Friday, 27 June 2008

If we had been consulted If your council decides to remove an identifiable component of your neighbourhood and give it to someone else, without consulting you, how do you respond? Victorian-style cast-iron street lamp columns in St Andrews, Bristol, the Beeb reports, were being replaced with more efficient, modern ones. The originals apparently were being refurbished to 'enhance the heritage' of conservation areas elsewhere in the city. David Cemlyn, 66, chained himself to one of the posts and decided hunger strike was called for, saying: Isn't it strange you have to chain yourself to a lamppost at seven in the morning to get the council to talk to you? This corporate approach seems not to be unique to Bristol - something similar happened recently in Ealing, where one resident said: They know full well if we had been consulted there would have been an outcry. In Bristol, as I understand it, the issue has been resolved and hopefully Mr Cemlyn is eating again contentedly, job done. But I'm curious. How much does it take just to ask people? Does this sort of thing suggest deliberate surreptitious attempts by authorities to change people's neighbourhoods without them noticing? Is it a question perhaps of insufficient funding in the 'consultation' budget, or dogged compartmentalised blinkeredness on the part of staff? Or are the officials perhaps genuinely puzzled that anybody's interested? In Bristol, there's a faulty light reporting system but it's not the same thing is it?

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