South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats call for Council to act on Social Distancing

Cyclists and Pedestrians

After the Government announced that councils must help more people to cycle and walk to work as the lockdown eases, Liberal Democrats have repeated their call for the Conservative-run South Gloucestershire Council to take action.

At last month’s virtual Cabinet meeting the Leader of South Gloucestershire’s Liberal Democrats, Cllr Claire Young, urged the ruling Conservatives to follow the lead of other Councils across the country and help cyclists and pedestrians through measures like coning off road space to create new temporary cycle lanes or widen existing lanes. Both the Conservative Cabinet Member for Transport Steve Reade and the Conservative Leader of the Council Toby Savage refused to take any action.

Now the Department of Transport has issued new guidance requiring councils to put in place such measures so that people can get back to work without being forced on to crowded public transport. Methods suggested by the Department for Transport include: installing pop-up cycling facilities to aid social distancing, using cones and barriers to widen footways and introducing more pedestrian and cycle-only roads.

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Cautious Welcome to Climate Emergency commitment

Solar panels

South Gloucestershire’s Liberal Democrat Opposition Group has offered a cautious welcome to the Cabinet’s decision to adopt a wide-ranging plan of action to respond to the Climate Emergency.

This report follows a motion passed by the Council last year, proposed by the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr Claire Young, declaring a Climate Emergency and committing the Council to taking action.

Following this a cross party group was set up, co-chaired by Liberal Democrat Cllr Louise Harris, to set out the actions the Council needed to take.

Responding to South Gloucestershire Council Cabinet’s decision to adopt the majority of the group’s recommendations, Cllr Claire Young said,

“While the Conservative Leader of Council is saying all the right things, we hope the administration is wholeheartedly committed to this initiative.

“We welcome the recommendations that have been adopted today. It is disappointing that the Conservative Cabinet has not adopted all the recommendations of the cross-party task and finish group, which was set up to give the Council a clear plan for its immediate response to the Climate Emergency.

“Tackling the Climate Emergency must, along with responding to the current Covid-19 pandemic, be at the top of the Council’s list of priorities.

“We will continue to hold this Conservative administration to account and ensure that the Climate Emergency is met with more than just warm words.”

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New Local Plan must not repeat the mistakes of the failed JSP

House building

South Gloucestershire’s Liberal Democrats have asked for a commitment that the South Gloucestershire Local Plan will not repeat the mistakes of the failed Joint Spatial Plan.

At last week's meeting, the Cabinet adopted a programme for drawing up a new Local Plan for South Gloucestershire.

Cllr Claire Young, Leader of South Gloucestershire’s Liberal Democrats, said,

“This administration squandered years taking part in the failed Joint Spatial Plan.

“As one Conservative Cabinet Member said at today’s meeting, ‘The longer we leave ourselves without an up to date local plan the longer we leave ourselves open to unplanned and speculative development.’

“Unfortunately, as a result of those wasted years, we are in no better position than we were when work started on the JSP in 2016 – in fact it is worse, as our existing policies are now even more out of date.

“We are promised that the new Local Plan will be evidence-led, so we hope that the new plan will not propose the large-scale poorly-located Strategic Development Sites which were in the JSP and were a key reason for the JSP’s failure.

“We hope too that the numbers of new homes needed will be reassessed in light of the economic damage being done by both Brexit and Covid-19. Importantly we must not repeat the mistake of South Gloucestershire taking on a large part of Bristol’s unmet demand.

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Online Cabinet Meeting addresses environmental issues

South Gloucestershire Council held a cabinet meeting last week to discuss a variety of environmental issues. The Covid-19 emergency necessitated, for the first time, the use of an online video conferencing forum. South Glos Liberal Democrats live-tweeted the meeting:

For details of the Lib Dem response to the principal topics discussed see:

Cautious Welcome to Climate Emergency commitment

New Local Plan must not repeat the mistakes of the failed JSP

Further resources:

Cabinet agenda

Meeting Webcast

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Local Councillor Slams MP for “Irresponsible Letter”

James Arrowsmith, South Gloucestershire councillor for Stoke Park and Cheswick, has slammed local MP Jack Lopresti’s dangerous call for Churches to be open on Easter Sunday, contradicting advice given out by his own Government and the Holy Week Statement prepared by Church leaders across the UK. Easter Sunday is the most important day in the Christian calendar and usually sees millions of people attend Churches of all denominations across the country.

Mr Lopresti wrote to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Local Government Secretary, asking for Churches to open their doors on Easter Sunday.

This contradicted Mr Lopresti’s statement made in the same letter that the “Government strategy to instruct people to stay at home is absolutely necessary to restrict the spread of infection”.

The Government has restricted all public gatherings, including religious ceremonies whilst the coronavirus continues to present a high risk to the public. Since then, with the support of Christian leaders, Churches across the country have closed and many of them have broadcast their services on social media.

James Arrowsmith, councillor for Stoke Park and Cheswick (located within Mr. Lopresti’s constituency), responded with:

“Jack Lopresti should know better than this. His letter mentions the public health crisis several times, yet he downplays it by drawing crass comparisons to the need for people to feed themselves and key workers leaving their homes to supply food and medical care for us and to look after the most vulnerable.

“Thousands of people up and down the country have died following the COVID-19 outbreak. He should withdraw his irresponsible letter, apologise for being so reckless and reaffirm his commitment to following the Government’s advice.

“The Government’s advice is supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster – if they are prepared to support a temporary closure to prevent the spread of this dangerous illness, I would hope that our MP could do so too.”

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