January 2009

Martin Horwood addresses the campaign in Committee Room 14

Martin Horwood addresses the campaign in Committee Room 14


About 90 people from Gloucestershire congregated at the House of Commons to put pressure on the Government to back down from its deeply flawed Regional Spatial Strategy proposals. The day before we had been told this in a written note from the Minister Iain Wright:

I cannot discuss the content of the RSS or communicate the points raised at our meeting with decision making Ministers about issues raised by regional stakeholders. This is for reasons of fairness and to avoid new issues arising which might necessitate a further round of consultation..

which all seems to fly in the face of democracy. Our party was undeterred however and when a deputation of Gloucester MP’s met the Rt Hon Mr Wright they found him to be very sympathetic. He was impressed both by the strength of feeling and by the force of some of our arguments and while he could not publicly commit to help, the MP’s were pleased to see aides scribbling notes throughout the meeting.

At a debrief to the whole group in Committee Room 14 jointly chaired by Helen Wells and Cheltenham MP Martni Horwood, the mood was upbeat – there was a definite feeling that the messagewas beginning to get through. Some evidence of this can be seen in one of the comments after the meeting by a spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government who said: “The South West is facing long term housing shortages and affordability issues.  It is already the only region with above average house prices and below average incomes. If more homes are not built the housing ladder will get even further out of reach leaving the next generation with nowhere to live.” 

In response to fears about green belt land however, the spokesman continued: “The government has no intention of weakening the protection given to green belt in planning decisions. We believe it is possible to build the homes future generations need whilst protecting the environment and green spaces.”

There were a number of interviews with regional press and television and there was a good write up of the day in the Gloucesrshire Echo here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/gloucestershire/7842764.stm 


This weekend the focus switches to the local dump – why build houses near the toxic waste facility at Stoke Orchard? This Saturday, 31st January, Grundon are putting on a public exhibition about their proposals for 20 more years of operations at Wingmoor Quarry and Wingmoor Farm.
If you need transport or do not wish to drive onto Grundon’s site, SWARD are running a minibus shuttle, financed by Bishop’s Cleeve Parish Council.  The minibus will start at 9.30 am and run continuously till the exhibition ends. Simply wait outside Bishop’s Cleeve Community Centre.

We are planning another meeting in February and will publish that date nearer the time – its important we keep up the pressure.

In the meantime, enjoy this coverage on ITV West with star performances from Helen Wells, Barry Simon, and Martin Horwood.


floodfieldsAs we heard from the Severn and Avon Vally Combined Flood Group last week, the Environment Agency only includes river flooding in its flood risk estimates. Insurers however take a more cautious approach, and while we may not want our premiums to go up, we would all rather have avoided the risk in the first place. New Flood Risk Assessment maps published by Landmark Information include minor rivers and surface water and give an overall figure of 30% for housing at risk from flooding as opposed to the 10% estimated by the Environment Agency. Landmark worked in conjunction with RMS to produce the reports. If homeowners won’t buy houses at risk, maybe developers can be deterred from building on the green belt.

Matthew Grant, global head of client development at RMS, which has been modelling all sources of flood risk since 2001, said: “The 2007 floods provided a stark reminder that major river flooding is just one part of the full flood risk picture, and a much more comprehensive view is needed. ”

There may well come a time when Save the Countryside should be commissioning RMS and/or Landmark Information to give us a detailed assessment of our area with its impermeable soils and fast flowing minor rivers.

To find out more read this article from today 20th January on the aboutproperty.co.uk site or the formal press release is available on Landmark’s  Homecheck  site along with some similar articles.

Save the Countryside Meeting January 15th 2009 Municipal Offices

More than 40 people attended the meeting last night (15th January) to discuss the issues arising from proposals to build in the Green belt around Cheltenham.
Barbara Farmer from Safety in Waste and Rubbish Disposal (SWARD) outlined the history and issues associated with waste disposal at the Wingmoor Farm site near Bishops Cleeve.
In addition to the smells, flys, rats, noise and 82,000 traffic movements to and from Wingmoorevery year is the much bigger problem of toxic waste disposal. The hazardous waste site deals with ‘disposal’ of dioxins which amount to about 50% of the UKs total toxic waste.
The European Commission in a draft document maintained that there should be a half kilometer distance between non-hazardous waste sites and 2 kilometers distance from hazardous waste sites. This was not turned into law – but the so-called NW urban extension is to be built right up against the tip. Who will buy a house in such a situation?
Dave Wittsand Vernon Smith from the Severn and Avon Valley combined Flood Group outlined the history of flooding in the Severn Vale and the use of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDS). The evidence shows that most SUDS systems don’t work on the Severn Flood Plain because it is covered in impermeable clay and the water cannot soak away. Any building in the area of the NW urban extension will send more water down local streams into the Tewkesbury area and increase the risk of flooding there as happened in July 2007. Their campaign has attracted academic support from Professor Cluckie (Swansea University).
Cllr. Paul Massey, speaking for Cheltenham Council Leader Steve Jordan, indicated that the Regional Spatial Strategy has fallen even further behind and won’t be available until Summer 2009 now, and this will delay production of the Local Development Framework back. There will be a General Election in 2010 at which housing targets imposed on the area can be challenged.
Helen Wells, Chair of ‘Save the Countryside’ urged people to attend the meeting in Parliament on 21st January when Gloucestershire MPs will have an opportunity to meet one of the Ministers, Iain Wright, responsible for the RSS. ‘Save the Countryside’ is running a coach to it.
For further information, leave a comment on this site and we will get in touch.

John Webster