We send out a regular email newsletter to any residents of Ashley ward who are interested in what is happening in their area and in what Gus Hoyt, their Green councillor, has been doing. If you would like to subscribe to this newsletter, please email ashley-news.
Dear Ashley resident,
Winter has suddenly come upon us. The heat-wave summer seems as of the distant past. Many of us are leaving for work in the dark and getting home… in the dark. Keep those bike-lights bright and well maintained! One thing that hasn’t changed for me is that my workload is still quite astounding.
The role of a councillor is an extremely varied and challenging job and, apart from the odd meeting, is anything but dull. A few examples: I have helped individuals with benefit claims and mortgage repayments; I sit on the CYPS scrutiny committee, insisting more is done for primary school provision; I am soon to sit on working groups deciding Bristol’s drug policy and the future of Filton air-strip. My work ranges from helping individuals with long standing problems to sitting down with the other party leaders, and the Lord Mayor, and discussing how Bristolians can be more involved in running their city. Though I cannot fit it all into one letter, I hope this will highlight some of the ward-based work I have been doing.
We've put together a brief list of some of my main activities – click on the bullets to the right to find out more. I hope you enjoy reading!
Cllr Gus Hoyt
Though many councillors claim all the credit for themselves, much work is done in conjunction with the hard-working council officers, local community groups and fellow ward and city councillors. A great example of this is when dealing with traffic. Recently Jon Rogers, your other Ashley councillor, and I agreed with the BCC Traffic Department to adopt a wide-ranging scheme that will close Hurlingham Road to through traffic. This has been a notorious road for some time with speeding traffic and many accidents. After a long-standing local campaign we have finally all come together to find an acceptable and affordable solution. Other nearby roads will also be blocked or changed to one-way to stop further rat-runs developing and a roundabout built on the Chesterfield Road/Ashley Hill junction. This is to eliminate a possible hot spot due to increased traffic. It will not be popular with all residents but, to my mind, it is an excellent solution and a testament to how everyone can work together to achieve great goals.
Picton Lane, another notorious rat-run, will hopefully see a similar closure. The safety and peace of mind of all local residents is worth a little commuter upset. Many areas of St Werburghs will be my next main point of focus. The junction of Cobourg Road, Ashley Hill and Old Ashley Hill is a tragedy waiting to happen and an area highlighted by the Bristol Traffic Blogger. We have again worked together to ensure a safe solution is found for the junction. Along with Az (local shop-keeper) and Ingred (a local resident and voice behind Monty Matters) the scheme will include both extra parking for commuters to stop and shop and extra bike lock-ups.
Work is nearing completion on Drummond Road. There is a possibility that it may be restricted to emergency and resident-only access but this depends upon a review currently being held.
Another topic that has kept me busy is the communal bins in St Pauls. Though an overall success, some people have been adversely affected by the scheme and when they are it is a big deal. Following many conversations and meetings with all parties involved, from residents to Waste Management and Gary Hopkins, BCC Cabinet Member for Waste, we have:
- identified the worst offenders
- increased litter picks around the bins (as anything not inside them was often left behind – including rotting rubbish and broken glass)
- moved some bins to better locations
This has been a hard slog and a worthwhile success, but it is not perfect yet. If there are certain areas or times of days where there are particular problems please do let me know and we will send litter enforcement officers to try and catch the worst offenders.
Tess Green (Green councillor for Southville) is the Green representative on the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy group. Their aim was to reach agreement on an acceptable decision on the sell-off of Green Spaces. They have met weekly since May and are still in negotiations. Unfortunately Party politics has recently been playing a large role and the decision has been handed to Full Council and then to the Executive who will now make the final decision.
I have also been busy helping the Narroways Nature Reserve, which was the site of destructive illegal raves during the summer, to work with the local community and the police to reach acceptable plans of action.
The Albany Green ‘ideas open day’ in May was a huge success. However, due to resignation and a bit of internal 're-shuffling' (cuts by any other name) the project has stalled. The money and ideas are there; we just need to push it forward again.
St Agnes Park has caused some confusion, especially as the amazing new adventure playground wasn’t open on Sundays. The recent retirement of Vim likewise caused a bit of a stir. After inquiring on behalf of local people who use the park, I am pleased to report that the playground has no plans to shut its gates.
Over the summer St Andrews Park, technically in Redland, featured in the media as a mini-Glastonbury. Late night activities and the use of private gardens as toilets annoyed residents the most. I’m continuing to work with all parties involved so that next spring provisions are made for everyone to enjoy the park and be respectful to local residents.
If you are a parent you will know just how big a problem we are facing in this city. We are short of primary school places, many children don't get their first choice, aren't able to walk to school and many schools - including Cabot and Mill Pond - are vastly under-funded. To add to this we expect to have a further 3,000 primary age children in Bristol in the next few years.
I have been working with local parents both individually and through groups like the excellent “Local Schools for Local Kids”. This group is currently based in St Werburghs but now I'm pleased to say is spreading to cover more of Ashley.
I am continuing my anti-free school stance as this only withdraws more money from the local schools budget (which is too little already) and removes any control over quality and student and staff security.
With strong allies on the CYPS committee with Fi Hance (Redland), Margaret Hickman (Lawrence Hill) and Roger White (Parent Governor Representative) we have forced this to the top of the agenda. We are seeing small successes but it is not enough and we will keep the pressure up until every child has the option of walking to a local school in their community.
I have also helped negotiate discounts on school lunches and am in discussion with a local church to provide school uniforms for kids in St Pauls.
I have been pushing strongly for the review of Hooters on the Harbourside. I believe that the business has deliberately flouted the guidelines that were set for them by BCC's Licensing committee and will continue to do so. The only solution I see as acceptable for their licence to be revoked. As it sits in Alex Woodman’s ward (Cabot) I have let him file the paperwork and have kept in conversation with him and the head of licensing as to how the case is progressing. We expect a report from ‘legal’ any day now.
Breaking news is that the officer who was investigating this has found “insufficient evidence” for a prosecution and it looks like the Licensing Committee won’t take it any further. We are not stopping here though.
In the last few months, five 'Adult Entertainment Clubs' in the inner city have applied for their licenses to be renewed. Though none of these establishments are in Ashley ward, many residents wrote to me asking for action. The planning aspects I objected on ranged from general public safety outside the establishments and in the city beyond to their proximity to family housing, schools and places of worship, and I wrote to object to each application. A report has been prepared by officers and will be discussed by the Licensing Committee on 23 November.
I have also been asked to look into the issue of the 'massage parlours' in Ashley. This complex investigation bore no fruit other than that there is a quagmire of red tape and cross-departmental confusion as to who is responsible for what. We cannot close them for licensing as they are not registered as Adult Entertainment, nor would they fit this category. The health and safety team do inspect the properties to ensure that both staff and clients are in a safe environment. Unless this is breached there is little they can do. Lastly it is an ongoing concern with the police and conversations continue as to the best course of action.
English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
We made the council leader promise to do all she could to protect funding for ESOL. It was our main sticking point during negotiations with the LibDems following the local elections in May. Unfortunately we have felt quite let down by those at the top and I don’t feel they appreciate the severity of what is a basic human rights issue. Bristol is supposed to be a city of sanctuary after all.
I have been working extremely closely with members of the community (in Ashley and beyond), ESOL providers, refugee representatives, the wonderful SPAN and BCC officers whose job is to keep this essential service going. We have come an extremely long way and it has been a hard fought struggle but the issue is now in the spotlight again, BCC's Executive know they cannot ignore it any longer.
An ‘Enquiry Day’ has now been held into this issue and has since gained further interest of the council as a whole. I am now more optimistic about successes in this area soon.
Until recently I was feeling we had actually achieved little. Then, after a recent Bristol Somali Forum I was taken aside and congratulated for pushing this issue way up the agenda. It is well known in the communities that we Greens have been sticking to our principles on this one. It made it all feel very worthwhile – but there is still so much yet to do.
I have been closely involved with many local housing providers to ensure that the best service is provided but also that BCC pays its way.
A locally based housing provider that looks after people for short term integration periods had not been receiving vital funding since this spring, when BCC stopped paying the full amount, while continuing to refer homeless individuals to the provider. Despite this, the provider has evicted no one and continued their excellent service. This was the first campaign I took on behalf of local residents. I can finally and proudly announce that they are now to receive 70% of the monies asked for. When I found this out, I couldn’t stop smiling all day.
I have also been helping residents who've been having difficulties with complex mortgage repayments, advising residents as to their legal rights when being treated unfairly by landlords, and even painted my landlord’s kitchen!
Tess Green sits on the planning committee that deals with Bristol North wards (including Ashley) and I sit on Bristol South. This way we can get fully involved in local disputes but keep our voting rights at the committee level. I believe she has done an excellent job so far and expect her to continue – including voting against the Costa Coffee just into Redland.
I have been involved on the behalf of local developers who have approached me with sustainable plans and have given advice to the processes of public consultation and stressed the need for family housing in the area. Following specific requests, I have also given lessons in sustainable construction methods and techniques.
I am also chairing a group between Places for People, a local family business, and BCC officers to resolve a conflict arising from the Dove Lane project. I also sit on the Citywide Development Framework Committee. In our last meeting I strongly pushed the concept of self-builds in the city and how BCC can encourage and assist.
Like my other ward councillor I am also deeply involved with the Carriage Works (Westmoreland House) community consultation, which I have to applaud as being the best example of the process I have ever experienced. Well done and thank you to everyone who has taken time out to help.
As ever this has been a passionate issue with me. I believe everyone should be able to buy fresh, local and preferably organic food at affordable prices. It is achievable.
The No Tesco campaign brought a great deal of experts together and many positive community led groups and projects have sprung up in its wake.
The three I think are the most exciting are:
- The Matthew Tree Project run by Elim St Church which provides free and nutritious lunches out of term time for families on very tight budgets.
- The 'Peoples Supermarket' project is now going strong and experts from all fields of life have joined the steering group and have committed their time of eight hours a week to make this idea a reality. This will provide an alternative to Tesco at a lower cost. It is key however that other local traders are not adversely affected. So the work continues.
- Lastly and still in its conception phase is the Stokes Croft Market. It is hoped that food will form the main focus of this development though of course other necessities will also be on sale. The locations have been found but it is likely to not be until the spring when the weather improves that it starts on a regular basis. There is also a lot to sort out regarding traders and the basic infrastructure. There will be a Stokes Croft Winter Fayre on the 17th December – which will tie in excellently with the Picton Street Fayre on the same day.
CYPS – Children and Young Peoples Services
BCC – Bristol City Council
ESOL – English for Speakers of Other Languages
SPAN – Single Parents Action Network
If you'd like to contact Gus, there are a few ways:
Gus Hoyt, Ex-Councillor for Ashley
Rob Telford, Ex-Councillor for Ashley
Contact the Ashley team
How to get in touch with us in Ashley