Campaigning for the positive and sustainable development of Radstock

News Archive

[3rd April 2014]: RAG welcomes Linden Homes wish to share ideas with Radstock people but wants answers to contamination issues too

On 21 March, RAG wrote to Linden Homes asking for responses to serious concerns about the unresolved contamination issues on the NRR railway land where the developer has applied to build homes. Although planning permission was granted at the end of January, it had a number of conditions attached including ones which reflect the problems of dealing with the undoubted pollution on the site. These conditions have not yet been agreed.

A copy of our letter is attached to this email. (Click here to view the letter)

A public meeting in Radstock?

As a result, Linden Homes invited RAG to a meeting at their offices in Bristol and we accepted the invitation. A few days later, Linden Homes explained that they would like to widen this meeting out to other issues and to invite some members of the press. Naturally we were very pleased that Linden Homes wants to engage with the people of Radstock and have, therefore, suggested that, rather than a meeting in Bristol, it would be more sensible for them to hold a public meeting in Radstock.

We have said we are more than happy to receive a response in writing to our initial letter which is strictly about contamination issues.


[2nd April 2014]: RAG asks Linden Homes to explain how it is going to deal with contamination on the railway land

RAG has written to Linden Homes asking for answers to major worries about the contamination on the proposed site for homes on the railway land. Click here to read the full text.


[3rd March 2014]: Contamination on Radstock Railway Land - What's Next?

When BANES recently accepted the NRR/Linden planning applications for the railway land in Radstock, this agreement did not come without strings attached. For example, there were a series of conditions which the developers would have to meet before work could proceed and these conditions are currently being mulled over by the officers responsible at BANES.

The developers are not free to proceed

The key point is that these conditions have to be fulfilled and this means that those who care about the future of Radstock must be very vigilant. Contamination issues are far from resolved and stem from the wide range of industrial activities undertaken on the land when it was previously in use. The BANES Scientific Officer with responsibility for this matter has recommended that a number of conditions be applied. These include a further site investigation, submission and implementation of a remediation scheme, reporting of any contamination revealed during development and long term monitoring and maintenance. The officer also recommended that the Environment Agency are consulted regarding risks to controlled waters.

No serious work done on contamination issues yet

The problems about resolving the contamination stem from the failure of previous would-be developers to take proper measures when investigating. This matters because the current developer has based their work on the work done in 2005 which does not comply with the regulatory guidance for site investigations.

Can a poverty-stricken developer like Linden Homes shoulder the required expense?

In lay terms, this means that a potentially serious situation has not been investigated and must be looked at professionally and in depth before anything else can happen. For NRR/Linden Homes this must be uncomfortable news as Linden Homes has already pleaded poverty and says it cannot afford to pay the much discussed Section 106 money which developers are normally expected to contribute towards improvement and remediation to the general environment of a community which is subject to major development. Dealing with contamination is never going to be cheap - and until the full requirements of the conditions attached to the planning permission are met, there is no knowing how much more will be discovered and how much more it will all cost. Any developer who cannot provide funding for Section 106 could well find such expense prohibitive.

No short cuts must be taken

This is a site which, if the developer gets their way, will be covered with homes - any attempts to take short cuts which could result in people's living spaces being built on top of unknown contamination must be avoided at all costs.


[3rd February 2014]: They came, they saw and they rubber stamped

BANES Development Control says Yes to Wrecking Radstock

On Wednesday 29 January, the Development Control Committee (DCC) descended on Radstock and, in front of a substantial audience made up largely of people opposed to the proposals, did what they had always intended. They voted in favour of a set of planning applications from the NRR and Linden Homes which, if ever implemented, will do absolutely nothing to regenerate Radstock let alone protect the town's valuable natural and built environment. Between them, the members of the DCC and the handful of speakers supporting them failed to put forward a single substantive argument in support of the proposals.

BANES, NRR and Linden Homes fail to make their case and the developer (Linden) is laughing all the way to the bank

Radstock Action Group, whilst very disappointed in this result, are not surprised, neither do they think that this is, by any means over yet. Here we have a project which BANES and the NRR have repeatedly argued is absolutely essential for the regeneration of the town, which has at its core the provision of affordable housing for local people. They have failed to prove their case:

  • Normal regulations require the provision of 35% affordable housing on this type of development - BANES has said that Linden Homes need only provide 25% and that it will all be OK crammed into the first stage of the 'development'
  • In a scheme designed to bring affordable housing, one might reasonably expect to see a fair proportion of small starter units for young people and so on - BANES has acceded to the developer's proposal to include bigger units, presumably because they can make more profit on them
  • Normal regulations require that the developer compensates the local community and provides amenities and facilities for them and newcomers in the new housing through an arrangement called the 106 agreement - this would include a contribution to the provision of additional school places, a contribution to the provision of youth services and to children's services - BANES has said that Linden Homes doesn't have to pay any of this as they, the developer, say they cannot afford to pay because the scheme is unviable in economic terms if they do have to pay. In other words, Linden Homes won't make a profit. In other words, it will be us, the council tax payers who will foot all the bills.

So, having repeated argued that this housing is desperately needed, BANES has caved in to all the developer's demands, completely ignoring the original reasons given for why this project should be located in the town centre with a road that will bring chaos to everyone in the town. Thereby ensuring that a Bath commuter dormitory estate of very dubious merit will blight the place which boasts so much potential and has so much going for it. Either affordable housing is needed or it isn't - BANES seems to have decided it isn't really a priority so why are they determined to go ahead in the town?

What's in it for Radstock?

If these plans go ahead, Radstock will have:

  • A road no-one wants, which will seriously jeopardise local traders and other businesses and services and create a less healthy environment for everyone in the town
  • Housing that will not prioritise local people
  • A site which has contamination on an, as yet, unresearched scale, though everyone already agrees it is serious
  • The loss of all the Victoria Hall parking and of much on-street parking with the provision of only 14 new parking spaces for the whole town
  • Very little prospect of getting back a key asset - the rail link to Frome
  • A housing estate where a valuable open space once stood

We are now going to be considering the decisions in detail and will be taking our next steps accordingly. Far from regenerating Radstock, this could lead to further decline - just as we are beginning to see some genuine improvements taking place.


[27th January 2014]: BANES final report on the planning applications for the railway land in Radstock

The full BANES report for the Development Control Committee scheduled for 2pm on Wednesday 29 January has been published. This 86 page document is now visible at: democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/documents/s29020/PlansList.pdf.

It contains some very dismal and alarming reading:

  • Absolutely no ringing endorsements of Linden Homes and NRR's proposals
  • A spineless willingness to accommodate compromises demanded by the developer on the grounds of maintaining their profits
  • Professionals required to respond to the proposals giving only guarded and conditional support to what they are considering
  • Admissions that this is the best that can be expected in the current circumstances

All in all, no-one could ever imagine such latitude being given to proposals for other parts of BANES, like Bath itself, for example.

NEW MAJOR ISSUES EMERGE - CLICK HERE TO READ THE ATTACHMENT FOR FURTHER DETAIL

Attached to this email is a very brief statement of some of the major issues to emerge from it. It is not a restatement of all RAG's arguments but picks up on some of the particularly striking new aspects of the whole process.

We remain totally opposed to the applications. What is so alarming is that, even within the terms set out by BANES, the whole set of proposals are beset by difficulties, failings and omissions - just go to any page of their report to see.

LINDEN HOMES PLEADS POVERTY - THEIR PROFITS MUST BE PROTECTED RATHER THAN FULFILLING THEIR OBLIGATIONS TO THE PEOPLE OF RADSTOCK

Just a couple of examples:

  1. Linden Homes, the developer, has argued that it should not have to pay the money that is normally required under what is called the Section 106 (see attachment for further detail and explanation). This money is aimed to provide improvements and compensate for the disruption and damage to the local community. Linden Homes say they can't afford it. So out go support for funding additional places for children who live in the new housing, improvements such as play areas and parks and so on- just see the attached for a bit more detail
  2. The housing proposal will result in a huge concentration of affordable housing in one very small area - this is a direct contravention of what is required

WHO WILL LOOK AFTER RADSTOCK'S INTERESTS?

In both of these cases and throughout the report, caveats and conditions underscore BANES' response. And yet, they are insisting on recommending that the proposals go through. Who will ensure that all the conditions are met, that all the additional work required prior to commencement is undertaken satisfactorily?

This situation would be absolutely unacceptable in areas other than Radstock which, should this development be undertaken, is destined to become nothing more than a second rate housing estate catering for out-commuters. Nowhere in the final report is there any evidence that it will lead to regeneration. Far from it, there is plenty of evidence that both the town centre conservation area and the natural surroundings will be irreversibly damaged - even BANES seems to agree.

Radstock is under threat from a cash-stepped developer and the local authority which wants to put housing at all costs into our precious town. BANES is flying in the face of all its own reservations, conditions and caveats and asking the Development Control Committee to agree the plans. It thinks it can getaway with it in Radstock. Regeneration is not part of the deal and the Development Control Committee should throw it all out - it is never too late to reconsider.


[20th January 2014]: BANES Councillors to come to Radstock to vote on the NRR/Linden Homes Applications for the Railway Land

Special Development Control Committee in Radstock to decide the town's fate

Wednesday 29th January 2014
2pm in Radstock Methodist Church

On Wednesday 29 January, the group of BANES councillors who make up the Development Control Committee will descend on Radstock, very largely from well outside the area, to vote on the NRR/Linden Homes applications for the Railway Land.

The future of the whole of Radstock is at stake

These councillors from all over the BANES area may think they are simply voting on one application for one apparently small piece of land. But this is far from the truth. The decision made at this meeting will determine the shape of the town for ever.

There are only two choices:

  • Will Radstock retain its character, its history, its very special beauty, a conservation area in 'the best preserved mining town centre in the country' surrounded by a special natural environment including green hills and the valleys that thread their way through and meet in the town? Will the opportunity to reopen the rail link be carefully guarded? Will its economic potential be valued and safeguarded?
  • The bleak alternative is the start of creeping building plans of characterless housing developments designed to create commuter dormitories for people working in Bath and Bristol. Agreeing to these plans will mean the end of the future reinstatement of the railway link to Frome.

Radstock Action Group knows which scenario it prefers and urges everyone to attend the meeting which is open to the public.

The applications, to which there are a continuing stream of additions and changes, show:

  • A total lack of strategic planning
  • No infrastructure development to support the impact of hundreds of new residents
  • No interest in what might be best for local people
  • Continuing doubts about contamination and flooding issues
  • Social housing which will not be prioritised for Radstock people - they will simply have to join the queue with all the other people seeking homes in the authority area
  • There is not one grain of evidence that jobs and economic regeneration will result from this scheme
  • Additionally it will give a green light to other unscrupulous developers who are currently eyeing up all sorts of local open spaces and fields for new housing developments.

It is never to late to change things and we urge BANES to reject these proposals and to join local people in planning a sustainable and prosperous future for the town. Everyone should come and make their voice heard at the meeting on Wednesday 29 January. You can notify BANES in advance by contacting: democratic_services@bathnes.gov.uk.


[6th January 2014]: Radstock railway land applications - Is anyone in charge?

Since the last week of November, Linden Homes/Norton Radstock Regeneration or their agents have submitted at least 60 new items to their planning applications in relation to Radstock Railway Land. BANES has notified some people of some of these and the deadlines for responses have included Boxing Day, with the most recent one being 23 January.

This is not a series of minor applications about building conservatories or changes to your garage space, or the addition of a dormer window. No, this is a series of applications about the future of a whole town. If agreed the conservation area of the historic town of Radstock will be overwhelmed by a new road and a housing estate. Of course, BANES has repeatedly argued that the affordable housing will be for local people, but this is not the case. Local people will have to join all the other many people on the housing list in BANES who require affordable housing and they will not be given special treatment or prioritisation just because they live locally.

How come such a major project is subject to all this level or disorganisation and lack of focus? Who is responsible for these applications?

SITE VISIT BY DEVELOPMENT CONTROL COMMITTEE COMING THIS WEEK

Also looming, according to well-informed sources, next Wednesday 8 January between 10.00am and midday, a Site Visit by the BANES Development Control Committee. Such site visits are organised so that members of the decision-making committee can gain a further insight into the site of a proposed development. As we all know, the site has been subject to some serious trashing in the past three months and this will not help the Councillors trying to envisage exactly how Radstock might look if treated with more respect and thought.

Radstock Action Group will be keeping a very close eye to make sure that the information given to visiting councillors is accurate and alerts them to the many reasons why an alternative scheme should be considered. To help committee members to understand the situation, RAG has sent a hard copy of our submissions to each individual councillor on the Development Control Committee, since we realise that they probably do not have time to pour over all of the hundreds of pages of submissions on the website.

A NEW YEAR RESOLUTION FOR BANES

Let's look again at Radstock and plan a sustainable future for the town - let's build on local business, let's unlock local talent and let's build homes and communities not a housing estate which will primarily serve as a dormitory for Bath and Bristol commuters. And let's get some infrastructure going, starting with commitment to the reinstatement of the Radstock-Frome rail-link.


[17th December 2013]: BANES gets into the Christmas Spirit - special delivery of new planning paperwork to Radstock

BANES, in true festive spirit, has recently sent out on avalanche of additional paperwork to accompany the NRR/Linden Homes applications to build on the railway land in Radstock. And, just to make things more interesting they have fixed the consultation period and deadlines to fit almost exactly with the Christmas Holidays. Indeed, one deadline is set for Boxing Day.

Yes the Traffic Orders are real and ridiculous

For anyone who recently thought that the whole issue had gone away, these announcements are a very clear statement of how the roads will be changed in the town centre - for example, no right turn out of Fortescue Road which will run in the opposite direction to its current flow. Yes, it really is true, traffic coming out of Fortescue Road and heading to Bath or Welton or Clandown or anywhere else will have to turn left and proceed to a new roundabout at the foot of Wells Hill, using the roundabout to turn towards the chosen destination. In addition, the proposals are out regarding the cutting back of parking in the town centre.

Carts before horses as proposals pre-empt serious debate about the planning application

You will be able find all these proposals on the RAG website. You also have the right to comment in what BANES has dubbed 'a formal consultation' on Radstock Town Centre Development. Comments can be sent to Andy Coles, BANES Traffic Management and Network Team at: andy_cole@bathnes.gov.uk. You can also phone him on 01225 394208. He is taking comments till January 7, 2014.

It comes as no surprise that these proposals are being put forward when there is still no planning permission for the railway land. Indeed, it is increasingly obvious that the planning application is flawed, providing no evidence of economic viability, sustainability or benefits that it would bring to the town. There is a complete lack of infrastructure to support what BANES claims is designed to bring renewal and regeneration to the town.

Linden Homes has some late thoughts on contamination

Meanwhile, it appears that even Linden Homes/NRR are slightly worried and have been doing some homework on their original application. They have submitted additional material regarding their original Environmental Statement.

Radstock deserves better

All of this adds up to further evidence that the various agencies and applicants really are not communicating with each other and certainly don't know what they are doing - this is not a proposal which might affect a couple of buildings in a remote part of Radstock - these proposals are destined, if passed, to change the character of the town centre of Radstock irreversibly. Major projects such as this should be professionally developed, in full consultation with local communities. Radstock Action Group urges everyone to let BANES know of their continued opposition. The relevant planning officer is Sarah James who can be contacted on sarah_james@bathnes.gov.uk, quoting application number: 13/02436/EOUT. And don't forget Andy Coles in Traffic Managment as above.

Happy Christmas.


[28th October 2013]: Radstock Action Group blows its own trumpet

RAG is not an organisation given to spending lots of time on telling everyone what a great job its doing, but we thought maybe now is the time to blow our own trumpet. RAG has a positive agenda for Radstock - recently we invited Cllr Howard Murray of Poynton to come and talk to a representative group of people from organisations in Radstock and the wider area, including Bath, about an alternative way of managing traffic which would be good for everyone. Here's a selection, in no particular order, of things we are proud of:

  • RAG organised a huge petition against the road which resulted in BANES backing off and keeping the Frome Road open
  • RAG organised as series of day-long Saturday events called 'What's next for Radstock?' which involved many people hearing about positive ways to deal with the Victoria Hall, regeneration, Energy, Sustainability and the Environment, the railway link to Frome and so on - which were attended by BANES officers and councillors, the local MP and local traders and residents who heard key speakers from other towns tell of their successes
  • RAG successfully led a campaign to get the worst excesses of poor design removed from the last planning applications and we shall continue with the current proposals
  • RAG has received a prize from BANES for energy initiatives
  • RAG organised an event to support local traders during the worst period when the roads were closed by Wessex Water works
  • RAG is a key participants in the Somer Valley Partnership
  • RAG organised a meeting in the town to hear the arguments about the proposed Sainsbury's
  • RAG features regularly on local BBC and other radio stations
  • A week ago, 200+ people talked to us about Radstock as we gave out information about the current NRR/BANES proposals - the number who thought that BANES was right was in single figures
  • Our submission on the Core Strategy was much applauded and contained a set of points for future planning which were subsequently incorporated into the plan
  • RAG was selected by Community Chroniclers to make a film about the history and future of the railways in Radstock - it has been viewed by hundreds of people and not just in Radstock
  • RAG organised a town litter pick earlier this year

Thanks to RAG, the town is being taken more seriously. After the initial shock to BANES that even 'bandit country' to quote one BANES Councillor, is full of articulate, industrious and caring people, they now know that they cannot ignore the voices of so many.

Set up in 2007, RAG works for the positive and sustainable development of the town and is proud to be a part of local debate and action - we don't think we always get it right, but we are interested in promoting the positive potential of the town and we work with anyone interested in Radstock and having similar priorities. The only limit to our activities is that we all work on a voluntary basis and need to keep other parts of our lives going too!

We meet every Wednesday at 7.30pm in the Methodist Church. Everyone welcome.


[21st October 2013]: Coming to a street near you - 20mph speed limit

Last week, yet more white laminated notices appeared in Radstock - no they weren't the latest efforts of the planning team but came from Highways and announced the introduction of 20mph speed limits in much of the town.

Radstock Action Group welcomes all moves to make Radstock a better place for residents, people who work in the town, shoppers, tourists and the wide range of visitors who come to enjoy the ever increasing range of amenities.

Does BANES want faster or slower traffic?

  • Whilst we are keen to see everything possible being done to increase road safety, we still are not clear how this new set of proposals fits in with BANES avowed aim of speeding up traffic as it travels through the town. When the idea of a new road was first introduced to us, we did the calculations and know that in order to achieve the time savings modelled by BANES Highways, through traffic would actually have to break the 30mph speed limit, so what's the idea behind the 20mph limit?

Are these proposals enforceable and legally binding?

  • Second point that needs clarifying is how is this speed limit going to be enforced, if indeed it is legally binding? Enforced it must be, with pedestrians and other users believing and expecting that speeds will be slower, it would be irresponsible not to ensure that it is enforced.

How do you decongest a town? By slowing traffic down?

  • Third, we have repeatedly been told that the reason we need a new road is to reduce congestion which clogs up Radstock - how will it be possible to reduce congestion by reducing the speed limits? According to BANES traffic is too slow and congested already. But we don't think this congestion is as described. Like everywhere else, Radstock experiences some queues at peak times but otherwise traffic runs well.

Can A roads be subject to enforceable 20mph limits?

  • Finally, we understand that 20mph speed limits are not enforceable on A roads and would like to know how the A362 and A367 fit into the new proposals.

Could it be that the core issue is that BANES hasn't got the interests of Radstock people at the centre of its plans? A new plan is required and it is not too late. We will be asking BANES to give answers to the questions above and to tell us what their priorities are: the needs of Radstock people or something else?

If you are lucky, you can see the proposals at: www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/streets-and-highway-maintenance/roadworks/permanent-traffic-order-notices/pev9591tj-various or on a lamp post near you.


[17th October 2013]: New image gallery: Pictures of the relocated Jubilee Oak - cause for concern?

Images of the relocated Jubilee Oak taken in July and September 2013. Click here to view.


[14th October 2013]: Radstock Road Safety Audit - weak on real audit, strong on mutual congratulations between BANES and their auditors

Radstock Action Group eventually obtained a copy of the Radstock Road Safety Audit, done by Halcrow for BANES, following a Freedom Information request. It is not impressive reading. It appears to have been completed in June 2013, although the council had previously insisted that it had long been done. We don't know what status it has as it still has 'Draft' printed across it.

Local Plan calls for safe and healthy environments

Despite all this, we wanted to see if it addressed the requirements of the BANES Local Plan (2007) which includes the aim of 'improved safety for all road users' (T.13 (ii) and the requirement that development will only be permitted if it provides: a high standard of highway safety; safe and convenient access for pedestrians and safe access for cyclists and cycle parking (T.24).

The way this audit works is it takes various proposals made by BANES in relation to the new proposed road system, Halcrow then comments in anodyne fashion ad BANES gives a one or two sentence comment. All very cosy.

It confines itself to general remarks under the headings General; Non-Motorised Road User Provision; Road Signs, Carriageway Markings and Lighting; Audit Team Assessment. It does nothing to address the fact that should the new road be built, users of the town centre, whether car drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair or buggy users will be subject to increased main road traffic exactly where they wish to shop, visit the doctor, go to church or visit the many services and gathering places in the town.

Above all, there is no mention of such major safety hazards as, for example, the new proposed roundabout junction between the bottom of Wells Road and the Street where incoming traffic from the Wells direction will have to turn right against a bad camber and into the Street, whilst contending with traffic coming out of the Street onto the roundabout, and the queues which will be caused by the pedestrian crossing roughly as it is now outside the Coop.

The omissions from the audit are greater than the contents

The auditors pay lip service to the inevitable chaos which will surround the area where the new bus stops will be located and the fact that pedestrians will actually need protection from the new road system. The result? Minimal commentary and suggestions on improving such matters as visibility of pedestrians, splitter islands and refuges - the very language signals the fact that those who use the town centre will not be the key to a successful and safe environment - they amount, instead to an inconvenient presence in a system dominated by through traffic negotiating a huge collection of Heath Robinson roundabouts and crossings.

As far as Radstock Action Group is concerned this Safety Audit avoids the real potential hazards in the town and relies on a stock formula which allows major issues to be ignored if they do not fall within the headings provided. There are absolutely no reassurances that the health and safety aims of the Local Plan will be met by any current road proposals.

It is not too late to tell BANES how unsatisfactory their proposals and the safety audit are. Radstock Action Group urges all those who are worried to object now to the Sarah James, the responsible Planning Officer, at sarah_james@bathnes.gov.uk


[7th October 2013]: Object now to plans to demolish valuable parts of Radstock's railway heritage. Read RAG's submission.

In order to carry out any development, the developer wishes to demolish a number of structures from the old railway land.

Click here read our objections (220KB pdf)

The Second document is the BANES Local Plan to which we refer and the third is the National Planning Policy Framework to which we also refer:

BANES Local Plan (4.66MB pdf) | National Planning Policy Framework (869KB pdf)


[30th September 2013]: Radstock Railway Land Contamination must not be brushed under the carpet

Current proposals based on outdated information

The last developer to put forward proposals for the Radstock Railway Land, didn't know what to do about the very high levels of contamination on the site. In fact, they never got down to the detail of what was necessary and put forward a vague plan saying they would be experimenting with a new and untried method for remediation - fortunately, we never had to witness the potential problems with this vague undertaking.

But now, the current reports on the railway land have revealed a similar lack of understanding of just how important getting it right is when dealing with contaminated materials. First, the new contamination reports use the 'investigations' which existed at the time (2005) of the Bellway activities, and second, they have been seriously questioned by BANES' own Scientific Officer (Contaminated Land Environmental Services) in charge of responding to the reports (1).

As the officer writes, 'The Ground Investigation Report is essentially a review and re-assessment of an historical investigation undertaken by another consultant on behalf of a different client' on which the current client appears to rely. And just in case anyone is not clear about the problem, There is no disagreement that 'the proposed residential area has 'widespread arsenic, nickel and PAH contamination as well as copper and zinc. In the south eastern area of the site, elevated concentrations of lead and hydrocarbons were present ....' and so it goes on. The BANES Officer states that 'additional soil, water and gas investigation and risk assessment is required to fully investigate and define the geo-environmental risks'. She goes on to express concerns about the lack of investigation of the water on the site and sets a whole series of conditions that will have to be met before considering whether or not the contamination situation and proposed remediation is acceptable.

These are not the actions of a responsible agency

In summary:

  1. The current contamination reports have been deemed inadequate - not just by RAG but by the BANES Scientific Officer
  2. The contaminants present are very dangerous and are scientifically reported to be associated with, amongst other things, cancer and immune system problems
  3. The NRR/Linden Homes want to build homes on this highly toxic land

Radstock Action Group entirely condemns what can only be described as the cavalier attitude of the developers in trying to fudge the issues related to the dangers of building on this site. This is not trivial, it is the future health and well-being of human beings that is in play here. The risks are too high.

Too hot to handle

The last word, for the moment, must go to the Archaeology Report submitted for the Planning Application, which states that , 'Some areas of heavy contamination have been identified ...... However, judging by the content of the Made Ground it is likely that larger areas suffer from types of contamination which would make handling it dangerous'.

Is BANES really serious about allowing housing on this site?

IT IS NOT TOO LATE TO OBJECT:

Objectors can send their comments about this, or any other matters relating to the application, to BANES Officer Sarah James at sarah_james@bathnes.gov.uk quoting reference number 13/02436/EOUT.

(1) All this is available on the RAG website or on BANES' website under the paperwork for the current application 13/02436/EOUT (just Google BANES followed by this reference).


[24th September 2013]: Read what Eric Pickles had to say to Weston super Mare about conservation areas

Click here to read the letter (47KB pdf)


[24th September 2013]: Read what Radstock Action Group has written to Eric Pickles in support of Radstock

Click here to read our letter (150KB pdf)


[16th September 2013]: Government protection needed for valuable Radstock Conservation Area

Radstock Conservation Area under threat

According to the government definition, 'Conservation areas are usually chosen as places of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which should be preserved or enhanced. The special character of these areas is not just made up of buildings, it is also defined by other features which contribute to particular views and the familiar local scene .... Conservation areas give protection across a broader area of land than listing individual buildings and all features within the area, listed or otherwise, may be recognised as part of its character.'

But despite this, BANES and its developer allies appear to be intent on flouting these regulations and turning the conservation area in the centre of Radstock into a housing complex deeply damaged in terms of its character and appearance, a veritable free for all for builders.

Current proposals are the thin end of the wedge

As of this week, there are three specific projects under consideration in the centre of Radstock, which taken in combination, challenge the government's own view of why conservation areas exist and deserve our protection. These three specific projects are:

  1. The demolition of bridges/underpass, former forge/wagon works, railway platforms and wall in connection with the development of the former GWR land - all contained in 13/02534/CA and part of the current application for the road and building works in the centre of town
  2. The demolition of the beautiful old Victorian Infants School (13/03682/CA and 13/03668/OUT) to make way for six, two bedroom houses
  3. The demolition of the Old Bakery to be replaced by up to 13 new homes in three blocks

Anyone interested in the future of the town should object. Some may argue that one or other individual proposal might result in satisfactory replacement buildings, but this is not the point. Conservation area status is not about individual buildings, as the government definition points out, but also about 'features which contribute to particular views and the familiar local scene'. Any agreement to demolition of any of the above three is clearly in contravention of this principle.

Secretary of State adds to definition of Conservation Area activity

Additionally, in an important letter to the Head of Development Management at North Somerset, dated 5 September 2013, Eric Pickles, Secretary of Communities and Local Government, set out the reasons for refusing an application for the demolition of The Tropicana in Weston super Mare. He states that overall, the building 'makes a positive contribution to the character of the area ....the removal of the building would harm the character of the Conservation Area'. He further goes on to state that 'the public benefits of demoltion' would not outweigh 'the harm that would be caused' to the Conservation Area'.

With this in mind, Radstock Action Group is writing to Eric Pickles to request him to apply the same criteria to all the buildings and other structures under threat in Radstock town centre. Whilst Weston super Mare is renowned for its seaside heritage, Radstock is equally renowned for its role as the most key town in the North Somerset coalfield. To demolish any or all of these buildings would threaten its character and give a green light to any other would-be developer to try their luck in the centre of town.

Our precious heritage must be preserved and the construction of new homes must be done in a sensitive manner which enables them to use and/or sit alongside the features which make this 'the best preserved mining town centre' in the country. Responsible regeneration will enhance our current surroundings and use them rather than obliterating them.


[9th September 2013]: Housing for local people? Depends on your definition of the word 'local'

It's a myth that Radstock people will be prioritised for social housing in the town

Would-be developers in Radstock, seeking to win over opponents to their insensitive housing proposals, have taken to telling local people that the housing which is proposed for the railway land in in Radstock will benefit local people - a recent example of this was at the last Radstock Town Council meeting. What was not said was that social housing there would not necessarily be for Radstock people but will be available to anyone on the Homesearch register. According to Graham Sabourn, BANES Head of Housing, in a written answer to a question asked by local Cllr Eleanor Jackson, 'To join the Bath and North East Somerset Homesearch scheme an applicant is require to have a "local connection" with Bath and North East Somerset'. The explanation continues, "where a village has a population of less than 3,000 applicants with a connection to that parish will be given priority. Given that the population of Radstock is greater than 3,000 we cannot apply the 'rural connection' criteria". So that is crystal clear, local Radstock people will not be given priority when it comes to the allocation of any new homes in the town.

Well known Radstock building to be demolished in favour of 'high density' dwellings

Meanwhile, RADCO has sold the Old Bakery to Curo, the housing organisation, which has announced its intention of demolishing the building and replacing it with "up to 14 'high-density" dwellings. In other words, a perfectly good building (the red brick one in Waterloo Road) which has been standing empty for far too long and could well be renovated and continue to contribute to the character of the conservation area, is about to disappear in favour of three new buildings containing flats. Why not use the existing building to provide homes and services? You can find out more by going to a specially organised exhibition being held, next Wednesday 11 September, by Curo at the Methodist Church Hall in Radstock from 4pm to 7.30pm.

Historic communities in need of generation require respect too

It must now be abundantly clear to anyone who looks that far from catering to the housing needs of Radstock people, BANES is bent on using the town as a depository for the housing needed by the whole authority and that prioritising the needs of Radstock people is simply not part of the equation. It is time to stop using the lie that new social housing will, by definition, benefit Radstock people - it may do, but they will be in a queue with people from all over the area whose needs may be deemed more urgent than those of local people.

The proposed new road in the town is a part of this myth that new housing is certainly for local people. Radstock is not simply a bare site which BANES and would-be developers can use without impacting on local residents and businesses. Radstock is 'the best preserved mining town centre' in the country: it has a history as evidenced by its many conservation area buildings, it has a need for high quality social housing for local people and the public space to go with it. The NRR (Norton Radstock Regeneration Company) is not interested in regeneration. It is simply facilitating BANES' wish to make Radstock nothing more than a dormitory town for other places.

See you at the exhibition on Wednesday 11 September.


[27th August 2013]: Yes to New Housing, No to Overcrowding and Destruction of Community Resources

Homes and Jobs for Local People are urgently required

Quite rightly, one of the key factors in the regeneration of Radstock is the provision of affordable housing in the town. Such housing should reflect the needs of local people and provide decent standards of accommodation. Such housing must, of course, be linked to the provision of local jobs rather than provide dormitory accommodation for Bath and Bristol commuters.

BANES Strategic Land Availability Assessment shows many alternatives to the Railway Land

In March 2013, BANES published the latest version of its Strategic Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) (http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/sites/default/files/sitedocuments/Planning-and-Building-Control/Planning-Policy/Evidence-Base/SHLAA/shlaa_2013_radstock_site_assessments.pdf). This document lists all land identified as potentially useful for housing throughout the authority. the section referring to Radstock shows that there is adequate land without building 210 'residential units' on the railway land.

Why we need decent homes to a proper standard

The Case for Space, a recent report by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) showing that British homes are getting smaller and smaller very often failing to reach basic recommended minimum size. (http://www.architecture.com/Files/RIBAHoldings/PolicyAndInternationalRelations/HomeWise/CaseforSpace.pdf). According to RIBA, not only do new British homes compare very badly with European ones in terms of space, but 'A lack of space has been shown to impact on the basic lifestyle needs that many people take for granted, such as having enough space to store possessions or even to entertain friends. In more extreme cases, lack of adequate space for a household has also been shown to have significant impacts on health, educational attainment and family relationships'. Radstock railway land will certainly ensure that new homes are small and likely to experience exactly these problems.

New Homes in Radstock must reflect local need

BANES shows in the SHLAA that all is not well in the railway land where they propose to build homes. It notes under 'Achievability' that 'The site has development difficulties due to low values and issues including contamination, ecology, archaeology, and expensive highway works' and is clear that 'Decontamination of the site is a requirement of the formal planning permission' and that 'ecological mitigation and compensation is a requirement of the planning permission'.

So why then is BANES so determined to impose housing on the town in a site which is manifestly unsuitable and which constitutes a valuable open space for future community use? Especially when the SHLAA lists many sites and makes it clear that potentially there is clearly room elsewhere in the town for the 210 homes proposed.

Radstock Action Group urges BANES to look again at its own housing research, at the RIBA recommendations, and to call a halt to the current planning application which will produce crowded and inadequate homes, deprive the town centre of much needed open public space, including valuable and nationally noteworthy ecology, put paid to the reopening of the railway link to Frome and include a road which flies in the face of current good practice by bringing more, rather than less through traffic into the town centre.

Even BANES must surely be able to see the stupidity of its current proposals. They must consider how to guarantee 210 homes of good quality which are urgently needed, but which would benefit from being built on more suitable sites where residents will not be so squashed and surrounded by main road traffic. the current proposals have more to do with BANES need to show it is fulfilling overall, authority-wide housing numbers rather than planning for the successful regeneration of Radstock.

Local residents and businesses still have time to comment on the planning application

There is still time to submit comments on the current planning application for the redevelopment of the railway land in Radstock. Comments should go to: Sarah James, sarah_james@bathnes.gov.uk, the BANES Planning Officer responsible, stating the Application No: 13/02436/EOUT and stating clearly that you are opposing the proposals.


[5th August 2013]: How much can you cram into one small town centre? Ask BANES

Lights and crossings galore

Further details have emerged of what the new NRR (Norton Radstock Regeneration Company) proposals have in store for Radstock Town centre. Anyone who's ever been to Radstock knows how compact the town centre, including the Conservation Area, is, with streets built for a small settlement and bordered by shops, the Methodist Church, the doctors' surgery, the Working Men's Club, the bank and other amenities.

But not daunted by the small scale of this historic town, the NRR proposals, as confirmed by BANES Senior Planning Office, will boast all of the following:

  • Four roundabouts: two new ones and the double mini-roundabouts that exist already
  • Five pedestrian crossings, including the current three 'signalised' ones and two new zebras, one on the Street and one outside the Victoria Hall

So there you have it - a veritable glut of features which will have only one result, to clog up the centre of the town. Who thought this up? It's not immediately obvious but must be someone who hasn't spent any time in Radstock and who hasn't realised that if you put all these items in such a small space, then you are asking for trouble and flying in the face of current planning principles. You can see the plan, as provided by BANES, here.

Restrictions, street furniture, chaos to match

Not content with this, however, the proposals also include the introduction of two way traffic into the Street and forcing all traffic from Fortescue Road (direction reversed) to turn left opposite RADCO. then there are the bus stops outside the Victoria Hall, the allocation of as yet poorly defined parking which must address the needs of people living in the proposed housing development (which doesn't have enough space for all residents' parking) and must also make up for the loss of the Victoria Hall car park.

And there will be street furniture galore, telling us about parking restrictions, weight restrictions, speed restrictions, one way and two way traffic flows.

In exchange for what? A completely new road through the town centre, the loss of the possible reinstatement of the railway, the loss of public open space, the building of some cramped homes which could be readily accommodated elsewhere in the town.

As Radstock Action Group has pointed out many times, it is never too late for a rethink. We urge everyone to object to the current proposals which can be viewed by googling: 13/02436/EOUT. Please note that although the page states that comments are no longer invited, this is a technicality and BANES has confirmed that all comments are acceptable until such time as the decision is made.

Radstock Action Group welcomes Councillor Howard Murray, the driving force behind the Poynton shared space system

Meanwhile on a more cheerful note. Councillor Howard Murray from Poynton will be in Radstock, at the invitation of Radstock Action Group, on Thursday 29 August to give a presentation about the way the Poynton Project has developed. Want to find out more? Please contact us.


[15th July 2013]: Planning for Radstock in a Vacuum?

Good News - Hard Copy of Planning Applications Now Available in Radstock Library

There are currently, two 'live' planning applications for the railway land in Radstock. They are: 13/02534/CA and 13/02436/EOUT. Both need our comments. The first one would permit the demolition of a large amount of the remaining railway insfrastructure in the middle of Radstock. The second one contains everything else, including the road. Both are now available in hard copy in Radstock Library. Googling the reference numbers may get to the right pages on line.

More information on BANES Strategic Plans

It's quite normal when commenting on Planning Applications to refer to the latest strategic planning policies of the local unitary authority - the case of Radstock this means BANES. Unfortunately, due to the draft Core Strategy having been sent back for further work by the Inspector, we have no choice at the moment but to refer to the Local Plan (2007) as the most recent approved planning statement. It can be found at: http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/planning-and-building-control/planning-policy/local-plan. It is likely that this will carry more weight than the draft Core Strategy: http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/planning-and-building-control/planning-policy/core-strategy-examination. Radstock Action Group advises people to refer to both when commenting on the current applications, if they wish to refer to policy - of course, all comments are accepted with or without reference to these two documents. A quick look at either of the documents will show that the applications are totally at odds with the strategic intentions of the authority.

Time Schedules for comments

Comments have, by law, to be allowed for three weeks from the date of publication of the notices of the applications. However, there is still time to submit comments as explained by the BANES Planning Officer: 'The purpose of dates is first to meet statutory requirements and secondly provide a clear point by which an application can be decided. If there were no date people may write for example in 6 months time expecting that to be taken into account whereas it would likely be the case that by then a decision would be made. If an application is live however comments received are taken into account notwithstanding that they may be outside of the date set.' Since the Planning Officer does not yet know when the applications will go to committee, everyone can continue to put in their comments.

Answers required to key issues

Another matter that BANES has been unable to clarify relates to the series of questions RAG posed in relation to the number of roundabouts, crossings and traffic light systems that will exist in the centre of Radstock if the plans should go ahead. It is such gaps in clarifty which make it difficult to put the case against the current plans. The BANES Planning Officer was asked:

  1. What is the total number of roundabouts that would exist in Radstock if the planning proposals went ahead?
  2. How many of these would be new?
  3. What is the total number of pedestrian crossings that would exist in Radstock if the planning proposals went ahead?
  4. How many of these would be new?
  5. How many pedestrian crossings would have traffic lights on them?
  6. What would be the total number of traffic lights in Radstock if the planning proposals went ahead?
  7. How many of these would be new?
  8. Is there one document which shows all these?

Unfortunately, BANES is not able to answer these key questions. We are awaiting further developments - without answers to them our comments will not necessarily be totally relevant.

English Heritage publishes new statement on town centres

Last week, English Heritage published 'The Changing Face of the High Street: Decline and Revival'. This should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in saving the cultural environment and the retail centre of Radstock. As the introduction says the challenges of maintaining the health and use of high streets, 'have a particular resonance for historic town centres where the sustained and successful stewardship of historic retail districts, buildings, streets and spaces is intertwined with the ongoing health of the retail sector.'

Radstock Action Group urges BANES to reconsider how it addresses the needs of the town centre - we all want regeneration, particularly affordable homes for local people plus local jobs and infrastructure. So far, the proposals bring nothing to the table.


[15th July 2013]: Linden Homes Plans for Radstock Exhibition

Tuesday 30 July
3 9pm
Radstock Working Men's Club

The exhibition will continue unstaffed at Radstock Library 31 July to 7 August.


[8th July 2013]: Vehicles, pedestrians, community and housing needs don't have to be at odds with each other

There is no shortage of organisations which can point to the advantages of balancing the needs of pedestrians with the needs of vehicle traffic - in addition to the pioneering and successful work done in such places as Portishead, Poynton and Stonehouse (Glos), there are an ever-increasing number of professional bodies promoting a more balanced approach to the demands of small town centres which suffer from ever increasing volumes of traffic and hence increasing pressures and stress for everyone with threats to economic well-being.

Pedestrians count - as shoppers, as visitors, as people using Radstock's many amenities

Just look what Living Streets says about rethinking traffic: 'Everyone wants to see traffic flow smoothly - but traffic includes pedestrians as well as vehicles.' This basic tenet is something that appears to have escaped BANES highway department when they decided to press ahead with the road proposals which are buried in the latest planning applications for the centre of Radstock. It remains totally unclear why a new road is needed. Various reasons put forward by the council at its exhibition in May (please note the council was at pains to say this was not a consultation) seem to fly in the face of common sense and best traffic management and planning policy.

Let's declutter not congest

Radstock Action Group is currently seeking clarification on the number of sets of traffic lights, including associated pedestrian crossings, plus roundabouts will be included in the plans if executed. The impact of these introductions, in the very restricted space at the centre of Radstock, will inevitably be to cause gridlock where none existed previously and to slowing down traffic to standstill where it will churn out noise and air pollution - just where we all want to visit shops, cafes, the doctor, churches and other amenities. But whilst this has been put forward as a way of making things better in Radstock (better than what? we ask), the council has simultaneously said that the proposals will make traffic run more quickly and hence benefit drivers, presumably.

So we remain opposed to the contents of the planning applications and wonder exactly how such moves will rejuvenate the town - where are the jobs and how many of the current retailers will survive if these changes are introduced. Radstock Action Group wants quality housing for local people, recognising that it is exceptionally difficult to get onto the housing ladder, whether renting or buying.

Create more public space in town - there is plenty of room for houses too, and that's according to BANES own report

According to the BANES Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment, the SHLAA (most recent version June 2013), the Somer Valley (Midsomer Norton, Radstock, Westfield, Paulton and Peasedown St John) 'can deliver 2,100 dwellings on suitable and available (or reasonably likely to become available) sites'. It should be noted that this number is at odds with other BANES policies and forecasts as stated in the Local Plan and the draft Core Strategy. The SHLAA continues (Para. 2.57), 'There are areas where development would cause too much harm in relation to the character and setting of each town and their Conservation Areas for it to be deemed suitable. Where this is the case a 'nil' suitability rating is given'. Shame this doesn't appear to apply to the 'best preserved mining town centre in the country', namely Radstock. As the relevant section graphically illustrates, Radstock is identified as having huge areas which could be made available for housing and yet BANES is totally determined to build over the valuable town centre where we could reasonably expect public realm improvements and development devoted to the needs of the community at large. Why is BANES so determined to build on these precious areas instead of exploring other options outlined in its very own SHLAA?

If Council Leader Paul Crossley had really listened to what local people are saying, he would know the council's ill-thought out and outdated proposals will not meet the aspirations of local people or lead to regeneration, jobs and affordable housing for the people who need them - the people of Radstock.

Everyone is urged to get comments on the planning applications as soon as possible - if you can't locate the relevant pages on the BANES website which appears to be having trouble with the links they've set up, send them straight to the relevant officer, Sarah James (sarah_james@bathnes.gov.uk). The planning application numbers are 13/02436/EOUT and 13/02534/CA. You can find the latest updates, including when dates by which you must send on your comments, on the RAG website.


[1st July 2013]: Radstock Action Group visits Poynton 25 June 2013

Radstock Action Group visits Poynton 25 June 2013

Radstock Action Group visits Poynton 25 June 2013


[1st July 2013]: BANES continues to flog the dead horse - the planning applications for Radstock Railway Land rise again from the grave

Planning Applications for Radstock Railway Land are back - it's the same old, same old

It came as no surprise to see that BANES has received a planning application* (see below) for the Railway Land in Radstock. The application comes from the NRR, an organisation which barely exists, and which is seamlessly interwoven with BANES itself.

The key aspect of this whole unwanted scheme is that the latest application, like all its predecessors, simply and blatantly fails to address the fact that local people have, time and again, said they do not want this scheme which will do absolutely nothing for the town's regeneration and will simply lead to more traffic, more pollution and the loss of a central amenity which should be regarded as an asset to be redeveloped so as to enable the reinstatement of the railway and the preservation of open space for the use of the community.

BANES must suspend judgment and think again - think Poynton

Meanwhile on Tuesday 25 June, four RAG supporters went to Poynton, in Cheshire, to see the road system which has been introduced to relieve congestion and encourage regeneration in the town (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vzDDMzq7d0).

What an inspiration. We were welcomed by Councillor Howard Murray the lead councillor on this project, we looked round the town and were given a detailed presentation on the preparations for the changes and on the ways in which the new road scheme has transformed the town. It has been and continues to be a demanding process and we heard it, warts and all. Working with Hamilton-Baillee Associates, an organisation with 'specialist knowledge and experience of innovative solutions for reconciling traffic movement with quality public spaces in cities, towns and villages', Poynton has been transformed from an ex-mining town in urgent need of regeneration, into an ex-mining town with a future, a busy town centre and greatly improved footfall and activity in shops and services. As RAG supporter Esther Parker put it, 'Going to visit Poynton, an old mining town with its own double roundabout system was an inspiring experience, standing watching cars, vans and large lorries, many from abroad, move steadily through without being impeded, unlike at the Radstock junction'.

Poynton leads the way

Poynton shows that a shared space scheme works. As far as traffic flow is concerned two phrases used repeated by Councillor Murray describe the operation: 'Peep and creep' and 'progression not aggression' - both of which have become bywords in the town. Three months after the changes took effect, 40% of shop keepers reported increased footfall and 36% said it had stayed the same, with 88% reporting varying degrees of growth in business. The range of shops improved, the quality of public space went up, the town was agreed to feel safer and more secure in the evenings, vandalism and anti-social behaviour have declined, conditions for motorists are much better ..... the pluses are so many. And there has not been a single accident caused by the scheme. As pedestrians we were able to cross the roads easily and safely wherever we chose, motorists were considerate, friendly and accommodating and traffic kept moving, including at the double rotaries (equivalent to flat roundabouts). Levels of noise and air pollution seemed to us to be much lower.

The council had, at all stages, made sure that they could get 'public fingerprints on the design'; they found that council investment encouraged others; they have paid attention to retail, cultural, environmental and engineering aspects, all guided by the Poynton Revitalisation Scheme Steering Group. They have learnt lots of lessons, including the absolute value of regular and informative communication with everyone likely to be affected, the need for expert specialist designers, as opposed to local authority traffic engineers. And the work goes on.

Poynton is now a well-known town worldwide, with frequent enquiries and expressions from interest from movers and shakers who see the scheme as an innovative and positive way forward for their communities.

We felt privileged to be visitors to Poynton.

BANES - it is not too late for a rethink

Radstock Action Group calls on BANES to do two things:

  1. Suspend all current thinking on the proposals for Radstock Town Centre
  2. Look at the Poynton experience and prepare to listen and work with local people to enhance the town centre - BANES councillors will be given a warm welcome in Poynton and will be able to see for themselves the transformation of this other former mining town which had two railway lines and one level crossing ...

* On the afternoon of Monday 24 June, BANES Development Control announced the new planning application for the Railway Land in Radstock - the expiry date for consultation is 22 July. It was eventually possible to view the documentation on line on on Thursday 27 July. This is only to be expected as BANES prefers to ask for comments in periods when most people are either already on holiday or planning their breaks.

Radstock Action Group will be drawing up objections to the plans which, in substance, remain the same as previous proposals - roads, housing of questionable standards, generally inappropriate development of the key site in the town centre. The application can be viewed at: http://isharemaps.bathnes.gov.uk/projects/bathnes/developmentcontrol/default.aspx?requesttype=parsetemplate&template=DevelopmentControlApplication.tmplt&Filter=^REFVAL^=%2713/02436/EOUT%27 and searches for 13/02436/EOUT will eventually get you to the details. There is also an new application for demolition of the underpass (Ref: 13/02534/CA). We urge everyone who cares about the future of Radstock to start preparing their objections and to send the council their creative alternatives to this completely unacceptable hotchpotch of proposals which have failed to show how regeneration will be achieved.


[24th June 2013]: Positive Projects for High Streets and Rail Travel - same old problems with BANES

Last week, individuals from Radstock Action Group attended two business-like events both of which were encouraging glimpses of what can be done to positively improve our communities. People attending the two events were encouraged and amazed at how much can be achieved, as well as hearing about the latest more general views on general developments which can impact on the lives of settlements of all sizes.

Creative High Streets - a seminar from Somerset Towns Forum

At the Somerset Towns Forum highlighting Creative High Streets on Thursday 20 June, delegates enjoyed presentations from a wide range of speakers and performers showing the contribution that the arts can make to the life and regeneration of towns. From Weston-super-Mare to Liskeard, Bedminster to Yeovil, the arts have been helping to breathe life and activity into struggling shopping centres. Pop-up music and art events, youth organised Secret Fridays, short-term projects in empty shops, reorganisation/pedestrianisation of roads, all play a part in getting things going.

The message from everywhere was there has to be more to the high street than retail, collaboration is key, aim for low cost and high impact, creativity is the friend of renewed vigour in your shops. It was a truly inspiring day. For relatively small amounts of money, towns are being treated to entertainment of all sorts, communities are saying what they want from the arts, footfall is going up. A full report will appear on the RAG website and it is to be hoped that Radstock will be equally enthusiastic about launching some parallel ventures.

RailFuture Summer Conference keeps optimism and reality on track

On Saturday 21 June, the RailFuture Summer Conference took place in Taunton. Entitled, 'Vision & Reality: How we can have both'. Delegates were treated to wide-ranging debates on such matters as the effects of climate change on railways and transport in general. A speaker from Bristol Suburban Railways recounted how funding from Bristol City Council had enabled improvements to the Severn Beach line which is now enjoying massive increases in usage and the second highest growth rate in England. There was an item on the electrification of the mainline towards Westbury and discussion of the re-opening of the branch from Bere Alston to Tavistock in Devon. All in all an encouraging day for those who see rail as the future for unclogging our roads and leading to sustainable communities - here too lessons for Radstock.

BANES receives two Freedom of Information requests ...

Meanwhile, Radstock Action Group has submitted two separate Freedom of Information requests to BANES. The first asks for the Safety Audit on recent and any current road plans - a safety audit is a mandatory requirement but for some time BANES has attempted to fob off enquiries by saying it's been done and will be forwarded or else muddying the waters by saying that it will be done. The second request asks for the detailed supporting paperwork for the new funding which BANES has apparently applied for under the Pinch Point Government funds for road changes. Radstock Action Group is particularly interested in this latest development as it was only a matter of months ago that BANES was a telling us that they had got the money for the road from the Homes and Communities Agency. Another sorry story of half truths and lack of transparency, never mind lack of consideration of the views of the local people.

Snooker tables urgently looking for new homes

Radstock Action Group is amongst those trying to find homes for the snooker tables that are being made homeless by the redevelopment of the Victoria Hall. Time is very short - if anyone knows a place that could be considered, please let us know via our website.


[3rd June 2013]: Think what 1,556,000 could do for Radstock

So the government's Department for Transport is going to give Radstock 1,089,000. And BANES, is going to top up this generous offer with 467,000 to bring us to 1,556,000. This huge amount should be welcome, but wait a minute - what's it for? To build a very short stretch of road which no-one wants and which will bring main road traffic into the town centre. Just stop and think how much could actually be done to help Radstock with this amount if it were used responsibly.

According to Travel West, the local consortium of relevant bodies responsible for the Joint Local Transport Plan, this money is for a project 'forming part of our plan to reduce car dependency and congestion'. Perhaps someone can explain how this proposed new road, bringing main road traffic through the small and compact town centre can possibly fufill this objective. A new road will increase car presence in the town, get in the way of the reinstatement of the railway - something which would seriously relieve car dependency- and bring noise a air pollution to new highs thus diminishing the quality of life and the health of local people.

Derek Quilter BANES Divisional Director of Development and Major Projects, and not a well-known face in Radstock, seems to think that 'Urgent investment in transport infrastructure' is needed'. The problem is that he thinks putting main road traffic on a new road through the town centre is a contribution to improvement of this same transport infrastructure. BANES claims that the road will 'help people move around the town better, relieve congestion and pave the way for new homes' - but they do not explain how.

And the government thinks the money is designed to 'target key bottlenecks, making life easier for the thousands of motorists and businesses who use the local road network'. But they all seem to be ignoring the well-known fact that if you build a new road, new traffic comes to fill it.

As usual, Paul Crossley, BANES leader (Lib Dem, Southdown in Bath) has chosen to ignore the facts and drift off into general statements about the benefits of regeneration - yes Councillor Crossley we are all in favour of regeneration but you need to explain how this road will help.

Lateral thinking needed

Meanwhile, Radstock Action Group is looking at fresh ways of dealing with the town centre and helping to bring regeneration.

We are going to be visiting Poynton in Cheshire where the Council has taken brave and imaginative steps to tackle the nuisance of main road traffic through the town by introducing a shared space approach which we think could be equally well applied to Radstock. Anyone interested can watch this brief video about it:

RAG will also be writing to the government's Department for Transport pointing out the contradictions in this grant and suggesting ways in which 1m could really help the town.

We urge everyone to make suggestions about how 1,556,000 could be spent to aid regeneration and let BANES and the government know.

The big questions remain:

The questions that are still unanswered are:

  1. How can this scheme reduce car dependency?
  2. Will the government and BANES invest in public transport to aid regeneration, ease congestion and help people move around better?
  3. How will this scheme improve employment?
  4. Why bring a new road through town when this is at odds with best practice, will jeopardise the Victoria Hall, local trade and the health and safety of the people who use the town centre?
  5. How much is the road going to cost? The price has been going up and is already 335,000 more than BANES was claiming only a few months ago.

Local people signed a petition against the road in their thousands, but this doesn't appear to have helped a rethink. The campaign to save the heart of Radstock goes on.


[13th May 2013]: NRR/BANES Exhibition - the same set of tired old stories with new personnel

Ever-decreasing circles

On Wednesday 9 May, Radstock was treated to a display of the latest proposals for regeneration of the town - only problem was, they were just the same as usual.

The most noticeable aspect of the whole sorry event was that BANES employees were hugely outnumbered by a selection of 'consultants' many of whom had only a most elementary knowledge of Radstock. Also, they were not all singing from the same proverbial hymn sheet. Various explanations were given for why the new road was necessary. In answer to questions about whether a safety audit had been done, they appeared to have differing views. They could not provide clarity on the next stages in seeking planning permission - in fact there appeared to be differing views about whether or not a new application is required - even BANES thinks it is, so perhaps they should brief their consultants more effectively. No-one could explain how jobs would be created for the people who might live in any new homes. Nor could they answer suggestions that there are other places in the town to build homes, rather than destroying a piece of open public amenity land which could bring so much to the town. And, they had no answer to concerns that their proposals would block the reinstatement of the rail link to Frome. There was no acknowledgement of the flood risk in the town centre and along the proposed site.

Look at our artist's impression of how things will look outside the Victoria Hall if BANES goes ahead and builds a new road link right through the centre of town

Meanwhile, as the NRR and BANES stuck to the old formulas, Radstock Action Group has produced two 'artist's impressions' of how the Victoria Hall will be affected by the proposed new road, which will run in both directions and will feature bus stops outside the hall itself for journeys in both directions.

  • Image 1 shows traffic including a truck which conforms to the weight limit which BANES says will be put on the road.
  • Image 2 shows traffic including a truck which does NOT conform to the limit.
  • Image 3 shows victoria Hall as it is today - no road.

Victoria Hall

Victoria Hall

Victoria Hall

BANES has failed to explain how they intend to enforce the weight restriction. That in itself is worrying enough but the impact on the Victoria Hall and local people's circulation within the town give additional cause for great concern:

  1. Heavy vehicles will be stuck in the traffic which will accumulate behind buses at the stop, where vibration, air and noise pollution will be high.
  2. Despite some crossing points, the area will be dominated by the increased heavy traffic which will also be flowing in both directions in The Street; this will not be a pedestrian friendly place for anyone wanting to shop, go to the doctor or the library, church or museum, whether on foot or using a wheelchair or a buggy.

Never too late for a rethink

There were a number of new drawings but no new ideas. But BANES will have to confirm its drawings are accurate - in the key one showing proposed layout, the two mini-roundabouts are not there - we await clarification. Have they been left off? If so, what other mistakes are there? Or are they being removed - in which case what will replace them?

A seriously disappointing event where, yet again, we learned that good planning practice isn't a priority for BANES when it comes to Radstock. But, as we pointed out to innumerable consultants, it's never too late for a rethink.


[7th May 2013]: RAG Litter Picking Performance - tripping the light fantastic round the Victoria Hall

Good News All Round

Last week BANES announced that dance will lead the way at the Victoria Hall, and on Sunday, friends and supporters of Radstock Action Group's Litter Pick were waltzing round the town with litter grabbers and bags - locations covered included Waterloo Road, the Miners Memorial Gardens, lower Frome Road, Victoria Hall, Tom Huyton Park and related pathways, Fortescue Road and The Street all nooks and crannies included, Coombend, Church Street, Lower Bath Old Road, Colliers Rise and Tamblyn Close. The steps round the Wheel were given a thorough going over. Eventually, three hours work could be found awaiting collection in a pile of rubbish bags .....

The afore-mentioned BANES announcement giving a a hint of what may be in store for the Victoria Hall looks like good news.

And it's certainly exciting news that Sue Hill's School of Dancing has central Radstock accommodation secured. The School is one of the many activities which draws people into town, alongside visitors to the Museum, cyclists and walkers and shoppers looking for a reliable and quirky selection of independent shops and services. Radstock has a well-established and growing community of arts practitioners and enthusiasts - and it sounds like the Victoria Hall will be encouraging even more, with dance leading the way. At last there will be facilities for meetings and other public events - in fact, many things that RAG and others have been calling for. Well done BANES.

More Answers Needed

But Radstock Action Group would like BANES Leader Councillor Crossley to give us a bit more information:

  1. Where can members of the public see the plans?
  2. How the Hall will be run - who will decide what goes on there? How will the local community be able to get involved in its day-to-day activities?
  3. What is the single member decision which is going to be made at the beginning of June?
  4. What measures are being put in place to make the Hall sustainable in economic terms?
  5. What is going to be done to compensate for the loss of the snooker facilities where young and old alike were able to get together for free and where there was no alcohol available, thus making it a suitable venue for the young members of the community who used it consistently?

Getting there - but still say 'No to the Road'

Perhaps some answers will be forthcoming at this week's exhibition about the latest round of proposals from BANES for the future of Radstock. Still persisting with the road is definitely not a good idea - the Victoria Hall will be subjected to two way traffic pounding past, shoppers and other visitors will have to negotiate main road conditions in their small scale shopping area, with noise and air pollution increasing. Sadly, it's back again - the need to repeat all the reasons why a different solution must be found. Imagine how the reinstated railway would boost all aspects of the town's regeneration - building over the railway land would be an act of irreversible madness.

And finally - a big round of applause for the litter pickers - thank you to everyone who turned out.


[29th April 2013]: Radstock Action Group Litter Pick Next Sunday 5 May

The Big Spring Tidy Up is nearly here! Everyone invited.

Date: Sunday 5 May
Time: 11.00am - 1.00pm
Venue: Meet at the Wheel, besides Radstock Museum
Equipment: Provided
Wear: Tough shoes and gloves

Radstock Action Group hopes as many people as possible will come along to help - there's never any knowing where a litter hot-spot will be on a particular day, but we'll have plenty of locations lined up and participants are welcome to bring along suggestions.

And if it's raining? No problem - we'll be carrying on.

Let's make sure Radstock looks even better than usual.


[22nd April 2013]: LITTER PICKING PENDING IN RADSTOCK - one type of rubbish we can definitely get rid of ...

Radstock Action Group is organising a Litter Pick

Date: Sunday 5 May
Time: 11.00am to 1.00pm
Venue: Meet at the Wheel - everyone invited

From time to time, especially with the winds that have been doing the rounds of Radstock in the past few weeks, litter seems to be everywhere. Paper blowing round like tail-less kites, cans rattling and plastic bottles rolling.

That's why Radstock Action Group is organising a litter pick to which everyone is invited.

  • RAG is hoping that people will join us for all or part of the two hour session on Sunday 5 May
  • RAG will provide all the necessary equipment
  • We'll have a plan but if you have a suggestion about somewhere that needs attention then we'll add it to the list
  • To take part, all you need to do is to come to the Wheel between 11 and 1

Now what about the Victoria Hall, Councillor Crossley?

Just a few days before the latest meeting of Radstock Town Council (held on Monday 15 April) it was announced that BANES Leader Paul Crossley would be coming to speak about progress on the Victoria Hall. People were invited to submit questions.

As it happens, Radstock Action Group had written a formal letter to Councillor Crossley on 26 March 2013, asking a series of questions about the future of the Hall. As Councillor Crossley had not replied, or even acknowledged this letter, despite more than two weeks having passed at that point, the questions were resubmitted via Radstock Town Council for the Council Meeting. But Councillor Crossley failed to shed any light on things in most cases and told people at the meeting that he would be getting back to them via Radstock Town Council.

RAG is still waiting to hear back on the letter dated 26 March.

Core Strategy consultations ongoing

RAG is currently preparing a response to the Draft Core Strategy as amended. This document will shape the future of the whole authority area until at least 2026, and is to be further considered by the Inspector who threw it out last year because of its failure to convince him that BANES had a reasonable housing strategy.

Our message to BANES is:

  • RAG wants to see affordable housing in Radstock
  • This does not mean building over the centre where public amenities could contribute towards the regeneration of the town
  • Neither does it mean building over the town centre end of the railway as this would pose huge problems for its reinstatement - a key to kickstarting the reinvigoration of the town
  • A document prepared by BANES ('Core Strategy Update') makes a number of statements in relation to the Somer Valley, most notably, "The Council will be seeking to ensure economic benefits of development' - just what everyone in Radstock wants but not at the expense of prized land which must be managed for the benefit of everyone who lives and works in the town - the railway land is key to ensuring a viable,healthy future providing open space and the potential to reopen the railway - we would like to know how BANES thinks the proposed NRR development will ensure these economic benefits
  • It is time for more imaginative and varied options to be opened up - NRR proposals will bring overcrowded housing, largely in the form of flats, with no apparent policy to ensure that jobs will accompany them
  • The choice is between turning Radstock into a commuter dormitory for Bath or ensuring that the town retains its special, distinctive edge as a place which provides work for local people, an interesting and varied centre for visitors whether they are walkers, cyclists, museum visitors - people looking for a glimpse of 'the best preserved mining-town centre in the country', or somewhere to take their children to play, or an unusual and worthwhile shopping experience

The closing date for comments is Wednesday 8 May (5pm) and the relevant paperwork (including a form to be completed) is available on line at: www.bathnes.gov.uk/corestrategy.

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be an easy way of commenting other than on-line, though you can ring: Planning Policy Team on 01225 477548.

We urge everyone to consider responding.


[8th April 2013]: Welcome to 500,000 for Radstock

It is indeed good to see that the much heralded 500,000 for Radstock is about to gain the final BANES Cabinet seal of approval. The funding was announced in the first half of last October and the council invited the public to have a say in what it should be spent on. The results of this consultation are not known.

What is clear however is that there have been some changes in the allocations. It appears that 190,000 originally allocated for road/highway works has now been reduced to 140,000; 15,000 has suddenly been allocated to heritage signage; 50,000 has been allocated to 'community facilities'. The major beneficiary of this reorganisation of the allocation is the Radstock and Westfield Economic Forum which had previously been allocated 100,000 and is now set to receive 135,000.

But the Radstock and Westfield Economic Forum (which was set up in the summer of 2011) is lacking in transparency and accountability. Its first meeting involved many local groups who would had informed views, based on local knowledge and experience, which could have contributed to enhancing regeneration in the area. The meeting was told that a report and further meetings would follow, instead of which there were no further meetings for a very considerable period, original attendees have not received any feedback from the first meeting, and now that meetings have resumed, many have been excluded, the current make up of the group has not been published and the minutes are not in the public domain. Suspicions that the money will be allocated to pay a BANES salary are well-founded. It is not possible to reach any properly informed conclusion about why the amount given to this body which very few people have ever heard of, has increased by 35% since the original proposals were drawn up.

Of course, RAG welcomes the confirmation that there will be money spent but there are two major worries:

  1. The recommendation being put to the Cabinet leaves plenty of room for manoeuvre with a lack of specifics, other than the increase to the Economic Forum.
  2. Most of the other work proposed (over and above the Victoria Hall allocation which is already agreed) should be the responsibility of the Highways Department and must not be regarded as anything more than should be spent by any local highways authority to resolve the many hazards created by such features as lack of pavements.

Radstock Action Group will be pressing BANES to open up the workings of the Economic Forum so that a wider cross-section of local people and organisations is represented and able to have their voices heard.


[18th March 2013]: Let's hear it for the Victoria Hall please - Radstock's Key Civic Building still in the doldrums

Whoever heard of leaving the key civic building of a community empty and lifeless for months on end with no news at all from those who have assumed responsibility for putting it right?

Refurbishing civic buildings in the current economic climate is never going to be easy. But Radstock urgently needs the Victoria Hall back in the centre of life in the community. No-one imagines that BANES can single-handedly assume responsibility for all that needs doing and for the day to day running of the reopened facilities. It is important that local involvement is matched by creative professional thinking and a serious business plan for the future. But nothing is happening - other than men with clipboards being sighted from time to time.

January 2012 local people pledge their services to get the Victoria Hall in shape

In January 2012 Radstock Action Group held a Saturday 'What's Next for Radstock?' on the future of the Victoria Hall. As a result of this event, many committed and enthusiastic local people volunteered to help with the work which would be needed to make the Hall a top-class civic building for the twenty-first century. But the offers of help and support were ignored by BANES. Instead they have organised a consultation - the full results of which have never been properly dealt with. You can see our full submission and the original proposal at: www.radstockactiongroup.org.uk/victoria_hall.php

A deafening silence falls on plans

Matters took another turn when on 17 May 2012, BANES announced the immediate closure of the Hall on Health and Safety grounds - there were promises to keep the community involved and to finance the refurbishment. But nothing is happening - or if it is, no-one in Radstock knows about it.

Cllr Crossley must answer these questions

So Radstock Action Group is putting together some questions for Councillor Paul Crossley, leader of BANES, who has taken control of the operation from Cllr Bellotti. Here are our starter questions:

  1. What is happening to the Victoria Hall and the promises to deal with asbestos and electrical issues?
  2. Is BANES prepared to reverse the view that the Caretaker's House should be sold off?
  3. Local people want the snooker facilities retained. What is BANES' current thinking on this matter?
  4. Is the library to be moved into the Victoria Hall or not?
  5. Various sums of money have been promised from BANES to refurbish the hall. Why is this not being spent? it is ten months since the Hall was closed and every day that goes past means further dilapidation and further expense to put it right.
  6. When and how are local people going to be involved in bringing this valuable asset back into use?

The Victoria Hall is key to the regeneration of Radstock. Constant delays are unacceptable - some cynics have even gone so far as to suggest that the council is intent on leaving it to fall down. We urgently need meeting rooms, a venue for dance classes, films, community activities and much more. So why the delay?


[25th February 2013]: Money for Radstock Regeneration discussed at BANES Council

On Tuesday 19 February, BANES Council met to consider the Budget for the forthcoming year 2013/14. Item 8 in the section entitled 'Medium Term Service and Resource Planning 2013/14 - 2015/16 and Budget and Council Tax' is a section 'Regeneration Skills and Major Projects' (p.84). Two items are of particular interest to Radstock:

  • NRR infrastructure:
    1. 13/14 projected spend 397,000
    2. Projected rephasing from 12/13 to 13/14 803,000
    3. Required 13/14 375,000
    4. Total Budget for the year is 1,178,000
  • Radstock regeneration:
    1. Projected rephasing from 12/13 to 13/14 340,000

Elsewhere, Appendix 2, page 54, under Radstock Regeneration, it is stated that 'the scheme has undergone a redesigned (word missing) to take on board feedback from the community. A new planning application is now being prepared. The revised project budget is now 1,575,000 of which 800,000 is confirmed funding via an HCA grant'.

A number of points arise from all this information:

  1. What these sums of money are going to pay for
  2. Given the fact that five years ago, the proposed road was budgeted to cost 1.2m, then there doesn't appear to be any chance that anything else will be financed from this allocation in the Radstock regeneration item if they are still persisting with the road
  3. There appears to be some blurring of the boundaries between the two items NRR Infrastructure and Radstock Regeneration - what exactly is NRR infrastructure? Is this just another name for new, unwanted road?
  4. What is the significance of 'Required 13/14 375,000?
  5. Why is BANES going to be the body putting in a new planning application? Whatever has happened to the developer?

When will we know what the money is going to be spent on?

Technically, the allocation of these amounts of money to Radstock should be cause for celebration. But far too little clarity surrounds the NRR issue. Everyone knows that the NRR has disposed of vast amounts of public money without producing anything to show for it and we will need to be extra vigilant should they now be awarded even more.

Now's your chance to become a Director of the NRR

A first step in ensuring that the NRR is more accountable might be for enterprising and creative thinkers who live in Radstock to put themselves forward to become directors, as advertised in the press last week. RAG has written to the NRR asking for details of the 'Job' description, the closing date and a copy of the aims of the company as we couldn't find any of these on the NRR website.

Radstock has the potential to become a key part of the renewal of business and industry in the Somer Valley. It also boasts many features which are increasingly recognised and used by tourists to the town and the surrounding area. We really hope that BANES will listen to all those who want to see the regeneration of Radstock rather than indulging in irrelevant and ill-advised projects like the proposed new road. As recent discussion around the Westfield Sainsbury's Planning Application has shown, there are many, many people who value the town and recognise the positive future it can have. BANES must build on this. A good start would be to tell everyone exactly who is going to be in charge of the money allocated in the budget.


[18th February 2013]: Pressing matters in the near future ...

People who live and work in Radstock, and the Somer Valley at large, don't need reminding that the area is endowed with a beautiful natural environment, a historic built environment and great potential as a base for new industry and for tourism. But a visitor to the area would be forgiven for thinking that Radstock is simply a blank slate on which BANES can impose a series of developments which will relieve the pressure on Bath, offer very little potential for new employment opportunities, and jeopardise all that makes Radstock and its surroundings worth valuing. And above it all, is the prospect of BANES still trying to relaunch a planning application which is no longer live, for the railway land.

Sainsbury's application to build a megastore in Westfield has dominated the headlines for the past weeks - and it's taken an unexpected turn this week. It appears that the closing date for comments has been put back yet again - it remains to be seen how this will impact on the date at which the application is considered by BANES.

Meanwhile, a public meeting organised by Frack Free Somerset will highlight another potential threat to the area.

An eerie quiet has fallen over the question of why the Victoria Hall is still shut a year on and no results have been published from the consultation exercise. We had been expecting a more detailed report to surface, but this has not happened. Cllr Paul Crossley, leader of BANES, is now in charge, just as he is now reputed to be leading the NRR. BANES should explain how this person now on the board of the NRR, is also the head of the authority which is allegedly going to be submitting a new planning application for the railway land.

SAINSBURY'S PLANNING APPLICATION FOR WESTFIELD: New deadline for comments

It appears, according to the BANES website, that the deadline for comments on this planning application has been extended to Wednesday 27 February, so those who missed the opportunity to comment by the previous deadline, can now get going.

  • Email comments to: development_control@bathnes.gov.uk or google 12/05418 and follow the link that appears
  • Be certain to quote the Application Number: 12/05418/FUL
  • State clearly whether you are objecting or supporting

IS RADSTOCK AT RISK FROM FRACKING?

DATE: Wednesday 20 February 2013
VENUE: Radstock Working Men's Club, The Street, Radstock
TIME: 7-9pm

Public meeting organised by: Frack Free Somerset info@frackfreesomerset.org and on Facebook
Everyone welcome.

RADSTOCK ACTION GROUP AGM

DATE: Friday 1 March
TIME: 7.30pm
VENUE: Radstock Methodist Church


[11th February 2013]: Our Objection to the Sainsbury's Application

Objection to Planning Application: 12/05418/FUL | TESCO Bath - BANES Notification of Decision | TESCO Paulton Extension - BANES Notification of Decision


[4th February 2013]: Save our Town Centres - Stop Sainsbury's at Westfield

Probably first and foremost amongst concerns about the danger posed by a new superstore in Westfield are the twin issues of (1) loss of retail choice, which will inevitably follow the opening of such a store, with the ensuing loss of jobs, and (2) the traffic congestion, noise and air pollution and road safety issues that will result from hundreds more vehicles travelling from long distances to the store.

Anyone who lives in Westfield, Radstock or Midsomer Norton should take a close look at the Retail Statement in the Planning Application, which makes it absolutely clear that Sainsbury's is not intent on building this monster to serve the needs of the locals of these three settlements.

This is where shoppers will be coming from:

The Retail Statement explains (p.13 3.3.3) that the catchment area for shoppers at the proposed new superstore come from the Primary Catchment Area and the Secondary Catchment Area. Here are the exact locations in each of these two categories:

Primary Catchment Area:

  • Zone 1 - the main urban area comprising Midsomer Norton, Radstock and Westfield
  • Zone 2 - the rural area to the north of Zone 1, including the villages of Temple Cloud, Paulton, and Peasedown St John
  • Zone 3 - The rural area to the south of Zone 1 including Chewton Mendip, Chilcompton, Coleford and Faulkland

Secondary Catchment Area:

  • Zone 4 - Pensford, Compton Dando, Marksbury, Englishcombe
  • Zone 5 - Chew Magna, Compton Martin
  • Zone 6 - Wells
  • Zone 7 - Shepton Mallet
  • Zone 8 - Frome
  • Zone 9 - Midford, Norton St Philip

What will this do to our local communities?

So we need to be quite clear, no-one can say they haven't been told. The implications are clear for everyone who lives in Westfield, Radstock and Midsomer Norton and even further afield, or who travels through them:

  1. There will be massively increased traffic from car users. Sainsbury's has made no provision for facilitating additional public transport, it is not putting in cycle routes or specialist pedestrian facilities - see BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) statement in the application. But there will be a car park to accommodate 461 cars, 25 disabled people's parking bays and 30 cycle spaces. They are not building a car park of this size so that it can remain empty - they presumably expect it to be full. We can look forward to hundreds of cars using the already crowded roads to get to the superstore.
  2. In addition, there will be constant arrival and departure of trucks delivering goods.
  3. The opening hours, according to the application, are to be confirmed - so this could mean long opening hours to the detriment of local people.
  4. Despite it being called a foodstore, this new superstore will be selling far more, will have a petrol station and associated development. It will, in effect be selling most of the items which we all buy elsewhere in smaller retail outlets in the area and existing supermarkets. The floor area quoted (5083 sq.m/54,713 sq.ft) is just that and doesn't include public lavatories, restaurants, tills, storage areas etc. This is a two storey construction which will total 8376 sq.m as noted by the press last week.
  5. Despite some hopes that it will create lots of jobs, it won't - it will create 50 full-time jobs and 100 part-time jobs which by Sainsbury's own admission will amount to no more than 50 full-time equivalent. Match this against all the jobs that will go as small traders in the entire area lose out and we are looking at a net job loss overall.
  6. The site is an industrial estate which is one of the important remaining areas for the development of meaningful employment and should be safeguarded as such.

BANES must put the needs of local 'constituents' first

These are not the only issues which have emerged from the planning application. BANES will need to consider the implications of the overall impact of the proposals. First, it is important to note that this is a full planning application. Sainsbury's has chosen to skip the outline planning application stage in favour of going straight for the full planning consent. They are entitled to do this, but it certainly militates against a careful deliberation on the the general principal of whether or not this is a sound idea and enables a proposal to be put through without so much scrutiny. BANES should not be hoodwinked by the huge amounts of documentation, most of which admits that much remains to be done in terms of a detailed analysis of how this will impact on our communities. The application represents a cynical attempt to conceal the fact that there are a whole range of issues which have not been properly investigated.

TESCO rejections - the same grounds apply to this Sainsbury's application

It is also important to remind BANES that they have recently rejected two applications from TESCO, one to extend the Paulton store and the other to build a superstore in Bath. The grounds for refusing these applications are largely applicable to the Sainsbury's application for Westfield and any less scrupulous consideration of this application would be irresponsible. For example, according to the BANES website, the Bath development 'would give rise to an unacceptable and significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of the Moorland Road District Shopping Centre', and 'is not in accordance with the requirements of the sequential approach to development; unsustainable travel patterns contrary to paragraph 30 and 32 of the NPPF and (would) be harmful to the Council's retail strategy'.

Getting away with the bare minimum

On reading the full application, it becomes apparent that Sainsbury's is doing the bare minimum to satisfy the requirements which may have to be satisfied to gain permission. For example:

  1. The BREEAM survey, which 'aims to quantify and reduce the environmental burdens of buildings by rewarding those designs that take positive steps to minimise their environmental impacts' is only at the stage of giving potential scores and admits that 'a full assessment is required to ascertain the actual BREEAM rating'. A reading of the work so far makes it absolutely clear that Sainsbury's will do as little as it can get away with in respect of environmental impact.
  2. The preliminary contamination report comprised 'a desk study and preliminary conceptual site model and risk assessment' and, according to BANES further investigation is recommended.
  3. The archaeology report comprises a general statement about the general picture in the South West with some token references to local features, and is a 'desk top study'.
  4. Impact on wildlife is dealt with though the whole site has not been systematically surveyed as indicated by the further surveys for bats should be done if the development doesn't start within 24 months.
  5. 'The design team thought there may be not insiginificant reduction in ecological value of the site, so no credits have been assumed'. Work that one out.

These are just a few of the many examples which suggest that benefitting the local communities is far from being at the top of Sainsbury's agenda. They are, after all, in this for the money.

GET your responses in now

RAG has asked BANES to provide a hard copy of the entire proposal for Radstock Library to encourage those who do not have access to a computer to get involved in this debate. RAG urges everyone to send in their objections to this proposal by Monday 11 February. the Planning Application is 12/05418/FUL. The BANES Case Officer is Sarah James email address: sarah_james@bathnes.gov.uk to whom you can address further questions. You can submit your comments via the website - just google 12/05418/FUL or send them to the Planning Department, BANES, PO Box 5006, Bath BA1 1JG.

We all want regeneration - a superstore in the middle of an industrial estate is not the answer.


[28th January 2013]: BANES Leader Paul Crossley dodges RAG questions

In November, Radstock Action Group asked Cllr Paul Crossley a series of questions related to the future of Radstock and particularly the road and the railway land, replies to which came over the holidays. A copy of his letter can be downloaded here since it doesn't appear to be on the BANES website. The letter reveals a council which has no coherent proposals for Radstock and which sows confusion, at every point, on all the key matters which impact on the future regeneration and prosperity of the town. Here are just three examples plus a step forward on the railway link:

A new explanation for why Radstock needs a new road

'to increase capacity on the network' - sorry we thought that it was to reduce congestion, but now it appears to be about bringing more traffic into the town.

Is there planning permission or not?

Reply to Question 1: 'Linden Homes are fully committed to this development and are looking to submit REserved Matters consent for the first two phases of development once the new Outline Planning Consent is in place' (our bold). So apparently there is no Outline Planning Consent at present but ...

Reply to Question 2: 'The Outline Planning Permission 06/02880 EOUT is a current application. It remains valid and implementable from a purely Planning perspective ....... The valid Planning Permission will be a strong material consideration in the consideration and determination of any new application for Planning Permission'. What does this mean?

An Independent Safety Audit for the Road Proposals

Cllr Crossley states that the road safety audit will form part of the Outline Planning application - yet more proof that there is no outline planning permission in place. Why did he recently state that he would be sending out a copy of the audit which he said had been done if it hadn't been? Or are the road proposals changing?

An update on the Railway and the Halcrow Report

We are pleased to note that, despite the lack of enthusiasm in Cllr Crossley's reply, at the January Cabinet meeting it was agreed (according to the draft minutes: http://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=7679):

  • To ASK Halcrow to review their conclusions in the light of the results of the 2011 Census and the likely growth in housing in the area promoted in the Core Strategy to ascertain if their conclusions remain valid in the light of this more up to date information; and
  • To ASK Halcrow to consider the merits of a simple shuttle between Radstock and Westbury to allow access to the wider rail network including intercity services both to London and the South West and the implications of the potential expansion of the Greater Bristol Metro Scheme.

Radstock Action Group looks forward to similar progressive changes to and clarity on other items about which we asked.

Press Release issued by Amanda Leon, Secretary, on behalf of Radstock Action Group


[9th December 2012]: BANES flouts the law and it's goodbye to the Radstock Jubilee Oak

Watching the Jubilee Oak being removed from Radstock was not for the faint-hearted

Before daylight, on Sunday 9 December, the BANES contractor, Glendale Civic Trees, arrived to set about taking away a well-known landmark. Radstock Action Group gave them a letter asking them not to as the legal situation was not in order. But for the man-in-charge, he was just doing as told by BANES who had assured him that all the necessary consents were in place. Not so. The full legal situation can be found at the end of this press release in BLUE.

For those who watched, each stage was more painful than the last. First the taking hold of the trunk in a massive clamp-like structure attached to a trailer/truck, then actually getting the tree out of the ground, including hacking away at the root ball, then hoisting it onto the truck for a precarious removal to Writhlington. The hole had been dug, but the tree was delayed as there was a danger that power lines would be hit and branches had to be sawn off. But then the tree wouldn't fit the hole so, yes, they sawed off more of the roots. Spectators left before the end, they had no stomach for this violence.

It seems highly unlikely the tree will survive perched as it is on its now diminished rootball, in a windy spot quite at odds with its longstanding home in a valley fed by numerous water courses. A look inside the hole revealed that the soil is clay and stony.

You could not be other than shocked - however tough you thought you were ...

The cause of all the trouble

If this were not serious enough, there is still the much bigger question of the road which BANES wants to put through the middle of the town and to which the Oak has been sacrificed. Radstock Action Group wants regeneration, as does everyone in the town. But the removal of key features of the historic centre and the introduction of main-road, through traffic into the shopping streets will not achieve this end.

BANES must listen to the people who know best - the people who live and work in Radstock. And the many who visit for the town's outstanding access to beautiful countryside, its renowned town centre and museum, its varied and friendly shops, its pubs and range of eateries.

Radstock needs good homes and jobs for local people, but it seems that BANES is happy to reduce it to a bland commuter suburb for Bath, devoid of all its history and individuality.

Key legal points

The tree stood in a conservation area and without a consent to the contrary was protected by being so located. Without a valid permission to which a contract for development is linked, the tree was protected. Its removal poses a series of questions about the legality/illegality of such action.

  1. Can a Conservation Area consent be considered valid when the original consent has expired (on 4th June 2011) but been kept 'live' by means of an application for an extension of time, when that extension has not been determined a year and a half later? If not, does the length of time indicate that there isn't an intention to consider the extension?
  2. A condition of the conservation area consent is that no demolition shall take place until a contract has been let for the development of the site in accordance with a valid planning permission. There appears to be no such contract and no valid planning permission. If the Bellway contract is still extant, it is linked to an outline consent that has effectively been superseded and is not expected to be progressed. If there is such a a contract with Linden Homes, it must surely be based upon the extension application for the same plan?
  3. The Conservation Area consent itself was linked to the outline consent, which now appears invalid and is not actionable, in which the permitted highway scheme (in the S.106 agreement) is significantly different from the modified highway scheme permitted in the subsequent Road Traffic Order - i.e. it's a different road scheme

Press release issued by Amanda Leon, Secretary, on behalf of Radstock Action Group


[8th December 2012]: Radstock Jubilee Oak - Bath and North East Somerset urged to think again

Radstock Action Group has urged BANES to think again before taking precipitate action to remove the Queen Victoria Jubilee Oak from Radstock Town Centre. The removal is scheduled to take place tomorrow, Sunday 9 December.

The following has been sent by email to all BANES Councillors plus the Council Chief Executive and Legal Department.

Dear BANES Councillor

AN URGENT REQUEST

As you will undoubtedly be aware, tomorrow, Sunday 9 December, BANES intends attempting to remove the Queen Victoria Jubilee Oak from the centre of Radstock. This tree stands in a conservation area and without a consent to the contrary is protected by being so located. Without a valid permission to which a contract for development is linked, the tree is protected. Its possible removal poses a series of questions about the legality/illegality of such action.

We would like you to consider the following points and to ask those who will take the ultimate decision on behalf of Bath and North East Somerset Council, to postpone any action until the legal position is clear.

The key specific points in question are:

  1. Can a Conservation Area consent be considered valid when the original consent has expired (on 4th June 2011) but been kept 'live' by means of an application for an extension of time, when that extension has not been determined a year and a half later? If not, does the length of time indicate that there isn't an intention to consider the extension?
  2. A condition of the conservation area consent is that no demolition shall take place until a contract has been let for the development of the site in accordance with a valid planning permission. There appears to be no such contract and no valid planning permission. If the Bellway contract is still extant, it is linked to an outline consent that has effectively been superseded and is not expected to be progressed. If there is such a a contract with Linden Homes, it must surely be based upon the extension application for the same plan?
  3. The Conservation Area consent itself was linked to the outline consent, which now appears invalid and is not actionable, in which the permitted highway scheme (in the S.106 agreement) is significantly different from the modified highway scheme permitted in the subsequent Road Traffic Order - i.e. it's a different road scheme.

Given that the removal of the oak appears to be unlawful and without relevant live permissions would it, therefore, be wise and responsible to delay removing it until the legal position is clarified? Surely, observers might otherwise conclude that the premature removal of the tree could be regarded as reckless behaviour on the part of the Council.

We certainly hope that the Council will have a change of heart on legal grounds alone and then consider the future of Radstock in a new light.

The tree is a significant icon in the centre of town, a much loved landmark and the future of Radstock will be the poorer without it. It is part of the larger picture in which BANES is seeking to drive an unwanted main road through the centre of the town, and at enormous expense, thus calling into question the well-being of local residents and future of trade and tourism. The council claims that all this is necessary in the name of regeneration, but Radstock Action Group believes it will have the opposite effect. We reject the idea that Radstock should be changed irreversibly into a dormitory suburb for Bath. Regeneration means jobs and homes for local people who will be happy to join in meaningful discussion with all those concerned.

The centre of Radstock, 'the best preserved mining town centre in the country' (English Heritage) is under serious threat.

RAG will be maintaining a presence in Radstock on Sunday 9 December and hoping to see that BANES has decided to delay, if not cancel, any further action in relation to the Jubilee Oak.

Press release issued by Amanda Leon, Secretary, on behalf of Radstock Action Group


[4th December 2012]: BANES replies to the Legal Challenge

Click here to read the full response. (101Kb pdf)


[1st December 2012]: Legal Challenge to Removal of the Queen Victoria Jubilee Oak Tree from Radstock Town Centre

Following on from BANES announcement that, on Monday 3 December, they would be starting the removal of the Jubilee Oak from the centre of Radstock, RAG decided to seek legal help. As a result, the attached letter, dealing particularly with the apparent lack of due process, has been sent to Paul Crossley, the leader of BANES. We regard it as largely self-explanatory and are currently awaiting a response from the council.

Welcome to another Jubilee Oak for another Queen

Meanwhile, we welcome the planting of an additional oak elsewhere in Radstock to mark the Jubilee of the present Queen. How fitting it will be if the council leaves the Queen Victoria Jubilee Oak so that residents, businesses and visitors can enjoy them both.

A Tree with so much and such varied Significance for so many People

The Council has made much of the fact that the Latchem family have endorsed the removal of the Queen Victoria Jubilee Oak. We entirely respect the family's position and understand that, for them, the tree has much personal and family significance and that their priority is to attempt to safeguard its future wherever that might be. We wish we could be optimistic about its chances of surviving removal from its current site.

Others will have different reasons for cherishing it and wanting it to stay where it has been for so long, an easily recognised feature of the townscape, a symbol of the history and the future of the town to which it was presented to mark Victoria's Jubilee. As a stag oak, it has very particular characteristics which are sometimes misinterpreted as signs of its imminent demise. Fortunately, despite the stresses and strains of being in the middle of all the traffic, it has had yet another green and leafy summer season.

A new road will result in the loss of far more than this precious local landmark

The tree undoubtedly has very many different important roles for many different people in the town. It is also getting in the way of a road programme which people do not want. Paul Crossley has repeatedly said that without the housing, there will be no road. By the Council's own admission, they do not have so much as an outline planning application at present, so even within their own terms, the removal of the tree is most definitely premature. During a recent collection of signatures against the removal of the Oak Tree, several people suggested that even if the council is determined to pursue the new road scheme, they should leave the Oak in the middle of the new roundabout they propose.

We urge the council, yet again, to have a rethink - we need regeneration, not the degeneration that the new through traffic will bring.

Press release issued by Amanda Leon, Secretary, on behalf of Radstock Action Group


[30th November 2012]: Legal Challenge to BANES' decision to remove the Jubilee Oak

Following BANES' announcement that they intend trying to remove the Jubilee Oak from the centre of town, Radstock Action Group has sought legal advice. Click here to read the full text. (799Kb pdf)


[30th November 2012]: Jubilee Oak Candlelit Vigil

Some of the RAG supporters who joined the candlelit vigil to save the Jubilee Oak on November 15, 2012. Photo by Parker-Rye.

Jubilee Oak Candlelit Vigil


[30th November 2012]: St Nicholas School Flooding

St Nicholas School playground flooded last week in the torrential rain. This photo was taken by a RAG supporter as the water was receding but shows the problems of any sites near the river in Radstock, including the railway land where BANES wants to put housing.

St Nicholas School playground flooding


[19th November 2012]: Some good news on Radstock's Victoria Hall, but BANES still can't see sense about Jubilee Oak

VICTORIA HALL SET FOR MAJOR IMPROVEMENTS

On Wednesday 14 November, BANES Cabinet agreed to the refurbishment of the Victoria Hall. It's going to be costly and will make this key civic building fit for the twenty-first century. It is no more than the best preserved mining town centre in the country deserves.And Radstock Action Group congratulates BANES on not selling it off or turning it into offices but choosing to keep it in community use. There are two major issues that RAG has asked BANES to look at again:

RAG urges BANES to keep snooker and the caretaker's house

  1. The Snooker facilities - under the proposals, there will no longer be snooker in the Victoria Hall. This is a mistake as it provides a safe and high quality environment for lots of people, including many young people. According to Cllr Bellotti, there is no room in the new arrangements.
  2. Currently the Council intends selling off the Caretaker's House - they say they can get 95,000 for it. We think it is important to try and raise the money to keep it, possibly with a side extension - then we could keep the snooker tables too. And we could call it all after whichever generous charity or other benefactor decides to respond to requests for support.

You can see our full submission and the original proposal by clicking here.

It was announced at the Cabinet that the Council is awaiting a planning application for the railway land - thus proving that there isn't one at the moment.

BUT THE JUBILEE OAK IS STILL UNDER THREAT

Thursday 15 November and we were brought sharply back to reality when BANES and Atkins, their sub-contractor, arrived and started pneumatic drilling of trenches all round the Jubilee Oak and within less than a metre of its trunk. According to a BANES communication to BANES Radstock Ward Councillors, 'Council contractors Atkins will be in Radstock town centre today looking at the underground utilities around the junction of Wells Road and The Street. This should not cause a disruption to traffic or services. They are undertaking some investigative work to inform the process of relocating the oak tree.' the four deep trenches they dug have been back-filled but the message is clear - they have not abandoned their plans to remove the Jubilee Oak. This is a necessary part of preparations for putting in the new, unwanted road - yes, that's right, the road that Council Leader Crossley has declared on several occasions, will not happen if there is no building on the railway land. AS there is no live planning application, why the rush to get the Oak out of the way?

New Petition to Keep the Oak is growing

RAG has been collecting signatures against the moving of the Oak and are well into the hundreds now after a couple of Saturday morning sessions in town. Standing on the corner of the Street, many people were amazed to hear that this is all still going on and wondered how on earth a roundabout can possibly be built where the Oak now stands. Not mention being totally in support of keeping the Jubilee Oak. Most thought moving the Oak would kill it, many thought it might already have suffered irreversible damage from the pneumatic drill ...

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE PLANNING INSPECTOR WHO SUPPORTS TOWN CENTRE VITALITY AND VIABILITY

Also last week, a possibly highly significant ruling by Planning Inspector, M.Middleton, hearing an appeal by ASDA against Calderdale Council's refusal of planning permission for a new supermarket in Todmorden. The Inspector rejected the appeal on the grounds that it would have a "significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of Todmorden town centre, its role as a market town and committed and planned public and private investment within the centre." It is to be hoped that if Sainsbury's or any other major retailer applies for planning permission, that BANES will bear this in mind and follow the example of Calderdale Council in rejecting the planning application.

Press release issued by Amanda Leon, Secretary, on behalf of Radstock Action Group


[18th November 2012]: 500K for Radstock

BANES asked people what they thought of a proposal to spend 500,00 in Radstock. Here's our response. Their original request for responses follows our statement.

Click here to download the document (135Kb .docx)

Click here to download the text of BANES Original Press Release about spending 500,000 (128Kb .docx)


[15th November 2012]: CANDLELIT VIGIL TO SAVE THE JUBILEE OAK - Tonight

Preliminary work has started today as part of BANES proposals to remove the Jubilee Oak from the centre of Radstock. According to BANES, 'Council contractors Atkins will be in Radstock town centre today looking at the underground utilities around the junction of Wells Road and The Street. This should not cause a disruption to traffic or services. They are undertaking some investigative work to inform the process of relocating the oak tree.'

In view of this Radstock Action Group is organising a Candlelit Vigil Tonight - Thursday 15 November @ 6pm - at the Oak Tree

The key points:

  • The Jubilee Oak was planted in Radstock to commemorate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria and has stood in its prominent site ever since
  • Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) claim that they have to move the tree to make way for a new road through the centre of town - a road for which there is no support
  • BANES also says, as a secondary line of justification, that the tree is dying - this is absolutely untrue - and that the only way to save it is to move it
  • Moving mature trees is a high risk strategy which will almost certainly kill it
  • Cllr Paul Crossley, Leader of BANES, has said that unless houses are built in the centre of the town, there will be no road built
  • As confirmed at a BANES Cabinet meeting last night there is not even a planning application, let alone planning permission at present, so why are they going ahead with the removal and inevitable destruction of one of Radstock's major landmarks?

Radstock Town councillor asks BANES Tree Officer some highly relevant questions

Radstock Town Councillor Deborah Porter has written to the Tree Officer for BANES. A copy of her message is reproduced below. If you would like to discuss it directly with her you can email her on deborahjaneporter@gmail.com:

Dear Jane Brewer,

Can you please tell me if and when a decision was taken that a TPO would not be made for the Jubillee Oak, Radstock (at the bottom of Wells Hill)?

Can you please tell me the grounds upon which it was decided that the Council did not consider it "expedient in the interests of amenity" to make a TPO on this oak tree at the time of a decision on whether or not to make a TPO?

Can you tell me why the considerable cultural value of this tree, associated with Queen Victoria's Jubillee, has not been considered sufficient to make a TPO, taking into consideration the shape of the single tree in a very conspicuous location, which has remained similar for many years and is a distinctive feature of the Conservation Area?

Please see www.francisfrith.com/radstock/photos/the-crossing-c1955_r2019/ for a photograph of the tree c. 1955,
www.francisfrith.com/radstock/photos/main-road-c1965_r2035/ for one in 1965, and
www.francisfrith.com/radstock/photos/wells-hill-1914_66587/ for image of the younger tree c 1914.

It is my opinion that the constriction in growth due to location is not inconsistent with these trees being one and the same tree and I note that the location in 1914 is the same as the location in 1955 and 1965.

I am informed that people are being told that the tree will die if left in its present location, but am also aware of the strategy that oaks employ in response to stress, involving the shedding of material in order to stay small and so allow longevity.

Given the age of this tree, are you prepared to say that it is your belief that the tree will die if left in situ?

Regards,
Deborah Porter


Press release issued by Amanda Leon, Secretary, on behalf of Radstock Action Group