15 Oct 2015 - Mark Wright responds to Council's revised parks bye-laws

Lib Dem Councillor Mark Wright, has responded to revised proposals to introduce bye-laws for Bristol's parks. These are being presented to council following a previous attempt to introduce measures in March 2014. At the time, Mark launched the campaign that blocked a draconian proposal to ban numerous activities in Bristol's parks, making national headlines in the process.

This is his statement to the Council's Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee responding to the new proposals:

Can I start by thanking Council officers for the work that has been put in to taking this work forward since the last revision. The current proposal is a substantial improvement over the previous iteration, which was unacceptable to me for numerous well-known reasons.

I particularly welcome the removal of bye-laws that would have banned: tree climbing, adults without children in play areas, "annoying" skateboarding, "annoying" ball games, "annoying" noise. Indeed, I'm delighted by the complete excising of the word "annoying" from the whole bye-laws report!

You will no doubt be pleased to hear that the number of my objections has been reduced therefore to just two:

* The ban on erecting any unauthorised "structure" will include "sun tents" (sometimes used by families on hot days to shade children and babies) and wind breaks.

* The ban on BBQs everywhere except designated areas is a de-facto total ban on BBQs as there aren't currently any designated areas. Bearing in mind that most people in the city centre don't have gardens, this would be a ban on them ever BBQ-ing.

I note the commitment to consult on designated areas for BBQs in spring 2016, but there is no commitment in the paper that there will definitely be any such areas. Banning BBQs first, and then trying to find spots where they should be re-legalised, effectively puts the decision into the hands of parks friends groups who generally are, and probably always will be, mostly opposed to BBQs in principle. Now, I love our local parks friends groups and the superb work they do for the city - heck, I set one of them (Friends of Brendon Hill) up! However, they aren't always representative of the wider public, and their dislike of BBQs is in my opinion not reflected among the wider public. (The original consultation, done while students were on holiday, only showed 50/50 support for the BBQ ban).

Therefore I would like to see a commitment from the Council to ensuring that there will indeed be at least a small number of parks where designated BBQ areas are created, such that - for example - no one is more than a mile from a park with one, particularly in central Bristol. I see the goal is to have the bye-laws in place for summer 2016, which doesn't leave much time for building any designated BBQ stands ready for the summer BBQ season.

Finally, I would like to raise a concern on paragraph 28: "No person shall without the consent of the Council hold or take part in any public show or performance." Clarification is need here on whether this would cover such things as a "Speakers corner" speeches, stilt-walkers, clowns, jugglers, mime-artists, buskers, etc - all people who don't charge money, but obviously are performing.

P.S. The report says: "We are not unusual - most other Councils..." - We are unusual. We are Bristol.