Lib Dems welcome Conservative climb-down on planning changes

Leader of South Gloucestershire Lib Dems, Claire Young, has welcomed the decision by newly elected Conservative leader, Toby Savage, to pull controversial new changes to South Gloucestershire’s planning process from tomorrow’s meeting of Council.

Claire said: “I welcome this change of tack from the new Tory leader. Residents and opposition leaders were given no warning of these proposed sweeping changes before last week, and it looked as if the Conservatives were planning to push them through without cross-party consultation. I welcome Cllr Savage’s apology for the way this was mishandled and look forward to working with him in a constructive way to improve these proposals before they are brought back to Council in July.” 

“In particular, I would call upon Councillor Savage to take this opportunity to rethink the way residents are being cut out of the planning process by these Conservative proposals. We feel the move to ban members of the public from site inspections and to scrap planning meetings at Thornbury are particularly anti-democratic. With thousands of new houses being proposed around Thornbury and Charfield under Conservative plans, to choose this moment to move all planning hearings to Kingswood is a double insult to residents in the affected locations.”

  

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Conservatives “take axe” to local democracy with changes to planning application rules

South Gloucestershire’s Conservative administration has announced a raft of new restrictions on the rights of residents and local councillors to question and challenge planning applications in their communities.

  • The two area development control committees for the East and West of South Gloucestershire are to be replaced by a single committee for the whole authority;
  • From now on all planning applications and appeals will be heard in Kingswood. Meetings at Thornbury will be scrapped;
  • Local councillors will no longer be able to request a site inspection for planning applications in their ward;
  • Local residents will no longer have the right to attend or ask questions at planning site inspections;
  • Councillors will no longer have the right to “refer” contentious planning decisions to a meeting of the whole Council.

Commenting on the changes, incoming Leader of South Gloucestershire Lib Dems, Cllr Claire Young, said:

“This is a body blow to local residents’ rights to stand up to unsuitable planning applications in their communities. Planning rules mean the deck is already heavily stacked in favour of powerful developers and now the Conservatives are tying the hands of local councillors and residents even more.”

Lib Dem lead member of South Gloucestershire’s Development Control (West) Committee, Cllr Dave Hockey said:

“Our committee currently meets in Thornbury, which allows local residents in the West of South Gloucestershire to more easily attend when a planning application affecting their community is being considered. By scrapping area committees and insisting all meetings take place at Kingswood, the Conservatives are putting an extra barrier in the way of local residents who wish to speak on planning applications. The Conservatives claim to be in favour of localism, but these changes suggest otherwise.”  

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South Gloucestershire Lib Dems propose ‘national first’ ban on disposable cups

Incoming leader of South Gloucestershire’s opposition Liberal Democrat group, Claire Young, will propose a ban on disposable cups at council-run facilities at this month’s meeting of Council. If the Council approve the motion on May 16th, it is believed that South Gloucestershire will be the first local authority in the country to take such a radical step.

Claire Young said: “We decided to take this step after a question from my colleague Cllr John O’Neill to the Conservative Administration revealed that the council used a shocking 36,000 disposable cups in 2017 – none of which can be recycled, because of the materials used. Like a number of other local authorities, South Gloucestershire has offered discounts for people who use reusable cups, but this clearly hasn’t solved the problem.

“We all have a duty to leave the planet in a decent state for our children. Eliminating the wasteful use of disposable cups is only a small step, but I firmly believe that public bodies like South Gloucestershire Council should be leading the way, not trailing behind. If the council wants local residents to reduce the amount of waste they throw away, then it really should practice what it preaches.

“I would call upon South Gloucestershire councillors of all parties to support this Liberal Democrat motion and pave the way for other local authorities to follow our lead.”    

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Road closures put on hold after protests

Conservative-run South Gloucestershire Council has been forced to put on hold experimental road closures in Ruffet Road and Coalsack Lane, Kendleshire due to start today after protests from residents.

Residents reacted angrily when the closures were announced on 17th April, less than two weeks before they were due to come into effect. Over 600 people signed a petition started by the Kendleshire Golf Course for the closures to be put on hold while the community was consulted. 

Local Councillor Claire Young (Liberal Democrat, Westerleigh ward) said:
"People agree that something needs to be done to make the notorious Kendleshire Cross Roads safer and stop unsuitable traffic using the narrow country lanes. I have long championed the Quiet Lanes Scheme in this area but there has always been proper consultation with local people before any changes are made. Introducing such drastic measures without talking to the community first is a big mistake.

"Around 30 local people attended the meeting on Ruffet Road that I arranged with officers. It was unfortunate that the Cabinet Member had to leave before he heard all the points of view. I am delighted however that he has now recognised local concerns and paused the plans so these can be investigated.

"I also secured a promise from officers that they would hold a face-to-face consultation event locally, rather than relying simply on people sharing their views online. They need to make sure everyone can have their say."

If you would like to take part in the online consultation, you can do so here.

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Yate Councillors welcome proposed new purpose for Woodleaze care home

Liberal Democrat Councillors in Yate have welcomed proposals by South Gloucestershire Council officers to turn the former Woodleaze care home into supported housing for young people leaving care.

Yate Central Councillor Ruth Davis said:

“This is by far the best proposal for the Woodleaze site that has been brought forward. This scheme would provide much-needed supported accommodation for up to 20 young people close to Yate Town Centre and its public transport links. This is the only realistic alternative to the whole site being sold off for commercial housing, with all the extra pressure that would put on Yate’s existing services and roads.”

Yate North Councillor Mike Drew said:

“If the site were sold for housing that would put many more cars on already busy local roads. Using the existing building to support young people should mean fewer cars and less disruption for residents. All options will soon go out for public consultation and we would encourage residents to make their views known.”

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