Sunday, 14 September 2008

More Fergie Balls

I'd always assumed that George Ferguson must be a very clever and talented all-round good bloke, trying to preserve something of the character and heritage of Bristol in the face of philistine commercial forces, but that image has taken a few hits of late. Now I'm even beginning to wonder about the clever bit.

His latest "By George" column in the Evening Post is emailed in from Venice where George is busy sipping a vino in a piazza whilst autonomously representing Bristol at the Architecture Biennale exhibition.

Venice, George tells us, "is wonderfully sustainable and dominated by pedestrians and water traffic". But of course Venice doesn't exist in isolation. George himself goes on to say that "it is now really little more than a glorious, inhabited tourist destination ...".

And where do all these tourists (15 million per year, apparently) come from, we might ask, and how do they get to Venice? Overwhelmingly they fly in from all the corners of the Earth, often thousands of miles.

Yes, flying, that "wonderfully sustainable" form of transport. Venice might not be the only tourist attraction in northern Italy but it is the outstanding one and must take it's share of the responsibility for the billions of air miles clocked up by those tourists.

So looked at in a global context (what other context can be valid?) Venice is probably, for its size, the most unsustainable city on Earth. To look at Venice in isolation, as George has done, suggests a lack of intellectual curiosity about issues like sustainability (which fits with his promotion of cycle houses as a front for his land grabbing, hedgerow destroying, 260 place car park development at Greenbank). Or perhaps he thinks that such an analysis is far too sophisticated for the average Evening Post reader.

His column gives us another hint of George's attitude to the hoi polloi. He proudly tells us that years ago he proposed charging every visitor £30 to enter Venice, the idea being to keep "the meanest grockles" away and presumably to restore Venice to being the preserve of the educated middle classes that it was in George's youth.

The "meanest grockles" (who, George was "staggered to learn", merely "come for part of a day and spend some pathetic amount like 3 Euros") include the likes of me and many thousands of Bristolians who of necessity make such trips on a carefully managed budget. £30 a head may be a mere bagatelle to George and his mates but for many, who cannot afford to stay in Venice itself but economise by staying on the mainland and commute in for the day, it could make a trip to Venice literally a once in a lifetime experience.

No doubt George feels that's as it should be, at least for the great unwashed. He of course needs to revisit the Architecture Biennale every other year and would prefer it if his view of the grandiose architecture wasn't marred by plebs sitting on the steps eating ice creams.


Spectator said...

Venice? Sustainable? So sustainable it's sinking... a bit like Bristol City Council's ship logo...

Glenn Vowles said...

Yes, I read his column this Saturday and thought it showed a real lack of understanding of sustainability too. See my blog post on it:

He begins by referring to
wonderful sustainability but later contradicts this himself (!) by referring to the massive annual maintenance bill and huge cost of flood defences of Venice!!

Venice is just not a city built and run using sustainability principles. Where for instance is all that local production for local needs??

The Bristol Blogger said...

Architects, like US presidential candidates, tend to talk in utter vacuities.

Is there an architect anywhere in the world who claims to build unsustainably for the future?

Is there presidential candidate who wants to make the world more unsafe due to the proliferation of nuclear weapons?

Anonymous said...

Venice certainly isn't a model for sustainability in any book, its fortunes were made by an unscrupulous trading elite, very much like any other empire building class. A fascinating place to visit nonetheless.
Now for a shameless plug:

I'm the Green's candidate for St. George west in the upcoming bye election.


Chris Hutt said...

"Venice's fortunes were made by an unscrupulous trading elite"

So even more like Bristol than we like to think.

Nick, can you tell us what the local Green Party view is of the Squarepeg development?

Glenn Vowles said...

I know that Nick has met with concerned locals and has said this in a press statement,

'...lone Green Councillor Charlie Bolton has shown the way, playing a vital part in the fight against destroying the cycle path and the proposed incinerator at Avonmouth.

St George badly needs a representative free from the vested interests and uninspired party bickering that has failed Bristol so badly in recent years.

Many community assets, from residential homes for the elderly to primary schools to green spaces, are under threat. For instance, the planned sell-off of green land alongside the Bristol - Bath cyclepath to the developers of the chocolate factory site. This is a sale that could set the scene for turning the whole of the path into a brick lined alleyway - but it's been started without public debate, and without a murmur dissent from the Labour administration.'

alice muffin said...

hi pops, nice work on the activism front. and splendid to see plenty of feedback.
enjoy it, may ur passion fuel change.

Anonymous said...

Chris, you are spot on regarding the squarepeg developement thanks goes to you Glenn and Bristol Blogger for highlighting it.

Everyone I have spoke to so far in the Green Party share a deep scepticism surrounding this developement for reasons already mentioned.

A clear case of corporate "greenwash" which will as far as I can see it affect the quality of life of residents near the factory.

I would personally like a lower key developement that doesn't stray from the original factory site, that doesn't dominate the path anymore than the factory does at present . Has anyone done an assesment of how local roads will cope with the extra car use that will be generated? What impact will there be on congestion and air quality in the area?