Occupy Bristol – Permission?

I read some interesting things today. First, that it looks like a branch of Costa Coffee is going to open on Gloucester Road, despite having no planning permission. That’s unusual, isn’t it?

Well, not as unusual as you might think. As the same franchisee has just opened a branch of Costa Coffee on Whiteladies Road, despite having no planning permission.

They’re both being investigated and/or served with notices to return the buildings to their respective former states, and rightly so.

With this in mind, I can’t help but notice there are some other people misusing space in Bristol, without planning permission. They’ve got a quite picturesque area in Bristol – a nice piece of grassland by the cathedral, surrounded by some of the nicer Christmas lights.

I’m talking about the Occupy protest, that has been camping on College Green for a while now. Up until now, I’ve heard a few people comment that while College Green might be overlooked by the council house, it is in-fact owned by the cathedral (who overlook it from the other side), and thus if the cathedral allow a load of people to camp on it, there’s little the council can do about it.

However, a few days ago I started thinking about how it used to be used for events. I worked as a volunteer for part of the CityOfSanctuary celebrations a few months ago, which took place partly on College Green. What a shame that it can’t be used for events or celebrations at the moment, and it has such a negative (and unclear) protest indefinitely living on it.

According to Bristol City Council’s website:

“College Green is an ancient and peaceful city centre green space within sight of the Centre Promenade. Surrounded by Bristol Cathedral, the Council House, Bristol Central Library and Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel”

and that:

“College Green is a popular site for events and promotions including media launches, press calls and photography.”

and that:

“If you are interested in holding an event on College Green, please view the City Centre Spaces page.”

BUT, that:

“Due to the sensitive nature of the site, any proposal to hold an event on College Green will need to be agreed by the landowners, Bristol Cathedral, as well as by the city council.”

And now they’ve started building wooden structures, in addition to the tents, with grand designs for multi-storey residences.

Given that Occupy presumably do not have the permission of Bristol City Council to camp indefinitely on College Green, can they not be evicted like any other squatters? Without planning permission, surely they can’t build wooden structures? Failing that, at the very least, they should be refused like anyone else wanting to hold an event which is clearly inappropriate for the space? Like with Costa Coffee, the Occupy team should also return College Green to its former state, without the mud and ruining of the grassland caused by having people living on it for several months. I’m sure some of the occupants have green fingers, and won’t mind re-turfing the area they have destroyed.

And anyway – why College Green? If the Occupy movement have an issue with the 1% of richest individuals, why not go and pester them? Why not take up residence in the usually-empty ampitheatre right outside Lloyds bank? You can’t peg anything down, but there’s enough of you to look after each other, right? There’s plenty of metal bars to tie things to, no grass to ruin, and you’ve even got a harbourside view. If you’re intending to be at the forefront of re-thinking capitalism, is sitting outside a local council office, really the greatest way to do it?

Update: I’ve *just* seen this – a second camp, now nearer to the more appropriate financial organisations they have grievances with.

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