I'd like you imagine, for a moment, that you have returned home to discover a letter from Bristol City Council. They have written to you to inform you of a consultation regarding the constuction of a new motorway. They want to know whether you would prefer it to run past the back of your home or the front. How do you feel about that? What goes through your mind? How do you react?
What if you were then told that it was a simply a consultation and that nothing had yet been decided? Would that make you feel better, knowing that the documents were still being circulated?
Now compare that with what BCC has done in relation to the St. Andrews & Kildare Bowling Club.
Page nine of the consultation document Ideas and Options Paper Bishopston, Cotham & Redland Area Green Space Plan is entitled St Andrews Park Options for changes of use of the Bowling Green Site, it begins, "With the removal of the bowling green there is an opportunity to bring the area ‘back into the park’."
I believe that this appalling act of insensitivity, ignorance and negligence has been pointed out to BCC, yet the consultation document is still available on its website and still includes page nine.
On the 26th July, I emailed firstname.lastname@example.org asking, among other things, who was responsible for drafting this consultation and whether the members of the bowling club had been informed prior to its publication. I copied the email to Cllrs. Fi Hance and Jon Rogers. Jon Rogers replied saying essentially that "No decisions have been made and all ideas and options are open to comment and influence through the consultation." and that it intended to "Explore opportunities for alternative uses for the existing bowling green area. This could include a multi-use events area, toilets or MUGA. (see page 9 for more options)." He said that he hoped that this would reassure me. It didn't! I'm sure you can understand why. I have, to date, received no reply whatsoever from email@example.com.
Despite the fact that the bowling club still has fifteen years of its twenty-five year lease on the ground ahead of it, and that it receives not a penny of funding from BCC, this set of events has brought to light some extremely disturbing issues regarding BCC's methods and attitudes towards local community.
We should all be extemely concerned about a council that is prepared to embark on a programme of consultation with little or no background research and even less regard for the consequences of the consultation itself. Quite apart from the time and money that has been wasted on its preparation, the consultation might have proved quite damaging for the bowling club and the unity and moral of its members.
A bowling club is a community. It plays an important role in the larger community. This club has been there for around a hundred years. Some of its members joined over fifty years ago. This relatively small group of people has been finding over six thousand pounds a year to maintain their green. Think for a moment about the potential social and psychological effects on those people of the council's unthinking carelessness.
Those of you who frequent the park on a daily basis may have met the blind woman who regularly walks her dog there. You may not know that this woman once represented England at a tournament of the International Blind Bowls Association held in Australia. She used to practice at the bowling club on Brandon Hill. Until the council saw fit to withdraw funding. The green is now an abandoned, derelict plot and our blind friend has not played bowls since.
Instead of recklessly proposing its destruction, Bristol City Council should be asking itself how it can responsibly nurture and enhance the St Andrews & Kildare Bowling Club. It serves an important purpose and should be appreciated and defended by all of us.