Once again, the Neighbourhood Partnership structure has demonstrated its strength in successfully enabling local democracy to happen!
On October 14th at the Neighbourhood Partnership meeting at Redland Green School a local resident introduced a Public Statement on behalf of families who use Westbury Park School about a road safety issue, which affects all of us who walk the streets. She was arguing for more safety features like flashing halos around the beleisha beacons by the zebra crossing on Coldharbour Rd outside St Albans Church. Parents have been concerned about the “near misses” they had witnessed due to cars speeding and not slowing down for children crossing, and so set up a petition on the Council website, which led to over 150 signatures supporting additional safety measures. The two ward councillors had met with Highways staff to look at options, but of course the issue was “where would the money come from?” given that the cheapest measure would cost thousands of pounds. However the Highways Officer present at the meeting suggested that perhaps there might be some money available through an underspend in the budgets which might just cover one of the cheaper options... So by the end of the meeting, it was agreed that the Neighbourhood Partnership would set up a special extra meeting in November to agree the funding.
I thought this was such a good example of how a reasonable local idea from the public could be turned into reality within a comparatively short time. I also suspect that the extra measures for this zebra crossing would never have arisen if officers alone undertook all Highways projects with no consultation with the public – here we can see that a member of the public can actually initiate something which can be picked up by the Council.
As another move to ensure that the Council is working for the Partnership rather than to an agenda not seen as relevant to local people’s needs, the Council has introduced the notion of “Neighbourhood Working”. To the public I think that this is rather confusingly named – what else would Council departments be doing?! However in reality this could be a radical way of ensuring “joined-up thinking” across different working areas of the Council: highways, communities (the Council department responsible for the Neighbourhood Partnerships), planning, licensing and trading standards are committed to working to those priorities agreed by Neighbourhood Partnerships. Appointed co-ordinators will ensure that officers from these departments work together to get these issues dealt with. The tricky bit is to agree priorities which can be reasonably achieved within the working hours of staff! This is a new concept for our Partnership and I think there was a lot of muddle at the meeting whilst the Partnership members tried to agree – hopefully once I have seen the minutes I can report back to you what those priorities will be for the next year.
The annual Quality of Life Survey (2012) is now available on http://profiles.bristol.gov.uk. In summary it says that generally residents’ views of their quality of life in our Partnership area are higher than the average for the City. Issues where residents are less satisfied include:
• Bus services
• Traffic congestion and pollution
• Perceptions of crime and anti-social behaviour
On the topic of anti-social behaviour particularly around late night premises, I now understand that the police will only act on reviewing any alcohol license if there are a lot more than five complaints from local residents. The Gloucester Road is designated a CIA - a Cumulative Impact Area specifically aimed at moderating the number of, and specific conditions attached to, licenses granted. So if anti social behaviour arising from drinking is impinging in any way on your quality of life, do complain – every complaint counts in the long run. The Bishopston Society has been active in monitoring the allocation of alcohol licenses and questioning the need for late night licenses beyond midnight. It is hoping to open a dialogue with the police about how to be more effective in this work.
There is more good news about an increase of green space within the Bishopston neighbourhood (funded through “Section 106 monies” which is a contribution from a developer). There will be provision for a children’s play area behind Muller House on Ashley Down Road, which will be a bonus for the new families who have moved into the nearby new houses and flats.
In the last report in August I said that just under £10,000 was available in the Wellbeing Budget for further projects to enhance our neighbourhood areas. Just over £9,000 was agreed to be allocated to the following applicants on October 14th at the Partnership meeting:
• Ashley Down School PTA - £300 to pay for professional editing of a road safety film , produced by the parents, to be shown to students who drive cars at Ashley Down College
• Carers Support Centre- £1200 to set up a local scheme to match up volunteers prepared to sit with or take out people thus enabling their carer to have a break
• Gloucester Rd Traders Association - £7,500 to enable the traders’ acssociation to put in an application for money from Central Government (to become a Business Improvement District) to assist the Gloucester Road remain a sustainable retail area
• Friends of St Andrews Park - £863.77 for a netball hoop to be installed
• Sefton Park School PTA - £6,000 as matched funding with what the PTA has already raised in order to buy play equipment for the outside space around the school
• Westbury Park Community Association - £300 to print copies of their Character Assessment and Design Statement report, written by local volunteers, so that the report can be used to evaluate planning applications and any proposed changes to the streetscene instigated by the Council.
There remains a balance of £756 to be allocated by March 31st 2014.
Bristol will become the Green capital of Europe in 2015. The Council will be looking to local communities to celebrate this with events and activities. If you are concerned to promote sustainability and believe that green issues have to be the way forward, you may wish to read more about the Award by contacting the Sustainable City Manager: alex.minshull@bristol/gov.uk .
Bishopston Society Neighbourhood Partnership rep