Welcoming Councillor Nicola Beech

The Bristol Campaign Against Tower Blocks runs a Facebook group, which Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet Member for Spatial Planning and City Design, joined on Wednesday.

I welcomed her to our group:

“I’d like to welcome Councillor Nicola Beech, who joined the Bristol Campaign Against Tower Blocks Facebook group on Wednesday.

“And while you are here, Councillor Beech, I would like to take the opportunity to ask you a question!

“You’ll be aware that the world’s leading urbanists such as Peter Hall  and Jan Gehl are agreed that mid-rise cities are healthier, easier to live in, solve the problem of creating low-cost housing better, and have built forms in which residents have lower depression rates.  You’ll know that mid- or low-rise housing is preferred by the overwhelming majority of ordinary people.  You’ll know that Bristolians voted 85% + against tall buildings in the consultation on the Supplementary Planning Document.

“We are all, I believe, puzzled as to why you ignored the consultation survey results  And why ignore the consensus of modern urbanists?  Do you disagree with them, or have you just not read them?  I am genuinely puzzled, I just don’t understand.  We’ve heard no explanation except this phrase about tall buildings expressing ‘ambition and energy’.  Where do these ideas come from?  Could you help us understand your intellectual underpinnings?

“Surely what is needed on this issue is open debate?”

Let us hope she replies. Please encourage her here: Bristol Campaign Against Tower Blocks (facebook group) 

Unlikely of course. Because what is extraordinary about this episode is how a small group of people – Mayor Marvin Rees, and councillors Nicole Beech and Paul Smith – have imposed a new policy with devastating implications for the welfare, appearance, and future prosperity of the city without any discussion.

The Mayor never appears in open forums, never faces unscripted questions from the public – except in safe, strictly local community groups, where he can be assured of smiling faces and a photo-opp.

On the big questions, he dares not face the public.

He has put out a set of statements justifying his behaviour, essentially saying that he does not need to consult or debate with the citizens of Bristol, because he was elected to take decisions.

This is not how citizens of democratic countries expect to interact with their leaders.  We expect openness and communication.  We expect support to be gathered for policies by their being explained and discussed.  On tall buildings this has not happened.

At present debate on the issue is being overwhelmed by the Arena question.  But in the long run tall buildings will have a more profound impact on our city.  It is vital they should be debated.

Author: Matthew Montagu-Pollock

I settled in Bristol in 2011 after 23 years in Asia, of which 16 were in the Philippines, mostly working as an investigative journalist in the Euromoney group.

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