Announcement on the Chocolate Factory

This is a new year update from the Save the Railway Path Campaign. Do you know that it was on January 24 2008 that the council owned up to their plans to run buses down our path with a press release that promised that "the rapid transit link could enhance use of the cycle path". That plan appears to be on hold, though their proposed Ashton Vale route is going to make the harbour area different, and campaigners in South Bristol are working to keep the Malago greenway green.

We're keeping an eye on the Railway Path. The BRT plans have gone all quiet, though we're trying to make sure the West of England Partnership engineers aren't planning anything in secret.

What is going on right now -the reason this email is going out- is the development of the "Chocolate Factory" at Greenbank. This is the disused factory you see on the left of the path on your way out of Bristol, after you pass Easton and Whitehall. This chocolate-making factory shut down a few years ago, and there have been plans to develop it circulating for a while. The first set of plans was for another car-centric suburb, like the ones that now lie abandoned half-built round the edges of the city. That proposal was defeated though widespread local opposition.

The new proposal, "The Squarepeg Plans", are much better, and do acknowledge the Railway Path. Indeed, they acknowledge it a bit too much. The proposal includes a set of "cycle houses", which are houses each with a direct set of stairs leading to the cycle way, and somewhere to park your bike and damp clothes at the top. They also have a garage round the corner, for the car and potentially easier bike access.

These "cycle houses" are going to build on the greenery by the path, their staircases coming right down to the tarmac. Over parkland belonging to Bristol Council.

Which is where our objection lies. The houses look lovely, but does the council really have to sell off bits of the greenery alongside the path to make room for them? Could they not be a bit further back, or have a single shared access point, which would preserve the greenery and reduce the risk of collisions on a busy bit of the path?

We have worked hard with the local community and amenity groups as well as the architects to strengthen the positives of this development which builds on the path -but we are firmly opposed to the scheme to allow each of their proposed 20+ cycle houses individual access to the path, destroying the natural value of a significant length of the path land itself – and leasing part of the parks greenery to be turned into gardens.

We believe that every house in Bristol can become a cycling house; everyone is allowed to walk or cycle to the railway path and enjoy the greenery. For the council to give-away bits of our parkland because a developer asked for it is not only bad for the path, it's a threat to all the parkland in the city.

What can you do about it?

  1. There's a public consultation on the park sell-off on Saturday January 17 in Easton, at The Pickle Factory, All-Hallows road, from 10am to 4pm. Please can everyone in the area can come and make their opinions known.
  2. For anyone not able to turn up, there's an online survey.

What do we think you should say?

  • We think that "plot 2" should not be leased; it should be park and not private gardens.
  • There is also "plot 1", which is further back from the park but still a large piece of valuable historic hedgerow. Environmentally, it is important. In terms of impact on the path, it's further back.

Our friends and co-campaigners in the Keep the Bank Green group feel that the Plot 1 hedgerow should be left alone too. Have a look at their site, and see if you agree with them:

Please go to the consultation or the web site and make it clear you don't believe that it is acceptable to trade away bits of our parkland in secret deals.

Regardless of the merits of the housing, it's a dangerous precedent, for the city and the railway path. We all fought the BRT plans because we knew that the path was more than just a tarmac for commuting on by foot or by bike -the greenery is what makes it so lovely. Having it given way bit-by-bit is not anything we want to have happen.

Save the Railway Path Campaign Steering Group