Wednesday, 3 June 2015

My speech on the freeholdof the docks


The report before you today asks council to either accept the decision to sell the port freehold, or to refer it back to the mayor, with its views. I rise to ask the council to choose to 

‘To object to the decision and refer it back to the Mayor, together
with its views’

and for its view to be to ask George not to sell the port freehold.

First, I would like to make it clear that the Green Party is fully supportive of Avonmouth docks and wishes to succeed and for it to investment in its future for the benefit of the city, for local people, local jobs, and the local economy.

However, I oppose the sale of council land in principle, because council land is a community asset, and the council holds that land - in effect - in trust for the people of Bristol both now and for its future generations. The council’s job as trustees therefore is to manage that land, not to dispose of it.

Once land is sold, it is lost to the city for ever, and Bristol’s current and future citizens are thereby impoverished for ever – all for a short term financial addition to its treasury.

I am also concerned that the loss of freehold and therefore the handing over of all control to the company could result in the sale of the business, or see its exploitation for purposes far beyond those concerned with a successful port.

I am aware that the council has long since lost most of its control over the port authority.

 I am aware of the officer view of the relative value of the £10m compared with not selling.

However, I am not convinced that the sale price is sufficiently high to warrant the permanent loss of such a large area of land.

Having said that, I suspect that the mayor will approve the sale in which case, I ask him to take on board and put in safeguards for some of the concerns raised in public forum and elsewhere.

These include:

- we need to ensure good rail good passenger rail access for both staff and visitors to Avonmouth and Royal Portbury,

- we need to ensure the Henbury loop is retained for the use of passenger traffic
- we need to improve rail links from the docks to the rail network
- ensure that any sale of the freehold allows the full development of renewables on the land

To sum up, then, if the mayor is intent on going ahead with its sale, I urge him to ensure the relevant safeguards are built in. However, I do not think that the sale is actually justified at all. I ask him to reverse his decision and hold the land for future generations of Bristol residents.