November 2010

A Save the Countryside Update From Helen Wells

Nimby (Not In My Back Yard) is a word sometimes used with negative conections about campaign groups such as Save The Countryside. That does not describe what our campaign is all about.
In fact it is about Looking After My Backyard.And we are still at it nearly 4 years on. So far we have avoided what many saw as a destined enormous development of 5000 new houses on green belt land in Swindon Village as a North West Urban Extension.
‘ So what’s been happening as it all seems rather quiet?’ I hear a a lot of people say. Well while trying to keep up with the day job we have been hard at work with all the political stuff.
We are delighted to tell you thaqt the ill-advised Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West (RSS) has been scrapped. So a very big thanks to everyone that joined the campaign totalling 35,000 for its removal. We won! However that was only one battle in our continuind campaign to protect our green land.

We maintain our alliance with the 22 groups in the South West called Save Our Green Spaces (SOGS). Our Colleagues have had great TV and press coverage, particularly those trying to renew the Bristol City stadium on its present site rather than sell the land to a supermarket and build the new stadium on green belt land in Bristol.
We have been working with our farming colleagues who dont want to sell their land to developers, despite very attractive financil offers, as we continually work to to protect the gren land that we have and build the housing that we need on the already identified sites that are crying out for regeneration.
In August representatives from SOGS, including Save The Countryside, had a meeting in Parliament with the Government Chief Planner, Steve Quartermain. Frank discussions took place on the need for more local participation and transparency in all planning decisions; the need for regeneration of vacant and ex-industrial sites; and the need to ensure that sufficient employment opportunities match housing developments.
The danger was raised of national food security as our best growing fields are continually being built upon for massive warehouses that provide poor employment scope.
In September we joined colleagues from LEGLAG, the Leckhampton campaign group, with our MP Martin Horwood and Steve Jordan, the leader of Cheltenham Council, to meet the Minister for Communities Greg Clark. We were delighted that our arguments were taken into consideration in the development of his Localism and Decentralisation Bill. A very big thanks goes out to Martin Horwood who was instrumental in setting up this meeting.
So the change in government seems to be really looking positive for us as it wants building to be aspirational and supporting local communities rather than dictated from Central Government.
We now continue our close links with the Joint Core Strategy Team which will manage the development of housing in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury and the local Conucil to ensure that the right amonut of housing is built, in particulat the affordable homes that are needed for the benefit of the community.
In the interim, we are really pleaed that until the final JCS is completed, for the next year, they are omitting greenbelt land from land availability plans (SHLAA). Many alternative brownfield sits have been identified to meet an appropriate need for new housingwhich will not have a detrimental effect on our green belt land, our food production, flooding, pollution, health benefits and way of life. Again a big thank you to everyone who commented on the Joint Core Strategy so far.
So whats next? We continue our close links with our concil colleagues as official consultees to the planning process to ensure that our beautiful green belt land remains protected. We wait for the final Joint Core Strategy to be published and work with our JCS colleagues to ensure that our local needs are met. The Localism and Decentrallisation Bill should be published next month. We continue to work with SOGS, CPRE, our Severn and Avom combined flood group colleagues and other organisations including the NFU. Our focus remains on protectingfarm land, green land and flood land from uneccessary development.
So What Can You Do?.
We are aware that there are some protected species living within the land under threat and we would ask any nature lovers among you to to take note and advise us of any sightings of protected animals and birds. In particular any birds on the RSPB protected list, newts, slow worms or dormice. These can be reported to the Swindon Village Society since any sighting can be used in our future defence of this land.
As for Save The Countryside, we are a very small group of individuals working in our spare time, so if anyone cares to join our group and take on any administraive tasks to help we would be delighted. Watch out for the final Joint Core Sterategy. Until green belt land is permanently removed from the land made available for building we are still not safe! We’ll be sure to let you know how things are going and we will let you know how you can continue to help. Thanks everyone for your tremendous support so far. It has been hard work but definately worth it.

Shock news! Just when we though top-down houses figures had been scrapped they are back! You can’t make this stuff up.

High court ruling says the goverments scrapping of Regional Spatial Strategies when they came to power was unlawful.

However, housing minister Bob Neil says this will change little since this problem will be fixed in the localism bill coming along in a few weeks. But, it is worrying as it seems to mean that before then developers can get their applications in under the old RSS’s, though remember that the final South West RSS was never published due to legal problems. My feeling is we shouldn’t worry too much about this. What do you think?