A council meeting in Kingswood descended into shouting over the local Tories’ intention to concrete over fields near Thornbury.
In the summer, the Council applied to the Government for funds to investigate “Buckover Garden Village”. This proposal is to build 3,000 homes straddling the A38, just to the north west of Thornbury. But the application did not go through any of the council’s democratic processes.
Cllr John O’Neill, representing Charfield said: “This document appeared out of nowhere, with “the council’s full endorsement”. It called it “an exciting prospect”. The council “fully supported” it. But it had never, ever come before a council committee to be discussed. So I asked the leader of council what democratic process it had gone through. He agreed wholeheartedly that we had processes it should have seen – and that it hadn’t gone through any of them. We are still in the dark as to how this decision was reached.”
Councillor Riddle explained at length why he supported it – but didn’t have a single word on how it had been democratically agreed.
Cllr Mike Drew, from Yate said: “What on earth is the point in questions to council when the leader simply chooses to ignore them. We have systems in this council, massive projects like this are supposed to be agreed transparently – even if we don’t like the outcome, it happens in public. This was a secret decision, with no vote and no due process. It’s an absolute disgrace.”
South Gloucestershire residents were horrified to learn that the new Metrobus routes – touted as environmentally friendly transport into Bristol – will instead run using regular buses, kitted out to a years-old environmental standard.
The Metrobus fleet was supposed to be all-new buses, with clean, energy-efficient engines, including hybrids, or bio-fuels. But at a meeting on Friday, the Joint Transport Executive is expected to agree to delay this requirement.
“We were always promised that these new buses would be clean,” said Cllr Pat Hockey, the Lib Dem transport spokes. “They were supposed to be environmentally friendly vehicles, like hybrids, or using bio-fuels. Now, the new rules are going to say any old bus from the last few years can run down the route. The bureaucrats say it’s only for the first two years. But let’s get real. The bus companies are never going to repaint old buses with Metrobus livery, and re-fit them with smart ticketing, if they only expect to use them for two years. They’re going to push to extend this, and we’re going to be stuck with them for ages.”
The proposal is now to allow any buses meeting the old Euro VI standard to provide Metrobus services instead.
“Air pollution kills hundreds of people every year in the Bristol area,” said Cllr Claire Young (Lib Dem, Westerleigh). “The bus companies have had years to prepare for this, and arrange the new, cleaner buses that they should be using on this route. There’s no excuse for relaxing the requirements at this late stage.”
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.”
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.”