Liberal Democrats who have been campaigning against the Joint Spatial Plan for the West of England have spoken of their anger at the time and money wasted on the flawed housing plan. On Wednesday a further letter from the Planning Inspectors examining the plan was published, setting out in detail their concerns about the plan.
Claire Young, Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Thornbury and Yate, said:
“We welcome the comments of the Planning Inspectors as they have confirmed what we have been arguing since the start of the process. We have challenged at every point the logic of how the sites for the major new developments were allocated, including speaking at the hearings in Bath in July.
“We are angry that the Conservative administration ignored everything that we and other local people have been saying. Even when the Planning Inspectors wrote to them last year expressing concerns, they and the other two Conservative-led authorities and Labour-led Bristol pushed on stubbornly, wasting time and money that could have been spent on solving some of our problems.
“The Inspectors’ letter is damning. Trying to press on regardless would be an act of extreme folly. It’s time the planners worked with our communities to deliver genuinely affordable housing where we need it.”
Liberal Democrat bus campaigners are celebrating victory in their campaign for a cheap fare for bus journeys within the towns of Yate and Thornbury. From later this month people travelling on First Bus services will play just £1.50 for any single journey in town.
Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Thornbury & Yate, Claire Young, said:
"This is fantastic news for bus users in Thornbury and Yate. Last year's fare rises left them paying far more for a short bus journey than those in Bristol or Bath. It made people think twice about using the bus to go to the shops, adding to the congestion and parking problems. We pushed First Bus to give us a low flat-rate fare for journeys within town and we're delighted they're doing that."
South Gloucestershire Lib Dems have welcomed the news that Government Planning Inspectors have told the West of England Authorities, including South Gloucestershire, to take the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) back to the drawing board.
The JSP would have given the green light to 33,000 houses across South Gloucestershire, including thousands concentrated at five vast Strategic Development Locations. Those plans now been thrown into disarray, after the Inspectors pointed to fundamental flaws in the way that the Strategic Development Locations were chosen.
South Glos Lib Dem Leader, Cllr Claire Young, who spoke for the Lib Dems at the Planning Examination said: “This decision is a vindication for all of us who campaigned against this poorly thought through plan from the beginning. Thank you to all the residents and groups who contributed to making the case against the unjustified and unsustainable Strategic Development Locations. We have been making the case for over two years that South Gloucestershire’s Strategic Development Locations had not been properly thought through or chosen in a fair and reasoned way by the Conservative administration. The Inspectors have clearly listened and agreed. It just goes to show that local campaigners can make a difference when we work together.”
South Glos Lib Dem spokesperson for Planning, Cllr Adrian Rush said: “It never should have got this far. The Inspectors wrote to South Gloucestershire and the other councils over a year ago to say that they had serious concerns about how the plan had been put together. The Conservatives should have listened and taken the opportunity to do a serious rethink. Instead they ploughed on regardless with only minor changes to their original plans and the Inspectors have now torn them up and told them to go back to the drawing board. I dread to think how much taxpayers’ money has been wasted on this fool’s errand. Serious questions will need to be asked.”
Lib Dem Deputy Group Leader Cllr Maggie Tyrrell said: “It’s clear from the Inspectors’ damning remarks that the plan is so fundamentally flawed that it needs to go back to square one. It’s crucial that Conservative administration now stops digging. The worst thing they could do would be to make some minor tweaks to this plan and try to bring it back to the Inspectors, as they did last time. That would just be wasting time and throwing good money after bad. The great risk now is that, without a viable local plan, communities will be swamped by more speculative development. We do need a local plan, but it must be one that distributes housing growth equitably and sustainably – not dumping the lion’s share of housing on just four or five communities.”
Local Liberal Democrats Councillors are celebrating after South Gloucestershire Council passed a motion declaring a Climate Emergency and committing the authority to cutting the area’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 at Wednesday’s meeting of full Council. The motion was original tabled by the Lib Dems, but following successful discussions with Labour and the Conservatives, a revised version was agreed with unanimous cross-party support.
Proposer of the motion, Cllr Claire Young, said: “I’m extremely pleased that the Council has taken this important step and I am grateful to the other parties for seconding the motion and agreeing to tackle this problem together. The Conservative administration previously expressed some hesitation in going for the 2030 target but, to their credit, they listened to the evidence presented to them and to the passionate views of campaigners and the opposition parties and have now joined us in committing to the 2030 target. We are in a much better position to combat the climate emergency because we have agreed to work together as one united Council on this issue. It just goes to show what politicians can achieve when we sit down and work together constructively.”
Lib Dem Climate Spokesperson, Cllr Louise Harris, said: “We should be under no illusions that achieving net zero carbon by 2030 is a huge task, but it is one which we must be equal to. We can no longer afford to treat climate change as a future threat – it is a real and present danger and we must act accordingly. I was hugely encouraged by the numbers of residents who came to Wednesday night’s meeting to support the 2030 target and to offer their help in making it happen. South Gloucestershire Council must provide leadership, but it must also find away to engage the whole community to achieve this goal with a sense of shared purpose. We have agreed to scope out an action plan by the end of the year. We will then need to make it happen over each of the next 10 years. Kicking the can down the road is not an option.”