That's the question put by Bristol Civic Society and Redcliffe futures Group following Bristol City Council's decision to grant planning permission for a development in Redcliffe that ignores many of the principles agreed over many years of elaborate consultation over the redevelopment of the historic area to the south of Bristol Bridge.
You can probably guess my answer, especially after the way the Greenbank Railway Path land sale consultations have been ignored. But hope springs eternal and many people continue to invest countless hours in ultimately futile 'consultations' with bodies like Bristol City Council and all the quangos/partnerships/forums which it has spawned. It seems we all have to learn the hard way.
Here's the BCS/RFG letter as published recently in the Evening Post. It's worth reading carefully since it's a carefully constructed record of the way in which the council lead us up the garden path with time consuming consultations which involve them getting paid for sitting around in endless meetings but to finally capitulate to the demands of the developers.
RFG has included representatives of professions and businesses, public authorities, residents' committees and other bodies including the Civic Society and Redcliffe Community and Environment associations as well as Business West, the local schools and the four Ward Councillors who represent the Redcliffe area. In all – and with key city council officers from various departments – about 30 of these representatives have been directly involved in the group over the period since 2001.
Out of this lengthy and detailed process, the group set out a clear vision of what they wanted for the area, culminating in SPD3 The Future of Redcliffe, adopted by the Council in July 2006 to provide a clear strategy for the future planning of Redcliffe over its 200-or-so acres of central Bristol.
SPD3 was a remarkable piece of democracy; a huge investment of energy, ideas and commitment by the citizens of Redcliffe and wider Bristol, together with their partner, Bristol City Council.
The planning permission given by this same city council three weeks ago ignores almost everything set out in SPD3, making a complete nonsense of the partnership between Council and citizens.
The community is wondering how meaningful is this partnership with the Council, which has cost them eight years of huge commitment in time and perseverance – all to produce very little for the citizens but high rewards to the developer? Even the council hasn't benefited, it would seem.
What went so badly wrong?
While the Carlyle Group may congratulate themselves over their success in raising the value of their ownership, the community may recall that this land site has changed hands five times in the past nine years and the promise of regeneration, employment opportunities and revival of the local economy have simply resulted in well-known business such as Pattersons, Pilkingtons Glass, Bristol Blue Glass and others being ousted from the area with the promises (and premises) remaining empty.
The soullessness of the Business Park characterises an area where no child or young adult is welcome and where underground car parking underpins most of the site. Such is the new promise for Redcliffe Village.
The people of Bristol do not want their city centre littered with what Global Private Equity Company developers choose to parachute in.
When will our elected representatives and the officers they employ heed what their constituents – the electorate – crave?
When will the City's high-minded ideals of exemplary involvement of its citizens in guiding the future of our beloved Bristol be matched by the Council¹s actions?
Or is the democratic will of the people a complete sham?
The Carlyle example isn't by any means unique; the truly democratic process of community involvement has been given little consideration elsewhere in our city. Bristol Civic Society has expressed its increasing concern over this almost farcical process of inviting and encouraging community involvement, then dismissing it out of hand.
Can the new Liberal Democrat Council offer a remedy? Is there a chance that our new political leaders can pay heed to the electorate?
Over to you, Lib Dems; we expect big changes from you in attitude to citizen involvement. You can start by reviewing this tragic permission given by the planning committee – based on a recommendation that, you will discover, ignored most of the key principles set out in SPD3.
Redcliffe Futures Group,
Bristol Civic Society
St Thomas Street in 1906, before the car.