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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.”

Poll commissioned by CPRE and Hastoe finds dearth of rural affordable housing, and that nearly 70 per cent of public do not think that politicians care about affordable housing in rural areas.

Monday, 12 January 2015 12:45

First stop on the election trail

Bath and NE Somerset district of Avonside was the first CPRE branch to host a “hustings” with four of the Prospective Parliamentary candidates for Bath and one for the surrounding North East Somerset constituency.

With the autumn statement due to announce a ‘roads revolution’ and a focus on fracking, the priorities of rural communities risk being sidelined, says Lord Robin Teverson, Chair of the Rural Coalition.

CPRE Avonside director's bulletin Dec 2014 main image

Happy Christmas to all our volunteers, members and supporters. It’s been a hectic five months since I started as Director of CPRE Avonside, and I could not have managed without your help and support. There have been lots of events to organise and promote as well as the usual planning and policy work, which each of our district groups have been busy with at a local level. I have been experimenting with using twitter to publicise our organisation, work and events. Take a look at our account and receive regular updates by following us using this link at the bottom of this email. With a general election coming up and Bristol Green Capital 2015, we shall be looking forward to a busy but hopefully productive year ahead!

Update on our local District Groups

Much of our active campaigning takes place at a District level, with District groups responsible for overseeing CPRE’s work in their local areas. Planning policy is an important consideration for our local volunteers as it has such a significant impact on our countryside. For those not so familiar with planning terms, The Core Strategy is the key planning policy document for each planning district, setting out the general location of development, its type and scale, as well as protecting what is valued about the area. CPRE Avonside has been very involved in campaigning to influence the Core Strategies in each of our three district groups.

South Gloucestershire news

The South Gloucestershire district’s Core strategy is now adopted, but we have been dealing with some recent solar and wind energy applications, as well as plans for a large development at the Skansa site west of the A4018 at Cribbs Causeway. We have also responded to an application for a significant housing development Filton Airfield. There are proposed experimental floodlights in Westbury on Trym, which we have objected to, especially on dark skies, landscape backdrop and the effect on wildlife. There are no Neighbourhood plans in South Gloucestershire, but most recently we’ve responded to the South Gloucestershire Statement of Community Involvement consultation.


Bristol does not currently have a separate district group, so work is undertaken by the South Gloucestshire district (for North Bristol), the North Somerset District (for South Bristol), and by the Branch. The Core Strategy is now adopted, so no new work on that. We are currently involved in two Alliances: the Alliance to Re-think MetroBus home | armalliancetorethinkmetrobus, and The Blue Finger Alliance http://www.bluefingeralliance.org.uk/. In the summer we responded to a consultation on Construction of North Fringe to Hengrove Package (NFHP) MetroBus: 14/01187/FB and to an application to make changes to Stapleton Allotments, as a result of the MetroBus gaining approval.

Campaigning to Rethink Metrobus

Campaigning to ‘Rethink Metrobus’ at the site of Stapleton Allotments and Feed Bristol. Despite significant objections the new route off the M32 motorway through this green space was given approval.

North Somerset News

Despite North Somerset Core Strategy going through the formal process and being adopted, a High Court challenge was then made in 2013 by Bristol University leading to the originally accepted housing numbers of 14,000 being rejected. CPRE North Somerset attended and spoke at the Inspector Hearings early in 2014 and is due to participate again in January 2015 where developers are now seeking new housing numbers of twice that previously agreed (28,000). Developers are using this planning void to submit applications for large developments in green fields and open countryside which we oppose. We are working locally and nationally to influence policy to ensure a proper plan led approach. In addition to housing we are seeing numerous applications for solar farms and relaxations in permitted development regulations introduced this year by the Government having detrimental impacts on the countryside. We have also been responding to new policies, our most recent being the changes to Section 106 and the Community Infrastructure Levy which provides new regulations for developer contributions.
The North Somerset Core Strategy Hearings are to be held on the 6th and 7th January 2015 at the Winter Gardens, Weston-super-Mare starting at 10am. See http://www.n-somerset.gov.uk/Environment/Planning_policy_and-research/localplanning/Pages/Core-Strategy-re-examination.aspx for further information.

Bath and North East Somerset news

The Bath and North East Somerset group was active in 2014 in trying to influence the local Core Strategy. This process dated back to 2007 but had been repeatedly delayed. The group had commented on a new draft issued in late 2013 and had a number of meetings with Senior Planners. Members of the committee attended the hearings which took place over three weeks in March 2014. In June the Inspector decided to remove the Council’s proposal to include housing on Green Belt land at Weston, Bath but accepted the Council’s proposals for housing at Odd Down, Whitchurch and Keynsham East. The draft was formally accepted by the Council in July. We realised that housing targets set left the Council with few options and took some comfort from the fact that the adoption of the Strategy should, for the moment, remove the possibility of other large developments being approved on Green Belt or Green Field sites. However we have recently been in contact with the Council and our MP about three brigaded appeals by the one developer concerning Greenfield sites despite them not being included in the Core Strategy. We are pleased to note that a number of areas are proceeding with the development of Neighbourhood Plans. We have recently been contacted about one plan that did not seem to offer adequate protection to prevent unsuitable developments and have made appropriate comments to the Council about this.

We held a very successful and well attended ‘hustings’ event with our local Prospective Parliamentary Candidates in the Autumn and will report on this further in the new year. We are holding our first meeting of 2015 in January and would welcome suggestions from Members about where our priorities should lie for next year.

Research commissioned by CPRE finds new comprehensive figure for housing capacity on brownfield sites

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