Friday, 29 July 2016

Distraction burglars posing as "Age Concern" staff

Age UK have warned that in a recent scam, people posed as "Age Concern" staff to gain access to older people's homes. Areas affected included Kingswood in South Gloucestershire.

The charity has urged all older people not to open their door to someone unless they are absolutely sure of their identity. If you’re suspicious or the caller won’t leave, call 999 and ask for the police. If you are specifically concerned about the credentials of someone who claims to be from Age UK or one of their founding charities – Age Concern and Help the Aged – then they would also urge you to contact their free advice line for further advice on 0800 169 65 65.

A free guide Staying Safe can also be downloaded from If you would prefer a paper copy, you can get it from your local Age UK Office or charity shop.

All local Age UK staff visiting older people in their homes are advised to take some form of identification, such as an ID card, or visit by appointment only. All collectors for Age UK shops are required to carry Age UK ID cards and present them if requested.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Contacting South Glos online

Increasingly South Glos Council is encouraging people to contact them online. This can save you precious time waiting for a telephone call to be answered. With Street Care problems, sticking a virtual pin in a map also means there's a better chance that the right problem will get fixed.

If you go to the council's home page and click on "Report" it will take you to a list of issues.

The issues are listed alphabetically and many are Street Care ones (it's worth noting that "Spillage and obstruction" includes the problem of a pavement being blocked by an overgrown hedge). You can also report waste issues, such as missed bin collections, and a range of others, including benefit fraud, noise and nuisance complaints and planning enforcement.

In some cases, such as where you're concerned about the safety of a child or vulnerable adult, you still need to make a phone call, but the page gives you a link to more information.

You can also apply for a range of services online, everything from blue badges to joining the library, free school meals to bus passes.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Time running out for central heating grants

Time is running out for households without central heating to apply for a grant of up to £4,500 to have a system installed.
The funding is only available until the end of August and will cover the complete installation, including the heating source, pipework and radiators.

To see how you could benefit contact the Warm and Well advice line on 0800 500 3076, or emailing warm& or by texting ‘WARM’ to 83010.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Wapley Bushes wins major environmental award for fourth year running

Wapley Bushes has just won the Green Flag Community Award, the only such award in South Gloucestershire. Wapley Bushes Local Nature Reserve, Wapley Common and the Orchard for the Future form one of the very best green spaces in the UK – and that’s official. The green space is among a record-breaking 1,686 places that have received the prestigious Green Flag Award – the mark of a quality park or green space.

A Green Flag is a sign to the public that the space boasts the highest possible standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent facilities. The Community Award recognises sites that are largely managed by community groups, in this case the volunteers of Wapley Bushes Conservation Group.

The award, now celebrating its 20th year, recognises and rewards the best parks and green spaces across the country. Wapley's Green Flag was presented yesterday at the regional Green Flag Award event in Cheltenham. This is the fourth year running that Wapley has succeeded in gaining this award.

Have your say on Police and Crime Plan

The Police and Crime Commissioner wants you to help shape the Police and Crime Plan for Avon and Somerset. Have your say online before Tuesday, August 30, 2016.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Local councillor Claire Young to stand for Parliament

The Liberal Democrats in Thornbury and Yate have announced that their new Parliamentary Candidate is local councillor Claire Young. 

A well known local campaigner, she will lead the party's activity across the constituency, replacing Steve Webb who recently announced he would not be continuing in the role. Claire was elected following a ballot of members, in a strong field.

Claire said, "I am looking forward to continuing to fight for Westerleigh ward and the whole of the constituency. Over the summer I will be out and about with my 'Tell Claire' survey, finding out about people's concerns. If you have an issue to raise or would like to join my campaign, please get in touch."

You can read more on the South Glos Lib Dems' website.

Success in broadband campaign

Claire Young and Terry Barnaby with the petition
for better broadband in Codrington
Back in February we reported on the campaign for better broadband in Codrington and surrounding areas. We are pleased to report that South Glos Council has now announced an extra £1.49m investment in broadband, which is likely to benefit a number of villages including Codrington. However, it's important the money is spent wisely. BT Open Reach's standard approach of simply upgrading to fibre the lines going into the green cabinets doesn't work for many in our rural areas.

If you are connected to the cabinet by traditional copper wires, the further you are from the cabinet, the worse your service will be. Speed and reliability drop off dramatically with distance. In densely populated urban areas it's likely that the copper wire between you and the cabinet isn't that long, so running fibre into the cabinet can make a big improvement to the service, but it's a different story in the rural areas, where you might be several miles from a cabinet. Business owners there tell us that not only are the speeds too low, particularly for uploading, but also the reliability is poor. Some have suffered without internet for weeks after a heavy rainstorm has damaged the copper wires.

At a recent council meeting Lib Dem Focus Team councillors Claire Young and Sue Hope challenged the Tories running South Glos council to get the technology right and suggested they talk to councils that have already delivered future-proof pure-fibre solutions in conjunction with BT Open Reach. If the Superfast Cornwall project can deploy a pure-fibre solution to over 85,000 premises, why can’t that happen in our rural areas?

Claire also demanded greater transparency about how the money is being used. Local campaigners  want to know that tax payers’ money is being spent on technology that will deliver speed, reliability and value-for-money in the long term, not just stop gap measures. It's vital that decisions on spending the money are made in an open and transparent way.

Traffic delays this Sunday

If you're going to be out and about on local roads on Sunday, be aware that a slow-moving lorry carrying a 235-tonne National Grid transformer is expected to cause delays. The lorry will be travelling under police escort at approximately 10 mph from Avonmouth Port to Iron Acton between 8am and 3pm.

You can read more on the Gazette website.

Time to have your say on Local Green Spaces

At the start of the month we reported that South Glos Council had approved a revised Policies, Sites and Places Plan to go out for consultation. That consultation is now available online and you can comment up until 7pm on 8th September.

The plan provides detailed planning policies that the council will use when making decisions on planning applications and also protects some of our much valued open spaces by designating them Local Green Spaces. Others that were nominated as Local Green Space are not being taken forward at this stage, including Woodlands Farm. This consultation is your chance to comment. Further green spaces could be designated in the new Local Plan, which is due to be completed during 2018 and will also allocate new land for housing and provision for travellers.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Consultation on day service at Turnberries

South Gloucestershire Council is consulting on a proposal to decommission the day service currently provided for adults with learning and physical disabilities at Turnberries in Thornbury. This is used by people from across South Glos, not just in Thornbury. You can find out more and make comments at the consultation webpage before 2nd September.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Walking beat surgery

The local beat team will be doing a walking beat surgery in Westerleigh village from 12 noon to 2pm on Sunday 24th July.

Friday, 15 July 2016

The Big Friendly Read

This years summer reading challenge for children is called The Big Friendly Read and marks the late Roald Dahl's 100th birthday.

It kicks off in South Gloucestershire this Saturday, 16th July, with activities in our local libraries, including:

Launch activities, puzzles & quizzes
Downend 10am – 2pmEmersons Green 10am – 2pm
Thornbury 10am – 1pmWinterbourne 10am – 2pmThe Big Birthday Bash
Thornbury 2 – 3:30pm

The challenge itself is free to take part in and children can sign up at any South Gloucestershire library. They get special Roald Dahl collector cards and incentives as they read six library books of their choice. There will be more activities throughout the holidays and children who complete the challenge get a medal and certificate.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Badminton Road overnight closure

From 18th July, there will be major resurfacing works taking place on Badminton Road between the traffic island just before the Nibley Lane junction and the roundabout by the council offices. The work will involve overmight road closures from 8pm to 6am - watch out for more details on the illuminated signs. There will be similar works taking place on Waverly Road, Yate from 19th July.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Register your property with Immobilise

At the recent Community Engagement Forum meeting in Winterbourne, Frampton Cotterell beat manager PC Finbar Simmons strongly advised everyone to register their valuables with Immobilise - and to mark those valuables that don't have serial numbers with UV pens. Registering helps reduce property crime and increases your chances of getting your property back in the event of loss or theft.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Black bin size cut

On Wednesday, the Conservatives and Labour voted to go ahead with the new waste strategy.

Your Focus Team welcomed the weekly recycling collections and the flexibility that residents will be given to choose boxes or bags for keeping their recycling in. When the draft strategy proposed switching everyone to boxes we raised concerns about people who have limited space and local people made the same point in the consultation. We also welcomed the reintroduction of a reusable nappy incentive scheme, which we hope will help more parents switch from disposable nappies.

The strategy also includes replacing the current 240 litre black bins with 140 litre ones, despite other local authorities having opted for 180 litres. North Somerset for example has managed to achieve a better recycling rate with 180 litre black bins. We are worried that 140 litres may be a step too far.

We are also very concerned about the new disposable nappy service, that will mean parents who can't fit used nappies in their new smaller bin will have to leave them in special bags out on the street. We are worried that animals will be able to get in, the smell will get out and if the waste teams find they contain anything other than nappies they will refuse to take them, leaving them for the following fortnight's collection.

We proposed an amendment that instead of creating a new service, with all the costs of providing the bags, would have let families with small children keep their 240 litre bins until their children were 3 years old. This would have been simpler for residents and the waste crews and would have meant used nappies were still in a solid bin. Unfortunately this was voted down. We hope that having heard our concerns council officials will keep a close eye on how this service works in practice.

Recent odour problems in Westerleigh

Unfortunately there have been reports this week of odour problems in Westerleigh village.

Tulip are investing in a new effluent treatment plant at the abattoir to be installed this autumn/winter. They hope it will be up and running by the end of 2016. They are currently investigating measures to minimise odour release in the meantime.

If you experience an odour which you think may be caused by the abattoir, please call them on 0117 9571919, which is answered 24 hours a day. If the odour persists, please also contact the Environment Agency’s hotline (0800 807060).

It would help the Environment Agency with their investigations if some people kept an odour diary. This simply involves writing down the time, date and a brief description whenever you smell an odour. If you would be prepared to do this, please get in touch with Claire Young and she will pass your contact details on to the Environment Agency official who is investigating.

Have your say on devolution deal

Last week we reported that the West of England devolution deal had been agreed by three of the four authorities. You can now have your say on the deal. Find out more and send your comments to the Government on the dedicated devolution website.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Steve Webb decides not to stand again as MP

Flashback: Steve Webb and team celebrating the go-ahead for Yate cinema

Our popular former long-serving MP Steve Webb, who was narrowly defeated at the 2015 General Election, has announced he will not be seeking re-selection. Instead he will continue his local work as part of a new candidate’s team.

Thornbury and Yate Liberal Democrats have just announced that they will select Steve's successor as Parliamentary Candidate on 15th July. 

With speculation mounting about a possible snap election, Steve said “It has been a huge privilege to serve the people of this area for eighteen years.  In that time, I have met so many committed campaigners and selfless individuals who give so much to their local community.  I also owe a huge debt to my team in the constituency office and to our active local campaigners who have taught me so much.  Our strong team of local councillors and campaigners and our new candidate for Parliament will continue to have my wholehearted support”

South Glos Council leader, Ruth Davis, said "It is impossible to put into words our gratitude to Steve on behalf of our community and the countless people he and the team have helped. He has built a really strong team of people committed to the needs of our residents. That team is carrying on the work, with him as part of it. Since the Referendum we have been staggered by the large number of  people coming forward to join the party locally. We had a massive growth in membership just after the general election and that has happened again this year.  So we are in a stronger position than ever and ready for the challenges the country faces"

Steve Webb was MP for Northavon and then for Thornbury & Yate from 1997 to 2015 and Minister for Pensions from 2010 to 2015. As well as his highly-regarded work on pensions, Steve has been a passionate local campaigner, working alongside local people to deliver a cinema for Yate and improved bus services to Southmead Hospital, fighting cuts to local services and raising local issues in the House of Commons. He still lives with his family near Thornbury.

At the last General Election the Lib Dems were defeated in this constituency by just 1495 votes, making this seat the closest fought between Lib Dems and Conservatives in the whole South West.

Traffic lights problems in Coalpit Heath

Some have queried why long queues have been building up at the Henfield Road/Badminton Road/Beesmoor Road traffic lights in Coalpit Heath.

Claire Young raised this with a Street Care manager. He explained that the detection loops buried in the road were damaged due to the surfacing works. When the surfacing is complete, new ones will be installed. In the meantime, they rely on historic data, which may have been influenced by the half term holiday resulting in lower than average traffic flows. The contractors are being contacted to ensure the system is operating as well as it can in the circumstances.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Could you help run the Manor Hall?

The charity that runs the Manor Hall in Coalpit Heath are looking to recruit new Trustees. If you think you might have skills you can use to help this charity, you can find out more here. The deadline for applications is 15th July 2016.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Devolution deal goes ahead despite concerns

On Wednesday South Gloucestershire, Bath & North East Somerset and Bristol councils all agreed to go ahead with the West of England devolution deal, which will create a new West of England Combined Authority with a "Metro Mayor".

While the Liberal Democrats support devolution, we felt unable to support this deal and proposed an amendment calling for a renegotiation, which was outvoted. We felt £30m a year over 30 years wasn't good enough for an area with our economic clout and there were still too many unanswered questions, including around the 5 yearly tests that will decide whether we actually get the money.

The Government's insistence on a Metro Mayor led to North Somerset backing out of the deal and asking the other West of England councils to renegotiate. Instead, they have pushed ahead as three councils, leaving us with a messy situation where we will have a Joint Strategic Plan and Joint Transport Plan covering four authorities, but a combined authority and Metro Mayor covering just three.

George Osborne was very much behind the deal but it was strongly opposed by Liam Fox, now contesting the Tory Leadership, and another local BREXIT campaigner, Jacob Rees-Mogg. Given the turmoil in Westminster, we felt the councils should try to agree a better deal with the new Government.

Decisions will be made by the Metro Mayor, the two leaders from South Glos and BANES and the Bristol Mayor. When it became clear that the deal would be going ahead, we tried to win support for widening the decision making body. We felt this would not only better represent the political and geographic diversity of the West of England, but also ensure that there was buy-in across the political spectrum for long term projects that outlive a single four year council term. This proposal too was rejected.

Lib Dem Group Leader Ruth Davis said, “This deal is being pushed through despite Lib Dem concerns, and we will need to find a way to make it work. The Mayor should not be imposed on the West against our will. We call on everyone to answer the consultation to make clear to the Secretary of State that we want devolved powers, we want more money, but we don’t want an unnecessary new layer of government."

The formal consultation will take place over the summer, with the responses going to the Secretary of State. We will let you know how you can respond when we have the details.

Revised plan approved for consultation

On Wednesday South Gloucestershire Council approved a revised Policies, Sites and Places (PSP) plan for public consultation.

The plan provides detailed planning policies that the council will use when making decisions on planning applications and also protects some of our much valued open spaces by designating them Local Green Spaces. There will be a formal consultation on the plan over the summer before it is submitted to the Secretary of State in October. A planning inspector will then consider it at an examination in February/March 2017, with the plan expected to be adopted in May next year.

Some of the open spaces that were nominated as Local Green Space could not be taken forward at this stage, including Woodlands Farm. There will be a chance to make further comments during this summer's consultation. Further green spaces could be designated in the new Local Plan, which is due to be completed during 2018 and will also allocate new land for housing and provision for travellers.

For more information about the PSP visit

Support for those suffering racially motivated abuse

Sadly since last week's referendum result there has been an increase in racially motivated incidents nationally and some problems have been reported here in South Gloucestershire. On Wednesday local councillor Claire Young proposed a motion to South Gloucestershire Council condemning such incidents, which received cross-party backing. If you have experienced such abuse, you can get support from SARI. The Police and Crime Commissioner has also urged people to report hate crime to the police.