BallotBoxThe Bishopston Society has submitted a response to proposals for changes to the boundaries of electoral wards.

The text of our submission to the consultation exercise is below.

Re: Proposed boundary Changes to the Bishopston, Redland and Ashley&Stokes Croft wards, Bristol

 

The Bishopston Society is a membership-based  amenity organization whose aims are to promote the wellbeing of the local community and to highlight issues which are deemed as a threat to it. 

 

In agreement with our sister organization in Redland our west boundary is Cranbrook Rd, and loosely the eastern boundary runs around Ashley Down Rd down to The Arches on Gloucester Rd, thus including much of St Andrews around St Andrews Park.

 

We feel that the proposed changes do not correspond to how many people see the Bishopston area, and indeed do not meet the Commission’s own standards:

 

  1. . Reflect community interests and identities
  2. . To consider identifiable boundaries which are either natural or  constructed
  3. . Help the Council deliver effective and convenient local government

To take the first two points, the proposed Bishopston ward contains very little of what we locals regard as Bishopston, and with most of Horfield Common the ward now includes what Horfield might consider as its own.  In many people’s eyes the core of Bishopston runs from Ashley Down Rd to The Arches on Cheltenham Rd/ Gloucester Rd with a half mile hinterland to the east and west. The Gloucester Rd is the backbone, with most of its customers from both sides of the road doing their shopping on foot. This area includes schools, churches, shops, health facilities, small businesses and the new library, with major bus routes running along the Gloucester Rd - it is a coherent “community”. However the proposals put most of this area into Redland and Ashley/Stokes Croft wards.

 

The current configuration has caused much confusion in the past. For example, residents living south of Berkeley Rd are in Redland ward whereas they see themselves as identifying with Bishopston . This confusion is salient given the Council’s wish to devolve services down to electoral ward level through the Neighborhood Partnership structure. The new proposals merely increase this confusion of identity, by encroaching Redland ward yet further into Bishopston, and pushing Bishopston ward further into Horfield.  Ideally this opportunity to change boundaries should address the longstanding mismatch between electoral wards and local conceptions, rather than making it worse.  One line of thinking would be to take the residents' picture of Bishopston outlined above as a starting point, with a southern boundary of the ward at the Severn Beach railway line, and with the streets on both sides of the Gloucester Road down to the Arches included in the Bishopston ward. Likewise, those areas/amenities with “Ashley” in their name, including the proposed Ashley railway station, could be included in the Ashley&Stokes Croft ward.   Our idea of a remodelled Bishopston ward may bring it over the 10,000 limit for 2 councillor representation; we do not have a particular view on one-, two- or three-councillor wards as we are more concerned with wards having meaning to residents and their elected representative(s).

 

Incidentally, it is a shame that the map provided does not provide an opportunity to plot preferred boundaries.  This would have been a valuable addition to the consultation process.

 

On a point of detail in the proposals as presented, we view the proposed boundary between the proposed Redland and Bishopston wards to be unduly complicated. Were the proposed boundaries to be retained, our preferred option would be to make Bishop Rd in its entirety the boundary from Gloucester Rd to Kellaway Avenue; we would want Bishop Rd school, considered to be a “Bishopston” school, to be within the Bishopston ward, and indeed the boundary to run along the gardens on the south side, so the road on both sides is in Bishopston ward.

 

If the Commission decides to leave the proposed configuration largely unchanged, or indeed to keep to the current boundaries, then we emphatically recommend renaming the wards:

  • Bishopston ward: to “Bishopston North”
  • Redland ward: to “Bishopston South and Redland”.

This would at least acknowledge the extent of the Bishopston community.

 

To address the third of the Commission's standards above, we are concerned that the current proposals place Gloucester Rd under three electoral wards, rather than two, as currently is the case. This would enormously complicate the Council’s management and support of this highly regarded local and national economic resource - it is one of the country’s most thriving shopping streets.  A remodelling of the Bishopston ward  as suggested above would place the Gloucester Rd under one ward.  If this is not possible, then we recommend that a majority of two wards (Bishopston and Redland) should cover both sides of the Gloucester Rd. To ensure this, we suggest the following changes to the current proposals:

 

  • The part of the Gloucester Rd in Redland ward “shared” with Ashley /Stokes Croft should be in Redland ward on both sides of the road ie the boundary to run along the east back gardens on North Rd.
  • The part of the Gloucester Rd from Berkeley Rd/Somerville Rd to Bishop Rd”shared” with Bishopston ward, should be entirely in Bishopston ward ie the boundary to run along the  back gardens on the west side of properties on the Gloucester Rd.

 

We are unhappy with the idea of a major asset as the Gloucester Rd being split in the middle so that opposite sides of the road are in different wards.

 

The two major “green spaces” in this densely populated part of Bristol ie Horfield Common and St Andrews Park, should not be split between wards, as again this would enormously complicate the Council’s management and support. Under the current arrangements Horfield Common is split between three wards which has made it very difficult for local residents to achieve long-overdue improvements to this space. It is to their credit that they have persevered to create an enhanced community resource. So we welcome that the new proposals confirms that St Andrews Park will not be split and Horfield Common is now split between only two wards – our preference is that Horfield Common is placed  into just one ward. The Bishopston Society does not have a view in which ward either should fall, though it notes that for consistency, there is an argument that Horfield Common should be in Horfield ward. Both open spaces have “catchment” areas extending into several of the surrounding wards.

 

We hope that you will re-consider the proposed boundaries in the light of our concerns and especially note our proposed changes regarding names.

 

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