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Monday, 30 June 2014

Lamplighters progress!

In politics you get very used to promises and pledges; there's always a lot of talk and if something goes wrong, the emergency response is often to have yet another meeting or 'write a report '. It always reminds me of a certain scene in The Life of Brian ( fans will know which one I mean). Recently the national papers exposed not just my thighs in a picture of me in my old work outfit of a red swimming cozzy, but the fact I used to work on Cornish beaches as a surf life guard. In that line of work, talk cannot replace Action. So it is especially good to see actual physical action happening in re-opening the Lamplighters Pub. In a welcome break from paperwork, Cllr Wayne Harvey and I rolled up our sleeves and got busy in renovating the pub. Still a long way to go, but great to see Kathie and Dominic Gundry-White actually getting something done and bringing our pub back to life! 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Goodnight Irene! Stadium Victory!

Celebration - but we couldn't be sure for another 13 days...
After a hearty celebration two weeks ago, when it was announced that the Judicial Review brought by TrasHorfield had been dismissed, we found it wasn't the end of the story.

Our petition, www.bristolsnottrash.bristolpetitions.com attracted over 13,000 signatures of support for the Memorial Ground being sold for a Sainsburys, housing, community facility, parking and memorial park, in order to enable to building of a new Stadium for Rovers in South Gloucestershire.

The reasons why the petition was so popular were clear: This was not just about Bristol Rovers fans, in fact, I received some very kind words and support from arch-rivals, Bristol City - they know what it's like to have a major and exciting infrastructure project that will benefit the whole city stopped by a minority group, skating on the edge of legislation to impose their view.

It was also supported by people who wanted to see Bristol give out a loud signal that this is a city open for business, a place worth investing in, and not a backward backwater where any good and exciting idea or investment is met with a muttered 'not in our backyard'.

It was supported by people who want to see major music acts come to our city, who want to see major sporting events - like our own Lee Haskins defend his title to a huge home crowd...

...and it was supported by many who want a transport revolution in our gridlocked city of fumes, knowing that the Rovers Stadium would play a huge part in boosting the business case we need to win, to get a full Henbury Loop Line. 

Contrary to what you might think, many traders on Gloucester Road also supported it - they are not competitors of a supermarket, and the extra footfall and parking space was something they saw as a positive.

After the decision was announced, Trash then appealed, the appeal was dismissed by the judge, and thankfully, Trash did not take this decision further to the High Court. That is a relief. To do so would have been painful and very costly for all involved - and those who are always winners in these situations, and who tend to defend and like judicial reviews - the lawyers - would have been the only ones certain to gain.

No, we had already spent enough public money on this, and so it was with joy and relief that decency and common sense - having been approved by the democratic planning process, then by the judicial process, finally prevailed.

It's impossible to name everyone who was so brilliant in getting Rovers the home they have wanted for over 30 years - but David Thomas is a hero, Angela Betts, Nigel Currie, our Councillor Claire Hiscott, George Maggs, Nick Higgs who was superb and unwavering,  the 13,000 who supported our petition... 

And personally, a very warm thank you to all those who posted such lovely, and supportive messages for the campaign, both on the Rovers fan-page and on twitter. It really made the world of difference and really helped keep morale up. Thank you.

So, A huge thank you and well done to all those who campaigned so hard, and to those thousands who signed the petition. This is your victory  #UTG 

 

Badock's Woods pupils fight back against vandalism


Pupils of Badocks Wood School reclaiming their play area from vandalism - with some great art-work
It is a tragedy for everyone who has worked so hard to get superb new play equipment ( I confess, I still get a bit excited about a really good children's playground) to see it vandalised and burned down, as the local community and councillors in Southmead saw in Doncaster Road Park.

They playground had been beautifully designed, alongside the children, to provide facilities that could even tempt an MP to give them ago. So it was with anger and sorrow that the community found it burned and vandalised.

But Southmead is not a community to be defeated! Together, Councillors, community workers and Badock's Wood School have rallied round to send out a message that the community, the normally silent majority do have a voice, and are energetically encouraging people to be proud of where we live, and to reclaim our community for the majority.

There was some fine art-work from the children, and a lot of anger and sorrow that had been turned into a positive force for change, and for good. Well done everyone , and thank you on behalf of all of us for your efforts. That's how change happens! 

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Shire Baptist Church makes old wine in new wineskins a win(e)ner ! (sorry..)

Beautifully spacious and light main church
Usually, there is much furore when it comes to modernising a church. I've seen some rows in my time... But the superb, and seven-year-long rennovation of Shire Baptist church, ( not so much a 'rennovation' as an entire re-vitalising re-birth) was an unremitting success story. The church opened its doors to locals on Saturday and we celebrated an extraordinary achievement.

This is actually a CAKE!
 The whole church had be redesigned, and refurbished from its slightly dark, low-roofed, claustraphobic former life (which was set out beautifully in displays of wall photos).

But perhaps the most amazing thing was that the whole renovation had been done by pensioners! Designed, built, - I spoke to one lady who told me how she had been 15ft up on scaffolding wielding a roller ( and not the type you put in your hair!)

The church was magnificent testament to generations all joining together to keep the spirit of Shire Baptist church alive and kicking into a new era in a beautiful new building - airy, light, comfortable.... and I have NEVER seen such lovely ladies loos....   Ladies, you've got to give them a try! (and I'm told the Gents are pretty swanky as well, chaps...)
New Life at Shire Baptist Church

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Beautiful Bristol North West

If that's not an invitation to a pint, I don't know what is...
It's easy to forget what a beautiful constituency Bristol North West is. Inbetween running about trying to 'get stuff done', I sometimes pop my head up from my blackberry to take it all in. Then I regret not taking more time to do this more often. Here's a couple of snaps taken as spring fights through winter's grip, which make my stomach go funny ( in a good way) to be the MP for this amazing place: The Victoria Pub, Chock Lane, Westbury on Trym, and a... well, no prize whatsoever, for whoever can guess where this idyllic churchyard scene is taken... 


An absolutely beautiful Bristol NW scene... but where is it?!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Danger Danger, High ... er, honesty levels

At some point, someone has to say what everyone else is thinking.
During an unprovoked outbreak of telling it like it is, I'm afraid I did just that... what it's actually like being an MP.

But the whole point is, however odd the House of Commons and our Parliamentary system may be, being an MP does give you the opportunity to actually change things. Not everything, but some things.

"If you find a job you love, you never have to work again" someone once said. I love my job, there's so much more to change, and so I am pretty determined still to be doing it come June 2015!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Bristol North West - My Reality Library! (There's no magic wand...)



Funny what grabs attention. An interview I did with a former Labour MP, Chris Mullin, prompted me to write an article for Conservative Home on why it IS important for MPs to get stuck into local campaigns and local activities.




The talented editor of the Conservative Home site called it "The Importance of Being a Fairy Godmother." The title then prompted an hilarious, if slightly spooky Bristol Post mock up of me, with my face planted on a fairy with 6ft long legs, sitting on a chilly looking piece of bark.


I wasn't going to argue, especially since I would very much like 6ft long legs and a nice pair of wings, but the reason why constituency work, and getting involved in getting stuff done with and for the local community is so important is precisely because it can't be done by waving a magic wand. 

If it could, it might be nice , but you wouldn't learn anything - and although it's tough, and tiring and frequently stomach-clenchingly frustrating doing it 'the long way' ( no wand),  its all that which makes you understand how policy and politics really work in reality, once it leaves that magic bubble of Westminster, where so often people really do think words are the same as actions, and a speech in the House of Commons is the same as a magic wand...

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Lamplighters Victory at last!


Celebrating Lamplighters with Champers!
Oh, there were doubters. "It won't happen" people said as we persistently, and possibly rather obsessively campaigned to get the wonderful "Lamplighters Pub" re-opened once again.

It's been a saga.

Back in 2009, it was shut under Enterprise Inns ( one of the big pub companies who are notoriously bad landlords, tie their tenants to buying their beer at hugely inflated prices, charge above market rent and generally seem to see their role as a property manager to pay off their debts, rather than a pub company.)

Hearts sank. It is seldom a pub that shuts ever has a pint poured again.I set up a petition - www.savethelamplighterspub.bristolpetitions.com to try to show a potential buyer that this place was a little gold-mine. ( After a bit of investment)

Then hope arose as Churchill Properties bought the pub and claimed they were adamant it should stay as a pub. But residents had heard that kind of stuff before and took some convincing. However, as a beacon of light ( no pun intended) Churchill Properties were every bit as good as their word - and set about looking for someone to run it as a pub.

Meanwhile, our dear old Lamplighters was being decimated by weather and vandals, and was becoming a far cry from the beautiful historical building we all knew, and turning into a sad disheveled relic. It was soon apparent that the only way it would be a viable venture was if some of its extensive pub garden was granted planning permission for some houses to fund its significant renovation.

That was the next battle. I remember at the 11th hour, just a day or so before the deadline, working with Planning at the Council to try to get it all sorted. And at the 11th hour it was.

But still no buyers...  and now it was 2013.  Four long years had passed.

So if Mohamed couldn't go to the mountain, as the saying goes, the mountain would come to Mohamed. ( In a sort of way) and we decided to see if we could run the pub as a community. I put together a survey for residents to try and find supporters, skills and everything we might need to set about turning it into a community pub. The prospect was somewhat daunting, but it felt like we had no choice, if we weren't to give up.

Then came the shining knights on their metaphorical stallions: Dominic Gundry-White and his wife Kathie. Dominic is business partner with the amazing Norman Routledge, who is currently transforming our beautiful Kings Weston House. They stepped in to buy the pub to turn it into their home, and a successful food-serving family pub.

The only thing to do was to open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate! But there's still a lot of work. If you want to get involved, get in touch with me, and I'll pass your name on to the owners. They will need all the help they can get.

A bottle of bubbly outside a new venture is one thing, we'll all really be celebrating when its a pint from behind the bar of our newly resurrected, much loved Lamplighters Pub. Beacon pub of Bristol. Cheers!






Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Intermission

Er, slight gap in blogging over the festive period and that horrid damp start to January.... ahem. Talk amongst yourselves...