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Agenda item

Downs Management Report


Ben Skuse introduced the report and highlighted the following points:

·       The traditional July bus tour of the Downs had to be rescheduled to ongoing Covid restrictions. There are no more limits on the use of outdoor public spaces, so the Downs is experiencing very heavy use.

·       There is a major issue with litter removal on the Downs. This is taking an unreasonable amount of time and cost for the maintenance team to deal with. Members of the public are complaining about the extent of littering.

·       The current model needs to change as the current situation is unsustainable. BCC Parks and the Bristol Waste Company need to look at how they manage the increased waste levels in parks. BS would like to be part of those conversations.

·       The Comedy Garden event has gone well, as has the Circus with very little impact on the grass. Breaking Bread on the water tower site will require considerable repair work ahead of further events in September.

·       The Downs will be features on the BBC Green Planet programme, due for broadcast in January 2022.

·       We need to check the agreement for new signage for the Draper Monument [OH ACTION]

·       There have been some issues with vehicles parking partially on the Downs in the surrounding roads. We have received an approach from a group that has offered to pay for ground protection. It is not clear how we should proceed on this and there is concern about setting a precedent for private donations for specific projects.


Discussion Notes:

·       The discussion should be about the principle of accepting private funding or crowd funding in general rather than piecemeal for particular schemes. We have accepted funding for things like commemorative benches in the past. We would need to check legally whether we can accept and to write a coherent policy about private donations.

·       We could raise private funding for a project that the committee has agreed rather than ones being pushed by private funders, or it could be placed in a general bond. This should be considered as part of the at strategy review. [ACTION]

·       There have been reports of vehicles driving across the grass almost hitting members of the public. This is related to a traveller encampment, which the council is currently taking enforcement action against. 

·       Parking on the Downs is a continuing issue that needs additional enforcement. How can we request more enforcement? It is not uncommon to see parking on the grass and barbeques damaging the ground.

·       Visitors do not know what the byelaws are, we may need an awareness campaign to engage positively alongside better enforcement. The Lord Mayor has asked legal colleagues to talk to us about enforcement options. [ACTION]

·       All members were highly concerned about waste levels on the Downs. The Lord Mayor is in contact with the Bristol Waste CEO about this.

·       Waste on the Downs is not being recycled, so it is going to landfill. There are no recycling bins on downs. Bristol Waste is unable to hand pick recycling from landfill wate, it is too labour intensive and does not create good quality recyclate. We need recycling bins on the Downs to facilitate that.

·       The Downs is an iconic space that needs protecting, it is very disappointing that people are not taking waste home with them. All visitors have a responsibility to do this.

·       At every bench you will find bottles, containers, etc. people feel like they can leave rubbish behind.  There are already 20 signs about taking litter home that were installed last week at entry points to the downs. Putting signs at bins is too late and encourages dumping.  

·       We have installed additional bins, but it is still not enough. There are 8 oil drum bins at several points, but they are still overwhelmed. We should consider removing all bins to see what psychological effect this has. The alternative is building bays for recycling, but that will be large, ugly and requires a roadway.

·       It is unlikely we can “out bin” this behaviour given the parks team’s efforts so far. The Downs has been bin-free in the past and there was not this level of waste. There are several parks in the city with no bins. Any full bin is an invitation to litter. This should be part of the strategic review and waste funding could be picked out of the finances. [ACTION]

·       For context there has been an average 40% increase in park usage across the city during lockdown. There are similar issues in Castle Park. We may need to have a pause after lockdown is lifted, then do a review about taking waste home.

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