ARENA: BREAKING THE BANK?

IS THERE A BLACK HOLE IN THE WHITE ELEPHANT?

Bristol Arena - white elephant - Dru Marland

The budget for mayor “Uncle” George Ferguson’s major VANITY PROJECT and RE-ELECTION STRATEGY is spiralling dangerously out of control.

Despite efforts from the mayor to GAG councillors from revealing the financial shambles, we know that CANCELLATION of any on-site car parking and the LOSS of revenue has smashed a £10m-sized budget black hole into mayor’s £90m Arena project.

Meanwhile a council Scrutiny Committee in August UNCOVERED a further £4m worth of costs for the project, pushing the total budget up to at least £94m.

Now it’s been revealed that the owners of the land, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), are DEMANDING payment for their land, which the council had originally claimed would be a freebie. The HCA are believed to want around £4m for the land.

So just a year into the project and costs have been already pushed up by around NINE PER CENT to £98m before a shovel’s got anywhere near the site. The total FUNDING GAP for the project is now at least £18m and this will have to be met by council taxpayers and through cuts to services already being hammered by austerity.

Concerns have also been expressed about other aspects of Uncle George’s funding proposals. He claims £53m will come from the City Deal ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FUND.

A complicated mechanism based on borrowing against any increased receipts from business rates in the TEMPLE QUARTER ENTERPRISE ZONE. At present there’s little sign of much growth in these receipts, which leaves Bristol council taxpayers, as lenders of the last resort, to pick up that tab too.

Uncle George claims a further £38m of funding will come from rental and operating income from the arena. Although this figure has been described to us as “VERY AMBITIOUS” and, again, any shortfall will have to be met by the council taxpayer.

Uncle George, however, remains wedded to his basketcase project, which was one of the few actual promises he made in his election campaign. Delivering an arena, regardless of cost, may also be the only chance this highly unpopular mayor has of getting RE-ELECTED.

So worried is Uncle George about these PRECARIOUS FINANCES being revealed, he got his useless new legal boss SANJAY “UNDER” PRASHAR to invent a so-called ‘BLANKET EXEMPT STATUS’ gag to stop anyone discussing them.

Uncle George now has also removed the responsibility for the arena from the council’s PLACE SCRUTINY COMMISSION who had been asking some tricky questions and given it to the friendlier OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMISSION.

The commission’s Labour Chair, STEVE PEARCE, has already been quoted as saying “I won’t be pushing the mayor too hard on this.”

Thanks Steve. Nice to know you’re looking after us so well.

LEAKED DOCUMENT!!! WHAT THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT BRT!

BRT leak-1
Click to view document

We’ve been LABOURing over this cabinet report LEAK about the financial black hole emerging in the city’s white elephant BRT bus project.

The report that we’re publishing and which has no council managers’ name anywhere near it to take ownership and responsibility for the shambles, lists a series of overspends due to the inflated FINANCIAL DEMANDS of corporate civil engineering firms for work on the Ashton Vale – Temple Meads bus route.

So far, before any work has even begun, costs for works on the Ashton Avenue Bridge; bridges at the Bathurst Basin due to Fergo’s rerouting plans and on the so-called “Cumberland Busway” (Cumberland Road to me and you) amount to £9.12m MORE than was originally budgeted for.

The council’s proposals for covering these losses are equally interesting.

One plan is to shave £2.4m off the budget by a REDUCING FLOOD DEFENCE measures along the New Cut on Cumberland Road.

Another is to TARGET PEDESTRIANS and not bother with street lighting, except at bus stops, over the whole route. Another is to inexplicably “reduce the cost of city centre work” for the BRT scheme by £1.1m. Yet more corners cut then.

Another is to simply reallocate £1.5m to “OTHER SCHEMES”, which is likely to be transport budgets – so don’t expect any new pedestrian crossings any time soon in your community.

Yet another is to “reallocate” £0.4m from the CYCLING AMBITION FUND and spend it on the Bathurst Basin bridges. In other words money for cycling will be spent on buses!

A further £1.1m will be absorbed by “ADDITIONAL FUNDING”, whatever that is.

Is all this legal? Council budgets raided and tax payers money diverted – in secret – to corporations on the authority of unsigned confidential council cabinet reports?

The full report is here: BRT leak

THE KING PRAWN CALABRESE IS OFF: MORE DODGY CONDUCT FROM COUNCIL PLANNER

king prawnMore dodgy conduct from Bristol’s dodgiest planning officer, ANGELO “KING PRAWN” CALABRESE.

Having tried and failed to award corporates NEXTERRA and BALFOUR BEATTY planning permission for a biomass plant in Avonmouth under DELEGATED POWERS he didn’t have and then, just days later, apparently ‘losing’ all the paperwork relating to the episode, King Prawn’s now trying to RIG the information going to councillors on the planning committee considering the application.

Over the last few days, 56 Avonmouth residents have signed and dated LETTERS on paper objecting to the plant and delivered them to the council. This brings the number of objections from Avonmouth residents to well OVER 100 in the space of just TEN DAYS.

Meanwhile, the only letter vaguely in favour comes from Tory councillor and Port of Bristol employee WAYNE “DEE” HARVEY.

Entirely coincidentally – and despite it being a GLARING OMISSION in the King Prawn’s planning report – between 50- 90 per cent of the wood for the biomass plant is likely to be IMPORTED for a fat fee through the, er, port!

However, in a crude attempt to REDUCE the number of formal objection letters from residents, King Prawn has listed these 56 letters as a PETITION! Conveniently reducing the number of objections by around 30 – 40 per cent!

One local resident told The BRISTOLIAN, “I hope Calabrese understands that many of us here in Avonmouth are taking his conduct personally. He has utter contempt for us and has shown us nothing but disrespect and proved he doesn’t give a toss about Avonmouth residents, our families or our health.

“He cares about big corporations making big money off our backs. If planning permission for this cancerous death plant is passed on the basis of the false and misleading information he has supported and rubberstamped throughout this process, he can rest assured we will be holding him personally accountable.

“You can’t lie, cheat, hoodwink and mislead a whole community in Bristol without consequences.”

Please – someone – can’t you put everyone out of their misery here and just fire this revolting little corporate shill as a matter of urgency?

ARE COUNCIL BOSSES BARRA MAC RUAIRI AND ANGELO CALABRESI BENT? (SLIGHT RETURN)

NOW ‘ADVICE’ TO A CHAIR OF A PLANNING COMMITTEE HAS BEEN ‘DISAPPEARED’!

Shred

Until around the 20 October, Bristol City Council planning officer ANGELO “KING PRAWN” CALABRESE was set to make an unconstitutional delegated decision to give planning permission to the Nexterra/Balfour Beatty AVONMOUTH BIOMASS PLANT.

However, a major u-turn ensued after an outcry from an unholy coalition of The BRISTOLIAN, members of the public, MPs, prospective parliamentary candidates and councillors of all parties demanding that this decision went to a planning committee as the King Prawn’s OWN GUIDELINES demanded.

The BRISTOLIAN has already remarked that KING PRAWN‘s conduct and – by association – his boss BARRA MAC“ NUGGET” RUAIRI‘s conduct of this process looks extremely dubious.

So to further explore what had been going on, a Freedom of Information request was put in:

Dear Bristol City Council,

The above planning application is to be decided by officers under
delegated powers.

1. Please can you provide me with any information held in any form
by Bristol City Council as to why this application can be
considered under delegated powers.

2. Please can you provide me with any information held in any form
by Bristol City Council and provided to the chair of the relevant
planning committee, Cllr Alex Woodman, by city council officers as
to why this application can be considered under delegated powers.

Yours faithfully,

And back, in a matter of days, came a reply from someone called Steve Knight, masquerading under the minimalist job title, ‘Place’:

This application is being determined at committee level on 5^th November
2014 rather than under delegated powers. As the information is not held,
we are therefore unable to have that information communicated to you.
The application details are available via the council’s Planning online
facility
[1]http://planningonline.bristol.gov.uk/onl…
. The details of the committee meeting will be available a week before the
committee meeting via
[2]https://www.bristol.gov.uk/CommitteeMeet…

“The information is not held”. How strange. Because on 18 October, the chair of the planning committee, Alex Woodman, announced on Twitter:

Woodman

How, one wonders, did councillor Woodman offer his opinion about something for which no information exists?

Of course this information exists. How could King Prawn have possibly formed any opinion, communicated it to a variety of third parties and got to within two days of making a decision otherwise?

So what’s happened to this information? Has it been lost? Mislaid? Shredded? Rest assured The BRISTOLIAN will be chasing this.

And we’ve said it once – and we’ll say it again – this whole planning process needs to be HALTED and Bristol City Council needs to start an immediate investigation into King Prawn and McNugget for potential breaches of THE BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION ACT.

Something doesn’t add up. There’s something rotten in Denmark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVONMOUTH BIO-MESS: IT’S A KNOCKOUT!

sugar_ray_leonad_I495-530x317

It isn’t, actually. But it’s a solid win on points!

News comes in that the Balfour Beatty/Nexterra BIOMASS POISON PLANT planning application for Avonmouth will now be going to a planning committee after all, rather than being decided behind closed doors by unaccountable planning bosses. This proves – yet again-  that corporate-friendly city council management wankers like ANGELO “KING PRAWN” CALABRESI and BARRA MAC“ NUGGET” RUAIRI don’t like it up ‘em.

Avonmouth Tory Councillor, WAYNE “DUM” HARVEY today stepped into the planning row and agreed to “call-in” the controversial application so that it will be decided by a committee of councillors as the council’s constitution clearly requires rather than by the dodgy duo.

This is a very messily executed 180 degree U-TURN by Harvey.  He originally accepted King Prawn Calabresi and MacNugget’s bullshit corporate-friendly “advice” and did not demand the application be heard by a planning committee when he had the opportunity to request this during the official ‘call-in’ period. Now the councillor has been forced to act very late – on the actual day his planning bosses’ decision was due in fact!

But why the last minute change of plan? Was it that overwhelming STENCH OF CORRUPTION emanating out of every pore of King Prawn and MacNugget’s inexplicable corporate-friendly decision? Or was it the PRICEY JUDICIAL REVIEW that would inevitably follow any secret management decision to approve planning permission for the poison plant, which would then have delayed their CORPORATE FRIENDS’ development for about a year and cost us council tax payers a packet?

Who knows? But we’ll chalk it down as a small victory. And watch out KING PRAWN and MACNUGGET … We’ve got your cards well and truly marked now you little pair of shits. And yes, it’s personal. If you wanna trash our communities then we’re gonna trash you.

Seconds out, round two …

ARE COUNCIL BOSSES BARRA MAC RUAIRI AND ANGELO CALABRESI BENT?

bribes

Senior Bristol City Council planning officer ANGELO “KING PRAWN” CALABRESI along with his boss, head of planning and place, BARRA MAC “NUGGET” RUAIRI have decided that planning permission for a 10MW BIOMASS INCINERATOR in Avonmouth can be decided by themselves, behind closed doors, on Tuesday.

How have they reached this bizarre anti-democratic decision not to put this application in front of a planning committee? Their written guidance clearly states:

(a) Delegated officers must refer matters to the relevant committee as
they consider appropriate having regard to the following factors:-

i) whether the matter would have such an effect on communities, businesses or individuals such as the matter ought to be considered/determined by councillors;

How can anyone seriously believe burning 60,000 tonnes of waste wood a year near a residential area will not have an effect on “communities, businesses or individuals”?

Their decision is perverse. Moreover, why have they not attempted to publicise this application to the community? And why haven’t they displayed notices at or near the proposed site as required by law?

There’s two reasonable explanations for the pair’s conduct:

1. They’re thick and incompetent and simply do not have the basic reading and comprehension skills required to do the jobs they’re handsomely paid to do.

2. They’re bent and in the pockets of biomass corporations.

While there’s considerable circumstantial evidence – judging by his lack of performance in post over his nine months in Bristol – that BARRA MAC “NUGGET” RUAIRI is a posh, thick incompetent who ain’t up to the job, we also think other avenues need to be explored.

We therefore believe that Bristol City Council needs to start an immediate investigation into this pair for potential breaches of THE BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION ACT.

We also think the city council should inform the police with a view to having the pair’s bank accounts searched for any unusual payments.

Can’t do any harm can it?

THEY ARE SHAFTING AVONMOUTH ON TUESDAY

nbbing_header1

On Tuesday October 21 October, Bristol City Council planning officer, ANGELO CALABRESI will rubber stamp under delegated powers a planning application for Balfour Beatty and Nexterra Systems Corp (NXT) to build a 10MW wood burning (BIOMASS) incinerator opposite the old Phil Black Site.

This means that this application WILL NOT even go before a planning committee. Only councillors can now call this decision in to put before a planning committee.

Lib Dem councillor in Lawrence Weston, TIM LEAMAN, has been seeking the assistance of Avonmouth councillors Wayne “DEE” Harvey and Matthew “DUM” Melias. And guess what? They’re dragging their heels.

An Avonmouth resident said, “we need to make the summer protests look like a garden party. Once again we need to wake up the people who think it’s ok to play RUSSIAN ROULETTE with our health and wellbeing and that of future generations.”

The planning application is here. And you can make a comment here. Reasons to oppose the plant include:

·      Carcinogenic dust hazard

The plant is stated to burn 60,000 tonnes per annum of waste wood. Boomeco, with whom this plant is stated to operate, at present exports about half this figure from Avonmouth docks.  The dust created by the stacking and loading of this current quantity of waste wood already causes significant nuisance and health hazards in Avonmouth. These have already been widely reported in the Press. Wood dust is classified by the World Health Orginisation as a grade 1 carcinogen (causing cancer of the nasal passages.) The proposed handling of double the quantities of wood would continue in the open air, causing a serious, possibly illegal, health hazard.

·      Toxic Wood Fuel

The Atkins EIA states (3.2) that the waste wood will not include Grade D waste categorized as hazardous waste and including all grades of wood including treated material such as fencing.  Anybody who has visited Days Road or the other Council domestic wood waste reclamation sites – which will provide the fuel – can see that decking, fencing, lead-painted wood etc. containing heavy metals is a standard component.  This is not separated out and thus will be included in the fuel. If burnt, these toxic materials will pass through to the ash and flue emissions of the plant. As PM2.5s and nano-particles they can disperse poison over the whole city.

·      Source of Fuel too dispersed

This will be trucked from as far afield as Oxford, Wiltshire and Hereford. Wood has a low specific energy content as a fuel – it is bulky for the amount of heat delivered – So transport emissions of greenhouse gases will be high.

·      Competition for waste wood Fuel

The Mayor of Bristol has proposed local district heating schemes using waste biomass as fuel. These would compete with Boomeco for the fuel. Other waste-wood plants are proposed and the source of supply may be threatened.

·      Greenhouse gas consequences of inadequate supply of waste wood.

Throughout the UK waste-wood power-plants are being built and it is almost certain that the supply of waste wood will not be sufficient to guarantee long-term availability of this fuel source.  The companies will be using the fall-back position that they can always import wood pellets/chips. Experience (eg. Drax power station) shows that this wood is likely to come from clear felling old-growth forests in the USA, or plantations that have displaced old-growth forests. DECC have stated that they expect 80 per cent of biomass to be burnt in the UK for power generation will have to be imported. DECC have published figures to show that this fuel is WORSE for greenhouse gas emissions than the current fossil fuel mix for electricity generation. http://www.foe.co.uk/blog/blind-carbon-burning

The sustainability of the fuel source IS  a ‘material consideration’ for planning purposes.

·      Alternative re-use of waste wood

Wood is a valuable resource. The Bristol Wood Recycling Project state that 25% of scrap wood can be reused. Waste wood can also be used for making chip and particle board. A technology that sees it only as fuel to burn, is an outdated technology that has no place alongside the ambition of Bristol as Green Capital 2015.

·      Fire Hazard

The 2012 fire at Tilbury power station in the wood pellet store – which took three days to bring under control and destroyed the storage facility – shows the dangerous nature of storing wood chips/pellets. There are no plans to handle the fuel under an inert atmosphere.

 ·      Dangerous Wood Dust disposal

The plant will not accept ‘fines’ from Boomeco. This is the wood dust which must be removed before the fuel is burnt. This is an explosive and carcinogenic substance. There are no details of how and where the fines will be disposed of by Boomeco.

·      Toxic Ash disposal

The ash will contain heavy metals and other toxic substances from the waste wood burnt. There are no details of how and where this will be disposed of.

·      The plant is in a flood zone

What precautions will be taken to stop wood fuel, toxic ash etc. from being scattered by a flood?

·      Impact on Natura 2000 classified Severn Estuary wildlife refuge.

No figures are supplied modelling the deposition of nitrogen. The deposition already exceeds permitted levels on the reserve, which is less than a kilometre from the site. If the potential impact of the pollutants directly attributable to the installation exceeds 1% of the permitted level, the effect of background concentration, and also the potential effect of all other planned facilities that could contribute the same pollutants, must be assessed. This has not been done.  Atkins admit (8.6.1.3)

‘there may be indirect impacts on the ecology and wildlife of the estuary’

·     Untried technology.

The company behind this application, Nexterra, and the process they use, have been beset with serious problems, which go far beyond those of ‘conventional’ biomass plants.  Recently, Nexterra were forced to close a similarly designed plant in Tennessee because within less than 18 months, the weak acids in the woodgas had corroded key components.  Luckily it got shut down without a serious incident. Whereas their similar plant at the University of South Carolina exploded.  Which is not an unusual record for this technology.

http://ubyssey.ca/features/ubc-biomass432/

JUNKET GEORGE JETS OFF YET AGAIN: YES HE CANNES!

It’s that time of the year once more – so our illustrious MAYOR FERGO has packed his BUDGIE HAMMOCKS AND BRONZER and buggered off to Cannes on the French Riviera for the annual MIPIM Property Conference!

Yes, just like last year, when we reported how George and his pals racked up a tab of more than £100,000 at an industry get-together known as “basically a four-day party with loads of LOBSTER AND CHAMPAGNE ON YACHTS”…

This time, though, he will be part of a “high level delegation” of city bosses from CUBA (that’s the Councils that Used to Be Avon), as well as his close, personal Merchant Venturer chum COLIN SKELLETT from Wessex Water.

The icing on the cake? George’s jolly is being organised through regional quango Invest Bristol+Bath – and sponsored by HorseWorld lawyers BURGES SALMON!

What a small world…

WHAT A GAS! ROVERS FAN FORUM USER A BIT ‘SEE THROUGH’…

A regular contributor to the Bristol Rovers Fans Forum going by the name of ‘HENBURY GAS’ seems to be very well informed.

On January 15 s/he announced to the forum: “Had a chat with my good friend on the planning committee yesterday about the Jr [Judicial review into the proposed Sainsbury’s supermarket at the Mem] and he said ‘All is going well with the Judge’ and confirms that we should get good news in March. He also confirmed that south Glos was involved as well. Also keep up the good work on here as they do read this forum!”

Forum user ‘BIG DAVE’ then replied:

“Whilst i don’t want to doubt you or your friend, i can’t see why (either the prosecution or) the defence can be getting feedback from the judge ahead of the Jr hearing…”

To which the knowledgeable and well-connected ‘Henbury Gas’ responded: “Think they call it ‘Discovery’ and my friend is the chairman of the planning committee…”

Entirely coincidentally, the Chairman of Bristol City Council’s Development Control (North) Committee – the one responsible for the Sainsbury development at the Mem – is none other than CHRIS WINDOWS, the Tory councillor for, er … Henbury!

What a curious coincidence…

FERGO GOES THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS ON CASTLE PARK CONSULTATION!

Web ExclusiveAs the 18 October deadline looms for public submissions on the ‘Central Area Action Plan’ (which will seal the fate of Castle Park and decide just how much of the city centre green space will be COVERED IN CONCRETE) a recent music festival was an interesting test of the council’s resolve.

Having won a reprieve for its turn-it-into-a-shopping-mall strategy with the knocking back of the Town Green application in 2009, Bristol City Council has since tried to tread softly with the passionate Park Users’ Group. That is, of course, until this weekend just gone, when with less than a month before the CAAP consultation closes they rented out the popular urban park – despite all the public rights of access involved – to £30-a-head commercial event Tokyo Dub. Given infamous local unwillingness to spend money to get into public spaces, and with just sixty security (85% of them from that well-known Bristol neighbourhood Brighton) to watch over a licensed crowd of 5,000 with only rickety Heras fencing to contain them, this was certainly a BOLD MOVE.

CAAP February 2012
CAAP February 2012 (development area in orange)

But it’s by no means the boldest move being made at Castle Park: that honour would appear to go to our old friend MAYOR GEORGE FERGUSON. Despite being a man who as a graduate of the University of Bristol and a qualified architect presumably knows how to use a ruler and read a map, poor old Fergo has been having some proper trouble with sizes and scales when faced with angry Bristolians who accused him of putting Castle Park under threat. Under threat? Fergo?? How!?

Well, by SNEAKILY EXTENDING THE BORDERS of the potential development area. Fergo, though, claimed not to be able to see how the September 2013 ‘Preferred Options’ map of the Castle Park development clearly covers a larger area that that on February 2012’s ‘Options Consultation’ document, which only identified the empty bank buildings and car park at the St Mary-le-Port end of the park as suitable for development. In fact, the February 2012 map even clearly marks out the surrounding parkland as ‘Important Open Space’, signalling its protection.

CAAP September 2013 (development area bounded in white)
CAAP September 2013 (development area bounded in white)

Not so on Fergo’s watch though, as the millionaire mayor made clear in EVER MORE FEVERISH tweets in which he effectively claimed that black was white and up was down… “It’s a decrease [in development size] if anything,” blurted out the panicky Merchant Venturer, before retreating away from the argument as fast as he could.

But then despite his well-cultivated image of being a touchy-feely, save-the-trees kinda guy, Fergo’s was after all the go-to hip architect for the COUNCIL’S PREFERRED DEVELOPERS Deeley Freed, back during Fergo’s pre-mayor days and when they needed a bit of local credibility due to public opinion being very much against them.

This time though it’s Fergo feeling the lash of the public’s tongue – especially now his spin doctor Claudia Jean has left the building (though not before rather unsuccessfully attempting to combine aloofness, charm and hey-guys-I-can-laugh-at-myself sense of humour) leaving Gorgeous George with only LONG-SUFFERING BAG-CARRIER ZOE SEAR to keep him from sticking his foot in his mouth more than once a day (or “setting the news agenda” as those meejah professionals in Shitty Hall like to call it). Whether this will prove a good or a bad thing for Castle Park remains to be seen.

As does the reason behind why a supposed environmentalist like Fergo is so keen to see trees chopped down, green spaces removed from public use and a much-loved park extensively concreted over…