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Director’s bulletin, February 2015

Monday, 02 February 2015 15:47

Welcome to the first Director’s Bulletin for 2015 – a round-up of local and national campaign news from CPRE Avonside.

Happy New Year to all our volunteers, members and supporters. 2015 looks like it will be an exciting year ahead.

Bristol Green Capital

The Green Capital year was launched on the 24th January with a spectacular high wire walk between the A and  B Bond Warehouses (better known as the Create centre where we held our AGM in 2014).For starters we have Britain’s first European Green Capital, Bristol, on our doorstep. CPRE Avonside joined the Green Capital Partnership (with 700 plus members) and we hope to use this as an opportunity to highlight the importance that our local countryside plays in making our cities better places to live. Bristol won European Green Capital 2015 because it is the nation’s greenest city with more cycling, recycling, and less energy use than our neighbours in other major UK cities. One third of the city is green or blue open space, protected during the city’s recent growth while 95% of building development has been on ‘brownfield’ derelict land and properties. CPRE Avonside also believes Bristol benefits enormously from its Green Belt, which has done so much to contain the city and protect the countryside that surrounds it, as well as keeping it accessible to the city residents.

At the same time we have been granted a small amount of money by CPRE national office to run a campaign to raise awareness of our Green Belt as a source of local food for Bristol and Bath. The Bristol Green Capital year will feature a series of events and workshops and we hope to use some, such as the Festival of Nature in June, to increase the profile of Green Belt and local food. We will be seeking help and ideas from volunteers to run this campaign, and anyone interested should contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on 07854 741130.

General Election

PCCs from each of the main parties get ready to answer questions on protecting local countryside including Dominic Tristram (Green), Todd Foreman, (Labour), Ben Howlett (Conservative), Julian Deverell (UKIP) and  Steve Bradley (Liberal Democrats) (pictured from left to right). The event was chaired by Cate Le Grice Mack,  a local Bath resident and member of the CPRE Avonside committee (pictured centre). Photo credit: Sophie SpencerThis year, we also have a great opportunity to influence local and national policies in the run-up to the General Election in May. CPRE have published their own ‘manifesto’ www.cpre.org.uk/manifesto and we held a successful ‘hustings’ event in Bath in October. The Bath and North East Somerset District Group invited Prospective Parliamentary Candidates from each of the main parties, who gave their views on a number of key topics concerning the local countryside. This followed the controversial adoption by Bath and North East Somerset Council of a Core Strategy which sacrificed some of the local Green Belt for housing.

Read more about the event ›

Planning

Avonside Chairman Georgie Bigg talks to CPRE Chief Executive Shaun Spears at a housing development site outside Weston-super-Mare

Avonside Chairman Georgie Bigg talks to CPRE Chief Executive Shaun Spears at a housing development site outside Weston-super-Mare

As well as opportunities, there are some significant challenges ahead. We are preparing for an Avonside wide response to a new West of England Joint Strategic Planning Strategy, which will look at the distribution of housing development over the four West of England authorities (South Gloucestershire, Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) and North Somerset), supported by a Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment. This is likely to be a very significant document, eventually affecting Core Strategies in all of the 4 authorities. We are very fortunate to have committed volunteers in each of our districts, and we will work together to respond to this strategy. Comments on the ‘Pre Commencement Document’ and proposed sites and broad locations for housing and economic development are to be submitted by 6th March 2015. For more details see www.westofenglandlep.co.uk/jointstrategicplanningstrategy.

We have already, this year, seen legal challenges to applications for housing development in both North Somerset and BANES which, if successful, are likely to have significant implications for our local countryside. The housing numbers in the North Somerset Core Strategy are still unresolved and the arguments were put before an inspector once again in early January, with CPRE North Somerset District Group speaking at the hearing as the sole representative of the interests of the environment.

In January CPRE’s senior management team were, by chance, visiting the area and we were able to take them on a visit to some of the sites locally that are under threat in Avonside, and some of those where we are supporting house building. It was a very interesting outing and helped them understand better some of the issues that we face at the local level. This is the team visiting a site outside Weston-super-Mare, approved for house building.

Looking back at the highlights of 2014

George Ferguson speaks to members at CPRE Avonside’s AGM about how we can protect the countryside by making cities better places to live. Photo credit: Les Forrest

George Ferguson speaks to members at CPRE Avonside’s AGM about how we can protect the countryside by making cities better places to live. Photo credit: Les Forrest

CPRE Avonside were delighted when George Ferguson agreed to address our 2014 AGM on October 2nd. So much of our important work takes place in the rural districts around Bristol and Bath, by campaigners local to the area, you might wonder what interest the Mayor of Bristol has in protecting rural England. Well, as it turns out CPRE and George see eye to eye on a lot of issues. Building on brownfield land; increasing densities in cities; incorporating good design and green space; supporting production and supply of local food. Most of the population in our area live in Bristol and Bath, and many care passionately about their local countryside. There are a few issues we don’t agree on, such as Bristol’s decision to approve a new MetroBus, and the subsequent loss to green space and prime agricultural land.

Despite that, it seems that the problems faced by George Ferguson are more structural, political and financial, rather than down to values and vision. It was sobering when he estimated that around 70% of his time is taken up negotiating money from central government. Bristol, although it has a mayor, has not devolved its financial affairs in the same way London has. Nor does it have a Greater Bristol Transport Authority (like London’s), with its own dedicated funding. You get the impression that the mayor could be a lot more effective given the ability to plan and fund projects for the whole area, rather than limited to Bristol.

Read the full report of the talk ›

Sir Andrew Motion visits Avonside

CPRE President Sir Andrew Motion talks to local CPRE campaigner and farmer, Jill Britten, about threats to the green belt around Bristol. Photo credit: Benjamin Halfpenny

CPRE President Sir Andrew Motion talks to local CPRE campaigner and farmer, Jill Britten, about threats to the green belt around Bristol. Photo credit: Benjamin Halfpenny

In September we were delighted to welcome Sir Andrew Motion on a visit to the West Country. The former poet laurite and President of CPRE met local campaigners and members of CPRE’s Bath and North East Somerset District Group at Jill Britten’s farm (pictured above) near Whitchurch, Bristol. Jill is a farmer of organic beef in the Green Belt. Jill has refused considerable offers from developers for her land, while the local CPRE branch has been continuing to campaign against development of the surrounding Green Belt.

Sir Andrew said, “It has been fantastic to meet CPRE members and other countryside activists. Their work to protect and enhance the West Country’s beautiful landscapes is invaluable. Having been created with the assumption of permanence, the Green Belt is vital in preventing urban sprawl and preserving beautiful landscapes like that around Whitchurch. As with the case of Jill Britten of Whitewood Farm, it is absolutely wrong that farmers and people who own land should be pressured into considering offers for land supposedly protected against development. Both Green Belt and well-managed agricultural land is crucial to the balance and vitality of the countryside.”

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