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Blog : Posts tagged with 'planning'

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Not In My Back Garden

In which we talk about redevelopment and green space


Yesterday, I mentioned that we’d noticed some urban camping going on in Totterdown and Hotwells, and speculated that maybe it was a wild-camping tourist. Of course, it’s always possible that it was somebody who’s decided that mortgages and rents are just too expensive, and is living rough instead. It’s unlikely, I’d have thought, but possible. In the south-west, affordable housing is hard to find.

It might be getting harder, too. Yesterday’s news included an announcement that local councils will be able to block developments on garden land.

Note that the article there is rather optimistic as to whether that type of development will be stopped. It won’t be; the decision on whether to allow it will be devolved to local government, which is in democratic terms a Good Thing that’s hard to argue against. In practical terms, though, it means that developments will be stopped in areas where residents have the means and inclination to be influential and to lean on their councillors; and will be concentrated in areas where nobody’s going to complain. In other words, another polarisation policy, to increase the economic differentiation of our towns and suburbs.

At first sight, I thought, it sounds like it might be a good idea. After all, I grew up in a leafy suburb, built in a time and place when housing plots included reasonable gardens, and so I quite enjoy tree-lined avenues and verdant cul-de-sacs that help you forget you’re in a city. But, thinking about it, I’m not so sure it’s a good idea. Verdant cul-de-sacs are nice, but affordable housing is better. A blanket ban on building over gardens isn’t what’s needed; what would be more useful is a more general control on maximum density of housing. If the planning regulations included a rule that every X square metres of new housing must include Y square metres of private or public garden space, then developers would be as free as they liked to demolish old houses and replace them with flats; the open space and the greenery would be preserved, just in a slightly different form.

It doesn’t take much, after all, to give an area the greenery it needs. Symbolic Towers, from the front, has no green space at all, one house in a line of terrace with virtually every front yard concreted, tiled or gravelled over.* At the back, we only have a small square of garden, too. But despite its small size, the garden and the gardens alongside are a quiet, peaceful, green space, sheltered from the inner city with trees and bushes.

It’s easy to forget, when a development is fresh and harsh, how time mellows a landscape. As I said, I grew up in a tree-lined surburban estate, and that’s how it is in my memory. When I look back at photos from my childhood, though, I’m shocked by how bare it looks. There’s hardly any greenery to be seen: it’s a stark landscape of red-brick houses, bare, plain lawns and sticky saplings staked into the ground here and there. In my memory it’s always as it is now, those saplings all fleshed out into fully-grown trees, and gardens grown up to fill in the spaces.** We forget that gardens take time to grow and mature; we forget, indeed, that Britain has no such thing as natural countryside at all, even our “ancient woodlands” being to some extent man-made.*** Developing on garden space isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as some green space remains; and it’s easy for “we don’t want to lose the green space next door” to be a cover for “we don’t want flats that just anyone can afford next door!” If we have rules that ensure that some green space will remain, we can redevelop our cities in a sensible and healthy way. And in thirty years time, those new flats will be surrounded by greenery, and people will wonder that their street was ever any different.

* Do not ask about the gravel. Unless, that is, you would like some free gravel.

** Memo to my parents, 30 years ago: think twice about moving into a house with a horse chestnut sapling planted at the end of the driveway, because before it’s a third fully grown it will already have buggered up the drains.

*** They are still ancient, of course. But pollen analysis shows firstly that their mixture of trees is rather different to the genuine primaeval forest that grew up between the end of the recent ice age and the start of farming; and, secondly, that we probably have rather more woodland today than we did 2,000 years or so ago.

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Weather Ever Changing

In which things get sweaty


I had hoped that a thunderstorm would clear the air, get rid of some of the humidity, cool things down a bit. Unfortunately, nothing changed. We had the thunderstorm, and half an hour later the ground was dry and the weather was still hot, muggy, and sticky to the touch. Oh well. Summer isn’t nice when it’s too hot to think.

Things I was going to blog about recently but haven’t: the rather silly “let’s bring the World Cup to Bristol” proposals, which seem like nothing more than a plan to blackmail the council planning department into letting Tesco build a new Ashton store, two minutes down the street from the Sainsbury’s that’s already there. Plus, the Easton Arts Trail, a rather enjoyable wander round which, already, was nearly a fortnight ago. Not to mention pictures of old trains from the weekend before that, and all the other things we’ve been getting up to lately apart from the strange foreign dirty movies. If it’s too hot to leave the sofa, it’s definitely too hot to blog

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More on that guided busway

More on the guided busway, as it paves over the Bristol Harbour Railway and replaces most of Cumberland Road


As promised yesterday, I’ve been doing some closer looking at the West Of England Partnership’s guided busway – sorry, I mean “Bus Rapid Transit” plans, and some measuring up on aerial photos. It seems I made a couple of misconceptions, though. Firstly: some of the plans show the Harbour Railway converted into a sort of tramway running along the same road as the buses. Secondly, I was slightly wrong about the route in the Winterstoke Road area. My mistake was to assume that it might actually serve a residential area; I was wrong, it doesn’t, and its sole use is as a replacement for the current park-and-ride services. The council have also said it will serve the football ground; but that slightly contradicts other things they’ve said.

Anyway, here we go: what does a guided busway actually look like? Never mind the Partnership’s shiny traffic-free plan: here’s a real one. This is the A64 on the outskirts of Leeds, which has a single-carriageway busway down its central reservation.

Aerial shot of East Leeds guided busway (from Google)

Never mind the bus lanes at top and bottom; the busway is that lovely expanse of concrete in the middle. The width of the whole thing, by my calculations,* comes out at about 3.8m. So, for a two-way busway such as the council wants to build in Bristol, you’re looking at 8m width. That’s for plain road without stops. Here’s a picture of where the council wants to build it: Cumberland Road. To the same scale, as you can tell by the cars.

Cumberland Road, Bristol (from Google)

From the top: road, railway, cycle track, river.

The plans include building over the railway for one side of the bus route. Remember what Councillor Bradshaw told me: the plans “do not prevent” trains being run. Does that mean no bus services at weekends when the railway’s running? Or fewer trains? Who, at present, knows? Anyway, that means, for our FP Militant Invective Laboratories simulation (better value that the Partnership’s, I’m sure), we only need paint over part of the road:

Cumberland Road with proposed busway overlaid

There goes the railway and just under 4m of the road, painted over in wobbly freehand. That’s the amount of land the council’s planning to concrete over for its posh new buses (and all the older ones which will also be allowed to use the busway).

So, goodbye to half of Cumberland Road – even by narrowing the pavement on the north side, there wouldn’t be enough room to make the road full-width. The council’s simulation does seem to show there being a bus lane in the road at this point, rather than a proper busway. However, there’s a slight problem with that: the buses and the road traffic would be going in opposite directions, unless one were to drive on the right, so no space gets saved. The published proposals go on and muddy this point by showing both buses and normal traffic driving on the right at this point – which, of course, would be no help at all.

Still to come: the even more awkward pinch-point where the busway is due to run alongside the Portbury Dock railway line, at Winterstoke Road, with a stop which will take up even more space. They seem to be planning to run the busway over Network Rail land – I wondered if Network Rail knew about that, so I’ve asked them. For that matter, I wonder who owns the land the rest of the busway will run on – presumably either Network Rail or BRB Residuary, the organisation that is one of the last remaining stubs of British Rail. BRBR’s website is a bit broken at the moment, so I can’t search their property listings to see what they do or don’t own.

* including the small width of kerb separating bus and road on the buses’ left, which is presumably needed for safety reasons.

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A longer rhetorical question

In which we speculate on the point of resolutions


Yesterday’s post, as you might have guessed, contained my New Year’s Resolutions.

pause for regular readers to think: hmmm, I didn’t read that. Where is it?

The Plain People Of The Internet: Come on there, get on with it!

That was a joke, of sorts. There wasn’t a post yesterday, because there weren’t any New Year’s Resolutions. There is lots about my life that I’d like to fix, but … well, why should I set any arbitrary dates? Either I manage to do things, or I don’t. There’s little point waiting for a new page in the calendar before trying to do something, is there.

This year, I’m going to do more. I’m going to be more creative, more productive, and more optimistic. But I’m not doing that because it’s a new year. I’ve already started the process. In the past three months, I’ve done more than I did in the rest of last year; and that’s going to continue.

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Start as you mean to go on

In which we plan for the year ahead


…because in a year’s time, so many more moments will have passed. And I don’t want to have wasted any of them.

This year, I am going to:

update this site every day (well, you never know)
meet new people
make friends with them
try not to lose any more friends from the ones I already have
do something about my career.

The first and fifth are practical, but the other three are the important ones.

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Summer holidays

In which we plan to get away


The weather’s getting warm, so I’m starting to think about what to do again.

I’ve decided it’s time for another trip down to London, at the end of June. Let me know if there’s anything good on around then that you think I’d like to see or do.

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End of the week

In which we post updates on a few things


My rather cruel jibe at Fife the other day only seems to have invited a single complaint, from Greig, who pointed out that Fife was the birthplace of Sir Sandford Fleming. I’d never heard of Sir Sandford Fleming myself; but it turns out that he was rather important, particularly in Canada. He invented time zones, designed the first Canadian stamp, and surveyed the route of the first trans-Canadian railway line; more importantly, he was apparently the inventor of the in-line roller skate.

Now, I’m not being deliberately cruel to Fife again here; but it made me think: just how many famous people were born there but had to emigrate to do Great Things? Sir Sandford, clearly; Andrew Carnegie is another obvious one. Adam Smith is the exception – a lot of The Wealth Of Nations was written in Kirkcaldy. If you widen it to the rest of Scotland, you could add Thomas Carlyle,* Daniel Wilson,** and probably many more. Does it outnumber the people who stayed behind, though? No doubt this is something I’m going to be proved very wrong about.

The passport application was sent off the other day – and, no, you’re not getting to see the photo. My current plan is for a trip around Bavaria and Austria, by train – I could apparently get the train from here to Munich in a single day without too much trouble. Big Dave thinks I’m mad.

More on bird flu: it’s all a bit over-hyped, isn’t it? The big news story this evening seemed to be: people are still buying chicken. The ever-helpful BBC has come up with a page of Useful Information, answering the questions on everyone’s lips. “Will my cat have to be put down?” “If I find a dead duck, who do I call?” DUCKBUSTERS, naturally.***

In other news, I’ve found that people still do suffer from curvature of the spine, after all. Clearly, this week was my week for insulting random strangers. Roll on Monday!

* Moving to Chelsea counts as emigration if you ask me.

** The famous Scottish-Canadian archaeologist, not the other one.

*** “Symbolic Forest – for the freshest 20-year-old memes around!”

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End of the week

In which we dislike all politicians, and wonder what to give The Mother for her birthday


The week in summary: behind on blog posts, behind on reading, slightly up on real work.

When I came up with the post categories for this site, “Political” was in there from the start. From the start, I knew the position I’d be writing from: my political stance is that you can’t trust any of them.* It’s good to see that the latest political funding row bears that stance out. Or, it would be good, if none of these people had any power.** It’s slightly scary to think that some of them run the country.

Now that the sun’s out, it’s about time I started planning more holidays. Renewing my passport would probably be a good plan, too – but can anyone suggest places to go? Something else I could do with suggestions on: birthday presents for The Mother. Her birthday’s coming very soon, and I really have no idea what to get.

* Well, it’s more complicated than that, but that’s the most important part.

** The Tories don’t have much, of course, but you never know what might happen in the future.

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Security

In which we debate incompatibility


As part of all the building work that’s been going on at the office, we’ve been getting the security systems upgraded. A new alarm system, new motorised front gates,* and new electronic locks on most of the internal doors. All to be worked by RFID tags, kept on our keyrings and carried round all the time.

Now, being logical and sensible, we assumed that the company had specified either a single system, or compatible systems, so that we could use one single tag to unlock everything. And, as the contractor** started to install the hardware, we spotted that all the sensors we could see came from the same manufacturer. Very sensible.

We each get a tag the other week, and start using it to open and shut the front gates. Three days ago, the contractor pops his head round the door to say he’ll be issuing us with the rest of the tags, the ones for the indoor locks, soon.

“The rest of the tags? We’ve already got one.”

Apparently, we need separate ones for the outdoor locks, the indoor locks, and the alarm system itself. Because “the systems are from different manufacturers.”

“But they’re not from the same manufacturers! We’ve seen them, and they’re identical! If you hold an outdoor tag up to an indoor sensor, it recognises it!”

“No it doesn’t.”

I held my “outdoor tag” up to the newly-installed sensor by the office door. It bleeped, and flashed a little green light at me.

“Well, I can try to set it up so that that tag unlocks this door,” the contractor said. “But it won’t work.”

(to be continued, otherwise this post would get a bit long)

* Which is a Good Thing, because guess who’s job it is to unlock and open the old front gates every morning.

** Our usual security contractor, a friendly chap, who is very anal about making sure his cabling is put in and terminated neatly, but isn’t very good at setting up the security systems themselves properly.

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Stress and strain

In which FP is unmotivated


Work is wearing me down again. We have several projects on our menu, for different divisions of the company, and of course everybody thinks their own project is urgent. Our manager’s opinion of the most urgent depends on who he had last talked to.

When people ask me: “have you done X? When will Y be ready?” over and over again, I get annoyed and irritated. Unfortunately, most of the other managers in the company seem to think that this is the best way to go about motivating people. Of course, some go further, and lie directly: “I know Z is supposed to be ready by the end of the month. I’m sure someone told me that. I’m not sure who, but I’m sure someone did.”

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