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Wednesday, 24 June 2015 12:36

Charter delivered to Prime Minister

Save the Countryside Campaign success, 80,890 signatures

CPRE argues that re-opening line between Plymouth and Exeter would revitalise rural communities and provide resilience against climate change

CPRE argues national data and mapping are needed to protect most tranquil parts of England

CPRE report shows we need to massively reduce energy requirements and generate low carbon energy to tackle impacts of climate change and reduce bills

Funding application success

CPRE Avonside awarded Bristol Green Capital 2015 Small Grants Fund to tackle litter

We are delighted that the Quartet Community Foundation and Bristol 2015 Small Grants Fund have awarded us £5,709 to set up a community litter warden scheme in Bristol. We hope to work with existing community groups, neighbourhood partnerships and litter picking groups, to establish litter wardens in Bristol neighbourhoods. They will be given a one off honorarium of £100 Bristol pounds and their own CPRE/Green Capital branded litter picking kit. They will be responsible for local litter picking, and organising community litter picking events. If you are interested in this scheme or know someone who may be, please contact Sophie Spencer on 07854 741130.

Andrew Motion on litter

andrew-motionCPRE’s President recently wrote an article which lamented the lack of political will in our leaders to tackle our costly litter problem. Changing our litter habit would benefit our beautiful countryside and our local communities. A recent Communities and Local Government Report on litter and fly tipping shows that there is some move in the right direction, but only if recommendations are implemented will we see a real change in behaviour backed up by real powers. CPRE were delighted that the Government announced a charge for plastic bags will come into place in October 2015. We have been campaigning for years for this and teamed up with other organisations to set up the ‘Break the Bag Habit’ campaign. No need to wait until October though. You can pledge now to stop using single use plastic bags at breakthebaghabit.org.

Funding from CPRE National Office to promote local foods in the Green Belt

local-foods-in-the-green-beltCPRE Avonside have been successful in funding bid to CPRE National Office, open to all Branches with Green Belt. We will use the money to promote the Green Belt as a source of local foods for Bristol and Bath. We have a number of events planned where we will be promoting local foods: North Somerset Show (May 4th), the Bristol Festival of Nature (June 13th/14th) and the Bath and North East Somerset AGM (June). If you would like to volunteer to help out at any of these events, or have ideas for promoting local foods from our Green Belt, please contact Sophie Spencer on 07854 741130. Many thanks to those who have volunteered already.

General election approaching fast

hustingsYou may have noticed that we have an election coming up! CPRE Bath and North East Somerset were the first CPRE group to hold a hustings event, and were featured in a recent national officeParliamentary Newsletter. We have plenty of CPRE leaflets if any members are interested in promoting the countryside at an event in the next few months (contact Sophie on 07854 741130).
We are asking our members to help us to encourage all political parties to stand up for the countryside at the forthcoming general election by sending a letter to their local parliamentary candidates – click this link to Please send a letter to your parliamentary candidates.

New CPRE Report finds houses planned for the Green Belt are at the highest level since the start of new planning policy

green-beltThe Prime Minister recently declared that preservation of the Green Belt was ‘paramount’ and that development in Green Belt was at its lowest for 25 years. Not so. CPRE’s recent report Green Belt under siege: the NPPF three years on finds that over 219,000 houses are planned for England’s Green Belt – 60,000 more than August 2013 when CPRE last counted. This brand new research, with the help of CPRE’s branches, shows that more houses are planned for Green Belt land now than when the Government’s planning reform – the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) – was implemented three years ago. Green Belt designation was formally introduced in 1955 to prevent urban sprawl. Organisations from UN Habitat to the European Union have argued that unhindered urban sprawl causes economic and social dislocation.

The report comes hot on the heels of another piece of research published by CPRE in November From wasted space to living spaceswhich showed there is no shortage of brownfield land available across the country on which to build new houses. The report by the University of the West of England, showed there is capacity for at least one million homes on suitable brownfield land, including in Bristol. It showed that brownfield land is a renewable resource.

Better recognition for landscape character

landscape-characterCPRE were delighted that protection of landscape character – the ordinary countryside that is so often highly valued by local people – has received a boost from the Government. On 27 March, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Brandon Lewis MP, wrote a letter to the Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) to highlight several recent appeal cases in which harm to landscape character has been an important consideration in an appeal being dismissed. The Planning Minister states that National Parks and AONBs should rightly have the highest level of planning protection; but that outside of these designated areas the impact of development on the landscape can be important. In an application for 60 dwellings in Cheshire, with no adopted local plan and lack of five year land supply, the inspector concluded that the proposals would result in ‘obvious and irrevocable damage to the surrounding countryside and the character of this clear edge to the settlement…’

While the NPPF does mention the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside this has been largely ignored in planning decisions until recently. The letter to the Planning Inspectorate does not count as official policy but does demonstrate a shift in attitude by the Government. It represents a victory for CPRE as this is a concession to our comments on the draft NPPF that wider countryside should be protected.

Photo credit: Mark Howson

CPRE’s new report says huge investment is needed in energy efficiency to avoid disastrous impacts on the countryside

multio-fuel-stoveIn 2008 the Government passed the Climate Change Act, setting a legally binding target to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent (from the 1990 baseline) by 2050. Based on research conducted by Cambridge Architectural Research and Anglia Ruskin University for CPRE,Warm and Green finds that we can cut carbon emissions from homes by 44 per cent through an ambitious retrofitting programme. We need to massively reduce energy requirements if we are even to approach our 2050 carbon reduction target and avoid inflicting widespread damage on the countryside. The impact of infrastructure on the countryside is potentially huge if old and new homes remain energy inefficient. One scenario to meet the current demand is to plant half of England with biomass crops, build 3,500 new wind turbines, and install 8,000 hectares of new solar panels.

Energy efficiency has been underplayed in discussions on England’s future energy supply and there are currently high barriers to overcome before making energy improvements in rural homes and community buildings. There is a particular dearth of funding for improvements in rural areas – 18 per cent of the population live in rural areas, but receive less than 1 per cent of funding for energy efficiency improvements. We need more support to reduce energy and carbon emissions from our homes, and for rural communities to receive a fairer share of funding for energy efficiency. Read the report here.

New CPRE report reveals erosion of Green Belt despite cross-party political support

CPRE supports the unprecedented appeal by North Somerset Council to Government to intervene in dire planning situation

Thursday, 12 February 2015 12:43

George Ferguson addresses CPRE Avonside AGM

CPRE Avonside AGM, Create Centre, Bristol

2nd October 2014

Address by Bristol Mayor, George Ferguson CBE: ‘How we can protect the countryside by making cities better places to live’

The CPRE District group invited representatives from all the five main parties to speak at this event in central Bath. Questions were prepared in advance, and reflected the topics of most importance to CPRE locally. The event was chaired by Cate le Grice Mack, CPRE Avonside volunteer and executive committee member.

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 ›


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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