I don't know who Dean Danvers is or what his particular interest is (although Google tells us that he posts on skyscraper city), but he sounds like someone who knows what he's talking about and not just spouting some corporate line, so I'm posting the comment (slightly edited) as a new post to encourage a bit of debate around the questions raised.
Dean Danvers said...
Come on....let's be a bit more honest about Greenwash in Bristol. The winner for the most greenwashy campaign in Bristol goes to....(drum roll)...the Campaign to Save Castle Park! Bravo, Cheers, Hurrah!
Special mention must be made to all those office workers who signed the petition against any development, it must have gave them a nice warm feeling as they drove home that evening in their single-occupancy cars, expelling noxious fumes and carbon gases. And special mention to the campaign leaders whose careful guardianship of the existing park was such that, just 8 years after plans were published highlighting the western end as a possible development site, they immediately sprang into action with the full breadth of disinformation. We don't deserve them! No, really, we don't. Or maybe we do.
The point I am trying to make is that what started out as a "green" campaign with support across the spectrum has become more about "political" point scoring which may in the end undermine efforts to make Bristol more sustainable.
As far I can see the background to the Castle Green affair is as follows;
In the Bristol City Centre Strategy and Action Plan 1998-2003, the Norwich Union/Bank of England buildings are marked as a key site. In the Neighbourhood Statements section the potential area for redevelopment is outlined in red; this boundary runs from where the cycle path meets the High Street, along the High Street and Wine Street to a point close to the Union Street junction, it then cuts across the park west of St Peter's before following the line of the diagonal path down to the cycle path and then back to High Street. The development area so marked includes several areas of green park. The incorporation of parts of Castle Park into the new development was reiterated in the 2003 Proposed Alterations to the Local Plan and again, in 2005 in the new City Centre Strategy and Action Plan 2005-2010.
Soon after, the developer (Deeply Flawed?) came out with a plan which extended the redevelopment site right up to St Peter's (on an alignment that roughly continues that of Union Street - see pic above). This exceeded the boundaries marked in the CC Strategy and opposition was mounted, both on-line, via the media, and at the developer's own consultation process. As a result of the pressure from those protests/complaints, the developer's eventually admitted defeat and came back with the proposal that would take up space considerably less than that proposed in the City Centre Strategy since 98 but would still involve building upon half and acre of green space.
This brings us to today and it is at this point that the protesters appear to be trying to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory. Here was an opportunity to demonstrate to all Bristolians that "greens" are not just interested in plants and animals and short-term aesthetic environmentalism but really do care about the long-term effects of non-sustainable development on real people. They could have put the council and the developers on the back foot by saying; OK you still say you need half-acre from the 13 acre Castle Park, we will work with you on the following conditions;
- The boundaries of the development are drawn in a legally binding document before any development begins.
- All the land in the Castle Park area outside of that boundary is put in Trust to be administered by a democratically elected User Group as a Park.
- The half-acre taken from Castle Park is used to provide flats at above 200 dwellings per hectare which will be made available to key workers etc, at assisted rates.
200 dph on half-acre of land would provide 40 homes within walking distance of workplaces, retail and leisure facilities. At typical occupancy levels and travel patterns, this would remove some 275,000 car kms and their resulting emissions from the road network.
So why didn't the protesters do that? Why did they pursue the Town Green Application? Effectively an all-or-nothing proposal which if they lose could seriously undermine any further efforts to help shape the development to something more sustainable.
The reason, I believe, is because this campaign is "greenwash", a light covering of environmental concerns in order to fight political battles which are really about old Labour vs New Labour and not really anything to do with Castle Park which happens to be a convenient issue. The fact is that reading some of the things that have been written or said by the campaign leaders leads me with little trust in their honesty.