By Ian Onions, Political Editor / firstname.lastname@example.org
TWO green spaces in Bristol which were in danger of being lost under controversial plans by the city council have been earmarked to help expand nearby schools.
In one case, land near Begbrook Primary School in Stapleton was proposed as a possible official travellers’ camp which sparked an outcry among nearby residents.
The other saved area is Ridgeway Road playing field which backs onto dozens of homes in Abingdon Road and Honiton Road.
Chris Hollis, a leading campaigner to save the open space in Begbrook Drive, said: “We’re obviously delighted the site has been saved.
“Everyone in the area was rock solid against the plans for a gypsy camp – the whole thing has been hanging over our heads and now we can breathe a sigh of relief.”
Mr Hollis, 57, a retired financial adviser, praised ward councillor Lesley Alexander who took up their cause and fought on their behalf.
The Evening Post revealed in June last year that the Begbrook Drive site was earmarked for up to seven pitches for travellers which led to an orchestrated campaign by residents.
A pressure group was set up to save Ridgeway playing field after the council revealed plans to sell off part of the land for redevelopment.
The future of both sites was under threat because of citywide proposals by the ruling Liberal Democrats to raise revenue by selling off strips of parkland to pay for improving nearly 200 parks and open spaces.
The issue turned out to be one of the most controversial in the city for years and led to many campaigns and pressure groups being set up to save much-loved open spaces where children play and people go for walks.
In December, the Lib Dems saved nine sites from the bulldozer and promised that others should have their decision deferred or treated as a special case, including Begbrook Drive and Abingdon Road.
The Lib Dems lost overall control during the local elections in May and were forced to agree to a review of its green spaces strategy in return for continuing in power.
This led to a cross-party working group being set up which has been meeting weekly to discuss how to take the council’s Green Spaces Strategy forward. The group will be issuing a report which sets out its recommendations in September.
But in the meantime, it has emerged the working group is keen there should be “no delay” in saving both Begbrook Drive and Abingdon Road sites for expanding nearby schools.
A council spokesperson said: “There has been constructive agreement on many issues and the working group has collectively agreed that it will wait to publish proposals in a final report in the autumn.
“However the issue of these two school sites cannot be delayed to help meet the urgent need for school places in the city.”