Liberal Democrat councillors have won their campaign to persuade Conservative-run South Gloucestershire Council to protect open spaces it owns in Thornbury and Alveston from being built on. The council had previously refused to include them on a list of land to be designated as Local Green Space, despite Thornbury Town Council agreeing to the open spaces it owns being protected.
Cllr Claire Young, the Lib Dem Lead Member for Environment and Community Services, said:
"Well over 300 people signed our petition to have the greens at Streamleaze, Osprey Park and Down Road protected from development, which shows just how important these spaces are. We are very grateful to everyone who took the trouble to do this."
"In particular, I'd like to thank Mr and Mrs Dodd, who not only added their names to the petition, but also sent me a copy of the conditions imposed when planning permission was granted for the houses at Streamleaze Green in 1963. They clearly state that a 3 acre open space is required for recreation. I submitted this evidence to the council and with my Thornbury colleagues lobbied council officials to make them aware just how strongly local people felt. I am delighted that they have now recognised that these open spaces should be protected."
Cllr Maggie Tyrrell (Lib Dem, Thornbury South and Alveston) said:
"Greens like the ones at Streamleaze, Osprey Park and Down Road are important open spaces, well used by local people. They were created when the houses were built, so children would have somewhere to play and people of all ages would be able to walk around and meet their neighbours. So we were horrified when South Gloucestershire Council, as the owner of these spaces, initially refused to protect them. Thornbury Town Council had already agreed that the open spaces it owns should be protected in this way."
Cllr Shirley Holloway (Lib Dem, Thornbury South and Alveston) said:
"We are very relieved that the threat has been lifted from these green spaces. We all supposed that they were there forever for people to enjoy, so it came as a real shock when the Tory-run council said they would not be protected. We are delighted that they have now seen sense.”
Across South Gloucestershire, families are getting ready to send their kids back to school. Thanks to work done by Liberal Democrats in Government, South Gloucestershire schools have nearly £7m to spend on their priorities for the kids from poorest families.
Cllr Ian Blair, Liberal Democrat Education spokesman said: “In 2010, we made a promise to introduce a ‘Pupil Premium’, so that schools could focus more money on the kids from the poorest families. We knew that children were falling behind at an early age, and it just wasn’t fair. By helping them to get a good start in life, these children have a better chance of getting better exam results, and better jobs.”
Cllr Claire Young, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in South Gloucestershire added: “Schools have to show that they’re putting this money to good use, focusing it on the children who need it – but it’s entirely up to the schools to decide how to do that. They might put on breakfast clubs, so kids aren’t learning on an empty stomach, or more teaching assistants to give targeted support in the classroom. This £6.9m is real extra money, that can be spent from September to next July, making sure all our children have a better chance for the future.”
Tories running South Gloucestershire are hiding the West of England Devolution Deal away from the public, say leading Liberal Democrats.
Cllr Sue Hope (Cotswold Edge) said: “It’s outrageous. There are public events happening around Bristol, and Bath & North East Somerset. Only South Gloucestershire is shutting the residents out.
“Lots of our residents don’t have fast, reliable internet services – but the only consultation we have is online. The information about it is online. The audio version is online. How to get a braille copy – is online. It’s completely unacceptable that South Glos alone are not organising public events. The leader of the Council, Matthew Riddle, promised me he would look into this – so we know they’ve deliberately decided not to do any. This is a big change in local government, and residents know nothing about it.”
Cllr Claire Young (Westerleigh) added: “It doesn’t make any sense. Bristol residents have six public events around the city where they can learn about the deal. There’s another six in Bath & North East Somerset, in Bath, Keynsham, Chew Magna. But if you live in Yate, or Thornbury, or Frampton Cotterell, our council has decided you don’t deserve a chance to meet people and discuss the deal. You’re limited to an online survey. It’s absolutely not good enough.”
South Gloucestershire Council today began its consultation on the Policies, Sites, and Places document (http://www.southglos.gov.uk/PSPpublication).
Cllr Claire Young, Liberal Democrat lead member on Environment & Communities said:
"It’s disappointing that there are open spaces that have not been protected in this document because of objections by South Gloucestershire Council itself as the landowner. If these spaces have been needed before, they're even more needed now when more houses have brought more people needing open spaces. I welcome the fact that we've banked the progress we could, and the policies that are so important when making development control decisions. Local residents need to use the consultation to make it clear to the council that their valued green spaces deserve protection, now and into the future."
Liberal Democrat campaigners for better broadband have welcomed the news that more money is available for broadband in our rural areas – but warn that it should be used for the right technology.
South Glos Council has announced that a number of villages are likely to benefit from an extra £1.49m for better broadband. Campaigners are concerned that the money will be wasted on solutions that don’t deliver the speed and reliability people and businesses need. At a recent council meeting, Liberal Democrats challenged the Conservatives running the council to get the technology right.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Claire Young said: “Upgrading the local cabinet to fibre won’t help much if your home is connected to that cabinet by a long length of copper wire. Your broadband will still be slow and unreliable. I have called on the Tories running South Glos council to talk to councils that have already delivered future-proof pure-fibre solutions in conjunction with BT Open Reach. If the Superfast Cornwall project can deploy a pure-fibre solution to over 85,000 premises, why can’t that happen in our rural areas?”
She added, “Local campaigners are frustrated that they can’t get more information about how the money is being used. They want to know that tax payers’ money is being spent on technology that will deliver speed, reliability and value-for-money in the long term, not just stop gap measures.”
Cllr Sue Hope, representing Cotswold Edge added: “Good access to broadband is vital for our rural residents and businesses. It’s not just for buying things online, or watching streaming TV – everything like booking a doctor’s appointment, finding out about community events, and tracking what your Councillors and MPs are up to can be done online. Our businesses need to be able to place their own orders, and be available to consumers, to be competitive. Physical presence used to be everything, but now it’s all about being online. Our modern businesses have to be part of the modern economy, and that means being available online, with a high speed connection. We need a long-term solution, and we need it now. A good internet connection isn’t a nice-to-have. It’s essential.”