Bristol mayor’s office accused of ‘lying’ about reopening Harbourside road to cars

A blame game has broken out with the administration at Bristol City Council
Avon Crescent was shut to through-traffic for several years and became a popular walking and cycling route around the HarboursideAvon Crescent was shut to through-traffic for several years and became a popular walking and cycling route around the Harbourside
Avon Crescent was shut to through-traffic for several years and became a popular walking and cycling route around the Harbourside

The Bristol mayor’s office has been accused of “lying” about a decision on reopening a popular Harbourside walking route to cars.

Councillors were due to decide in May on whether to give permission for the plans, but this decision was mysteriously pulled at the last minute.

Now a blame game has broken out with the administration at Bristol City Council blaming a Green planning chair for pulling the decision. Green Councillor Ani Stafford-Townsend, chair of the development control B committee, hit back and claimed this was “misinformation”.

Avon Crescent was shut to through-traffic for several years and became a popular walking and cycling route around the Harbourside. The small residential street recently reopened to taxis and buses despite road safety fears among locals, without any decision by a planning committee.

Local resident Martin Rands asked why the mayor’s office pulled a decision on the application shortly before the committee was due to meet in May, in a written question to the full council on September 12. But the recently published response blamed the decision’s withdrawal instead on Cllr Stafford-Townsend.

It’s unclear who wrote the response, which said: “The application wasn’t withdrawn by the mayor’s office. The chair of the committee, Cllr Stafford-Townsend, asked that it be postponed and brought back at a later date.”

Cllr Stafford-Townsend denied this and accused the mayor’s office of “spreading misinformation”. An email sent the day before the committee meeting by John Smith, executive director of growth and regeneration at the council, appears to show the mayor’s office did indeed request the decision be pulled from the meeting.

In the email, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Smith said: “Kevin Slocombe [the mayor’s chief of staff] has just contacted me re the Avon Crescent item. Given the various views on this, they would like to pull it from tomorrow’s meeting and have another think about the best approach.”

Cllr Stafford-Townsend claimed that the decision was then pulled from the meeting without their consent. They called on the mayor to apologise and alleged that his office is “meddling in the planning process”, which is meant to not be party political.

They said: “It’s bad enough that the mayor’s office appears to have been meddling in the planning process, but to openly lie about it in this way only undermines public trust in the council and those of us elected to public office. I urge the mayor to apologise and to restrain his office from both interfering in the planning process and spreading misinformation.”

Responding to criticism of the mayor’s office involvement in planning matters, Mayor Marvin Rees said: “We aren’t passive spectators when it comes to developing the city.

“We have an active role in shaping our future and ensuring that developers reach our ambitions for the city, particularly in the areas of housing, transport and public realm. That’s the leadership a modern city like Bristol, with all its challenges and opportunities, needs.”