Well, hello all and welcome to 2008 – fingers crossed it isn’t as unutterably shit as 07 was. However, looking over the Evening Post website, it seems local news journalism is as good as it’s ever been, judging by the paper’s story on the proposed Dove Lane development here in sunny St. Paul’s:
A futuristic four-storey primary school with a rooftop play area could be built in St Paul’s.
The city council would like to see a £10.5 million facility, including a children’s centre and a new family doctors’ surgery, open in less than three years.
It would help meet the demands on facilities being caused by the rapid increase in population in that part of Bristol’s inner city.
The new school would form part of the £300 million development of homes, shops and employment opportunities planned for the end of the M32 – which is known as onedovelane.
It’s not till the fifth paragraph that you get to anything approaching an actual current affairs angle, when the story mentions that there’s an upcoming council cabinet meeting to discuss the proposals. Well, actually the way it’s put is:
The city council’s cabinet will next week be urged to back the idea and authorise council officers to work with the consortium behind the Dove Lane scheme and with the Bristol Local Education Partnership to develop designs and firm up costs.
Oh yes, it’s that wonder of no-news news journalism, the vague passive! Who exactly will be urging the council to ‘back the idea’? Well, certainly ‘the consortium’ – the capitally-challenged onedovelane, which consists of Bristol-based developers PG Enterprises/PG Group and ‘regeneration group’ Places For People – is likely to be represented. But what about local people? Even the rather mild local community quango St. Paul’s Unlimited has expressed pretty scathing criticism of the way initial ‘public consultation’ was undertaken on behalf of the consortium, especially the loading of the options (reminsiscent of the Castle Park farrago):
St. Paul’s Unlimited sent a detailed reply to the consultation – in a nutshell we were unhappy with the consultation process. We felt the ‘options’ presented to us led people to option 3. For example, only option three offered us a market area, park and play area. Whereas option 1 only offered a combined park and play area.
We felt unhappy that the presentation of the options automatically led to option 3. We are already going to get as newly refurbished St. Paul’s Park anyway without the developers. This is about to happen and will include a new play area for the children. (The National Lottery money awarded to St. Paul’s will mean there is also a new play area in St. Agnes Park). There has been a plan for a long time to have an arts market in Portland Square – this is in the Neighbourhood Plan. So we would have the things the developers are offering anyway without the Dove Lane development happening. Similarly, there will be a new Children’s Centre in St. Paul’s with or without the developer.
SPUnC Partnership chair Maryanne Kampf in the December/January edition of the St. Paul’s Newsletter (pdf of Dove Lane article, 1.3mb)
Maryanne also gets stuck into the imprecision with which onedovelane attempts to sell itself:
The real questions that need to be answered are not about play parks or green space – they are about:
How many flats, how much & what kind of employment? What kind of employment does the area need, the kind that a hotel would offer? Do we want workshops can develop or both? If you choose more green space this means the only way is up? Do you like the idea of a very high rise building and more green space?
Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. Basically, onedovelane claims that it expects to provide about a thousand jobs, 700 homes, twenty shops, a one hundred room hotel, public spaces and community facilities across all three options. The first option would leave 3% public space, with the tallest building at ten storeys; the second option gives 10% public space and a 14 storey building; and the favoured third option would give 30% public space, but at the cost of a building which would tower up to 40 storeys over St. Paul’s.
The initial proposals do not address exactly what sustainable employment would be developed (as opposed to, say, construction and allied jobs connected with the actual development of the site itself), nor do they address what the effect of 700 new homes in the already rather densely populated area might have on the existing job market. And the issue of what proportion of housing will be affordable is not covered at all either.
So, back to the point of the Post story – the new school. Well, again, this is an issue covered in the St. Paul’s Newsletter last year, and again it is an issue over which the SPUnC Partnership expressed polite scepticism:
It’s not often you get the chance to have a new school and we have that chance which is great. However, at the moment it seems we either have a multi-storey, multi-functional building with roof terraces on the Dove Lane site or we have nothing.
Indeed – shit sprinkled with sugar tastes sweeter, but it’s still shit.
As the Post has it, the “proposed new school would have a maximum 420 places, making it twice the size of the current Cabot primary.” So, these 700 new homes, what effect are they likely to have on the 200-odd ‘new’ primary places being made available? And how will this extra provision – plus the proposed extension to Sefton Park school, with its own extra 210 primary places – be paid for, not just in capital costs, but in running costs?
I’m sure the good burghers of the city shall deliberate most earnestly over these and other important questions, and not permit themselves to be blinded by big numbers and glossy PR fluff and empty rhetoric, but it is a little worrisome that even at this early stage such important questions are so blithely being ignored. Especially when the council’s Simon Caplan can be heard expounding such meaningless nonsense as this in the Post story (no doubt a BCC press release reprinted near-verbatim): “Current thinking is that the complex could be a four-storey building utilising the latest architectural solutions being successfully delivered in London and other leading European cities where multi-use complexes have been created on relatively small building sites.” So many words, oh so little substance… Extras marks for combining the use of the hyperoptimistic gerund (‘current thinking’) with the vague passive (‘could be’), the bovine crapive (‘London and other leading European cities’) and multiple pointless expansives (‘the latest architectural solutions’, ‘multi-use complexes’) though – well done, Si!
Bloody hell, I’m one to talk, proper rambling all the way through this, must apologise, been half-watching Robin Of Sherwood whilst typing.
Aaaanyway – an interesting topic and one to follow, I reckon.
Some earlier Dove Lane development-related articles from the Beeb:
Plan ‘could see £300m worth of investment’ (14 February 2007)
Tower could spearhead development (16 May 2007)
Inner city revamp plan launched (13 July 2007)
Welcome to Bristol: City of Culture 2008 😉