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Football pitch versus town green

September 30, 2010

Many constituents have written to me in support of Bristol City Football Club as they try to overturn the granting of “Town Green” status to the piece of land in Ashton where they want to build a new 30,000 seat stadium.

The plans have been through the long process of gaining permission from both Bristol City Council and North Somerset Council for the stadium and access road.  A shiny new sports facility for Bristol was on the horizon.  And if all went well with FIFA and on the new pitch then maybe World Cup and Premiership football could come to the city before the decade’s out.

But now a spanner’s been thrown in the works by an unelected official making, in my view, a questionable interpretation of a piece of land use law.  There are many pieces of green space in Bristol that could benefit from the protection of “town green” status.  Sat here at home in Kingsdown I can think straight away of Montague Green,  Fremantle Square and the green by Carolina House.  Small pieces of land that are enjoyed by local residents and would be a great loss to the community if someone managed to build on them.

But the new stadium site is in a different league.  It’s 42 acres, on the edge of the city and about half of it is an old landfill site.  The stadium would be built on top of this old dumping ground.  The planning consent from Bristol City Council would require the club to landscape the other half to provide a wetlands, paths and viewing points.  I won’t say anything more about the local factors in Ashton, because that would be trespassing on another MP’s territory.   But the area doesn’t look like a town green to me…

The stadium and World Cup bid have cross party support on the Council.  I and the other city MPs all stated our support for the bid when it was submitted last year.   Bristol desperately needs high quality sports and cultural facilities so we can compete with Cardiff, Birmingham and cities further afield.

The Council now has to decide – on legal grounds only, whether to accept or challenge the inspector’s report.  The law clearly needs either a redraft or the issue of clear supporting guidance.  I have today written to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.  I’ve asked him whether he has any intervention powers. And at the very least to consider issuing a statement making it clear that the law is to protect vital pieces of green space and should not be a vehicle for vexatious challenges to democratically agreed local planning applications.

For the record, I am neither a fervent City fan or Rovers fan and have no connection to the owners of BCFC.  I just want to see some progress in Bristol.  We missed out on a new concert hall for Harbourside in 1997.  A few years ago the plug was pulled on a new Arena and conference centre by Temple Meads.  Let’s not go backwards again.

69 Comments leave one →
  1. September 30, 2010 11:44 pm


    Suggesting an Arena and a Conference Centre on the SW edge of the city instead of the centre looks very much like going backwards to me. It’s hard to think of a more stupid place to put either. As for the rest of the post….

    No mention of green belt. No mention of alternative sites. No mention of possible ground-sharing. No mention of the other public costs of this speculative private venture – like the ‘Moorelands’ planning relaxation and land giveaway (on behalf of we, the people), all legally very dubious, while the rest of the city has to make good the losses.

    Every sign of contempt for minorities. Every sign of looking for loopholes to get round an inconvenient law. Every sign of sucking up to the Evening Post. Every sign of bringing in complete red herrings like the Arena and the World Cup. Every sign of populist vote catching.

    Stephen, you could just accept the Inspector’s judgement and start looking at more constructive, realistic options. Why let BCFC dictate the terms?

    • October 1, 2010 5:36 pm

      Pete – one thing I’ve learned the hard way in politics over the years is that if you take a stance on a major development you piss off as many people as you please. And angry people often have longer memories. So I haven’t said this to be popular. I don’t know if a a postcode study of City fans exists but I would be surprised if BS8, BS6, BS2, BS1 and BS5 has a huge proportion compared to south of the river postcodes. I agree with you that an Arena would be better near Temple Meads.

      • Chris permalink
        October 1, 2010 6:09 pm

        Hi Stephen – you can find a supporter distribution map at – though my red dot has moved from BS3 to BS1 since then.

      • Art of the Possible permalink
        October 2, 2010 12:38 pm

        Stephen Williams: “I haven’t said this to be popular”

        Sorry, I’m puzzled. As the parliamentary representative of people in Bristol West, why have you come out with the extraordinary statement in your post, if you don’t think it is what those very people who you have undertaken to represent actually want to see on the ground?

  2. thebristolblogger permalink
    October 1, 2010 6:48 am

    a questionable interpretation of a piece of land use law

    You are an accountant not a lawyer. The law has been accurately applied with reference to the facts of the case. On what basis are you questioning this?

    half of it is an old landfill site

    This is factually inaccurate.

    You are in favour of the World Cup. this will cost around £30 – £40m. how do you propose we pay for it?

    • October 1, 2010 5:39 pm

      don’t recognise those figures as a charge on Bristol tax payers. Yes I am in favour of World Cup football in Bristol….hopefully with better weather than Ryder Cup in Newport!

      • thebristolblogger permalink
        October 1, 2010 8:47 pm


        You’re not engaging with reality here. But we live in tough times and you need to.

        Bristol City Council have stated on the record that the costs of hosting the World Cup are £18m.

        Richard Caborn stated last year he would be seeking a further £100m towards costs from the (ten) host cities.

        That’s a total of £28m.

        The Department of Culture, Media and Sport stated in a letter to Bristol City Council dated 23 October 2009 that “the costs of the tournament will lie where they fall’.

        That’s in Bristol. The costs (which I feel are underestimated) are £28m without policing and security costs and without taking account of FIFA’s numerous demands.

        Where is this money coming from? If you want the tournament can you tell us how we’re paying for it? At the moment we’re footing the bill.

        If you know differently, can you tell us what you know?

  3. Steve ,Pill permalink
    October 1, 2010 6:59 am

    Talking of loopholes isnt that what the minorities have done by using an old law to undermine a perfectly valid planning decision by the planning committee ?

    • Art of the Possible permalink
      October 2, 2010 12:53 pm

      Well, Steve in Pill, most of the “old laws” as you disparagingly call them, are actually the most important ones which lie at the heart of our society, like those against murder for example.

      That aside, I believe the current Town Green legislation is based on a court decision from 1995, but please correct me on that if I’m wrong.

      • harryT permalink
        October 2, 2010 3:52 pm

        The original law is from 1179. The current law is the Commons Act 2006.

        Its both ancient and modern

  4. A Constituent permalink
    October 1, 2010 7:08 am

    Mr Williams

    It’s nice to know for future reference that my MP is firmly in the pocket of the rich and vested interests that have had a stranglehold on Bristol for centuries instead of on the side of the ordinary citizenry, like the Ashton Vale residents who fought bravely for town green status against the juggernaut seeking to deprive them of their local green space.

    Your attitude has been duly noted for future reference.

    • October 1, 2010 5:42 pm

      Fine – but you are ignoring my statement : “For the record, I am neither a fervent City fan or Rovers fan and have no connection to the owners of BCFC. ”
      I am not a fan of the club – and haven’t been to Ashton Gate to watch a match for about 10 years.

      • Art of the Possible permalink
        October 2, 2010 12:57 pm

        Sorry, Mr Williams, but I don’t think that’s any kind of an answer to your constituent’s actual concern about “rich and vested interests that have had a stranglehold on Bristol for centuries”

        Didn’t think that BCFC had been around that long!

  5. dan permalink
    October 1, 2010 7:30 am

    This post is a disgrace. You have clearly not read the inspector’s report. Nor do you apparently have any knowledge of town green law.

    Your incitement to change the law runs against two Royal Commissions, two Acts of parliament, the last voted on in 2006 when you were an MP.

    Your description of the land appears to come from the BEP and not the facts.

    And how dare you describe the applicants as Vexatious. You have no knowledge of them. This is a scadalous and defamatory piece and you should apologise to the many resdients who have used this labnd for 60 years.

  6. thebristolblogger permalink
    October 1, 2010 7:33 am

    ps. And of course the Secretary of State has no intervention powers. Since when can the Executive overrule the law?

    What you propose is unconstitutional and would rob us of our basic freedoms. Absurd.

  7. dan permalink
    October 1, 2010 7:34 am

    And can I ask, have you spoken to any of the applicants to ask them their views ?

    Or are you acting solely upon the propoganda juggernaut of the rich and the powerful.

    You are neither a liberal nor a democrat.

  8. dan permalink
    October 1, 2010 7:39 am

    “the planning consent from Bristol City Council would require the club to landscape the other half to provide a wetlands, paths and viewing points”

    Er no. 30 acres of the land is already SNCI wetlands. Did you not know that ?

    This SNCI area will be flooded by the new stadium. The council require the club to dig out extensive parts of the wetlands for flood relief.

    It is quite clear you are quoting propoganda straight from the club. You are a disgrace

  9. dan permalink
    October 1, 2010 7:41 am

    “an unelected official making, in my view, a questionable interpretation of a piece of land use law.”

    The Council appointed one of the leading authorities of the town green law in the country to decide a statuory legal process. Just who do you think you are Mr Williams to make such a slanderous analysis of her interpretation ?

  10. Chris permalink
    October 1, 2010 7:53 am

    As a constituent who has been in correspondence with you for the first time as a member of your constituency, I can only wholeheartedly welcome and endorse your comments.

    I am proud of my roots here in Bristol but we currently face one of the biggest challenges. We can either say we are a city that is trying regenerate and aim to inspire or we can be the biggest closed shop. I know what I want and I thank you for your efforts in ensuring that we work towards securing a win for Bristol.

  11. October 1, 2010 8:58 am

    …but isn’t it Lib Dem policy to protect the green belt?? Or is this yet another example of your policies being mere words not action!

    • October 1, 2010 5:46 pm

      Yes it is – but you can’t say no to all development for ever otherwise we’ll wreck our city. The planning committee did chuck out plans for housing south of the site. Cities are a sustainable form of modern life but they must be allowed to develop.

  12. BobS permalink
    October 1, 2010 9:02 am

    The law exists to protect the weak from the powerfully influence of the rich.

    Here we have a lib dem MP asking that the locals legal rights be overturned to favour the commercial interests of others

    Ashton Vale is already surrounded on 3 sides by railway lines and industrial estates. You favour their complete encirclement with fenced industry.

    If Bristol was really a green forward looking city this development would be on brownfield land near major existing transport links.

    Your post is a disgrace.

  13. Riaz Rahiman permalink
    October 1, 2010 9:07 am

    “The law exists to protect the weak from the powerfully influence of the rich”

    who is rich? Bristol City Football club are skint and need this stadium to become self-sufficient

    • Charlie Bolton permalink
      October 1, 2010 10:03 am

      ….there used to be a saying

      if you owe the bank £10, you called the bank manager sir

      if you owed the bank £10,000, he called you sir

      None of the AV ersidents would be allowed to lose millions of pounds per annum, nor do they have a rich backer

  14. Riaz Rahiman permalink
    October 1, 2010 9:13 am


    you dont need to read the report to know that the site in question is a sh!t hole, its no village green

    The real reason this application has been put in is to stop a nice big stadium being built in your area.

    God knows why you lot want to stop progress, especially in a time of recession

  15. woodsy permalink
    October 1, 2010 9:14 am


    who is rich?

    In case you hadn’t noticed, BCFC chairman Steve Lansdowne has decamped to tax exile in the Channel Islands. That’s rich.

    Bristol City Football club are skint and need this stadium to become self-sufficient

    That’s totally illogical and akin to borrowing more money to get out of debt. With the current performance of BCFC at present, they cannot even fill the ground they’ve got at Ashton Gate and should relegation happen (a very real possibility at present), their attendances will decline still further.

    • Riaz Rahiman permalink
      October 1, 2010 9:28 am

      Mr Lansdown has worked very hard to get to where he is today. He is trying to put his own money into this and sad nimbys are putting hurdles in the way.

      But do you really think Lansdown will stand to make much money from this? Do you really think thats his motivation?? Because he has already chucked millions into the black hole that is bristol city. And now he is investing millions into this project. All in an effort to make bristol city a self sufficent on the business side of things.

      Long after SL has gone, Bristol City Football Club will need to support itself and not rely on rich businessmen. I doubt SL will ever get his money back that he has spent on bristol city.

      Also, filling the ground is secondary. Its about the non-matchday revenue that the club needs to earn (hotels conference halls etc) to be able to support a championship/premiership club.

      • woodsy permalink
        October 1, 2010 9:32 am

        I do think money is Landowne’s major motivation.

        If you hadn’t noticed, Lansdowne has a stake in the property company that wants to build the stadium.

        In case you hadn’t noticed, local ‘businessmen’ have a long tradition of throwing money at local football teams as vanity investments.

      • BobS permalink
        October 1, 2010 9:33 am

        There we go Mr Williams. You are in the side of the evil property developers and against local people characterised as “nimbies”

        This slander of the locals as liars and vexatious is a disgrace. Bet you would not risk slandering Lansdown in this manner.

      • David Gould permalink
        October 1, 2010 11:10 am

        Shrewd businessmam he may be but paying himself to develop this land is never going to make any money…

  16. David Gould permalink
    October 1, 2010 9:42 am

    One cannot claim with any seriousness that the 42 acres is a town green. This is a perversion of the law, fact.

    Riaz is right, Mr Lansdown cannot be expecting any financial return from this. He’s been putting millions into the club with no return. So that argument holds no water.

    Where else would the stadium go? I’d be really interested in the alternatives.

    • October 1, 2010 10:04 am

      Severnside for a stadium – shared with Rovers for efficiency. Good road and (potentially) rail access, brownfield site. The potential to kickstart a passenger rail service along the Hallen freight-only line, providing a new loop in the Bristol Metro.

      Temple Meads for an Arena. The problem there wasn’t with finding a site, it was with making a business case, same as any other site.

      The city centre for a conference centre. Far more attractive for the delegates, and more likely to spread their spend locally.

      • Chris E permalink
        October 1, 2010 10:44 am

        And I presume you’re going to supply the answers to the Environment Agency’s concerns over chemical spills and the like?

      • David Gould permalink
        October 1, 2010 11:08 am

        Severnside is hardly local. Instead of walking to the ground, fans would have to drive. Many probably wouldn’t bother, making the move both counter-productive and environmentally unfriendly. Even worse for Rovers.

        Is there any room left at Temple Meads? Probably would be a better venue though. Isn’t there going to be a rail link to Ashton Vale?

        Surely the business case is a key factor – if nobody’s willing to fund it, it’s not an alternative.

      • October 1, 2010 5:49 pm

        I believe Severnside was looked at by Rovers before they settled on Memorial Ground. I think there were industrial safety reasons why large crowds couldn’t go there.

    • BobS permalink
      October 1, 2010 10:47 am

      David Gould. You are the lier. You should be ashamed of you dishonesty.

      • David Gould permalink
        October 1, 2010 10:57 am

        Excuse me?

        You’re a very bad advert for your case. And since I disagree with you, please continue as your libel makes no difference to me.

  17. paps permalink
    October 1, 2010 10:45 am

    When will people start telling the truth.

    It is not Anti – Stadium (It was never anti stadium) , it is anti development.

    It is only a small minority that want you to think that the few ‘Nimby’s are Anti-stadium. BEP want you to think that too.

    It is and always has been anti-development of any kind whatsoever, on this Green belt land.

    As soon as the sacred few that want you brainwashed into their own way of thinking realise that individuals have a minds and are entitled to decide for themselves what they would like, rather than this crusade of ‘they lied, only we don’t actually have any real hard evidence, but they lied anyways so it must be true’.

    We may need a stadium and arena, fast food joints and nightclubs, but why are BCC refusing the brown sites, why take a green belt land with public rights of way?

    • Chris E permalink
      October 1, 2010 1:36 pm

      So the woman who said that she wouldn’t mind a church or mosque but doesn’t want a football stadium is anti-development?

      • paps permalink
        October 1, 2010 2:08 pm

        Chis E

        Can you show me real evidence that you claim I said this…….

        I know that i didn’t but, please feel free to show me where you think i did.

      • Chris E permalink
        October 1, 2010 6:12 pm

        Paps – I never said that you said this. If you want to go back to read what I said and apologise, I’d like this very much.

        By the way it’s Chris E, not Chis.

      • Art of the Possible permalink
        October 2, 2010 12:59 pm

        So who the heck is this supposed “woman” you’re on about then Mr E?

        Do tell.

      • Chris E permalink
        October 2, 2010 6:07 pm

        Kathryn Nelmes in a discussion on Facebook – the post has since been deleted by the poster. Presumably because it shows the falseness and shallowness behind this.

      • Art of the Possible permalink
        October 3, 2010 4:54 pm

        Thank-you for explaining your mysterious comment.

        However, I hardly think whatever personal opinion one single individual posted one time and then deleted from Facebook (of all places) has any bearing on the issue, any more than if I told you that some BCFC fan had sneezed in my face or abused my maiden aunt.

        Such things are irrelevant to the actual issue.

  18. Art of the Possible permalink
    October 1, 2010 2:28 pm

    Love the way Miles Hendy from Bristol City Supporters Trust on the “supporters Direct website invites:

    “Any Norwich City fans coming to Ashton Gate on Saturday would be very welcome to sign our paper petition.”

    Oh great, so basically he’s happy for local people and local green space to be bulldozed so that a load of paying customers from a hundred miles away on the East coast can burn up gallons of fossil fuels coming to trash the environment here in the West Country.


    • Art of the Possible permalink
      October 2, 2010 12:41 pm

      Correction: that should be 184 miles of burning petrochemicals between Norwich and Bristol.

  19. Sir M Evans permalink
    October 1, 2010 5:10 pm

    Oh dear, I see the same keep Bristol small individuals are rampant here. I find it annoying that serial keep Bristol Small ringleaders like Charlie Bolton can cause so much hassle, same as that strange Glenn Bowles. Apart from minority events have you ever done or supported anything that has majority in you’re “alternative” lifes?

    StockWood Pete needs to look at the planning application for the stadium, it clearly states why no other sites are on the table and why. Of course, it’s far easier to get yourself all worked up from a posistion of ignorance.

    • Charlie Bolton permalink
      October 5, 2010 4:42 pm

      Thanks for the promotion

  20. Sir M Evans permalink
    October 1, 2010 5:14 pm

    PS excuse the spelling, just sank a few after a hard weeks work.

  21. harryT permalink
    October 1, 2010 6:05 pm

    Sir M

    Is that the review by Kings Sturge that said there were no alternatives ? Not remotely suspicious then. Didn’t even mention the 80 acre Astra Zeneca site at Severnside ?

    It is nothing to do with keeping Bristol small. It is about preventing urban sprawl destroying the green spaces, whilst the number of brownfield and empty commercial sites multiply. Have you noticed how many empty commerical sites there are in this city. Millions of square feet of empty spaces.

    This Ashton Vale development is all about the property gain from buying green land without planning permission cheap (especially when it is greenbelt and SNCI) then reaping the benefits of the increase in value when you get permission to build anything. Of course the World Cup was the necessary bait to force it through. It is also about our council giving away millions of pounds of land and benefits for no share in the stadium.

    Given the choice, developers would build on every green space in the city before they touched a brownfield site. And councillors and MPs will gladly cheerlead whilst they do so (whilst of course continuing to say they in fact love the green spaces)

    That is why the Commons Act 2006 permits local residents to stop development where it is on land they use for recreation. The Ashton Vale residents have been active in protecting this land since at least 1968 and many of those same people are those involved in this struggle.

    They are not liars. They are not vexatious. They faced hours of cross examination by Lansdown’s silk and were clearly telling the truth. Lansdown’s own witnesses supported them. They are heroes and should be feted. Not slandered by this disgrace for an MP.

  22. Chris E permalink
    October 1, 2010 6:17 pm

    On the Severnside subject… from the Alternative Sites Assessment…

    “In 2004, proposals for a regional sports complex comprising a 30,000 seat stadium, a 10,000 seat secondary stadium, supporting facilities and enabling development (hotel, apartments and casino) was promoted at land bound between the M49 and the B4055, which links Easter Compton with Pilning at Severnside (South Gloucestershire). The proposals promoted by Redrow and Redrow Commercial also included the development of 2,000 dwellings and the provision of a new junction on to the M49 and enhancements to sea defences.

    The regional sports facility was intended to be jointly occupied by Bristol Rovers Football Club and Bristol City Football Club.

    The above proposal was presented to South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet on the 5th January 2004 as part the of the pre-application consultation process. Comments from the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Highways Agency were obtained to inform the officer’s report to Cabinet.

    The Council Cabinet resolved not to support the proposals and specifically in terms of the regional sports facility concluded that it raised significant concerns relating to flood risk, environmental impact and health and safety.

    The Environment Agency objected in-principle to the proposed development on the 12th December 2003 on the following grounds:
    i……. Development of virgin pasture land;
    ii…… Building on floodplain that is subject to tidal, fluvial and groundwater flooding;
    iii….. Indirect impacts on an internationally protected wildlife site (Severn estuary candidate Special Area of Conservation, Special Protection Area, Ramsar and SSSI);
    iv…… Introduction of more people into the risk area immediately downward of a major chemical industrial area;
    v……. Reliance upon residential development that is not required under the Local Plan.

    The policy context in respect of the need for additional dwellings in South Gloucester has changed, as evidenced by the emerging RSS. However, the policy conflicts, in principle, relating to the entire development in Flood Zone 3, indirect environmental impacts on an internationally protected wildlife site and development within a Control of Major Accident Hazards zone (COMAH) remain valid.

    We consider that the circumstances surrounding the promotion of a Regional Stadium within the wider Severnside/Avonmouth area have not changed and similar objections would be raised for advancing proposals within this area of South Gloucestershire at the present time. It is therefore clear that the wider Severnside/Avonmouth area subject to the same constraints set out above is inappropriate for a Regional Stadium and the area of search for alternative sites as part of this exercise should exclude Severnside/Avonmouth.”

    • harryT permalink
      October 2, 2010 9:40 am

      Chris E – that was a development on pasture land. The Astra Zeneca site is brownfield – niether floodplain nor pasture

      • Chris E permalink
        October 2, 2010 6:08 pm

        But probably still a concern to the Environment Agency due to the industries already in the area.

  23. paps permalink
    October 1, 2010 7:12 pm

    Chris E said on Football pitch versus town green
    October 1, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    In response to paps on October 1, 2010 at 10:45 am:

    When will people start telling the truth. It is not Anti – Stadium (It was never anti stadium) , it is anti development. It is only a small minority that want you to think that the few ‘Nimby’s are Anti-stadium. BEP want you to think that too. It is and always has been anti-development of […]

    So the woman who said that she wouldn’t mind a church or mosque but doesn’t want a football stadium is anti-development?

    It says In response to paps …. how do you think I would feel being accused of something I didn’t do..

    I apologise for asking you for providing me with evidence.

  24. October 2, 2010 12:38 am

    Real shame you’ve sided with the rich land-grabbers Stephen.
    I put a different argument to the BCFC propaganda machine and I am one that uses and knows this area of green belt very well. You would appear to suggest that your posh Montague Green and Freemantle Square are more worthy of protection than a unique wetland area of SNCI greenbelt because its in the (lower class?) dumping grounds of Ashton Vale.
    Might be good to acquaint yourself with the environment agencies bio-diversity action plans and the Wildlife Network Site, SNCI and local greenbelt legislation and protection (all apply to this area). That might give you more credibility than just jumping on the ‘Lansdowns land-tip’ juggernaut. Fair play for jumping though.
    Lets hope you get a soft landing!
    ps. Not even the rotund Pickles can change ancient laws of the land that quickly. Might be a loser on this one as well. “The previous government gave a green light for the destruction of the Green Belt across the country and we are determined to stop it. ” (recent Pickles quote)

  25. ChrisU permalink
    October 3, 2010 9:42 pm

    Stephen said “But now a spanner’s been thrown in the works by an unelected official making, in my view, a questionable interpretation of a piece of land use law.”

    I don’t suppose you or your politician pals would care to take over the role of making these “expert” decisions Stephen? No I thought not because as you know (or maybe not as its your first time in the hot seat), the reason un-elected officials are called in to make these decisions is because:
    a. They are often experts in their field and actually know something about the subject they are deciding on;
    b. Elected politicians would run a country mile from making a decision like this (and many others that are made daily on your behalf ) because you know you would be slaughtered at the polls for upholding an unpopular law/making an unpopular decision.

    Still, it makes a good easy insult to add to the inaccuracy of the rest of the piece.

    Like half of it is landfill – well only if 6 is half of 42.

    Still, it would be good to hear why you think one of the leading legal experts on town greens has made a questionable interpretation of the law. Are you suggesting she deliberately mis-interpreted? Or do you think you could convince her with the strength of your legal arguments? We look forward to your report into the decision Stephen.

  26. BOB permalink
    October 4, 2010 2:00 pm

    This is quite a comment from someone who has not supported either of the planning applications for stadiums in his constituency! (both of which have gained planning permission
    Memorial Stadium
    County Ground

    I’d be pleased to hear how this fits into a unified vision for Sport in Bristol.

  27. Mark permalink
    October 4, 2010 5:06 pm

    I would suggest that the expert in question has her own agenda which is why she specialises in this area. It would be good to know if she has ever recommended against the award of this status to any piece of land she has been asked to consider.

    But more important here is the question of precedent and the impact that this award would have if it stands. It would be just a little too inconvenient for most City councils in the land if this is upheld because it would render most open spaces subject to the same specious claims and interfere with all sorts of developments.

    You can expect whole swathes of private land to be fenced off; even council owned stuff, in order to protect the potential land use issues that will arise.

    That is why the greens and anti-capitalists and their ilk are positively foaming at the mouth with anticipation over this one.

    It will however be a considerable blow to our democracy in my opinion if elected representatives are defeated after the event by a submission that is entirely subjective and based on nothing but hearsay evidence.

    • October 4, 2010 6:13 pm

      The Sainsburys Monster hypermarket appeal will be heard by an unelected official planning expert. Despite getting thrown out by the democratically elected council -unlikely but Lansdown may win that. The planning appeal officers decision will be final-no chance of trying to dredge up stuff to discredit the official like BCFC is trying to do. No good moaning about democracy-win some lose some. Stephen Williams has backed the loser, (more homework Stephen before blog becomes This is Bristol 2)

    • ChrisU permalink
      October 4, 2010 9:16 pm

      I think you will find her “agenda” is to make a living being a barrister. It doesn’t take long to find out that she has played all parts in other town green stories, as a barrister acting for applicants, as a barrister acting for objectors and as an inspector.

      It seems that many people simply cannot accept that an impartial person would make a decision (recommendation really) such as this, because they are convinced of their own righteousness. Thats why we hear that these people must have lied, even though it would take a miracle for 188 people to collude and conspire and hold it together under questioning from a barrister whose job is to skewer them on their lies. In this case it turns out that other barrister (Vivian Chapman QC) has also acted for both applicant and inspector on many other cases. But he failed to show untruths in this case.

      You are also conflating a planning decision and this one. Experts recommended that the stadium be given planning permission, and elected officials agreed with their recommendation. That is an entirely different matter than whether or not this land qualifies as a town green, and quite rightly, the inspector took no notice of previous permissions for this land, as required by law.

      As pointed out by sacred spring above, its funny how in the Sainsburys case, the same people are asking the elected officials to take heed of their experts, whilst in this case the opposite is true.

      As for this being an affront to democracy, invented by greens and anti capitalists, you make me smile. Since when was asking a impartial legal expert to listen to evidence freely provided by both sides and make a recommendation on the basis of a law brought into being and updated by a democratically elected Government (2006), based upon previous hearings at the High Court, the final decision on which will be taken by democratically elected Councillors a “blow for democracy”?

      Only in the mind of someone who thinks any decision that doesn’t quite fit their world view is unfair and undemocratic. I bet you hate speed cameras too?

    • Dan permalink
      October 5, 2010 10:32 am

      Mark – your post is a work of fiction. All a landowner has to do to avoid town green status is put up a sign saying either:

      1. use this land but with my permission
      2. use this land but keep to the paths
      3. don’t use this land, and if you do it is against my permission.
      4. any other variety on this theme.

      The evidence showed clearly that the landowner knew that the local population was using this land for informal recreation for more than 20 years. They have established a right to recreation on the land, a right that people have fought for since 1179. As we become ever more enclosed by buildings and roads, these green sapces become ever more important.

      There have been many hundreds of town and village green applications every year for centuries. There is no new precendent here. Its just that this landowner is very rich and influential and can call on the support of an army of fans and the press to do his bidding and mirror his righteaus anger at being thwarted by local

      • Mark permalink
        October 5, 2010 6:19 pm

        The simple fact of the matter is that the awarding of village green status to 42 acres of private land based on the hearsay evidence of the occasional access for individual pursuits by a very few (relatively) local people is plainly ridiculous.

        My view is that while the land has been used by local people casually and individually because the land owner has not prevented such use it does not characterize the land as a village green.

        The acid test of a village green in my book ought to be something along the lines that a community can show that it has for many years come together ‘as a community’ to use the land for community events such as fete’s; cricket tournaments or the like; something that is both organised and formal.

        Individual access and use only proves a kind of ‘permitted trespass’ and ought not to be used to establish a right which plainly does not apply here.

        Im just a layman with an opinion; but I welcome that Stephen Williams has seen the application in the terms he describes; it is entirely correct.

        The experts; the only ones who i attach any credibility to, have considered the case for and given consent for the land to be developed in accordance with the application.

        Had the Village Green application happened five years ago i would still label it as a ridiculous fantasy; that it was brought in response to the planning consent given for the stadium is small minded, selfish and vexatious on the part of the applicants.

        Please don’t bring Mr Lansdowns wealth into this; unless your intention is to characterise the debate in terms of a class war/us and them issue. It is not anything of that nature; deal with the merits of the applications in their own right as stand alone entities.

        You either agree/disagree with the Stadium application.
        You either agree/disagree with the Village Green application
        You either agree/disagree with the Sainsbury’s application.

        A huge majority of the population for whom these applications will have an impact agree with the former, disagree with the middle and have no particular opinion either way on the latter.

        If you are looking for an endorsement of your own views that is as good as it gets and it is in fact only the self-righteous who would stand against the majority of their neighbors and fellow citizens.

      • Art of the Possible permalink
        October 6, 2010 7:43 pm

        Mark, you seem to be living in a land of make believe, where you imagine that you are entitled to give a word any meaning you choose.

        For example, if you look up the meaning of this phrase you are using, “hearsay evidence”, you will find that hearsay evidence is in fact second-hand evidence, not the first-hand, direct testimony that we are dealing with here in the Town Green case.

        But it’s sadly all too clear from everything you have written, that you are not listening to reasoned debate, so I’ll spare my breath.

  28. harryT permalink
    October 5, 2010 7:57 pm

    Mark – your view of what actually happened in the Town Green Inquiry remains a work of fiction.

    1. It was not hearsay evidence as you say. If was direct oral evidence subjected to prolonged and aggresive cross examination by the landowner’s barrister. How can you possibly say it was hearsay? What basis do you have to do so ? You are simply making it up.

    2. It was not occasional access. And I do not understand how you have the right to invent these facts. It was daily access over a 60 year period.

    3. I would be happy to deal with this on its merits. That is exactly what the inspector did. And that is why the local residents won. What I don’t understand is why you and so many others are not prepared to accept the result, decided on its merits.

    I understand that you want a new stadium for your club. But that does not entitle you to make up facts and repeat them as propaganda.

    The reality is that neither you nor my MP attended the hearings nor have read the Inspector’s report. You simply refuse to accept the result of a legal process.

    If you have any respect for democracy, then you would respect that a democratically elected government created this law. A group of local people have used the law as it was intended and won. That should be the end of the matter, if you are a democrat.

  29. Mark permalink
    October 6, 2010 3:46 pm


    The evidence is uncorroborated; there is no record of access, no one was on the gate selling tickets.

    Therefore the evidence is as it stands; is the opinion and memory of those who have a vested interest in the outcome. I call it hearsay and I suspect most would; it also something that for anybody who knows anything about human nature should be taken with a very large pinch of reality salts.

    It remains that this land does not have the character of a village green; the use it was put to is not that which is consistent with any village green i have ever come across.

    Walking a dog daily on a field is all fine and dandy until you believe that that act somehow empowers you to take control of that land and limit its use for all further generations.

    The law that gives people the impression that this is somehow justified is an ass and this issue will (if there is any sense left in this world), qualify its relevance and application in the modern world; laws as i am sure you know are not cast in stone; they are subject to an evolutionary process and this is a case in point where a law needs to be challenged at the highest level in the land in order that it can be clarified and made relevant.

    This will put a stop to its abuse by self serving, vexed, selfish and anti-social people. (Sorry thats my opinion again!) The few who do oppose will of had their day and we can move on and get on with a progressive, beneficial development for Bristol and the region which goes far far beyond the issue of football you all seem so obstinately obsessed about.

    My respect for and belief in our democracy is solid; it extends to the challenging of bad law, and reform and repeal; as has happened many times in our history.

    Ill leave it at that with apologies to our host for the rant.

  30. harry permalink
    October 6, 2010 7:14 pm

    Mark – your idea of a village green I’m afraid has no relation to the law that has stood for almost 1,ooo years. Informal recreation is the key- dog walking, playing with children, looking at wildlife, getting some fresh air. Formal sport would not even count according to the law.

    Law is not cast in stone, but almost 1,000 years is a long time for a law. Supported in the last 40 years by 2 Royal Commissions, 2 Acts of Parliament, 4 Supreme Court decisions.

    You can cast doubt on the 188 witnesses all you like. But the whole point of an Inspector and a 10 day hearing was to test their evidence. Your doubting of their evidence simply suits your self-interest and not from any knowledge of the activities on the land.

  31. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    October 6, 2010 7:43 pm

    “We need to start valuing, and defending peoples’ rights to protect green spaces for their important contribution to our ecology, health,food supply and general well-being.”
    George Crozier Lib/Dem Political and Communication Section.

    (pre election)

  32. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    October 6, 2010 7:50 pm

    And why all the questioning of the Inspector? She was chosen by BCC and surely there was opportunity for both parties to raise objections to her beforehand.

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