Juggling all sorts of stuff in the office at the moment, i.e emails and letters that need to go out before Thursday, plus still a fair amount of ongoing casework. One of the things about spending so much time out and about in the constituency is the overall picture that begins to emerge, of priorities and current concerns. Of course I've had five years representing three-quarters of the new Bristol East constituency, but changing demographics, economic circumstances, things closing down or opening up, all make a difference over time.
One issue is the conversion of private housing into flats, which is something I've become more and more concerned about over time. (Indeed I may have blogged about it quite recently? Anyway, I'm doing so again!) I think it's a trend that has been exacerbated by the recession, with developers buying up repossessed properties and turning them into flats, which generate far higher profits for them. Planning permission seems to be readily granted, despite objections from local residents about additional pressures on parking and more traffic. I think the concerns go wider than this. For a start, it's yet another family house lost, and we have a real shortage of them in Bristol. Secondly, it changes the nature of the neighbourhood, if there's a steady turnover of tenants, some of whom might not care so much about keeping their front yards tidy, or getting on with their neighbours.
This, incidentally, is something addressed by Labour's plans for the local authorities to keep a full register of all private landlords, so that they can far more easily be held responsible for the actions of their tenants, even if the landlords themselves don't live on the premises. But we also need Bristol City Council to factor this into their planning policies, so that we don't see development by stealth, until our communities become choc-a-bloc with flats and cars and parking problems. I am, by the way, very keen on promoting urban living too, and more flats being built in the city centre, e.g. warehouse conversions. It's transformed city-centre living in Manchester, and I think areas like Redcliffe are ripe for such development.
On a related point, I never got round to blogging about the meeting I had a few months ago with the developers behind the Parcel Force building along Cattle Market road, i.e. the huge derelict building you see as you pull into Temple Meads. (I said it was an eyesore, they weren't happy, we had a meeting at which we ended up going completely off topic and talking about independent record labels of the early 1980s and how much we missed Tony Wilson, from what I recall). I'm not sure how much they want in the public domain at the moment, nor what's happened in the last couple of months, but let's just say that if they pull it off, it will be a fantastic project and really bring life to that part of the city.