Friday, 27 February 2015

Ten Year Campaign Success

After a 10 year campaign by Cllr Dave Hockey and Steve Webb MP there is good news in the battle to tackle the problem of sewage debris left stranded along the Frome Valley following heavy rain and flooding.

In December, Ofwat finally provided funding for Wessex Water to construct a 5km long sewer pipeline between Frampton Cotterell and Bradley Stoke to provide additional capacity for the new developments planned for Yate, Harry Stoke and Emerson's Green. It will enable flows from Yate to reach the sewage works at Avonmouth  via a more direct route and hence free up capacity in the existing sewer that runs along the Frome valley and through the city centre.

Wessex will shortly be writing to landowners with a leaflet to introduce them to the scheme. Environmental surveys will be carried out in 2015.  There is still much work to do to decide which is the optimal route for the pipe and how it will be constructed and construction is expected to start in 2017/18.

Merlin redevelopment plans

We recently reported on the drop-in Merlin held on their redevelopment plans for Newlands Avenue and the Coalville Road garage site. We asked for copies of the plans and have made them available here:
On Newlands Avenue, Merlin will be demolishing 2 three bedroom houses and 8 two bedroom flats. In their place they are proposing to build:
  • 2 two bedroom bungalows
  • 4 two bedroom flats
  • 5 two bedroom houses
  • 4 three bedroom houses 
So for Newlands they are taking 10 units and replacing with 15.

The Coalville Road garages site currently has 10 garages in various condition. Their proposals are to build:
  • 2 one bedroom flats
  • 2 two bedroom bungalows

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Top Yard referred to full council, cafe approved

Three planning applications in Westerleigh ward were debated at today's Development Control (East) committee meeting.

The first was the retrospective application for Top Yard, Westerleigh. The committee voted narrowly to approve the application, but one of the members who had voted against then referred it up to full council. This means that no decision has yet been made and instead the application will be debated and determined at the South Gloucestershire Council meeting that starts at 7pm on Wednesday 18th March in Kingswood Civic Centre.

The second was for a variation to a condition on the Sainsbury’s Local permission. The committee voted to vary the delivery hours condition to allow newspapers be delivered no earlier than 6.45am, which is just before the shop will open each day.

The third was to change the use of the carpet shop on Badminton Road, Coalpit Heath into a cafe and flat. Residents had raised concerns about drainage, operating hours, noise, smell and parking arrangements. The committee approved this application with a clarified condition on odour control.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Helping people get online

Do you know someone who has never been online who might like to find out what it's all about?

As part of a national Be Online campaign South Glos Council is encouraging residents into their local library to make the most of using the internet between now and 8th March.

Thanks to a grant of £9,000 from the Tinder Foundation the council has trained more than 40 staff and volunteers to run IT sessions in libraries and other community centres across South Gloucestershire to encourage others to get online and improve their digital literacy and IT skills.

Throughout Be Online fortnight libraries are offering taster sessions on how to make the most out of library digital resources including e-books and e-magazines. For details on all the free drop-in sessions visit

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Severn Vale Area Forum next week

The next Severn Vale Area Forum meeting, which covers Charfield ward, is on Wednesday 4th March at 7pm in Turnberries Community Centre, Thornbury .

Items on the agenda include a presentation from Avon Fire and Rescue raising awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning, decisions on community and New Homes Bonus (NHB) grants and consideration of youth funding. Members will also be deciding which highway schemes are a priority and considering objections received following the public advertisement of local transport schemes.

The next round of meetings will take place in July. If you would like to receive details of meetings in your area contact Democratic Services on 01454 864425 or visit

Further information regarding grant funding is available on 01454 865865 or

Next chance to have your say at Frome Vale Area Forum

The next Frome Vale Area Forum meeting is on Thursday 5th March at 7pm in Shireway Community Centre, Yate.

Items on the agenda include a presentation from Avon Fire and Rescue raising awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning, decisions on community and New Homes Bonus (NHB) grants and consideration of youth funding.

We will also be deciding which highway schemes are a priority. So if you'd like to see the Henfield or Church Road traffic calming proposals implemented or further measures for Westerleigh investigated, come along and have your say.

The next round of meetings will take place in July. If you would like to receive details of meetings in your area contact Democratic Services on 01454 864425 or visit

Further information regarding grant funding is available on 01454 865865 or

Friday, 20 February 2015

Caravan owners protest against Beech Hill storage closure

A group of caravan owners attended Wednesday's South Glos Council meeting to protest against the council's actions that will leave them having to find an alternative home for their caravans.

Caravans have been stored at the site, between Yate and Westerleigh, for over 10 years but planning permission for the use was refused twice and an enforcement notice has been in place since 2005. Last year the council gave the owner until the beginning of April this year to get the caravans removed from the site. Owners say there are no alternatives and presented a petition on Wednesday asking for the storage to be allowed to stay open.

Planning applications going to committee next week

Three planning applications in Westerleigh ward are on the agenda for next Thursday's Development Control (East) committee meeting.

The first is a retrospective application for Top Yard, Westerleigh, the land on the left just before the double railway arches as you're leaving the village to go towards Yate. The application is for five travelling showpeople's pitches. The applicants' status was challenged at last week's site visit by a member of the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain, but the report states there is no requirement for the applicants to be members of the Guild for them to fall within the definition of travelling show people.

The second is for a variation to a condition on the Sainsbury's Local permission. The condition restricts deliveries to between 9am and 7pm Mondays to Saturdays and 9am to 5pm on Sundays. The applicants wanted newspapers to be excepted so they could be delivered at any time. The Parish Council were concerned that this would impact on residents and that keeping it just to newspaper deliveries would be unenforceable. The officer is now recommending that papers be delivered no earlier than 6.45am.

The third is to change the use of the carpet shop on Badminton Road, Coalpit Heath into a cafe and flat. Residents have raised concerns about drainage, operating hours, noise, smell and parking arrangements.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the meeting and speak on items. Supporters and objectors each get 5 minutes total, shared between all speakers.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Community benefit from Says Court Solar Farm

When planning permission was granted for Says Court Solar Farm, Westerleigh Parish Council negotiated a Community Benefit of £19,000 per year for the life of the solar farm (expected to be 25 years).

As part of this agreement, the Parish Council will work with Avon Wildlife Trust to implement two wildlife habitats adjacent to the solar farm. This agreement lasts for five years and includes an education programme, community engagement, wildlife walks, monitoring and management advice.

You can find out more and suggest ideas for spending the money on the Parish Council website.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Have your say on Coalpit Heath Post Office relocation

Post Office Limited has launched the six week consultation on the proposal to relocate Coalpit Heath Post Office to the Nisa store. You can find the details on their website and can reply by:
  • filling in their online questionnaire linked to from that page
  • picking up a form at the Post Office
  • writing to "FREEPOST Your Comments"
  • emailing 
The branch code is 191511. You have until 27th March to respond but if you're responding by post they advise sending at least 2 working days (ie not Saturday and Sunday) before the deadline.

The letter explains that the store would be refurbished and the planned date for the relocation is May 2015, which leaves a gap between the old one closing and the new one opening. The letter poses the following questions:
  • How suitable you think the new location and premises are?
  • How easy is it to get there?
  • Are the new premises easy for you to get into and is the inside easily accessible?
  • Do you have any concerns about the new location?
  • If so, do you have any suggestions that could help us make it better for you?
  • Are there any local community issues which you think could be affected by the proposed move?
  • Is there anything you particularly like about the proposed change?
Your Focus Team is keen to know your views too.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Road safety around the Manor School - the latest

You may have seen the black wires across a number of roads around the Manor School. These are recording the speed and volume of traffic. Eventually, it’s hoped that all schools in South Gloucestershire will have 20mph limits around them, but it’s not possible to do them all straight away. The data from this monitoring, along with that for other schools, will be one of the criteria that will be looked at when deciding which schools to do first.

The officer responsible for the monitoring has seen the results of the survey Claire carried out last year to find out people's views on introducing 20mph limits. He said that it would also help the case for doing a school sooner rather than later if it was minuted as a priority by the local Area Forum. The Frome Vale Area Forum meets at 7pm on Thursday 5th March in Shireway Community Centre and members of the public are very welcome to speak. Please get in touch if you’d like to know more.

The council has agreed to take the necessary steps to enable the parking enforcement camera car to be used at the Manor School. Being able to demonstrate the local concern through your comments was very helpful in persuading officers that it should be added to the current programme of schools, rather than waiting for a future year. At an on-site meeting, officers explained it will involve making changes to the markings on the road to meet modern regulations. There will be a consultation on this.

Coalville Road garage site redevelopment

On Thursday Dave Hockey and Claire Young attended the drop-in to look at Merlin's plans for the Newlands Avenue and Coalville Road garage site redevelopments.

Dave Hockey said, "I was very impressed with the plans for the replacement properties, especially the fact they met the lifetime homes standard, enabling people who develop disabilities to stay in their homes. They all have flat access from the street, provision for lifts to be fitted if and when they're needed and several of them have wetrooms."

Claire Young said, "The Coalville Road garage redevelopment is at a much earlier stage. The proposals showed two two-bedroom bungalows and a two storey building containing two one-bedroom flats. It was useful to talk with residents about their views and I await further information on the plans with interest."

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Further update on Coalpit Heath pre-school and the Manor Hall

Claire Young writes:

When I was contacted about the initial dispute over the contract, I wrote to both parties offering my assistance to bring it to an amicable conclusion. I later made it clear that I would attend any meetings that would help to resolve the problem. When the two parties agreed to go to mediation, I said that everyone should give them the time and the space to complete the process.

Unfortunately the mediation process broke down but despite this eventually the contract was signed. Local residents had been asking me for information on what was happening and when I was told that the contract had been signed I posted that, along with links to a statement from the trustees and to the contact details of both parties.

I was then asked by a third party if I would link to a statement from the owner of Coalpit Heath Pre-School. I said I was happy to link to a statement clarifying what’s going on with the pre-school opening hours etc as I was keen to keep residents informed and suggested that the owner contact me directly to discuss. When I received the statement however, without any further discussion, I was concerned that it quoted private emails, talked about the concerns of a third party and included serious accusations against identifiable individuals. Having taken legal advice, I declined to link to this statement. As I have consistently said, I hope that anyone that has such serious concerns will report them to the appropriate authorities, so they can be fully and properly investigated, rather than making public accusations. If people have complaints about the trustees or their employee, they should first be directed to the trust's official complaints procedure, and if a satisfactory conclusion is not reached, then raised with the Charities Commission.

I remain happy to link to a statement from the pre-school on factual matters. I can make myself available to discuss this with people further if they wish.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Broadband help for businesses

If you own a small to medium size business (SME) locally that is struggling with slow broadband, you may be entitled to take advantage of the Government’s Broadband Connection Voucher scheme.

The scheme has been extended to include eligible SMEs within South Gloucestershire - but you only have until the end of March this year to apply. You can make an application from Thursday 12 February onwards and the benefits include a connection voucher worth up to £3,000 towards faster, better broadband.

To check eligibility and for more information visit

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Fruit tree pruning workshop

If you would like to find out more about fruit trees, there will be a free Winter Fruit Tree Pruning Workshop at Wapley Bushes on Sunday 15 February.

The workshop tutor will be local fruit tree expert "Mr Fruit" (Graham White), who supervised the planting of the Orchard for the Future in 2011. Advance booking is not needed - just turn up on the day. Meet at the southern Besom Lane entrance to Wapley Bushes Local Nature Reserve, Besom Lane, Westerleigh, BS37 8RW, starting at 10am.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Sainsbury's construction to start next month

A number of people have enquired whether the Sainsbury's Local store in the Badminton Arms car park is still going ahead. The case officer for the planning application has been informed that building work will start on 9th March.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Church Road traffic scheme - still time to have your say

Your Focus Team was delighted that so many people came to the Brockeridge Centre on 4th February to view the first ideas on traffic calming measures for Church Road and to give their comments on them.

Don't worry if you were unable to make it, there is still a chance to have your say. We've asked the officers for electronic copies of the plans and feedback form:

Please return to the feedback form to Pat and Dave Hockey by 18th February.

After the responses have been analysed, Pat and Dave will decide whether to support the funding bid for formal consultation on a revised scheme taking account of possible improvements suggested by local residents. A decision will be made on the funding bid at the Frome Vale Area Forum which starts at 7pm at Shire Way Community Centre on Thursday 5th March.

Top Yard and 225 Badminton Road applications to get site visits

Next Friday the DC (East) planning committee will be visiting the sites for two planning applications in Westerleigh ward. You can find the papers for the meeting here.

At approximately 9.40am they are expected to be at 225 Badminton Road, Coalpit Heath to look at proposals to turn it into a cafe with flat. At around 10.10am they will be at Top Yard, Westerleigh (behind where Kemp’s nursery used to be) to look at a retrospective application for a change of use to a travelling showman site.

Both supporters and objectors have a three minute slot to speak.

Westerleigh traffic calming meeting

In January, local residents and Claire Young met highways officials to look at concerns about the Westerleigh traffic calming measures.

Speed monitoring data showed good improvements on the road in from Yate and near the speed table. The pinch point at the top of Shorthill Road and the pavement build-out near Broad Lane junction (see left with concerned local residents Alison and Stephen Howard) have been less successful.

A scheme to investigate further measures on Shorthill Road and between the bridge and Broad Lane will be up for consideration at the Frome Vale Area Forum meeting starting at 7pm on Thursday 5th March in Shire Way Community Centre, Yate. It would be a great help if residents could go along to the meeting to show their support for it.

The scheme would be looking particularly at the possibility of further speed tables. One of the things that would need to be looked at is whether the street lighting is of a sufficient standard between the bridge and Broad Lane to install one. It would increase the cost of a scheme massively if new street lighting had to be installed as well as the speed tables and make it far less likely that the scheme would be implemented.

One of the options discussed at the site meeting was whether Westerleigh Road could be closed between the bridge and Kidney Hill, potentially saving money by removing the need for the cycle path to go through the field. After the meeting officers looked at this more closely however  and advised this wouldn't be appropriate as it would more than double the traffic flow through Shorthill Road and potentially have an impact on traffic through the Henfield Quiet Lanes Scheme.

It was mentioned on site that the zebra crossing markings needed refreshing. The road is due to be resurfaced in the summer.

Street Care have been asked about the gouge marks on the speed table. They are happy that it is correctly installed and won't be damaging any vehicles that approach it at the correct speed.

Highways officials took action on one point straight away. Two days after our meeting, they reinstalled a permanent flashing speed sign near the railway bridge (see right).

A chance to put your views to First Bus managers - Mon 9th Feb

If you have problems with or questions about First's local bus services, you may be interested in their Online Meet the Manager event on Monday, timed to coincide with the commute home.

Between 5 and 7pm on Monday (9th February) you can talk directly online to First’s management team, either asking specific questions about local bus services or offering feedback. It is being held in addition to the normal Meet the Manager sessions, which are generally held every few months at various locations throughout the West of England.

To take part, you can:
  • post a message on to the Facebook wall (
  • send a direct private message via the Facebook Page
  • tweet the company, at @FirstBSA, using the hashtag 'tweetboss' ie #tweetboss
Messages will be answered on the night by First West of England’s Managing Director, James Freeman and the business’ Regional Customer Services Manager, Natacha Tagholm. Let's just hope potential participants are on a bus with WIFI or a good phone signal...

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Appeal for people to consider fostering teenagers

South Glos is looking for people to become foster carers, particularly those interested in fostering teenagers.

Last year they successfully placed 141 children with foster families but they currently have 86 teenage children in their care and that's increasing year-on-year.

Foster carers come from all age groups and backgrounds. There are many people who would make excellent foster carers but count themselves out simply because they think they won’t be eligible.

The council will be holding an open evening at 7pm on Thursday 12 February at the Badminton Road offices in Yate for anyone interested in becoming a foster carer. Alternatively you can contact the fostering team by visiting or calling 0800 206 1443.

Have your say on welfare grant scheme

South Gloucestershire Council is currently consulting on the future of the Welfare Grants Scheme. This provides assistance to vulnerable people to help meet their urgent subsistence or finanical needs.

You can find out more at the consultation home page and you have until 21st March to have your say. The Lib Dems on South Glos have proposed that money should be included in the budget to cover the currrent scheme at least for the next financial year.

Update on Coalpit Heath Pre-School

The Manor Hall trustees have released a statement in which they say that Coalpit Heath Pre-School has signed a contract to allow it to continue running in the Manor Hall. 

Contact details for the Manor Hall are available on their website and for Coalpit Heath Pre-School on the 1 Big Database.

Don't lose your vote!

South Glos Council is writing to all households to clarify who is registered to vote. You should receive a letter in early February which will clarify if the electoral register information for your property is correct and if you need to take action to join the register.

To vote in the elections on 7 May 2015 you must be registered by Monday 20 April. If you’re not on the register, you won’t have a say in who represents you.

It is also necessary to register to vote if you wish to apply for credit. This is because credit reference agencies use the register to check where someone lives when they apply for credit in order to prevent fraud.

If you are a South Gloucestershire resident and your household hasn’t received a household information letter by the end of February then please contact the electoral services team by calling 01454 863030 or by emailing

Celebrate National Libraries Day on Saturday

Our local libraries have a range of fun activities planned to mark National Libraries Day on Saturday 7 February.

As well as events and activities all library members who visit their local library on the day can:
  • reserve up to two items from the LibrariesWest catalogue free of charge
  • hire a DVD for half price
  • enter a free prize draw with the chance to win a tablet computer, a £25 voucher for a well-known online retailer and a range of bestselling books if they borrow at least three physical items
If you're not a member yet, why not join?

The council is also launching a Facebook eAudio reading group for people who find it difficult to attend a reading group but would still like to read the same book as others and share their thoughts afterwards. All the titles being discussed are available to download for free at Visit the LibrariesWest Facebook page to find out how to get involved

Activities taking place on National Libraries Day (Saturday 7 February) include:

Storytime fun with Elmer 
Chipping Sodbury Library, 10am
Yate Library, 11.30am
Storytime session for young children with Elmer the Patchwork Elephant. (Also at Yate Library on Sunday 8 February, 11.30am)

Get singing Thornbury
Thornbury Library, 10am to 11.30am
Hear the community choir performing outside Thornbury Library.

Many libraries will also be running a treasure hunt for children and a fun literary quiz for adults - pick up free treasure maps and quiz sheets from your library on the day.

Visit for more details on what’s happening at your library on Saturday 7 February. You can also get in touch on the day via Twitter (@LibrariesWest #NLD15) and ‘like’ them on Facebook to share what you love most about your library

Better recycling services for flats

South Glos is now offering people living in flats with communal recycling facilities an improved standardised service.

Following the changes, waste will be collected from four types of bin stored in the communal areas: 
  • Paper and cardboard
  • Plastic, cans, aerosols and foil
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Black residual bins will still be available for those materials that cannot be recycled.
These changes do not affect flats that receive the normal household collection service.

The current bins used in communal waste facilities will be changed over to the new bins during the weeks beginning 2 and 9 March. The new bins are actually recycled themselves as they are the surplus unwanted bins that have been collected over the past few months. These new bins will be clearly marked with colour coded labels for the new recycling service.

The new collections will start the week beginning 16 March. Residents will get an information pack delivered when the bins are changed over.

Following the roll out of the flat changes, the public recycling banks serviced by SITA on behalf of the council that are located in supermarket car parks, village hall car parks, social clubs and sports clubs will be removed. They will no longer be needed as everyone will now have kerbside collections and the savings have been used to provide the improved service for flats. This does not effect banks run by charities.

For further information please visit, telephone on 01454 868000 or email

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Southmead bus services safe

There was concern locally when some eagle-eyed people spotted that First Bus were deregistering the 82 bus service. However, Pat Hockey, the Lib Dem Transport lead member, has investigated and all is well.

Pat said, "I spoke to First’s Managing Director, James Freeman. In order to make bus services more reliable the timetables have been investigated and some of them found to be totally unrealistic in view of the traffic congestion. This has resulted in changes to timetables. The new timetables have to be registered with the Traffic Commissioners and will start on March 29th. The existing services have to be deregistered to accommodate this and include the 82."

"There is absolutely no intention to stop the Southmead services. The aim is to make them reliable. Before the changes come in I am assured there will be full publicity."

Yate Cinema construction starts next week

Work on the Yate Riverside, the cinema and leisure development, will start next Monday, 9th February.

The first steps will be to establish the contractor’s compound and start removing the trees and shrubbery in the development area, an operation that will take around four weeks. The developers and Yate Shopping Centre been working closely with South Gloucestershire Council officers and Natural England to minimise the impact on any wildlife. We understand that the outstanding tree issues have been sorted out, and the badgers have been successfully moved to their new sett nearby. What's more they have started to reoccupy and extend an old sett next door.  

Because of the works, the overflow car park off Link Road will be closed from early March until the end of September. Shopping Centre retailers will be assigned 100 special parking spaces in the main car park for their staff so as to ensure the vast majority of spaces are still available for shoppers - short term pain for long term gain. At least it's not the Christmas shopping season, but there will be some inconvenience at peak times. The Shopping Centre has asked shoppers where possible to come on foot or cycle, or public transport.

The retail and restaurant units are scheduled to open in early December. The cinema is now scheduled to open by Easter 2016. Not quite as soon as we had hoped, but it's all happening!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Consultation on Newlands Avenue and Coalville Road garage developments

There will be a consultation/information event next week for two Merlin development sites - Newlands Avenue and the Coalville Road garage site. The event will be on Thursday 12 February between 3.30pm and 6.30pm at Coalpit Heath Village Hall (Miners Club).

Monday, 2 February 2015

Westerleigh Parish Council votes against new homes

Tonight Westerleigh Parish Council voted unanimously to say no to the principle of 20 new homes at Westerleigh village.

The proposal would have led to the village settlement boundary being extended and the chosen site plus part of the existing village removed from the Green Belt. Parish Councillors heard from a succession of residents opposed to new housing. Reasons given included concerns about increased traffic, pressure on the sewage system, the threat to wildlife, damage to the rural character and whether it would open the floodgates to further development. Residents did not feel that 20 new homes would support the shop or other facilities and expressed scepticism that they would attract younger people to live in the village.

Agents spoke for the landowners of the two sites that South Glos had suggested might be suitable for development. They were the only voices raised in support.

The Chair proposed the no vote on the basis that there was no clear consensus that development would sustain the viability of the village, that the infrastructure would not support it and there was no evidence young people would be willing to move to the village.

South Glos Council will now retain the current settlement boundary and Green Belt designation for Westerleigh village in the PSP Plan.