Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Huge turnout at Save our School demo

On Saturday hundreds of parents, students, teachers and community representatives, including local councillor Claire Young, attended a peaceful demonstration outside Winterbourne International Academy.

They sent a clear message that they want a say in the future of their school. They want transparency and local accountability, not a huge national chain of academies imposed on them by the Department for Education.

Having written to the Secretary of State and the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State last week, Claire has now written to the National Schools Commissioner to raise parents' concerns about the re-brokerage process.

Friday, 25 November 2016

"Save our school" campaign

Over 300 parents, teachers and community representatives attended a meeting in the Zion Church on Tuesday to discuss the current problems at the The Ridings Federation. Claire Young and Pat Hockey were there from your Focus Team.

The Ridings Federation, which runs Winterbourne International Academy and Yate International Academy (including Woodlands Primary School and Nursery) is looking for a new Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) to take over to tackle its leadership and financial problems. The Federation is projected to have a £1million deficit at the end of the academic year and is currently without a Chief Executive Principal.

There have been three expressions of interest - from Oasis Community Learning, The Greenshaw Trust and a joint bid from Olympus Academy Trust and Castle School Academy Trust. Oasis have made it clear they are only interested in taking over WIA.

Parents are unhappy about the speed of events and a lack of transparency. Many at the meeting were particularly concerned at the prospect of Oasis taking over. They have launched a "Save our school" campaign - you can sign their petition here and find out more on their website. If you are a parent, you can request to join their Facebook group. On Saturday 26th November they will be holding a peaceful demonstration outside WIA at 12 noon.

Claire has written to the Secretary of State, Justine Greening MP, and the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, Lord Nash.

The Federation have published a survey that has to be completed by 3pm next Wednesday. Parents are unhappy that it does not cover the issues they would like to raise and are making extensive use of the other comments box.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Broadband campaign success - villages to get future-proof solution

Flashback to February: Claire Young and Terry Barnaby with
the petition for better broadband in Codrington
We are delighted to be able to report success in the campaign for better broadband in Codrington.

Back in February, local resident Terry Barnaby presented a petition to South Gloucesterhire Council calling for better broadband in and around the village. Residents and small businesses were suffering speeds a fraction of those available in well-served urban areas. Worse still was the poor reliability, with some losing internet access for weeks because of rainwater affecting the copper wires. BT had upgraded the green cabinet to which their homes and businesses were connected, but thanks to the long copper wires between them and the cabinet they hadn't seen much improvement if any.

In July, local councillor Claire Young welcomed an announcement from South Glos Council of an extra £1.49m investment in better broadband, which was likely to benefit villages like Codrington. However she challenged the Tories running the council to get the technology right, calling for a "Fibre to the Premises" (FTTP) solution for rural areas, instead of Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC),

Now South Glos has announced that for the first time it will be investing in FTTP and one of the villages that will benefit is Codrington. Well done to everyone who helped collect signatures on the petition and especially to Terry for organising the campaign.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Yate fire station to lose full-time status?

Avon Fire and Rescue Service needs to save £5million a year thanks to cuts in the funding it gets from Government. They are now asking you to have your say on their proposals on how to do this. They include Yate station losing its full-time status - instead of it being staffed by crews 24 hours a day, it will only be staffed in the day time with "on-call" firefighters at night.

 You can find out more and have your say on their website until the end of December.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Good turnout at drop-in

Despite heavy rain, many local people attended the drop-in on the housing and transport proposals for Coalpit Heath. Concerns raised included the impact on congestion and local services, such as schools and doctors. 

The risks presented by the mine workings under the fields next to Roundways proved a topical concern. Residents reported the rain had caused an overnight drop in the ground level at one point. Claire contacted the Coal Authority, who sent an inspector out Tuesday morning. As a precaution he arranged for fencing to go up on Wednesday to stop access to the affected area.

You can read and comment on both the JSP and JTS consultations online. The detailed maps are in this technical paper

Changes to boundaries proposed

There is still time to comment on the Boundary Commission proposals to change the constituency boundaries for electing our MPs. These are a result of the Conservative Government's plans to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and make sure there are roughly the same number of voters in each constituency.

Under the proposals, most of the existing Thornbury and Yate constituency will join with part of Gloucestershire, taking in areas such as Berkeley, Can, Dursley and Wotton-under-Edge, to form a new constituency of Dursley, Thornbury and Yate. Westerleigh ward would remain in this new constituency but the wards of Frampton Cotterell and Boyd Valley (the area including Pucklechurch, Wick and Marshfield) would move into neighbouring constituencies.

While the Boundary Commission is independent, it has to work with the strict rules set by the current Conservative Government. The 2 million people who registered to vote prior to the EU referendum are not included in these plans and they are not allowed to take into consideration any proposed new housing developments. The new constituencies could be wildly different in size by 2020.

You can read the full proposals and submit a response online until 5th December.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Don't forget - housing drop-in on Monday

From 1pm to 7pm on Monday 21st November in Coalpit Heath Village Hall (The Miners), South Gloucestershire Council are holding a drop-in event on the Joint Spatial Plan, which proposes 1,500 houses on land east of Roundways and more around Yate in the next 20 years. There will also be a chance to ask planning officers about the transport proposals in the Joint Transport Study. This is your chance to have your say on the future of our village.

If you want to read up ahead of the event, you can find both the JSP and JTS consultations online. The detailed maps are in this technical paper.

And if you have a spare half hour, you might like to watch this Dispatches programme about how the big house builders are fuelling the housing crisis.

Parents concerned as academies seek new sponsors

The Ridings Federation, which runs Winterbourne International Academy and Yate International Academy (including Woodlands Primary School and Nursery) is looking for a new Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) to take over to tackle its leadership and financial problems. The Federation is projected to have a £1million deficit at the end of the academic year and is currently without a Chief Executive Principal.

Concerned parents and staff from WIA are holding a public meeting on Tuesday 22nd November from 7-9pm in Zion United Church, Woodend Road, Frampton Cotterell.

Meetings were held at both secondary schools this week at which the Chair of the Board answered questions from parents, teachers, students and community representatives, including local councillor Claire Young. Three MATs have expressed interest - Oasis, Greenshaw and one as yet unnamed as they wish to communicate with the parents at their existing schools first. The Chair explained that after the Board had decided to "re-broker", it was the Department for Education that sought the expressions of interest, not the Board, and it was up to the MATs whether they made proposals for one or both schools.

Academies are regulated by the Government, not the Local Education Authority, so South Glos has no role in deciding what happens next. Normally the decision about which MAT should take over would be taken by the Regional Schools Commissioner, but due to a conflict of interest the decision is being made by one from another region. There is no formal consultation and parents will not see the proposals from the MATs. The Board will be putting out a questionnaire for parents and concerned members of the community to feed in their views through them. The decision is expected to be made before Christmas, with the new arrangements in place by September 2017 at the latest.

Police plea for information

Avon and Somerset Police are appealing for information about the following incidents in our area:
  • At some point between the 1st and 10th of November, a residence on St Anne’s Drive, Coalpit Heath, was burgled, when the offenders have smashed a key safe from the wall. It is not known at this time if anything has been stolen.
  • Between 7 and 7.30pm on Thursday November the 10th, unknown person(s) have used items in the rear garden to smash the rear patio doors and gain entry, and have then stolen property from a residence on Lower Chapel Lane, Frampton Cotterell.
The Police recommend that residents restrict access to the rear of their properties whenever possible and lock away any tools or other items that could help a burglar get into your home.

If you have any information regarding these incidents, please contact the Police on 101. Alternatively, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

The police are also asking for residents to report any suspect vehicles that appear to be checking out possible burglary targets on 101.

Devolution set to go ahead

Despite the opposition of your Focus Team, on Monday South Glos Council voted to go into the new devolution deal, where a single Mayor will make decisions covering a wide area of the West of England, but without North Somerset. The Metro Mayor will be elected on the first Thursday in May next year.

We were not against a combined authority for the West of England, but thought it was a poor deal that gives us only a fraction of the money needed to fix our transport problems, let alone anything else. We saw no need for the imposition of a Mayor and thought it made no sense without North Somerset on board. We wanted to work with the Government to bring them back in, because none of the problems facing our region - housing, transport and skills issues - end just south of Bristol.

To give one example of the problems of North Somerset being excluded, the Joint Spatial Plan that is setting out where thousands of new homes should be built covers the whole of the West of England but the Mayor is required to have a spatial plan of their own covering only the area of the Combined Authority. The last thing we need is any more planning uncertainty while that is resolved.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Study into new motorway junction

At last Wednesday’s Environment and Community Services committee, it was agreed that South Gloucestershire Council would accept £500,000 funding from the Government to carry out a feasibility study into linking the M4 with the Avon Ring Road (A4174) with a new junction 18a. The study has to be completed by spring 2018.

Ahead of the meeting, we asked officers to clarify whether this would also look at the link road to Yate proposed in the Joint Transport Study (JTS). We were advised that the offer of funding from the Department for Transport is very specifically for a new motorway junction and link to the ring road, but the study would consider interaction with other potential schemes emerging from the JTS, such as a link to Yate. We tried unsuccessfully to get an amendment clarifying this but it will have been minuted.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Time to have your say on housing plans

It's now time to have your say on the proposals for thousands of new homes in our local communities.

You can find the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) consultation at: 


and the Joint Transport Study (JTS) consultation here:


We have been pressing for more information about where the houses would go and have been told repeatedly that this is a high level planning document talking about broad locations only, more detail would come in future consultations. We were therefore somewhat surprised to find at the drop-in exhibition in Chipping Sodbury a map of Yate and Chipping Sodbury with the countryside around it divided into sections and text headed “Potential Development Areas”. On further investigation, we found that maps were available for all the areas identified for housing.

The information is also available online, hidden away in a document at the end of the list of technical papers. You can find it here:


On the page for Coalpit Heath it says:

Given good proximity to employment opportunities and other services in the North & North East Bristol Fringe, Yate rail station & the Badminton Road, there is considered potential on relatively unconstrained land from the rail line northwards, west of Roundways to Frog Lane at Coalpit Heath for up to 1,500 dwellings and supporting facilities

Given that west of Roundways is in the existing village, we can only assume that is a typo and they mean east.

On the page for Yate/Chipping Sodbury it says:

  • Northwest Yate has good proximity to the rail station, Badminton Road and existing employment areas, hence there is considered potential in a broad band sweeping from fields north of Yate Town Football Club & south of Mission Road around to the B4059 and turning south to Nibley Lane and the river Frome and continuing south across the Badminton Road including fields west of the Business Park. 
  • Chipping Sodbury remains relatively compact with good proximity to the High Street from the periphery. Fields either side of Trinity Lane (north of St.Johns Way) but respecting the common and recreational facilities, and south of the railway between Dodington Road/Claypit Hill and north of Kingsgrove Common are therefore also considered to offer potential. 
  • In total it is considered up to 2,600 dwellings could be delivered in these 3 locations within the plan period.
There are also maps for Charfield, Buckover and Thornbury.

It's also important to understand that although the JSP and JTS are being consulted on together, they are two separate documents. If you want to see what they think are the transport mitigations needed to support the development, they are set out in the JSP in Table 1: Strategic Development Locations and the rationale for inclusion in the emerging spatial strategy. For the Yate/Chipping Sodbury development, those are:

  • Station improvements 
  • Metrobus 
  • Park and Ride 
  • Pinchpoint schemes and junction improvements 
  • Winterbourne Frampton Cotterell bypass 
For Coalpit Heath the list is the same, but minus the station improvements. There is no mention of the new M4 motorway junction or the link road from there to Yate being needed to mitigate the development. However in the Joint Transport Study it says: “The new road to Yate and the MetroBus extension form a package, with road space on the A432 prioritised for public transport and cycling.”

Don't forget there will be a drop-in at Coalpit Heath Village Hall (The Miners) from 1pm to 7pm on Monday 21st November where you can speak to planning officers.

Woodlands Farm drop-in

On Monday, many residents and your Focus Team attended the drop-in exhibition at the Manor Hall on Barratt Homes' "Blackberry Park" proposals for up to 215 homes on Woodlands Farm.

The plans on display differed from those posted through people's doors. You can download a PDF of all the exhibition boards here.

Barratt Homes are hoping to submit an outline application by the end of November.

Police appeal for witnesses to Bonfire Night crash

Avon and Somerset Police are appealing for witnesses after a collision on Westerleigh Road, Westerleigh, on Bonfire Night.

The single-vehicle collision involved a red Vauxhall Omega and was reported at about 8.50pm on Saturday 5 November. A passing motorist called the emergency services after being alerted by two young men who were waving their arms and then coming across the car on its roof. No one was in the vehicle but a man was standing nearby.

They are keen to trace anyone who was travelling along the Westerleigh Road on Saturday night between about 8.30pm and 9.30pm who may have seen a red Vauxhall Omega being driven before the crash. They would also like to hear from the two young men who were alerting approaching traffic, anyone else who stopped and anyone who may have seen a man walking along Westerleigh Road at about that time.

Anyone with any information which could help is asked to get in touch through their website, or by calling 101, quoting reference 5216246855. Alternatively ring the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. They never ask your name or trace your call and you could qualify for a reward.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Westerleigh road closure for Rembrance Sunday

The roads around the Village Green in Westerleigh will be closed between 10.50 and 11.20am on Sunday for the annual Westerleigh Remembrance Day service.

20mph near Chipping Sodbury School

As part of its programme to introduce 20mph limits around schools, South Glos is proposing to reduce the speed limit to 20mph on the following roads:

  • Lilliput Court
  • Lilliput Avenue
  • Bowling Road
  • Gullivers Place
  • Dodington Road
  • Claypit Hill

You can view the plans and have your say here.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Have your say on children's mental health strategy

South Glos Council is asking for your views on a strategy for Children and Young People's Mental Health and Wellbeing.

They are looking for views from a whole range of people - service users, their families, carers, the general public, current and potential future providers, care workers, health partners and other stakeholders. You can find out more and have your say online until 6th December.

Talk on mining book

D P Lindegaard is giving a talk about her new book “Killed in a Coalpit” at Kingswood Heritage Museum  at 3pm on Tuesday 29 November.
The Museum will be open from 2pm to 5pm and for that afternoon admittance will be free (normal price is £3). They will be exhibiting extra mining items above their normal displays specially for the afternoon.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Drop-in events on housing proposals

The consultation starts next week on the proposals for up to, 1,500 new homes at Coalpit Heath, 2,600 around Yate and Chipping Sodbury, 1,000 at Charfield, 600 at Thornbury and 2,200 at a new garden village at Buckover near Thornbury, along with a range of transport proposals. South Gloucestershire Council will be holding drop-in events in the five areas most directly affected:

WHERE: Chipping Sodbury Town Hall
WHEN: Thursday 10 November, 1 – 7pm

WHERE: Charfield Memorial Hall
WHEN: Tuesday 15 November, 1 – 7pm

WHERE: Coalpit Heath Village Hall
WHEN: Monday 21 November, 1 – 7pm

WHERE: Armstrong Hall, Thornbury
WHEN: Friday 25 November, 1 – 7pm

WHERE: Falfield Village Hall
WHEN: Monday 28 November, 1 – 7pm

Even if your village is not specifically mentioned in the proposals, it is well worth getting along to one of the events. For example, the housing proposals at Yate, Chipping Sodbury and Coalpit Heath would involve the release of Green Belt land, which could mean building out towards these villages like Westerleigh, Nibley, Wapley, Dodington and Codrington. Transport proposals such as a link road between the M4 and Yate could clearly have an impact on these communities too.

If you live in the Coalpit Heath and Frampton Cotterell area, don't forget that Barratt Homes are holding a drop-in at the Manor Hall on Monday 7th November from 3.30pm to 8.30pm on their proposals for 215 houses at Woodlands Farm ("Blackberry Park").

Grants for community projects

The old Community Grants have been scrapped and replaced with a scheme where each councillor has a pot of money to spend on projects that benefit communities in their ward. Each councillor has £3,000 to spend this year. If you’ve got an idea for a project, please contact your local councillor.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Have your say on budget and council tax

South Glos Council is asking for your views on its budget and council tax for 2017/18. You can view the consultation and have your say here until 23rd January 2017.