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Director’s Bulletin, September 2013

Monday, 09 September 2013 15:56

Firstly, my apologies – this bulletin would normally go out on the first of the month, but holidays and circumstances in general have conspired to put me behind schedule!

B&NES on the brink

The planning policy situation in Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) remains in turmoil. With no adopted Core Strategy, there has been something of a free-for-all for developers, a situation that CPRE and the Local Authority are equally keen to stop! The examination in public of the emerging Core Strategy will soon be re-starting and a crucial session is taking place on September 17th, in which the Inspector will look at the scope of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment to determine whether he feels that it is acceptable. If he doesn’t, and the Examination is halted again, it will frankly be something of a disaster.

In light of this and other issues, CPRE B&NES is holding an open meeting for all members and those interested in joining CPRE, at Twerton Village Hall on Thursday 10th October at 7.30 pm.

The meeting will cover the following topics, with plenty of time for discussion and debate on the best way forwards for those who care about our local countryside.

1 After the outcome of the crunch meeting between B&NES and the Inspector on 17th September will we still have a Draft Core Strategy or will B&NES have to start again leaving the area at the mercy of speculative developers?

2 News from our meeting with David Trigwell and Graham Sabourn regarding planning policy and the stock of unoccupied council properties.

3 Report on the mounting pressure on the Government to reform the effects of the NPPF policy of granting planning permission despite local opposition

4 Do our parish councils get the consultation on local issues guaranteed by the Parish Charter?

5 Members from the city and towns are important too

6 Local planning and environmental issues.

This is a meeting that all members should try to attend as it will address the major threats to our countryside. If possible, please contact the Secretary, Nigel Long, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are going to come along.

The Stoke Gifford Transport Link and the development of Bristol’s North Fringes

In August, South Gloucestershire Council submitted an application to themselves (normal practice, although it does sometimes seem odd…) to build a new road near Stoke Gifford, connecting Great Stoke Way in Stoke Gifford to the A 4174 Filton Road. It’s part of a general upgrading of transport infrastructure in the North Bristol Fringes, in preparation for the huge number of new homes that are planned for the area.

In some ways, CPRE is quite sympathetic to the approach that South Gloucestershire Council have taken to identifying sites for new houses. As far as possible, they have tried to fill in the spaces in the somewhat dispersed, low-density development of North Bristol to create a more sustainable urban area that can support more shops, schools and local services. However, the scale of what is planned is startling. In total, 12,700 new houses are planned for the North Bristol Fringes. The area currently has a population of around 50,000; this will rise by 60% to over 80,000.

The area already has transport problems. There is a higher-than average level of car ownership and car usage, which has resulted in terrible congestion problems on the roads. Public transport is poor and cycle lanes and other facilities are limited. But South Gloucester is extraordinarily optimistic about how this will change; their transport planning for the area is based on the assumption that with this 60% increase in population, car journeys will only go up 10%; bike and walking journeys will rise 20%; and public transport journeys will rise 100%!

I suppose all that is just possible, but only if all transport investment was focused on car-free travel. And that’s why we’re concerned about the Stoke Gifford Transport Link. It includes a shared cycle and foot path, but at 3m wide it is the minimum permissible size. There are bus lanes; but they don’t run right up to junctions, for reasons of cost and ‘land take’. Really, it’s a road with a few extras. It is certainly not what the area needs, which is a sustained investment into the best possible car-free transport.

Pylons on the march

After what seems like years of consultations and planning, National Grid appear to be moving closer to a final plan for a new transmission route across North Somerset, connecting the proposed new Hinckley C nuclear power station with a major substation at Avonmouth. On the 3rd September, their latest – and perhaps final – proposed route was published for consultation. You see the details and participate in the consultation here.

This has certainly been a controversial project. According to Tessa Munt MP, until this project was launched, the largest number of responses to any National Grid consultation had been about 250; over 4000 responses to this consultation had been received back in January 2011! CPRE’s North Somerset branch have been deeply involved in the campaign, with volunteer campaigners producing a highly detailed technical report arguing for greater undergrounding of power lines through sensitive landscapes, using Gas Insulated Pipelines. This report was presented to 10 Downing Street and our work has had the support of local MP Liam Fox.

Another alternative approach would be an underwater connection. Hinckley is of course on the coast, and a sub-sea connection might also have provided the crucial infrastructure to enable offshore wind and tidal power in the Bristol Channel. Many feel that offshore is the best place for wind turbines – they are considerably more effective, due to stronger and more consistent wind; and they do not mar treasured landscapes. The potential for tidal power in the Bristol Channel is well-documented, and the move away from plans for an environmentally-destructive Severn Barrage to plans for smaller tidal lagoons or underwater turbines is very welcome.

However, these more radical and forward-looking options have been rejected. Although the latest plan by National Grid does include some underground cables through the Mendips AONB, it otherwise sticks to pylons – the new, T-Pylons – which are routed through some beautiful and fragile landscapes, already at severe risk of losing their tranquillity and rural character as a result of other development. It will be a disappointment to many.

National CPRE research on threats to Green Belt

In August, CPRE’s National Office carried out a major piece of research on the scale of the threat to the Green Belt since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework. The results were startling and deeply worrying.

“Figures published by CPRE show that over 150,000 houses, along with over 1,000 hectares of mines, offices and warehousing, are planned for Green Belt sites. This is an increase of 84% in a year and comes despite Government assurances that its planning reforms would ‘maintain protection of the Green Belt’.” (from CPRE’s National website)

The map published by CPRE to illustrate this research shows clearly how the Green Belt around Bristol and Bath is under threat. Under severe pressure from the Planning Inspectorate, both B&NES and South Gloucestershire are looking to remove land from Green Belt. North Somerset’s adopted Core Strategy has been facing a legal challenge from Bristol University, who want land removed from Green Belt at Long Ashton to allow construction of new homes on a piece of exceptionally high-quality agricultural land that they own there; at Whitchurch, repeated applications have been put in to build new houses around the village and to fill in the gap between Bristol and the village.

CPRE was one of the driving forces for the creation of Green Belts, and the protection of the Green Belt remains one of our core priorities. Without it, cities face low-density urban sprawl, resulting in traffic congestion, poor urban environments and thinly dispersed services; without it, the countryside that we know and love could disappear. We need to keep the pressure on the Coalition not to break their promise to protect the Green Belt.

Notice of CPRE Avonside Annual general Meeting

Finally, I would like to give notice of our Annual General Meeting, which this year will take place at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute, on the morning of Saturday 5th October.

Don Foster MP will be speaking, alongside our Chair Georgie Bigg and others.

All CPRE members will receive notices of the AGM with full details. If you would like to attend, whether or not you are a member, please contact:

Joe Evans, Director, CPRE Avonside – 07854 741130 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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