lib Dem Minister, Norman Baker) to fund major works in this sort of area. We’ve recently had two bits of good news:
- Firstly, we have been awarded £5m to start work on projects this year, including improving Gloucester Road for pedestrians.
- Secondly, we have been given permission to apply for up to £25m of funding starting from 2012 – we need to prepare our bid for this December and they will tell us in July whether or not we have the money. We're only one of eight areas to get such an invite, so the chances of success are strong.
I will also be looking for projects which build on the work that we’ve done on developing a Walking Strategy. All the research suggests that money spent on walking provides some of the best ‘bangs for your bucks’ of any traffic works, getting people out of cars and finding better and healthier ways of getting around.
As always, happy to hear about other ideas for local (rail sadly isn't included) sustainable transport options that I can feed into the bid-drafting process. As with all things, there is no guarantee of landing the money, but the theory is that you are only invited to bid if you’re in with a good chance of getting it. £25m is a lot of money and it could make a very positive impact on the back of the recent history of transport improvements.
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
The additional issue for me is that it effectively 'privatises' the public highway by dropping the kerb and stopping people parking on the road outside. This does nothing to solve parking pressure in the area - it just makes things worse, which makes more people consider taking out their garden... a vicious circle.
Annoyingly, this sort of project doesn't usually require planning permission. My Cotham colleague Anthony has been working on a solution to this for some time, to give the community more control over what bureaucrats call the 'streetscene' - shorthand for "what our street looks like".
This takes another major step forwards on Wednesday this week. The Development Control (North) Committee is recommended to approve a report that starts the process of making what's called an 'Article 4 Direction'. This is a legal tool that allows the Council, in a defined geographical area, to require planning applications where they wouldn't otherwise be needed. Wednesday's report (which is supported by the Redland & Cotham Amenities Society) will kick off a consultation period. If this doesn't result in massive objection, a 12-month period will elapse and then the Article 4 Direction will come into force. It's not a complete ban - it just gives local residents and councillors the chance to object to what the house owner is proposing.
A long and tedious route, but "well done" to Anthony for starting it off now. It should help to guard against yet more lost walls, trees and gardens.
Monday, 10 October 2011
It's one of those things that's been beset with unavoidable delays with people going off sick and the like. I've made a real pain of myself in pushing officers to get it finished, but I am grateful to them all and they've done a very good job in the end.
You might be thinking, "Why does Bristol need a Walking Strategy?" - after all, how difficult can it be! This document lays out in detail exactly why getting walking right is so important for the city - for health, climate change and economic reasons. It will help to ensure that walking is taken into account when making decisions and it will also act as a very useful document to attract funding, especially through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund and similar initiatives. It's also a useful sister document to the city's Cycling Strategy, demonstrating the importance that the Council places on sustainable forms of transport.
The publication of a strategy document is always the start of a process rather then end. The key thing will now be how it is used by officers, councillors, campaigners and residents to push improvements forwards. My own pet idea is that of 'showcase walking routes' - key routes around the city which are heavily used and where a little bit of love and investment could make them even more pleasant and popular. Routes like College Green to the top of Black Boy Hill, which is used by thousands of Bristolians and visitors every day.
Anyway, do have a look at the Walking Strategy - the action plan towards the end is probably the most interesting bit, but it's all meant to be relatively easy to engage with. As always, any comments gratefully received!
Sunday, 9 October 2011
They've put in a planning application to remove ten trees in order to expand their car park. That's the bad news. The good news is that they are promising to plant 14 (or 15 or maybe 16 - it's not entirely clear) new trees once the works are complete. This is a massive improvement on their original request, which was to remove seven trees without replacement.
I've been discussing this with our local 'tree champion', Clive Stevens. Clive has done a collosal amount to promote trees in the Redland and Cotham community and I rely heavily on him to tell me what's good and what's not good. He's mapped all the street trees in the area and keeps a regular eye on them, while also arranging for new ones (like on the Redland Hill roundabout) to be planted whenever possible.
A year or so back, Clive and I worked closely on the Council's new policy for tree replacements through planning applications. The previous policy was a simple one-out-one-in, which meant that a 100 year old tree could be replaced at marginal cost by a sapling. The new policy means that the number of replacements is dictated by the age and size of those being removed.
This is why the Bannatyne's plan requires more replacements than removals, effectively increasing the number of trees in the city over time. Most of the ones that they are wanting to take out are small, but there is also a large ash which is nearing the end of its life anyway - this one's worth several new trees.
At the moment, on advice from Clive, I am minded not to object to the application as it's a good example of the new policy in action. It should also have the positive effect of taking some cars off Redland Road, which is particularly dangerous in that section. However, happy to hear other views before I take a final decision.
The application is still pending: its reference number 11/03858/F and you can e-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. I suggest that you have a look at the plans before commenting and you can find them by following the link at the start of this paragraph.
The building has achieved an Outstanding rating for sustainability from BREEAM and was winner of the Office Building of the Year award last year. It makes it the most energy efficient large building in Bristol and one of the best in the country. I am hoping that Bristol can use it as a sort of 'showhome' for doing energy efficiency properly in office buildings.
The building has some very impressive green kit: a massive ground source heat pump system, solar PV and hot water (see pic) arrays, rainwater capture and a passive cooling system. They are getting about 30% of their energy from renewables, putting them in advance of the 20% target recently adopted by the Council.
However, for me, the most interesting thing for me was the way in which they were spending almost as much effort on dealing with how humans engage with the building in order to cut energy usage. This ranged across issues like providing free milk instead of fridges, controlling the ambient temperature, switching to low energy hand dryers in the toilets and so on. Things that any office can do, but most don't.
This fits into a theme that I've been interested in for a while, which is how we make sure that green kit provides the energy savings that we expect of it. We are beginning to learn that people don't always act rationally when, for example, a house gets energy efficiency improvements. Instead of cutting their energy use, they often opt for warmer houses and/or more gadgets.
We therefore need to keep pushing culture change alongside technological solutions to climate change. A good example is the Make Your Home Eco course that's being hosted at the CREATE Centre starting next week - still time to book up!
Monday, 3 October 2011
There are a number of things that have emerged from the pilot that I have found interesting. For example, it has become clear exactly how many of the cars clogging up the streets are commuters. In the past, some residents have tended to blame students or shared houses for having too many cars, but the Kingsdown experience has shown that these account for relatively few cars compared to the weight of people coming into the area to park.
There will be a number of relatively minor changes to the scheme as a result of the evaluation – e.g. moving bays around and being less stringent about providing third permits to houses who have a good reason to need them.
In parallel with the evaluation within the zone, Anthony and I demanded that a similar exercise was done in the surrounding areas – broadly speaking, the patch south of the railway line. As might be imagined, the response here was very different. The 130 or so people who replied to the request for feedback reported having extreme difficulties with parking, partly as a result of the Kingsdown zone, as well as problems with road safety due to dangerous parking and road rage. This didn’t surprise me at all as I see exactly this every day and I’ve been working since January to try to get better enforcement in those streets with a particular problem.
What did surprise me was how popular an extension to the Kingsdown zone appears anecdotally to be – probably as people have now seen it working and want have quieter, safer and cleaner streets themselves.
Anthony and I have therefore asked the traffic officers to draft up how residents parking scheme might work in Cotham, with a view to taking it out for formal consultation later this month. The plans will get their first public airing at the Cotham Forum tonight (Monday 3rd October - 7pm at Charnwood Post-16 Centre on Cotham Park) and I will post a copy up on this blog when there is an electronic version.
To be clear, we are sticking to our commitment that it would only be introduced if there was majority support from residents, but the results of the exercise earlier in the year strongly suggests that this is now the case. It has also come up at a number of residents association meetings and at the Cotham Forum – it feels like a groundswell, but the correct way to test this is to draft up an outline and then put it to people for them to decide.
This will happen alongside the Cotham Parking Review, which will be seeing new yellow lines painted on corners and junctions to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. This is currently going through the long and tedious legal process that’s need to paint new lines – we are hopeful that the lines will go down in the winter, lawyers and weather permitting.
Sunday, 2 October 2011
The routes are a little idiosyncratic as they are designed mainly for UWE and University of Bristol students and staff. However, anyone can use them and they do link very useful places around the city. For example, I think they offer the only service (U5) that links my part of Cotham with Horfield Leisure Centre - my nearest public swimming pool.
While they've been running for a while, I've only just started using them regularly. I used to think that I pretty much had to use my car to get out to Frenchay - buses used to take best part of an hour as I'd have to change in the centre.
The U5 service takes me door-to-door in 26 minutes (off peak - around 35 mins peak time) which isn't bad for a six mile journey and only mariginally slower than the 15 minutes I can manage in a car with a fair wind. The best thing is that it's only £3 for a dayrider ticket and you can get it even cheaper (£2.50) if you use a prepaid smart card!
It's a nice relief to leave my car at home even more - no stress and I can even get a bit of reading done on the way, which is generally frowned upon when driving. And only £2.50 for a twelve mile round trip, using a hassle-free smart card! It's a really good reminder about what value some buses in the city are and how good the rest could be.
Come on First - time to up your game, methinks!