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(en) Britain, AF, The Bristoloan V4 , #2 - Choc’s away - Fergo offers shanked shaw redemption

Date Fri, 03 May 2013 09:50:04 +0300


‘No poor people’ housing development for rich liberals Chocolate Factory back from dead after secret meetings? ---- Information about what His Royal Mayorness George was actually doing at the MIPIM conference in Cannes [see ‘JUNKET GEORGE DOES EUROPE’ on front page] has been suitably vague. He’s variously been described as “attracting inward investment”, “banging the drum for Bristol”, and - so says the great man himself - “increasing our international standing”. Conveniently for SUPERFERGO, none of this wishy-washy PR babble is provable one way or the other. ---- The Bristolian can exclusively reveal that high on George Ferguson’s list of priorities at Cannes was an attempt to restart a controversial high-class housing project which he himself had originally been closely – and financially - associated with.

Whilst sunning himself on the Côte d’Azur at
our expense, our Glorious Mayor Redpants had
at least one private meeting with Paul Isaacs
from property developers Generator Group. In its
own words, Generator Group “comprises a spe-
cialist developer, funding partner and advisor that
exercises both its intellectual capital and financial
knowledge to deliver effective and innovative so-
lutions to a full range of property related matters.”
And it just so happens that Generator Group and
Mr Isaacs have produced “a due diligence report
and advice on a strategy to take the site forward”
for an unnamed “strategic development site in the
south west”. The site in question? The so-called
Chocolate Factory in east Bristol’s
Greenbank, on the site of the old Elizabeth Shaw
production line.

The Chocolate Factory is a site that the mayor
has had both a significant personal and com-
mercial interest in down the years. Those with
longer memories may recall Ferguson was at the
forefront of a campaign to have planning permis-
sion refused for the original site developers, Per-
simmon - only to pop up as the architect of a new
“sustainable” scheme when Persimmon then sold
the site on to local developers Squarepeg.

The Squarepeg-Ferguson project - basically a
housing scheme for wealthy liberals - quickly
unravelled when it turned out to be totally unaf-
fordable. Despite securing planning approval,
they then had to go cap-in-hand to council plan-
ners and explain that they couldn’t pay for any
infrastructure costs (such as roads and education,
in an area with an acute school places shortage)
due to the huge cost of their upmarket scheme.
Squarepeg also refused to include any more than
25 affordable homes in the 252 dwelling develop-
ment, having grudgingly upped their initial offer
of 14 – still short of the council’s call for 10-30%
to be suitable for lower income families.

Further controversy came when it emerged that
somehow George had managed to “improve” his
scheme by purchasing a piece of public land next
to the Greenbank section of the Bristol and Bath
Railway Path. He managed this coup in a private
telephone call with the City Council’s then Head
of Planning, David ‘Basher’ Bishop
- against all stated city council procurement
rules and regulations – in a manner never fully
explained.

However, even with the granting of massive
favours by his little council helpers, in 2009
George’s ridiculous scheme collapsed under the
weight of its own stupidity, never to be heard of
again. Until now, that is, with the declaration by
Mr Isaacs’ company that the Ferguson/Squarepeg
scheme “is neither deliverable nor viable” and the
news that Generator Group has apparently pro-
duced a report on the site “offering various exit
strategies based on appetite for risk and preferred
timelines.”

At which point George - now Mayor - reappears
holding private meetings in Cannes with this ma-
jor stakeholder in the site. Should our mayor re-
ally be holding meetings with developers regard-
ing a site in which he’s had a commercial interest?
And what is the mysterious second project that
Georgie is cooking up with Generator Group?
It’s looking murky already...
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