Charfield SDL “must go back to the drawing board” following planning inspector decision, says local councillor

Lib Dem Councillor for Charfield John O’Neill is calling on South Gloucestershire Council to halt their plans for a 1,200 homes at Charfield, following a decision by the planning inspector to allow 121 homes and retail units on land north of Wotton Road at the heart of the village.  The proposed 1,200 home Strategic Development Location (SDL) was supported by South Gloucestershire’s ruling Conservative group earlier this year as part of its Joint Strategic Plan (JSP), and would more than double the size of the village if it goes ahead.

Cllr John O’Neill said: “We are very disappointed by the Planning Inspector’s decision to allow this speculative development of 121 and retail units in the heart of Charfield. This was the last central village site that could be preserved for community use and a possible site for a reopened station. Additionally, with Charfield Primary School already at capacity, this speculative development will just add to the pressure on local school places without helping to deliver the new school Charfield needs.

“What is clear is that this decision puts a coach and horses through the Conservatives’ plans for a 1,200 SDL at Charfield, and that those plans now need to be go back to the drawing board. The proposed SDL would more than double the size of Charfield, which the Conservatives say would help to pay for improved infrastructure for the village. We have always opposed the SDL, which we believe would destroy the identity of Charfield. But with the heart of the village now due to become housing it must be obvious, even to the administration, that the SDL cannot possibly be delivered in a sustainable way. The SDL must now be scrapped, or at the very least dramatically reduced in scale.”        

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Council backs Lib Dem call to bring management companies to heel

South Gloucestershire Council is calling upon the Government to bring in proper regulation of so-called management companies, following a motion by Lib Dem councillors Mike Drew and John Davis on Wednesday night.  

Cllr Mike Drew (Yate North) said: “Management companies are frequently set up by housing developers to maintain open spaces and play areas. Residents moving into new developments are then required to pay these companies indefinite management fees for their services. But here in Yate residents already pay a parish council precept to have green spaces maintained, meaning that some residents are effectively being doubled-charged.

“In some cases the management companies are not even performing the tasks they are charging for. Residents of Autumn Brooks in Yate are currently being forced to pay management fees for communal spaces that are fenced off and inaccessible. This is patiently unfair and Yate Town Council would like the power to take over the maintenance of green spaces from management companies, in order to save residents money and make sure maintenance work is up to standard. We’re calling upon the Government to make this possible for all new developments.”

Cllr John Davis (Yate North) said: “We’ve found that management companies frequently abuse their positon by treating residents as cash cows. They can charge residents as much as £50 a month in some cases. Residents have no choice but to pay up or move out. The situation could be improved by making sure that these companies are properly regulated, and that representatives of local residents are given places on the company boards to speak up for householders.”   

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Council backs Lib Dem call for urgent NHS funding to prevent a Winter Crisis

South Gloucestershire Council backed a motion from Lib Dem councillors Sue Hope and Claire Young on Wednesday night, calling on the government to provide urgent extra funding to avert another winter crisis in the NHS later this year.

Proposer of the motion, Lib Dem Health Spokesperson Sue Hope said:

“The NHS is there for all of us when we need it, and we now need to return the favour. We are told by North Bristol NHS Trust that they expect extra winter pressures this year to cost them up to £6million, and yet, only £1.4million of extra funding has been made available by Government. NBT are doing their best to be prepared for the winter and are recruiting extra staff to cope, but they can only do so much with the money they have been given.

“If this funding black hole is not redressed, we will see a repeat of last year with cancelled operations and patients forced to wait in corridors. This would place terrible pressure on both staff and patients, and could lead to unnecessary deaths, as it did last year. The best 70th birthday present we could give to the NHS is to make sure that it is adequately funded this year, and every year.”

Seconder of the motion, Lib Dem Group Leader Claire Young said:

“We are pleased that our motion gained cross-party support and that the Council is now calling on the Government to urgently address the impending winter crisis in the NHS. However we were disappointed that the Conservatives felt the need to vote down our call to be honest with the British public that any increase in NHS funding will have to be met by tax increases.

“Leading health experts estimate that the NHS will need a bare minimum of an extra 4% in funding each year to cope with the growing needs of our aging population. Despite the illusorily promises of Boris Johnson during the Brexit campaign, the only way that the NHS will get the money it need is through an increase in taxation. It seems ludicrous that the Conservatives would not support being honest with the public about this.”

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Anger as Conservative Councillors vote to deny public a say over planning changes

There was visible anger and cries of “shame” from the public gallery last night as Conservative councillors unanimously voted down a proposal to put controversial planning changes out to public consultation, so that local residents can have a say on them. Instead the Conservatives voted the changes through on the night against Lib Dem and Labour opposition.

Cllr Sue Hope (Cotswold Edge) said: “When he became Leader of the Council earlier this year, Cllr Savage claimed that there would be a new dawn of openness and transparency under his leadership. He has fallen very hard at the first hurdle. It is frankly astonishing that he and his councillors would seek to push through such sweeping changes to our planning system without giving residents a chance to comment and be listened to.”

Imploring Conservative councillors to think again, Cllr Tony Davis (Dodington) said: “All we are saying is ‘give the public a say.’ You were elected by local residents to represent their interests, not simply to blindly vote the way you are told by your leader. If you vote these changes through without consulting the public, your credibility with residents on planning issues will be out the window for good.”    

Cllr Maggie Tyrrell (Thornbury South & Alveston) said: “Because the public have not been consulted, I’m not sure many people will realise they are about to lose important planning rights. Under these rule changes, members of the public will be banned from attending and speaking at site inspections, as they currently can. Regular planning meetings at Thornbury will be scrapped, meaning that the planning process will be made less accessible for residents in the west of South Gloucestershire. Residents will feel that the deck is being stacked against them even further. This really is a shabby and undemocratic move by the Conservatives.”

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South Glos Lib Dems reject Conservative plans to reduce local residents’ involvement in the planning process

South Gloucestershire Lib Dems are set to oppose proposals by the ruling Conservative Group to place greater limits on local residents’ input into the planning process – including scrapping the right for residents to attend site inspections by the planning committee.  

Lib Dem Group Leader, Cllr Claire Young said:

“My party have always believed that public decisions should be made in as open and transparent a way as possible, which is why we cannot support these proposals. Excluding residents from site inspections risks reducing public confidence in the fairness of the planning process.

“Coming on the heels of the Conservatives’ decision to push ahead with major developments at Coalpit Heath, Charfield, Buckover, Iron Acton and Thornbury in the face of public protest, this latest move will just add to the perception that the odds are being stacked against residents and in favour of powerful developers.”   

Lib Dem Deputy Group Leader, Cllr Maggie Tyrrell said:

“While we welcome the fact that the administration have u-turned on some of their previous proposals, after outcry from local residents and opposition councillors, it’s clear that these changes still make the planning process less accessible for residents. Regular planning meetings in Thornbury are to be scrapped, meaning that it will be more difficult for residents from the west of South Gloucestershire to participate in the process, particularly those residents who rely on public transport.

“The Tories propose that developers could run public engagement sessions to make up for the loss of local council-run planning meetings. This just goes to show how enamoured the Tories are with rich developers, and how little they understand about real local democracy.   

“The administration’s official line that these changes will ‘encourage engagement’ and make the system ‘more transparent’ suggests that they have either completely lost touch with reality or that they take local residents for fools.”  

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