Archive for August, 2009

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Shopkeepers “Duped” Over Broken CCTV Cameras

August 19, 2009

Shopkeepers on one of Bedminster’s main shopping streets say they have been “duped” by the city council, after paying for security cameras that are broken and can’t see crime that happens in their shops.

Several retailers on East St contributed £200 each in February to set up a network of 10 CCTV cameras in the area, which the council claimed would combat crime and anti-social behaviour.

But several of the cameras are currently broken, having been hit by lightning this spring, and there has been a long delay in fixing them as the council has decided to upgrade them. It cannot say when they will be fixed.

East St Cameras - Broken

East St Cameras - Broken

Additionally, many retailers have complained after asking for CCTV footage but being told the cameras do not point at their shops.

One says he feels “duped” and others have demanded the council returns their money, as they believe the cameras are not being used to fight crime, but to raise revenue by detecting traffic offences on the pedestrianised part of East St.

Cash Converters manager Bill Kelly said: “It’s always excuse after excuse. There has been a robbery in one shop, an attempted robbery at the bank, and we have suffered criminal damage.

“On each occasion, we’ve been told there is no CCTV to help us. We feel duped. We have paid for CCTV to make us feel safer and we don’t feel we have got that.”

Rachel Maddox from Peacock’s added: “Someone attacked one of our guards, but there was no CCTV footage to back that up so it never went to court. As far as I know, the CCTV cameras were working.

“It’s not keeping us safe by just monitoring the road. I think it’s disgusting.”

Fiona Lewis from Bakeaway had a similar experience. She said: “I definitely want my money back. We were robbed in December and went to the council for the CCTV but were told the cameras weren’t working.

I would not have paid £200 if I thought the cameras wren’t going to work, and I would not have paid £200 if I had known what I now believe they are going to use them for: to stop cars going down the road.”

Katherine Smith from Stead and Simpson agreed. She said: “The response has been that the cameras weren’t working or the cameras weren’t pointing in the right direction.

“I definitely want my money back because it seems like they’ve asked for money from small businesses for the cameras. But they have used them to make more money from fines and traffic offences.”

Jones The News asked to speak to a council officer or an elected councillor but was told no-one was available. Neither was anyone available from Safer Bristol Partnership, an umbrella organisation of the police and council.

In a statement, Safer Bristol Partnership said: “The system has worked well and has proved effective in improving  the safety for people using the East Street shopping centre.

“There have been dozens of successful outcomess [sic] as a result of CCTV surveillance. For example CCTV pictures led to the arrest of a man who attacked a shopkeeper with a samurai sword, a man was arrested for a cash point robbery and various car crimes, assaults and shoplifting offences have resulted in arrests.”

Audio: shopkeepers on East describe the problems they’ve had

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Tesco Plan “Essential” For New City Stadium

August 18, 2009

Bristol City FC Chief Executive Colin Sexstone claims getting planning permission to sell Ashton Gate to Tesco is “essential” to the club building its new stadium at Ashton Vale.

He describes alternative plans for Ashton Gate as “laudable” but says no realistic alternatives have been put forward.

His comments come as the club formally submits its planning application to Bristol City Council, which it did on Monday.

Citys stadium plans

City's stadium plans

He told Jones The News: “Stadiums are expensive beasts, and it appears there is no public money available for this – as there might be on the continent. So it must be funded by Bristol City.

“The only asset we have is Ashton Gate, and we must raise as much money as we can. The difference between using this for food retail and a mixed use site could be as much as fifteen million pounds.

“If someone else can suggest how we could raise that money, we’re all ears. But no-one has suggested anything else as yet.”

The plans have only been submitted as outlines at the moment, but it’s thought the proposed store could be as big as 8,400 sq metres, about a third bigger than the nearby ASDA store in Bedminster. Tesco also estimates the supermarket would see a car arriving approximately every five seconds.

Colin Sexstone does not believe any alternative uses suggested for the site, such as housing or sports facilities, are feasible.

He added: “Unless someone can raise the money, they’re not feasible. If Bristol City Council want to raise £20m or so they can do what they like with it.

“But none of the suggestions that have been made – laudable though they are – can help us build the new stadium. The new stadium will be a fantastic community facility.

“The alternative is that, if we don’t raise that money, we will stay where we are.”

Campaign group BERATE, who oppose the Tesco plans, say on their web site: “This community has hosted and supported the club for 100 years and we believe that the club should leave an alternative legacy, more in keeping with the original use for this site.

“We propose that the site could provide new sports and play facilities for the community along with new housing. These will increase participation in sport and play, and provide much needed housing in this area.”

Audio:  Martin Jones interviews Colin Sexstone

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Another Banksy Removed From Bristol

August 18, 2009

An original Banksy has been scrubbed off a wall in Bristol, just 200 metres from his exhibition at the city museum and art gallery.

It is thought the stencil saying ‘Playing It Safe Causes a Lot of Damage In The Long Run’ was sprayed in 1998.

It was on the side of the Clifton Heights building on Pro-Cathedral Lane, and was signed with Banksy’s trademark stencil signature.

Banksy Stencil on Pro-Cathedral Lane (from bristolgraffiti)

Banksy Stencil on Pro-Cathedral Lane (from bristolgraffiti)

But this week the building’s managers had the stencil scrubbed off, saying they did not know it was a Banksy.

A spokeswoman for Clifton Heights’ management company Petit Papillon told #SITE_NAME#: “We didn’t know it was a Banksy and we’re not sure what we would have done if we had known.

“But it’s gone now and what’s done is done. As far as we’re concerned, we had some graffiti on the building, it was removed and there’s nothing more to say.”

Bristol City Council confirmed they had nothing to do with the removal of stencil and that it was on private property, with the removal arranged privately.

It is estimated there are only 11 original Banksys left in Bristol. His exhibition, Banksy versus Bristol Museum at the City Museum & Art Gallery runs until the end of August.

Above and Below: the Banksy stencil on Pro-Cathedral Lane before and after. Banksy signature is top right. Pictures from the Bristol Graffiti blog.

Banksy stencil after (from Bristolgraffiti)

Banksy stencil after (from Bristolgraffiti)

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Cycle Expert Calls for Training After Spate of Accidents

August 14, 2009

A leading cycling journalist has called for more adults to take cycle training courses after a spate of accidents in Bristol during the last two weeks.

Four cyclists have been injured on city roads since the 6th of August, including a man who died after a crash on the A370 on Tuesday.

It comes after the death on the Portway in January of cyclist Nick Abraham, son of former Lord Mayor Peter Abraham.

Rob Spedding, editor of Bath-based Cycling Plus magazine, said: “If you can, look for an adult equivalent of the cycling proficiency test. British Cycling runs a scheme called Bikeability and there are others which are also geared to adults.

“There are so many people who are coming back to cycling or are getting on a bike for the first time. It can be quite scary.

“Cyclists should be confident without being arrogant. Respect other road users and treat others as you would like to be treated.”

Figures obtained by #SITE_NAME# from the Bristol Cycling City project show cyclists made up around 15% of people injured on Bristol’s roads between 2006-2008, despite accounting for just 6% of traffic.

Official figures for 2009 have not been collected yet, but with at least two deaths already recorded, as many cyclists have died on Bristol’s roads so far in 2009 as in the previous three years combined.

But Rob denies Bristol’s roads are getting more dangerous for cyclists. He said: “We need to make it clear that cycling is not that dangerous.

More people cycling than ever before, but road deaths involving cyclists are at an all-time low. We need to get that in perspective.

“I don’t think Bristol is any more dangerous for cyclists than any other city in the country.”

Emma Barraclough, a spokeswoman for the Bristol Cycling Campaign, said: “We wish to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the cyclist who died following a collision with a lorry on Winterstoke Road on Tuesday August 11.

“The Bristol Cycling Campaign calls for Bristol Council to come up with a design for the city’s roads that ensures that pedestrians and cyclists can get to their home, work or school without having to travel in fear for their lives.

“It is impossible for Bristol Council’s targets of doubling cycling to be achieved without increasing the numbers of collisions, unless there is a step change in the way that all of us in the city treat the most vulnerable road users.”

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Bristol Centre “Should Have Fewer Pubs” Claim

August 14, 2009

Bristol councillors are set to introduce new rules limiting the number of pubs and clubs in a large part of the city centre.

Restrictions are likely to be brought in covering the Harbourside, College Green, the Centre, Cabot Circus and Stokes Croft. Limits on alcohol licences are also likely on the Gloucester Rd, and possibly in Clifton Village.

A council committee has recommended making the areas ‘cumulative impact zones’, where it is much harder – though not impossible – for a new pub or club to get an alcohol licence.

Councillor Gary Hopkins told Jones The News the ruling Lib Dem cabinet was likely to adopt the recommendations in full.

He said: “We don’t want to do away with fun. But we do want to make sure we don’t have an area completely dominated by vertical drinking establishments.

“We want to change the nature of the area and reduce the negative image of somewhere where it is not safe for families to go.”

He believes the drinking culture in the area has got out of hand and needs to be curtailed, adding: “More organised action would have been useful some years ago in terms of positive planning, but we are where we are.

“A thriving night-time economy is fine, but not when it drives other activities out of the area. When that happens, we have to take action.”

But many people we spoke to in the city centre disagreed with the plans.

One man said: “I think it’s a bad idea in the recession with lots of things closing down. They should make it easier, not harder to open new businesses.”

A woman told us: “I think Bristol is all about music, art and being alive. Having more pubs and clubs would be a good thing.”

Another man said: “It’s people they need to change, not the rules. If people want to find cheap drink they’ll get it.”

Audio: Martin Jones interviews councillor Gary Hopkins

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Drug Treatment Cash “Could Be Cut” After Computer Error

August 7, 2009

Bristol could get less money for drug treatment programmes because city bosses have been using an outdated computer system to collect information.

The software used by drug agencies in Bristol is incompatible with the government’s, meaning Bristol can no longer pass information to the national database.

Without that information, around 3,500 people treated in Bristol will not feature on this year’s national figures.

That could reduce the amount of money given to treat addicts in the city — a prospect described as “scandalous and outrageous” by one of the city’s top drugs workers.

Bosses at Safer Bristol Partnership, an umbrella organisation of the police and council, will also now have to scrap the system they have been using since 2004 and pay for a new one.

Maggie Telfer from the Bristol Drugs Project said: “It is difficult to express how angry and upset we and other people providing drug treatment in the city are at this IT failure, which is not of our making, beyond our control and does not reflect what’s happening in the city.

“We provide help to those affected by drug use day-in-day-out through services which promote health, reduce crime and help people with a drug problem re-build their lives.

“Data processing has let down our hard working providers, whose successes will not be included in the national data to be published this autumn.”

But Alison Comley from Safer Bristol Partnership told #SITE_NAME# she would pull out the stops to make sure data was entered onto a new system in time to ensure funding is not affected.

She said: “It is difficult to say whose fault this is. We have tried to ensure this communication system happens smoothly but for technical reasons it has not been possible to make this happen.”

But she said Bristol would not have to pay for a new bespoke computer system as various off-the-shelf programs are available, and it would simply mean transferring their existing £80,000 annual software budget to a new system.

And she added: “This is a data capture issue. It in no way reflects on the excellent drug treatment services available in the city. People who use those services will not be affected by this.”

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Filton Bomb Scare: A Jones The News Exclusive

August 6, 2009

Really surprised no other journalists were at the Filton bomb scare on Thursday. I guess everyone was too busy with balloons. But there we go. I got an exclusive interview with the copper who was in charge.

My report for Original is here.

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