Local health managers have rowed back on proposals to cut the upper age limit for which women are eligible for IVF treatment on the NHS, after protests by local campaigners, including Lib Dem councillors Sue Hope and Claire Young.
Cllr Sue Hope said: “I welcome the fact that the local CCG have listened to the hundreds of people who replied to the consultation and are keeping the age limit for IVF treatment at 40 for women, rather than being reduced to 35, as initially proposed. However, I’m concerned that the CCG still propose that any woman whose partner has a child from a previous relationship will not be eligible for IVF treatment. On top of this, we have been warned that there will be many more cuts announced after the New Year.”
Cllr Claire Young said: “The CCG have listened this time, but under current Tory spending plans, they will still be forced to make millions in cuts to local NHS services in the coming years. Blame for these cuts lies not with the CCG, but with Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt. Together with Bristol and North Somerset, South Gloucestershire is one of only 14 areas in the country targeted for extra cuts under the Conservative Government’s Capped Expenditure Process.
“The Conservatives will say that the local NHS needs ‘to live within its means’ but the reality is that many NHS services are already being stretched close to breaking point. We are calling for greater investment in the NHS so that health managers can concentrate on how to improve services, not how to cut them. I would like to thank everyone who has already signed our petition to protect local NHS funding. If you haven’t already signed, you can do so here: http://www.southgloslibdems.org.uk/ivf.”
South Gloucestershire Council’s ruling Conservative group voted through a Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) on Wednesday night that will see nearly 33,000 built across the area over 19 years. The Liberal Democrats voted against, with most Labour councillors abstaining.
Lib Dem councillor for Westerleigh, Claire Young, warned that the plan could prove a gift to big housing developers, saying: “much of the housing in this plan is concentrated in just five locations: Buckover, Charfield, Coalpit Heath, Thornbury, and Yate. Coalpit Heath alone is expected to double in size with an extra 1,800 houses.
“Not only will this place undue stress on those few communities, there is a very real risk that developers will argue the market in these areas won’t bear them building as quickly as expected – so they should have permission to build elsewhere too. These sorts of speculative developments are already happening, and are a big problem for local communities. The plan proposed by the Conservatives will just risk making the problem worse.”
Yate North councillor Mike Drew said: “The Conservatives claim that this plan will boost “Affordable Housing” – but they define this as houses costing 80% of the local market rate – far beyond what most people would consider affordable. In the time I have lived here, the number of houses in Yate and Sodbury have increased by 50% but prices have continued to rise. The Conservative plans for further houses on top of the 2,500 already in the pipeline will not improve that situation. The reality is that multiplying the number of houses that need to be built will just magnify the problems of land-banking by big developers, allowing them to flout plans and demand extra sites for development.”
Cllr Pat Hockey (Frampton Cotterell) said: “This JSP could have been a great opportunity to plan for the future of our area and combat the national housing crisis. Instead it has sold South Gloucestershire down the river with an overconcentration of new houses, few of which will be affordable for local people. It would take decades to build the infrastructure needed to meet this plan, even if we get the money for it, which is by no means certain. On top of that, the plan will see the narrowest part of the local Green Belt built upon, and see South Gloucestershire lumbered with the greatest loss of Green Belt in the West of England.”
Cllr Dave Hockey (Frampton Cotterell) said: “In recent years, planning policies have required an average of around 988 houses a year to be built in South Gloucestershire. This JSP, will require a staggering 1,711 houses to be built on average each year. There is no way developers will stick to this rate of building within the permitted locations, meaning that we will be stuck with development by speculative application until 2037, or until the Government changes the law to get tough with the big developers. At the moment it’s all carrots and no sticks for developers and it’s local residents who suffer as a result.”
South Gloucestershire’s ruling Conservative group last night voted through the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) which will see nearly 33,000 new houses built in South Gloucestershire over nineteen years. 3,200 are planned for Charfield, Thornbury and the new ‘Buckover Garden Village’ alone – with a further 1,500 anticipated at Buckover in the longer term.
Voting against the JSP, Lib Dem councillor for Charfield, John O’Neill said: “This plan will more than double the number of houses in Charfield ward to over 5,000. It will create even larger commuter areas in Charfield and Buckover and continue to leave both settlements isolated in terms of medical facilities. I would defy anyone to get from Charfield to Southmead for an appointment and back in the same day using public transport.”
Lib Dem Prospective MP for Thornbury and Yate, Cllr Claire Young said: “No one is asking for our villages to be set in aspic. We fully acknowledge the need for more affordable homes in South Gloucestershire, but this plan concentrates a huge amount of development in just a few areas – threatening to make some communities unrecognisable within a few years. The new developments have simply not been properly thought through. The so-called ‘Buckover Garden Village’ will be cut in two by the busy A38. Vague talk in the JSP about ‘consideration being required to ensure the A38 can continue to act as an effective relief road to the M5 without detriment to the new resident’s health & wellbeing’ is meaningless.”
Cllr Maggie Tyrell (Thornbury South & Alveston) said: “The plan proposed by the Conservatives doesn’t give us any hope that what Thornbury needs, Thornbury will get. Buckover is projected to have 3,000 houses in the long term, but where is the transport infrastructure to serve this huge development? A Metrobus route there in 20 years’ time will be no good if most of the houses are built before then. This plan is a mess. We’re getting houses in all the wrong places.”
Cllr Shirley Holloway (Thornbury South & Alveston) said: “This plan bills ‘Buckover Garden Village’ as a separate community, but the reality is that it will be separated from Thornbury by little more than a field and will be reliant on Thornbury for its shops, schools, and other services and other amenities. Such a large development will place significant strain on existing community infrastructure.”
Thornbury North councillor Clare Fardell said: “We are very conscious of the need for affordable homes in Thornbury, but the definition of “Affordable Housing” used in the JSP is 80% of local market rate – or around £240,000 in the case of Thornbury. That is hardly affordable to most people, certainly not local young people hoping to remain in the area. I fear it will only be big developers who benefit from this plan, not local people.”
Conservative councillor David Chubb (Thornbury North) commended the JSP, saying that Thornbury would need more houses when the new nuclear power station is built.
The JSP was passed by the Conservative majority on the Council. All Liberal Democrat councillors voted against, with most Labour councillors abstaining.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Claire Young is calling upon South Gloucestershire Council to step in to fund the extension of the 82 service to Chipping Sodbury and the villages beyond.
The call comes after First Bus revealed that they do not intend to extend the 82 service as far as Chipping Sodbury, because they consider it not to be commercially viable to do so. This means that there is still no direct bus route from Chipping Sodbury to Southmead Hospital.
Claire said: “I’m extremely disappointed to hear that First are not prepared to look at extending the 82 service. I have been campaigning alongside residents on this issue for over a year now. Last Autumn, we presented a petition on the issue at the Public Transport Forum and, only earlier this week, First Bus Director James Freeman promised that he would look at ways to improve the 82 service once the Bromley Heath viaduct works have finished.
“However, First Bus’ Commercial Manager has since informed me that they will not be looking at extending the route as part of these improvements, as they do not deem it to be cost-effective for them. This comes as a bitter blow, as our petition proves that there is significant local demand for a direct service to Southmead Hospital from Chipping Sodbury and the villages. The lack of a direct route means that elderly and frail patients and visitors to Southmead have the inconvenience of changing buses as Yate.
“In cases, like this, where a bus service is not deemed commercially viable, but there is real public need, it is possible for the Council to step in and fund it. That’s why I’m calling upon South Gloucestershire’s Conservative Cabinet to fund the extension of the 82 route. It is clear that there is genuine public need for this service, and I hope we can get a cross-party consensus to bring it about.”
At a meeting of South Gloucestershire’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Friday, Conservative Councillors failed to support a recommendation to review and invest in services at Yate Minor Injuries Unit. The recommendation was moved by Lib Dem councillor Sue Hope and supported by all Lib Dem and Labour councillors on the committee. The Conservatives split with six abstaining and two voting against.
The recommendation states:
There is recognition of the growing demand for services at the Yate MIU; the CCG recognise this and reviews the service with the aim of investing in a service to meet the growing demand at Yate MIU.
The recommendation was passed by 5 votes to 2 with 6 abstentions.
Cllr Sue Hope said: “I brought this recommendation in response to the current three month trial at Yate MIU under which patients are being turned away during the day when the service becomes too busy. We believe that this is a bad policy, which had led to confusion and dismay among patients.
“I was amazed when the Conservatives refused to support our resolution, particularly as health colleagues at the meeting had already said that they were happy to review the MIU service and report back to the committee. I’m pleased that the resolution was passed with the help of Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors.”
Cllr Hope also brought a second resolution:
The CCG reviews its communication strategy with the public; be clear in its objectives and give a clear concise message to the public as to how to access services.
This resolution was passed with 7 in favour and 6 abstentions.
Sue Hope said: “It’s become clear that the CCG and local health providers seriously need to look at how they communicate with residents about services on offer. Not only has there been a lot of confusion about the situation with the MIU, but it is clear that most residents are still unaware of the minor injuries service now available at all South Gloucestershire GP practices.”
The South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will now report back on both resolutions at a future session of the Scrutiny Committee.