Bristol City Council has begun a four-week 'engagement' on three options for the Western Harbour development. However, this 'early engagement' has failed to satisfy local residents' concerns, with all options lacking substantive details and the engagement period falling short of the council's own guidance for consultations.
Whilst ten plans were developed by a consulting firm, the council are only publishing three of them and refuse to disclose the full report that shows all of the options. The Labour-run council has also refused to even release a redacted version of the report.
In addition, the council have received a freedom of information request asking for this report with which they have failed to comply. This has led to heightened concerns that there are undemocratic activities taking place.
Bristol Liberal Democrats have proposed a fourth option, currently absent from the consultation but which has been studied in the past. This proposal would repair the existing Plimsoll bridge and demolish unnecessary on-ramps to free up space for development. This would be far cheaper than the other options, less disruptive to local communities and protect treasured views of the Avon Gorge and Clifton Suspension Bridge.
In a joint statement from Hotwells & Harbourside Councillor Mark Wright, Bristol West Parliamentary Candidate James Cox, Mayoral Candidate Mary Page, Spokesperson for the West of England Stephen Williams and Clifton Campaigner Max Langer, they said:
“The ‘consultation’ being undertaken is totally inadequate. Not enough time and limited options giving residents too little information. Given the way this process has already been rigged, we have no confidence that the Mayor won’t just make the decision he wants regardless of the outcome.
“Liberal Democrats demand better. We want to see a fourth option added which is a lower cost and lower impact option involving repairing the existing Plimsoll bridge and taking down several of the now redundant on/off ramps and slip-roads around the system, freeing up land for housing and community developments.
“This is a sensible, deliverable option which deserves to be a part of the debate on one of the most important infrastructure projects the city is facing.
"The Mayor refuses to consult about it as he doesn’t think it is ‘transformative’ enough, but he shouldn’t make that decision, it should be up to residents to decide the future of their community.
“A decision this important cannot be shrouded in secrecy and decided in backroom deals. This is our community and we should have the final say on it, with all options on the table.”