Background to the threat posed to Radstock
Radstock is the historic centre of the former North Somerset Coalfield. Its unique wildlife habitats, its acclaimed town centre, now a conservation area, its industrial heritage and its chances of a renewed rail-link are under continuing severe threat from inappropriate building and development.
An alliance of the local authority (Bath and North East Somerset), the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA), the organisation charged with 'regeneration' (Norton Radstock Regeneration Company) and a national builder (Bellway) have been pursuing 'regeneration plans' which would decimate the centre of this town described by English Heritage as 'one of the best preserved mining towns in the country' and awarded conservation area status in 1999 by the very local authority now intent on wrecking it.
The current situation is fluid as the Regional Development Agency is being abolished and Bellway has pulled out of the proposed development. This does not mean that the threat to Radstock has disappeared. Local authority BANES (Bath and North East Somerset) and the NRR (Norton Radstock Regeneration Company) have already stated that they intend looking for a new partner with whom they can continue the redevelopment plans.
Under the plans, a totally new main road carrying through traffic (including 40 tonne trucks) will pass immediately in front of the town hall, and down the main street, through the heart of the conservation area. None of these historic buildings is robust enough to withstand this sort of activity; through traffic currently bypasses the conservation area. The exceptional wildlife value of an ex-railway land site is to be destroyed, threatening extinctions in Somerset and Britain and the loss of the only known good, and therefore viable, population of the Blue Carpenter Bee in the South West region. Along with it will go the bulk of the remaining railway heritage of Radstock. It would also destroy the opportunity of restoring the rail link to Frome and beyond, restricting opportunities for local people.
The Planning Inspectorate has said there should be no more than 50 houses built on this historic site in order to preserve the wildlife conservation value of the land and the benefits this would bring - Bath and North East Somerset Council is set to agree to 210.
Local businesses and residents have repeatedly expressed total opposition to the plans, but their views are ignored by decision makers. Small communities do not have at their disposal the massive resources of a Sheffield, a Glasgow or a Newcastle. Nonetheless, regeneration must start by sensitive engagement with those whose histories and futures lie in these many small towns, where resources are at a premium.
So far, none of those in power have been prepared to contemplate embracing policies that put people at the centre of plans or to ensure that rather than dividing and destroying small communities, they promote sustainable, intelligent and real regeneration instead of providing more dormitory housing and roads for workplaces further afield. If the development goes ahead, it will be a national travesty. Radstock Action Group wants to change this situation.
If you wish to financially support the work of the Group, please send a cheque, made payable to RADSTOCK ACTION GROUP, to Treasurer, Radstock Action Group, 8 Colliers Rise, Radstock BA3 3AU. (If you would like to receive a receipt, please include your name and address.)