Campaigning for the positive and sustainable development of Radstock

News Archive - Page 7

PRESS RELEASE - 9TH FEBRUARY 2009

Is Radstock's Victoria Hall facing new threats to its future?

A letter on the agenda for Monday's Norton Radstock Town Council meeting has raised doubts in the minds of members of Radstock Action Group. The letter from Tom McBain (Chief Property Officer) at BANES sets a worrying tone, hinting as it does, at future revised terms for the tenancy which the Town Council currently enjoys and suggesting that any future tenancy will be linked to other unstated commitments on the part of 'key local stakeholders' to broader regeneration plans.

BANES has a well-known track record for not listening to key stakeholders in relation to the positive regeneration of Radstock, and we hope that Norton Radstock Town Council will resist any attempt to move away from promoting the future of the Victoria Hall as central to the cultural heritage of this much acclaimed town.

We particularly hope that the Town Council does not simply 'note' the communication from BANES, as stated in the published agenda for the meeting. The Victoria Hall must be regarded as a vital and historic part of the history and the future of the town and be preserved for uses for the community, who must be consulted about all future developments. The Town Council is uniquely fitted to promote proper protection of the hall.

Although attempts to get the Victoria Hall listed have yet to be successful, many people in Radstock, including Radstock Action Group, recognise that the building is definitely worthy of listed building status and that such a move would further protect it from inappropriate redevelopment taking place in the immediate vicinity. Current NRR/Bellway proposals certainly are totally unsuited to the area, and would seriously undermine the fine architectural features of the building. In addition, the proposals will irreversibly compromise the integrity of the fabric of the building which will not be able to withstand the volume of heavy traffic which will pass very close by, should the proposed new road be constructed.

Norton Radstock Town Council must make it clear to BANES that the hall is not to be used as a pawn in a cynical game to achieve unscrupulous and unwanted changes in the centre of the town. It is already completely absurd that such a valuable asset should ever have fallen into the hands of BANES and it is to be hoped that it will eventually be formally restored to the people of Radstock.

Click here to view the statement given by RAG at the Town Council meeting of 9 February. (26Kb pdf)

Amanda Leon
for Radstock Action Group


David Trigwells' PowerPoint presentation, used during the RAG meeting of the 14th January to illustrate and explain Bath & North East Somerset's Core Strategy, is available for download by clicking here (10Mb ppt).


PRESS RELEASE - 18TH JANUARY 2009

Over 70 people attended last week's Radstock Action Group meeting, where David Trigwell, BANES Divisional Director, Planning and Transport Development outlined the Council's developing Core Strategy and attempted to explain how Radstock would fit into the plans.

Radstock residents, traders, representatives of several local groups, BANES and Norton Radstock Town Councillors made it clear to the speaker that the current proposals regarding the rerouting of the road through the town centre and the proposals for housing were at odds with BANES plans and the Regional Spatial Strategy as described by David Trigwell.

Despite reservations, Radstock Action Group will continue to seek positive and constructive dialogue with BANES, in the belief that it is not too late to review the plans for the regeneration of the town centre. The current proposals constitute moves to degeneration and will certainly lead to the demise of local shops and the beautiful conservation area in which they stand. The meeting gave out a clear message - Radstock has a future but the current plans are not wanted as they will endanger Radstock's heritage, natural environment, shops and community and will certainly not create much needed jobs or suitable affordable housing.

The group was very pleased by the excellent turn out - hopefully BANES will appreciate that local residents and traders are not going to give up and go away - far from it, we have excellent and positive suggestions for the future of the town and hope that BANES, NRR, Bellway and regional strategy bodies will start listening.

Amanda Leon
for Radstock Action Group


PRESS RELEASE - 5TH JANUARY 2009

A Meeting organised by Radstock Action Group - everyone welcome

THE FUTURE OF RADSTOCK - PLANS AND PROPOSALS
Developing the town positively and sympathetically

David Trigwell
BANES Director Planning and Transport Development

Wednesday 14 January, 7.30pm
Radstock Methodist Church

Radstock Action Group is pleased to announce that David Trigwell, BANES Divisional Director, Planning and Transport Development, will be speaking in Radstock at a meeting organised by the group on Wednesday 14 January.

He will talk about where and how Radstock fits into BANES overall plans.

He has been asked to talk about BANES' plans to ensure that Radstock is sensitively and sustainably supported in the forthcoming period.

There is always time to influence the outcome of the debate about the future of Radstock. We hope people will take this opportunity to let BANES hear everyone's views.

If you feel strongly about the future of Radstock, now is your chance to enter into the discussion - you will have the chance to speak to one of the key people in Bath and North East Somerset and to have your questions answered.

EVERYONE WELCOME

Amanda Leon
for Radstock Action Group


PRESS RELEASE - 22nd DECEMBER 2008

David Trigwell - BANES Director
Planning and Transport Development
coming to Radstock Meeting on Wednesday 14 January, 7.30pm.

David Trigwell, BANES Divisional Director, Planning and Transport Development, will be speaking in Radstock at a meeting organised by Radstock Action Group on Wednesday 14 January.

He has been asked to talk about BANES' plans to ensure that Radstock is sensitively and sustainably supported in the forthcoming period.

Everyone welcome. Further details soon.

Happy Christmas!

Amanda Leon
for Radstock Action Group


PRESS RELEASE - 1 DECEMBER 2008

What's this? Out of the blue, a message from the NRR. Readers could have been forgiven for thinking the NRR had disappeared off the planet.

Cate Le Grice-Mack must explain how 'the NRR/Bellway development plans for Radstock do not block off the rail line or access to it'. The fact is that the proposals build all over the railway line and include the construction of a road right across the site, bringing major heavy through traffic into Radstock, including through the conservation area and all the local shops, as well as this valuable wild life environment. The development will put paid to any chance of a rail link to the centre of Radstock.

In addition, she should explain the exact relationship between NRR and Bellway. NRR is the agency charged with the development of Radstock, Bellway is a house builder which has been contracted by NRR to provide houses. Since when has the development of Radstock been handed to an individual commercial organisation?

She mentions the NRR meeting with Radstock Action Group in August. It is worth noting that all she says is that we asked for the reinstatement of the railway. NRR showed absolutely no interest in our views for the former railway land and certainly didn't put forward any of their own other than the building of houses.

Her statement that there are 'no solid data about how many people would make use of a commercial link from Radstock to Frome and on to the main line at Westbury' is a resounding admission that the NRR has failed totally to establish an objective business case for the current proposals for the development of central Radstock. The NRR should have data on all aspects of the regeneration of Radstock but, as we've been saying for a long time, they have quite simply gone ahead without any gathering of solid data or meaningful consultation with key stakeholders such as local residents and businesses.

The planning permission, including the 106, is supposed to be based on a sound business case, but we all know that the plan is nothing more than a housing estate, crowded and totally out of keeping with the centre of Radstock and without infrastructure such as robust transport links. Radstock Action Group knows from talking to people signing our recent petitions that there is very considerable support for a renewed rail link. It is high time that NRR went out and talked to people and gathered relevant data.

Can Cate Le Grice-Mack also point people in the direction of the 'national, regional and local plans' being drawn up to encourage better public transport? Radstock Action Group has failed to note any proposals which will improve transport links to and from the town.

Finally, could she indicate how far her views reflect those of the NRR as an organisation?

Amanda Leon
Radstock Action Group


PRESS RELEASE - 15 NOVEMBER 2008

Resignations unwelcome but understandable

Radstock Action Group is dismayed by the resignation of Steve Plumley and Janet Tanner from Norton Radstock Town Council. They have consistently taken a principled position on subjects coming up for discussion at Council meetings and have sought to reflect the wishes and aspirations of the people of Radstock. This has been in marked contrast to the knee-jerk reactions of some other members of the Council who have not been able to explain what has driven them to vote against the best interests of Radstock; these same people have often resorted to discourteous behaviour and remarks at odds with the expectations of those in public service.

We share Steve Plumley and Janet Tanner's hope that there will be by-elections held - the campaigns will hopefully give more people a chance to have their say over what they want for Radstock and will enable those elected to have a clear mandate on which to act at all levels of council engagement.

Evidence still not found to support view that War Memorial belongs to BANES

In relation to the final trigger for the resignations (the reversal of a Council decision to oppose the BANES attempt to seize the former site of the War Memorial), we note that Councillor Chris Dando has constructed a completely unfounded explanation of his view that the site already belongs to BANES. He has, at no point been able to bring forward any evidence to support his claim; it is particularly unsatisfactory that he has not produced any evidence that the people of Radstock support his position, and we doubt if he can do so - our petition on the subject collected a large number of signatures in three or four hours and was submitted to the Land Registry and other interested bodies. It appears that his enthusiasm for the handing over of the site to BANES is linked to his enthusiasm for the discredited NRR proposals for Radstock, and in particular support for the white elephant that is the new road proposed by NRR/Bellway.

What has the Town council been doing all this time?

We note that, according to his recent letter to the press, 'the town council wishes to start talking to BANES about the future of Radstock'. Truly amazing stuff - how come they haven't been doing this all along? Radstock Action Group thought this was a key role of the local council.

Working for a better future for the historic town of Radstock and its surroundings

Radstock Action Group will continue working for the positive regeneration of Radstock, building understanding of the need for our industrial and natural heritage to be cherished and enhanced, ensuring that the development of affordable homes for local people is matched by the creation of local job opportunities. We will continue to support the listing of the Victoria Hall and a revamp of the road system in Radstock which will not involve the building of a new road which will bring ever more heavy through traffic into the centre of the town which is a conservation area and simply cannot withstand such traffic. We will also continue to support the reintroduction of a rail link between Frome and Radstock.

Railway petition continues to grow

We are delighted that the petition (www.northsomersetrailway.com) to reinstate the rail link now has over 2000 signatures and has been officially adopted as a campaign by Railfuture (www.railfuture.org.uk the UK's leading independent organisation campaigning for better rail services for both passengers and freight).

Press release issued by Amanda Leon on behalf of Radstock Action Group: 15 November 2008


PRESS RELEASE - 2 NOVEMBER 2008

Doubts about the Suitability of Current Proposals for Radstock continue to grow

More and more people are asking what the point of the new road proposals are, whether it is wise to build on a flood risk area, and why BANES/NRR are so resistant to talking to local people about what they want for the town.

Despite attempts to paint those who object to the current plans in Radstock as simply negative, Radstock Action Group believes that there are many people in the town who have positive ideas about the way to make Radstock a better place to live and work. The group knows from talking to people, collecting signatures for various petitions and the response to activities that if the NRR and/or BANES and/or Bellway were prepared to listen they would find a mountain of excellent and constructive ideas.

Will BANES Accept Our Invitation to Talk?

Radstock Action Group will continue to seek dialogue and is awaiting a reply from David Trigwell (BANES Planning & Transport Development) to an invitation to address a meeting in Radstock at which local people can explain to him how they would like to see the regeneration of the town taking shape and hear how this could fit into a wider BANES picture.

We hope that questions about the sense and viability of the current proposals will, from now on, be taken seriously by BANES and the NRR, and that between them and Bellway, they can find a way forward which will improve transport (rather than clog it up in the middle of town with a new main road), provide affordable homes for Radstock people and jobs to match, enhance the town's historic, cultural and natural environments which have the potential to attract huge numbers of visitors from far and near.

Support for Restoration of Rail Link Growing

Anyone who doubts the tourist potential of Radstock, or the widespread support for such a strategic development should visit the petition for the Restoration of the Frome to Radstock Railway link, (online at www.northsomersetrailway.com). So far almost 600 people have signed the petition online and many more have signed the copies available in various shops in Radstock. Reading the comments made by those who have signed, it is clear to see the benefits that many people agree would accrue to the town from the restoration of the rail link. It should be obligatory reading for BANES and NRR and would give them constructive food for thought.

The War Memorial Debate

Last Monday's near farcical event (it doesn't appear to have been a properly constituted meeting) at which Norton Radstock Town Council voted to abandon its opposition to BANES claiming the former site of the War Memorial, saw a few strange alliances and splits in the ranks of councillors - several were not present as the meeting was hastily convened and clashed with half-term week which might have impacted on some people.

Even more surprising than the falling out amongst councillors, was the assertion used to support the change of policy, that the costs incurred would involve hiring a junior counsel, as opposed to using a solicitor - who could have operated at a far lower hourly rate.

Most importantly of all, councillors who wanted to change the town council's policy did not bring forward any evidence that they were speaking for the electorate; neither did they explain how they could flout the rules which say that no matter can be revisited within six months - a period which has not elapsed since the decision to oppose the BANES seizure of Radstock land was taken by the Town Council.

Amanda Leon (For Radstock Action Group)


PRESS RELEASE - SPECIAL MEETING OF NRTC MONDAY 27TH OCTOBER

It wasn't just the decision to give up on the fight to save the site of the War Memorial that made this evening's meeting so totally unsatisfactory. It was the complete disregard shown by many councillors for the views of the people of Radstock at this hastily convened event that left Radstock Action Group feeling that some councillors should resign and stand for re-election immediately.

We applaud the councillors who tried to prevent the sell-out by arguing that it is essential to defend the assets of the community; they and we think that the War Memorial site belongs to the residents of Radstock and it is not the council's to give away. This is simply the thin end of the wedge. By giving in to BANES' bullying tactics, and handing them the site without a fight, the Council is giving the go-ahead to BANES to help themselves to anything else in Radstock that they might want, regardless of local views or expectations.

The Town Council voted in the summer to spend up to 5000 pursuing the case of the War Memorial site and will be liable to pay any expenses incurred so far. By deciding tonight that they were abandoning the matter, they have effectively thrown away up to 5000 of public money and guaranteed that there will be no money raised through a compulsory purchase order which BANES might well have enforced should Radstock have been declared the owners of the site. Money raised through any compulsory purchase order, if this sad day were to arrive, could have been invested in Radstock. But now, if the land goes, it will go for nothing because NRTC has withdrawn its objection to BANES application to register the land in their name.

Several councillors suggested that anyone complaining should be directing their views at BANES since Radstock is represented on BANES - well, both the BANES Radstock councillors were present and spoke against abandoning the issue - Allan Hall as an NRTC councillor and Eleanor Jackson from the floor in Public Access Time. They had both been elected on platforms highly critical of the NRR but their status as representatives of the people of Radstock was totally ignored by those anxious to get any obstacles to BANES having the land out of the way.

Amongst the highly dubious aspects of the whole matter is the fact that the council asserted that they would need to pay junior counsel to put the case, at an estimated fee of between 100 and 200 per hour - it would be reasonable to employ a solicitor to do it, but the councillors brushed that suggestion aside. Much as they brushed aside the clear evidence that BANES had been given advice as long ago as 2007 that they did not own the land.

When are these same councillors who voted tonight to abandon the fight, ever going to stand up and do something to enhance the town rather than conniving with BANES to destroy it and its history?

How many people knew about tonight's special meeting? Where were the papers published and notice given to the electorate that a serious matter was about to be debated at an unscheduled meeting? Whatever happened to democracy and transparency?

All in all, a sickening way to spend a Monday evening.

Radstock Action Group
28 October 2008


PRESS RELEASE FROM RADSTOCK ACTION GROUP: 19 October 2008

DO THESE SUMS ADD UP? WHAT PRICE THE 'FORMER' RAILWAY LAND?

Here are the facts - as far as we know. We'd welcome any corrections or clarification:

  1. NRR currently owns the 'former railway land, on which they and Bellway are proposing to build houses
  2. If/when these houses are completed, Bellway will have to pay NRR for the land
  3. Before handing over the payment, they will deduct the building costs accrued during the building programme and pay the residue to NRR
  4. NRR will use this money for 'regeneration in the area.

All fine on the surface but there are a number of questions that need answering:

  1. Who will determine how much the land is worth and what will be the date on which the land is valued?
  2. What happens if the value of the land less the amount the building programme cost leaves NRR owing Bellway money, rather than the other way round?
  3. Who is going to bail out the NRR if very little or no money is payable to them or, even worse, if they owe Bellway money?

Radstock Action Group wonders if, yet again, BANES will be paying out for a white elephant which comes in at costs totally at odds with the original estimates. Bellway published its preliminary annual returns last week. One of the headline facts was that in the reporting year they had to make a major writedown of land values (down by 131m) for land they own, so this is bound to impact on the negotiations with NRR if/when the houses are built.

The last thing that Radstock needs is for the town's valuable assets to be written down - so far NRR has done absolutely nothing to regenerate the town, and any decrease in the amount they get from Bellway, in the event of the houses being built, will simply signal further distance between the town's clear need for regeneration and what the NRR can actually deliver.

It appears that no-one is taking responsibility for ensuring that the public money pumped into NRR is being responsibly used - we'd be hard-pressed to find any change or improvement that could be classed as 'regeneration' and executed by NRR. Bellway may well be keen to build on the railway land as it sees social housing as a way of making money in a market where private purchasers are going to be few and far between for the foreseeable future. But their business plans should not be at the expense of Radstock.

Amanda Leon
Radstock Action Group


PRESS RELEASE - Flood Risk in Radstock must be taken into account in all Planning Deliberations

One of the reasons cited for the Dyson plans in Bath hitting the planning buffers was the Flood Risk. Radstock Action Group believes there are equally compelling concerns about the flood risk that exists on the former railway land and which will be increased by the proposed building of houses and a new road.

BANES announced some time ago that further flood risk assessment was being undertaken in Radstock, promising that the results would be published in June; the date was later revised to September. And yet nothing has been available as far as we are aware. It is inconceivable that the Reserved Matters Planning Application should be considered at all until the findings of the latest investigations into the flood risks are fully known and the public given the opportunity to comment on them.

Radstock Action Group will be attempting to get to the bottom of this problem before any meeting of the Development Control Committee considers the NRR/Bellway Reserved Matters application.

We are also keen to resolve the contradictions around the number of homes which NRR/Bellway claim they will be building if the Reserved Matters are ever agreed. When RAG met NRR we were told that, although the outline planning permission was for 83 homes in the current part of the proposed development, NRR/Bellway would only be building 50 at the moment. Doubt now surrounds this claim - either way, we would like clarification - if only 50 homes are proposed and these are to be 'affordable housing' then there is an indisputable risk that the affordable homes will be clumped together in a few blocks. This is contrary to the original undertaking that affordable housing would be pepper-potted across the entire proposed development, in keeping with government guidelines.

We will continue to argue for good quality housing for everyone in Radstock, and pressing for housing only to be built if it matches a commensurate increase in job opportunities - as required by the Regional Spatial Strategy.

Amanda Leon
Radstock Action Group
12 October 2008


IMPORTANCE OF NEW ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT

Cam Valley Wildlife Group is arguing that a further EIA is required for NRR/Bellway application 08/02332/RES. 34Kb pdf [ Download ]

B&NES responded to the Wildlife Groups' statement with the following:
"The Council has issued a Screening Opinion on this application in accordance with the Regulations and has determined that a further Environmental Statement is not required."


WANTED - SOMEONE TO BUILD A SCALE MODEL OF THE PLANS

Radstock Action Group is searching for someone who could help build a scale model of the Bellway/NRR proposed 'development' on the former railway land. Why? Because at the recent Saturday session about the plans, many people said how helpful it would be. Also because, it's only once people get down to the detail that they realise just how unreasonable the proposals are. there are still people who don't realise that the road and housing are going to be right in the middle of our town centre, including the conservation area. Members of the group thought about building the model themselves but soon realised they didn't have the expertise to translate drawings into a scale model - if you have these skills and expertise and you'd be willing to help, then Radstock Action Group would like to hear from you - you can contact us via this website, or by phoning 01761 433070.

RADSTOCK ACTION GROUP TO INTERVENE AT THE DEVELOPMENT CONTROL COMMITTEE MEETING ON WEDNESDAY 1 OCTOBER

This week, on Wednesday, the group is making a statement from the floor to the Development Control Committee on their worries about the Regional Spatial Strategy - there seems to be no-one at a local authority level taking responsibility for ensuring that the Strategy is observed and that its spirit and recommendations are honoured. The group is also preparing its response to the Regional Spatial Strategy - the deadline is 24 October. It is very clear that the current Bellway planning application is at odds with many key facets of the Strategy (and the Local Plan). But is there anyone in overall charge of the rolling out of the Spatial Strategy?

DAN NORRIS TO MEET RADSTOCK ACTION GROUP

On Friday, members of the group will be meeting Dan Norris MP who has invited them to have a 30 minute session before the start of his regular Radstock surgery. If any members of the public are interested in joining us, then they should phone 01761 433070. We're hoping that Dan Norris's views on Radstock will have toughened up a bit - so far he's steadfastly refused to accept that the plans face massive local opposition which he should listen to as the sitting MP.

WHERE'S THE NEW FLOOD RISK ASSESSMENT?

According to the BANES website a new Flood Risk Assessment is imminent - we understand it's been done. The results were originally promised for July, but the current situation is that they can be expected in September - so not much time left.

Displayed prominently on the BANES website is the following statement (our colour and underlining):

Whilst preparation of the B&NES SFRA entailed a level 1 assessment for the whole district, only the River Avon (through Bath & Keynsham) has been subject to a more detailed level 2 assessment.

A Level 2 assessment for the rest of the District, including the Keynsham, Midsomer Norton and Radstock areas, is being commissioned and publication is anticipated in July 2008. Until the level 2 assessment is competed, data sets in the SFRA for these areas must be used with caution. Flood Zones in the SFRA are based on a high-level assessment and are indicative only.

What we all need to know is that the findings are being taken into account before any plans go anywhere. Anyone wishing to see the story so far should go to:
http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/BathNES/environmentandplanning/planning/localplans/ bathnesomersetlocalplan/strategicfloodriskassessment.htm

Press Release issued by Amanda Leon on behalf of Radstock Action Group
28 September 2008


PRESS RELEASE: Plans viewed, chewed over and not approved

On Saturday 20 September, Radstock Action Group mounted a mini-exhibition, at Radstock Methodist Church, of the plans which NRR and Bellway have submitted to BANES as Reserved Matters in relation to the proposed developments on the railway land.

The turn-out was excellent and the members of the Action Group, who were there to talk things over with the many people who called in, were hoarse and happy after three hours of non-stop discussion. Although the event was scheduled to finish at 12.00, lively debate was still going on well after 12.30! It's just a pity that NRR and Bellway have not seen fit to organise a public event at which they could hear what people think. Needless to say, they didn't turn up to this one.

Time and again the concerns of visitors were about the road, the failure to leave open the option for the reinstating the railway link should the plans go ahead, dismay that the affordable housing is of a low quality, and that its design and materials are totally at odds with the character of Radstock, and will be concentrated almost exclusively in a limited number of blocks of flats. People were equally concerned about the threat to the conservation area from heavy traffic and to the natural environment, including valuable species such as bats. They commented repeatedly about the noise that will be generated by the re-routed road, should this go ahead - plus the fumes and other dangers to pedestrians.

And, of course, the question of the lack of consultation and the failure of NRR/Bellway to take on board the priorities of Radstock people was at the forefront of people's anger and frustration.

We know that NRR will argue that the Reserved Matters cannot reconsider all the issues that residents raised, but we maintain that the Reserved Matters have shown clearly a cynical breach of the objectives and detail of the Local Plan and the Regional Spatial Strategy, quite apart from being at odds with the wishes of local people. If NRR/Bellway is so convinced this is right for Radstock then they should organise an event at which they can present their evidence to all those people who turned up on Saturday and anyone else who'd like to hear it straight from the horse's mouth.

At present we would like to hear from BANES or NRR or Bellway on a number of pressing issues like the lack of an Environmental Impact Assessment - made necessary by a recent requirement for all those with outline Planning Permission to secure a new Environmental Impact Assessment. We'd like to know which 50 homes of the 80+ for which they have outline planning permission, they intend building, if their plans go ahead. We'd like to hear from any of the parties about their position on the latest flood risk investigations and when they intend organising a Noise Pollution survey - all central to any developments of the type being proposed.

We will continue to oppose the plans. We saw again that people in Radstock haven't given up and that they have strong views about how the town can be properly and sustainably regenerated in the best interests of residents, businesses and tourism.

That's why we'll be organising another event soon at which everyone can come and debate and formulate more good ideas for the future of Radstock - watch this space.

Amanda Leon (for Radstock Action Group)
21 September 2008