News Archive - Page 6
PRESS RELEASE: Rail link for Radstock - a step closer? - 30th November 2009
A major consultation has just ended on the future of rail services in the Great Western region: 'Great Western Rail Ulisation Strategy - Draft for Consultation' (click here to view the Draft)
Radstock Action Group has responded to the document with a proposal that the link between Radstock and Frome should be reinstated. Our response can be downloaded by clicking here. (50Kb pdf)
Radstock is effectively outside any integrated transport policies and isolated, by road congestion, from proper links with the major road corridors (M4 and M5). A renewed link to the rail network which would facilitate travel to London and other major cities without having first to go into Bath or Bristol would encourage businesses to come to Radstock and support the regeneration of the town and, more generally, of the Somer Valley.
We believe that the rail link between Radstock and Frome provides a sustainable, effective way to bring Radstock into the fast growing business and leisure developments of the whole of the South of England from London to Plymouth and look forward to further discussions on this question. it will also introduce some transport infrastructure to an area which is poised for regeneration but which so far has not developed any relevant insfrastructure to support additional jobs and housing.
We urge BANES to take a proactive stance in support of our proposal, whether through the West of England Partnership or other networks working to develop the region.
Radstock Action Group is currently preparing a questionnaire through which we hope to establish that people in the area would make use of this renewed link. Additionally, we will be making representions to the West of England Partnership meeting on 3 December, where the question of the Rail Utillisation Srategy is on the agenda.
Secretary, Radstock Action Group
PRESS RELEASE: Important Dates for the Future of Radstock - Making the Draft Core Strategy fit for purpose - 15th November 2009
The Core Strategy, once agreed, will be the key strategic policy statement for the development of the whole area covered by BANES for the foreseeable future (officially until 2026). Bath and North East Somerset has agreed to hold a public consultation event in Radstock later in November.
Everything is up for discussion - housing, transport, jobs, tourism, history, heritage, the natural environment, education and more. It is really important that as many people as possible comment on the plans.
Everyone is entitled to comment and submissions have to be made by 11 December 2009 to BANES.
SATURDAY 21 NOVEMBER 10.00 TO 12.00 @ RADSTOCK METHODIST CHURCH
Radstock Action Group will be holding a preparatory event on 21 November (morning) at Radstock Methodist Church to enable people to get a foretaste of the proposals and give them more chance of being better equipped to have an informed discussion with the BANES Officers. We'll be asking the public to tell us what they want for Radstock - all suggestions will be gathered and inform our response to the Core Strategy.
Come and see our ideas and add your own - photos, maps, documents all available.
THURSDAY 26 NOVEMBER 17.00 ONWARDS @ RADSTOCK WORKING MEN'S CLUB
17.00 - 19.00: Drop-in session/display
19.00 - 19.20: Presentation from David Trigwell, Divisional Director of Planning and Transport Development and other B&NES Officers
19:20 - 20:30: Questions and Discussion
Secretary, Radstock Action Group
PRESS RELEASE: BANES HAS A CHANGE OF HEART: Radstock will be consulted about the Core Strategy - 26th October 2009
Radstock Action Group is pleased to hear that BANES has finally decided to consult with residents, businesses and anyone else who has an interest in the future development of the town. this despite the council's original decision to ignore the town.
There will be a meeting in Radstock in the second half of November, on the Core Strategy, although no date seems to have been fixed yet. This document will inform all planning proposals for the future of the area covered by BANES.
According to the Introduction, 'The purpose of this Options document is to invite discussion. It suggests Visions, Objectives and alternative otions for the future development needed to meet the economic and community needs of the district ...'
Although Radstock has been ignored time and time again and people may feel that they are banging their heads on the proverbial brick wall, we would urge everyone to come to the meeting and to make their views felt to the BANES representatives.
Radstock Action Group met last week with a range of other groups in the town and we all agreed that we would work to encourage a large response.
The Core Strategy should be available on-line but if you would prefer to have it in an alternative format, you can phone 01225 477548.
Radstock Action Group will be working on its own response to ensure that our support is heard for a sensitively developed town with top quality facilities and affordable housing, in a responsibly managed natural environment.
We will also be asking BANES to mount an exhibition in the town centre and to organise a drop-in around this exhibition, one weekend and in addition to the meeting at which BANES representatives will make a presentation and answer questions.
On behalf of Radstock Action Group
PRESS RELEASE - CORE STRATEGY - Let's put pressure on BANES to include Radstock in consultations - 11th October 2009
Major decisions are looming on the future strategic development of the area covered by BANES.
On 19 October, the authority will publish the Core Strategy. According to the BANES website (click here to view), 'it sets out a number of alternative policy options for further discussion with the local community and other stakeholders and will eventually become the main planning document for BANES.... It will set out the long term spatial vision for Bath & North East Somerset up to 2026 and the broad locations for new housing, jobs and other strategic developments. It will also focus on the delivery of policy objectives and any infrastructure requirements. It suggests Visions, Objectives and alternative options for the future development needed to meet the economic and community needs of the district'. It is difficult to over-estimate the importance of the Core Strategy planning policy document which every unitary authority council is required by government to produce in consultation with local people.
This is clearly very important for Radstock just as it will be for all other areas covered by the authority. We already know from hard copies of the Draft Core Strategy that Norton Radstock will be offered a choice between leaving things pretty much as they are, and taking an increase of 1,700 jobs and houses in the period to 2026. Yet to Radstock Action Group's surprise the initial schedule for consultation with the community involvement does not include a single public meeting in Radstock. Midsomer Norton - yes, Keynsham - yes, Bath - yes, South East Bristol - yes, but Radstock NO.
We understand that there may be a 'drop in session' from 3-7pm in central Radstock in the week of 16 November. However, an evening public meeting like that held in February by Radstock Action Group with David Trigwell, Director of Planning and Transport, would be better. We support the suggestion that Cllr Charles Gerrish, the Cabinet member responsible for the Core Strategy, should be invited to an evening meeting in Radstock, and we will work with local groups, residents and businesses to organise a meeting with as wide a cross-section of the community as possible.
It is a legal requirement that in major planning developments, local people should be involved, so we'd like the opportunity to put forward our positive suggestions and to hear the latest from local authority staff and members. Radstock must not be left out.
On behalf of Radstock Action Group
Press Release: English Heritage throws in its lot with BANES? - 30th August 2009
Radstock Action Group member George Bailey recently contacted English Heritage and explained that he had been reading the Heritage at Risk Register 2009 and was surprised to see no reference to Radstock. He added that the centre of this small town was once described as "the finest preserved mining town in England", but that it is now under threat from insensitive development. He underlined that buildings such as the Victoria Hall have been allowed to fall into structural disrepair by Bath and North East Somerset.
The response from David Stuart, Historic Areas Adviser for English Heritage said: 'Entries for Conservation Areas At Risk in our Heritage At Risk register derive from survey returns carried out by those local planning authorities which designated and are responsible for the conservation areas in question. English Heritage then deemed "At Risk" those conservation areas which, based on the authorities' own assessments, had seen deterioration in the past three years and expected to see more over the next three.'
David Stuart then continued, 'In Radstock's case, Bath and North East Somerset Council stated that while the town had seen some improvement in past years, they anticipated some deterioration in the future, in part due to those developments you allude to. Hence its absence from the Register. (Our bold and italics) The methodology employed initially in what is intended to be an annual exercise is likely to be revised, and this may result in a change in the status of Radstock as far as its potential for At Risk designation is concerned, thus prompting some level of political and executive response to the problem this suggests'.
Furthermore, he commented, 'Otherwise, English Heritage has no powers of direction and there are limits to what we can do to improve the situation you outline in the town apart from help to raise its profile and highlight its historic significance as opportunities arise, and promote good management practice when we can to the local authority and others. Local businesses and residents, as constituents of that authority, can of course exercise their democratic right to lobby individually and collectively for an improvement in the situation through their respective ward members or local MP'.
Radstock Action Group is shocked that BANES appears to be totally complacent about the future of the centre of Radstock, and is willing to admit to the wanton destruction and degradation of the fine buildings that make up the conservation and bordering areas of the town.
This latest development simply underlines the danger to which Radstock is exposed by the unscrupulous plans of BANES which is interested only in the heritage and conservation of Bath itself, choosing to sacrifice equally important but different sites to the ravages of short-term, cheap and offensive development. We suggest it is BANES' responsibility to safeguard the town against deterioration rather than masterminding it.
Radstock Action Group is forwarding the response from English Heritage to BANES for comment.
For Radstock Action Group
Statement made on behalf of Radstock Action Group to NRTC Planning and Environment Committee - 20th July 2009
Press Release: Getting it Right for Everyone in Radstock - 20th July 2009
The proposal to remove the benches from the War Memorial in Radstock is a hasty response to a much bigger issue. Radstock Action Group believes that before such drastic measures are taken, it would be best to consider first, what we would be losing and second, how we can address the problems which have given rise to this proposal.
The Memorial Gardens, including the war memorial itself, have rapidly achieved an important role in the life of the community of Radstock. The benches are there as a community facility and provide a resting point for people who have come into town to do their shopping; they provide a place to relax and talk to friends; they are a stopping place for cyclists and walkers who come into Radstock and pause to admire the town and to have some much needed refreshment, and they enable everyone to enjoy the beautiful park which is growing up around them. The fact that young people go there reflects the fact that this is one of the few places they can gather and that they, according to their own reports, feel it is a safe place for them. This doesn't mean that anyone supports endless loud and disruptive noise late into the night. But it does suggest that there is very little for young people to do in town, despite some excellent initiatives.
Before we reach a point where we remove the benches - something that would only lead to all the young people having to go somewhere else - we would suggest that Norton Radstock Town Council opens a dialogue with all residents about what can be done to improve the situation without removing some of the very few facilities on offer for residents and visitors alike. The idea that there are other benches available in the nearby park is simply to shunt the problems along without addressing them. For most of the time and for most people the benches provide a quiet social space and a place to refresh and reflect; the inevitable result of the removal of the benches would be another proposal to remove more benches in other places.
We don't want local residents to be disturbed but neither do we want the young people of Radstock to be driven away. There are plenty of ways at the disposal of the police and other local agencies, to ensure that the noise can be stopped and we would like them to be used. Much of the debate around the future of Radstock centres on providing housing, jobs and facilities for young people who might otherwise have to move away. The young people of Radstock are the future of the town and we want to encourage them to stay and be active partners in developing a first class environment for everyone.
For Radstock Action Group
Press Release: Outstanding Issues Yet to be Resolved but Go-ahead for NRR Near to Agreed - 12th July 2009
At last Wednesday's BANES Development Control Committee, members voted unanimously to accept the latest application from NRR/Bellway for the housing estate they wish to build on Radstock Railway Land. But there were conditions attached. At the start of the discussion, the chair indicated that the committee could only vote to be 'minded' to accept the application (owing to certain legal issues) and this is exactly what they did.
The outstanding business, which has still to be resolved, relates to certain legal matters raised by Cam Valley Wildlife Group. According to the BANES Case Officer, 'This relates to representations made on behalf of the Cam Valley Wildlife Group in relation to the outline planning permission, the Environmental Statement and European law with particular reference to the issue of bats.'
Nothing can happen until these matters are resolved.
Meanwhile, it is worth pointing out that, despite some token, cosmetic changes to the previous application, the plans remain intact - there will be a second rate housing development, with a totally unnecessary new road, right in the middle of Radstock.
Directors of the NRR turned out to support the application. The only person other than the NRR representatives, to speak in favour of the plans was a business man/resident from Midsomer Norton. Catherine Whybrow (NRR) suggested that those opposing the plans were resorting to complaining about small details - Radstock Action Group regards the current plans as wholly unacceptable and certainly not a recipe for regeneration. It's far from small details that we're concerned about.
If the plans are eventually agreed, Radstock Action Group will be seeking meetings with Bellway in the hope of opening a dialogue on how their proposals could better serve the wishes of Radstock residents and traders. We need to defend our town from unscrupulous, low budget ideas - we hope Bellway will understand ..... if the NRR ever allows them to talk to us.
For Radstock Action Group
Radstock Action Group's letter to Development Control Committee Members - 7th July 2009
Dear Member of the Development Control Committee
Radstock Railway Land Application 08/02332/RES
First of all, Radstock Action Group would like to thank you for taking our (and others') objections sufficiently seriously at the last Development Control Committee where this matter was discussed, to request further discussions.
We are sorry that the latest response from the applicants (Bellway and Norton Radstock Regeneration Company) has done very little to address the reservations that were apparent at the last debate.
We'd like to draw your attention to the submission we have made opposing the application which will be before you at the Development Control Committee tomorrow.
If you have not already read the papers from us, they can be accessed by going to the front page of our website: www.radstockactiongroup.org.uk.
When the committee last considered the application on these Reserved Matters, in April this year, members were sufficiently concerned to decide that the application should go back to the applicants for further negotiation. Particularly on matters relating to the appearance of the development which, you will remember, is in the middle of Radstock, adjacent to the much lauded conservation area which is the heart of the town.
We were disappointed at the time that the Planning Officer for the case was not present at the meeting. We are now doubly disappointed that the 'revised' plans are only slightly revised and that central issues such as the inappropriate materials being used, have not been adequately addressed.
In fact, we wonder whether the Planning Officer was given an adequate account of the reasons why the Development Control Committee had not agreed to the application. We doubt whether he would be giving the endorsement he has in his current report, if he had been properly aware of the strong views of the committee.
Councillors are well aware that Radstock is greatly valued by its residents, by its businesses and by visitors. This development will jeopardise its special character and get in the way of a more strategic approach to the future of the whole area.
We are particularly concerned that since the last Development Control Committee where Radstock was discussed, several issues have arisen which have or might in the future have a material impact on the strategic development of the town:
- BANES has initiated a strategic review of the 'three market towns' of Radstock, Keynsham and Midsomer Norton. We believe that there is little point in restricting the possibilities by pursuing this current application when other important directions are being discussed. We would question the worth of a new consultancy for BANES if it is going to be limited by the unimaginative and unsustainable character of the current application
- National discussions about the future regeneration of the railways have included the Radstock to Frome link which has been prioritised by ATOC (the Association of Train Operating Companies). The current proposals would certainly make the railway regeneration impossible
- RADCO (the Radstock Cooperative) which currently occupies a large central site in the town is apparently considering relocating, thus freeing up their current land for other purposes. We suggest it would be more logical to await further developments rather than limit the flexible options created by such a move; now is the time to reject the current reserved matters
- There has been a new traffic survey the results of which are, as yet, not clear.
Given the fact that all these elements will be key to the development of Radstock, we suggest it would be far more logical and strategic to refrain from making any further, almost irreversible decisions about the current proposals.
No authority should deliberately ignore the considered opinions of residents and businesses in an area up for discussion. Neither should any authority flout the strategic policies which exist to enhance their region - in this case the Local Plan, which has been consistently breached in these proposals.
We assure you that we are not against development. We recognise the urgent need for proper enhancement of the town and all its cultural and natural assets. We would like to have the opportunity to discuss our aspirations for our town with you, so that we can move forward with a progressive, sensitive set of proposals to support the future prosperity of our community.
We urge members to reject this latest version of a totally unsympathetic and unsustainable application which will damage Radstock's heritage and natural environment, compromise future strategic plans and do nothing to provide quality, affordable housing for local people.
Secretary, Radstock Action Group
Radstock Action Group's response to the latest version of 08/02332/RES - 6th July 2009
Cam Valley Wildlife Group's response to the Reserved Matters application 08/02332/RES - 30th June 2009
Statements from Radstock Action Group on Reserved Matters 08/02332/RES
Statements made on behalf of Radstock Action Group to the Norton Radstock Town Council meeting of 29th June 2009 can be downloaded below:
Press Release: Are Bellway/NRR plans being rushed through? - 28th June 2009
Amongst all the paperwork submitted in the latest attempt by the NRR to get agreement to the plans for the railway land in Radstock, there are very few new documents. The only changes appear to be to the amount of wooden cladding remaining on the blocks - it now seems to be concentrated on the two blocks reserved for social housing, as opposed to those which will be offered for sale.
Radstock Action Group would like to know what exactly the following sentence, amongst others of equally unplain English, means under the heading Justification of Design Approach for Use of timber Boarding on Facades of Flats ...
"The timber boarding will emphasise the architectual massing on the 'monopitch' gable ends and the bays that project over the front entrances."
Really? At least, they now feel that they have to justify such proposals which are totally at odds with the character of the centre of Radstock which doesn't feature any wood cladding at all.
When Norton Radstock Town Council is asked yet again, at short notice, on Monday 29 June, to consider these plans, it will do so without having had the opportunity to discuss them in the NRTC Planning and Environment Committee, since there has been insufficient notice from BANES. It is to be hoped that their opposition to the proposals will be maintained and that this time their voice will be heard at BANES level. Norton Radstock Town Council are statutory consultees and we are concerned that they are being given insufficient lead-in time to deal properly with the latest developments. We also wonder what the urgency is, given the lack of a bat survey and an archaeology survey, both of which are required before anything can happen.
Meanwhile, Radstock Action Group is putting together a portfolio of the best of Radstock's heritage buildings and supporters will be asked to let us have any information and records of interesting aspects of these buildings to contribute to the final publication. We are also putting together a complete set of positive ideas and proposals for the future redevelopment of the whole town. So watch this space.
For Radstock Action Group
Press Release: Latest on Bellway Application - not much sign of consultation here - 22nd June 2009
Last Wednesday, people who have found their way onto the BANES mailing list will have received notification of the latest proposals from NRR/Bellway in relation to the Radstock Railway site. But they haven't given those interested in looking at the plans much time - fourteen days from the date of the letter to be precise. Which means all comments have to be in by 30 June - and as far as we know there are no plans yet available in the Victoria Hall.
In the interests of community involvement and consultation, it is essential that BANES makes all residents and businesses aware of the latest plans by site notices, posters, announcements in the press and other media, but as things stand at present, only those who are already on the mailing list will be aware of the latest.
Additonally, Radstock Action Group wonders what the reason for this great haste is - with all sorts of possible developments emerging in relation to the Radco site and other related developments, it seems quite ridiculous that BANES, Bellway, NRR and all other interested parties can't sit down now and look at the overall long term and strategic development needs of the town.
Radstock Action Group will be urging all supporters to let their views be known and, in the absence of any announcements from BANES, we would encourage everyone to look at the latest proposals at: www.bathnes.gov.uk/BathNES/environmentandplanning/ majordevelopments/Radstock+Railway+Land+Redevelopment.htm (Reference 08/02332/RES). Apparently the plans are also available in Keynsham and Bath ...
For Radstock Action Group
Press Release: Victory for Radstock at the Development Control Committee - 19th April 2009
The Development Control Committee wants to think twice about the current NRR planning application - just time to celebrate before continuing the campaign.
Last Wednesday (15 April), the BANES Development Control Committee agreed by a convincing majority (only one against and one abstention) that they would defer a decision on the NRR/Bellway application in relation to the Railway Land in Radstock.
This marks a significant step forward and reflects the continued opposition of Radstock residents, traders and visitors to the plans. Radstock people have maintained the pressure - we'll have to continue to do so.
No-one can afford to be complacent, the plans have not been rejected (yet) and are being sent for 'further negotiation'. But what was encouraging was that the councillors on the committee had clearly taken on board the arguments put forward by Radstock Action Group and many others who have voiced opposition to the current 'regeneration' plans. Radstock was being taken more seriously, people have begun to appreciate that there are is something special about the town and that it deserves detailed consideration.
Radstock Action Group's demonstration outside the Guildhall was well attended and also attracted a lot of supportive comments and questions from passers by. Shame that the council has now discovered a reason why protestors can't hang their banners and placards on the railings. The group was thrilled to be joined by members of 'Save Warmley and Siston Greenspaces' who had heard what was going on through the ever growing network of groups fighting inappropriate development and 'regeneration'.
We were particularly pleased to see that Geoff Webber (the BANES Officer charged with presenting the case for acceptance) had lifted some of our some illustrations about the real Radstock as opposed to the mediocrity of the designs in the planning application. Those interested in viewing all these for themselves, can do so by clicking here.
The group has written to Les Kew, the chair of the committee, requesting some indication of the timescale for the next stages. A lot more work remains to be done on this very specific application, and we will be asking supporters for further help in the fight. A big thank you to everyone.
Midsomer Norton - don't go for UDI - there may be safety in numbers!
Radstock Action Group is unconvinced that a separate council for Midsomer Norton is going to be helpful either for them or for Radstock. More than anything, we recognise that each town has a separate and distinctive history, heritage and culture, and we will not be letting up on our determination to preserve and enhance Radstock.
Whatever it's failings, it is the responsibility of electors to ensure that Norton Radstock Town Council works effectively to gain recognition for all the communities which fall within its area. If things have been lack lustre up to now, then they need changing and those who have become disillusioned need to be encouraged to take part in local politics. The town council provides a potentially useful umbrella/banner for issues which both towns need to act on, such as transport strategy, safeguarding of the respective town halls, flood risks and, not least, the NRR. Because let no-one be under any illusions, NRR will have Midsomer Norton in its sights if it gets away with spoiling Radstock through insensitive and economically unsustainable 'regeneration'.
Together, the two towns can share strengths in addressing the problems that come into the area from a Bath dominated BANES (which must be rubbing its hands in glee at the prospect of the splitting of NRTC). Norton Radstock Town Council might often be ineffectual - it is up to those who care about the communities it is supposed to serve to get it working for those same communities.
For Radstock Action Group
Addition to website: Frequently Asked Questions about the NRR/Bellway plans
Frequently asked questions about the proposed new development. [ read more ]
Addition to website: What makes Radstock special and what NRR/Bellway is thinking of doing next - an illustrated guide
Pairs of images illustrating the design style the Development Control Committee are thinking of including in the new development. [ read more ]
Press Release: Radstock Action Group set to oppose the planning application this week - 13th April 2009
On Wednesday 15 April, the Development Control Committee of Bath and North East Somerset will, once again, be asked to approve a planning application from the Norton Radstock Regeneration Company and Bellway in relation to the Radstock Railway Land.
We'll be outside the Guildhall in Bath from about one o'clock and have requested speaking rights in the Committee meeting - normally only three minutes per application is allowed, but the chair can rule otherwise on the day, so we're hoping to be able to make a number of points.
We urge the Councillors on the Committee to reject this proposal and help to get a constructive and genuine regeneration plan for Radstock on the table - as opposed to the 'degeneration' plan, featuring some second-rate overcrowded dwellings and nothing else.
We, like everyone else in Radstock, want to see improvements, not the destruction of the beautiful town centre and the surrounding natural environment which is the only possible outcome if the current plans are approved. It's not too late for BANES to acknowledge the overwhelming opposition to the current plans and to hear what residents and traders in the town really want - sympathetic development which enhances the town centre, including the conservation area, good quality affordable housing for local people, the chance to develop further the town's tourist potential and responsible transport planning - No to the new road and Yes to the reinstatement of the rail link to Frome.
The Development Control Committee will be at the Guildhall in Bath at 2pm on Wednesday 15 April.
For Radstock Action Group
PRESS RELEASE: PLANNING MEETING APPROACHING - 5TH APRIL 2009
Intrepid BANES Councillors to make site visit to Radstock ahead of Committee Meeting
On the morning of Monday 6 April, councillors from the BANES Development Control Committee (ie Planning) are making a site visit to Radstock in connection with the soon-to-be-heard application from NRR/Bellway. Hopefully, they'll realise just how out-of-order the latest application is and will give themselves a chance to look at the potential for positive development that exists in the centre of town.
Date for Planning Hearing confirmed
The latest application in relation to the NRR/Bellway proposals for the 'regeneration' of the Radstock Railway Land will be heard by the BANES Development Control Committee on Wednesday 15 April at 2pm at the Guildhall in Bath. Great timing - during the Easter holidays.
Radstock Action Group will be there to make the case for throwing out this latest insensitive and badly thought out apology for a regeneration scheme.
Information Pack being prepared
The group is preparing a pack for each member of the committee with illustrations showing exactly how special the centre of Radstock is and highlighting some of the shortcomings in the design proposals for building up to 83 'units' on the site bang in the middle of town. We use the word 'unit' a the only one even remotely accurate in relation to the plans - let's be clear, these are not serious quality homes for local people but low quality cynical responses to housing need for which they presumably are hoping to access government funding. Radstock Action Group is all in favour of affordable housing but we think that those who would be living in it deserve good standards, designs, space and facilities - none of these are evident in the current plans.
The pack will also contain other information, including a sheet containing key frequently asked questions (and answers) about this plan.
Welcome for councillors at Guildhall
And Radstock Action Group will be there outside the Guildhall from about 1.15 on 15 April to welcome all the committee members as they arrive for the vote. Anyone who has the time is welcome to join us with banners and placards.
Real Regeneration at the Heart of Radstock Action Group wish list for the town
The fight will go on to enhance Radstock, to keep it special, to create quality homes and work for local people and to make it an even more popular tourist destination, by developing its cultural heritage, its small scale and varied shops, and its precious natural environment. We'll continue to campaign for the re-establishment of the rail link to Frome and for much needed homes and jobs.
The best result from the meeting would be that councillors throw out this backward looking and inappropriate plan and accept our invitation to come to Radstock and involve local people in meaningful dialogue about how to construct a real regeneration plan for the town, rather than the current degeneration plan being foisted on the locals by NRR and national builder Bellway.
Issued by Amanda Leon for Radstock Action Group
PRESS RELEASE: DATE FOR DECISION ON RADSTOCK RAILWAY LAND - 31ST MARCH 2009
Important news for all those not privy to the inner gossip circles of BANES and to those who do not spend all their waking hours scouring the BANES website!
According to rumours circulating and to an obscure page on the BANES website, the Development Control Committee will consider the latest stage of the planning application by NRR/Bellway on Wednesday 15 April.
Geoff Webber (BANES Senior Professional - Major Developments) wasn't so sure when he wrote to Radstock Action Group on 26 March, in response to a letter we had sent to the case officer, David Audsley. He simply said the meeting would be in the 'near future'.
Radstock Action Group is calling on supporters to join the meeting whenever and wherever it takes place, to make it clear to councillors that this development is not welcome. Instead we want them to hear that Radstock deserves better than a crowded, nondescript housing estate which will not provide good quality homes or bring the jobs which the strategic plans for the area require whenever new housing is built. We will continue our fight for homes that fit with the conservation area, for the reinstatement of the railway to Frome, for responsible management of the wildlife, for an end to the ridiculous road scheme which will kill off the town traders and for preservation of the Victoria Hall.
As soon as we have confirmation of the date, the time and the venue we will be calling on all those who can make it to turn up and show their views on the matter.
Unfortunately, in the truly undemocratic fashion that we associate with BANES, many people will be away or looking after children as the apparent rumoured date is the Wednesday after Easter Bank Holiday - the case officer is on leave, just for a start.
Details will be posted on our website.
for Radstock Action Group
PRESS RELEASE: WHERE'S THE LOGIC - OR ARE WE ASKING TOO MUCH? - 22ND MARCH 2009
A Traffic Survey for What?
Whilst a new traffic survey suggests that something may be getting through to the Bath brigade in BANES, there is still plenty of evidence that the planning process for the so-called 'regeneration' of Radstock, is not involving local people, whether residents, traders or visitors. Radstock Action Group was very pleased to hear that a new traffic survey/transport modelling, is being undertaken by BANES for Radstock.
Anyone in town on Thursday between the hours of seven and seven would have noticed the traffic count going on. We understand from our meeting with David Trigwell last week, that it will be used in planning for transport matters up to 2026. Where does this leave the current proposals to run a new road through the centre of town, effectively guaranteeing the demise of the shops and contrary to good practice which demands that through traffic is kept out of town centres?
There have been strong denials that this new survey indicates a softening of the line on the current ridiculous plans, but what's the point of a new traffic survey on current roads, if we are about to see the total reconfiguration of traffic movements in Radstock?
Planning Practice - a flexible friend?
One of the key points repeatedly made by BANES is that there can be no variation of the Section 106, which governs the conditions of any major planning projects, once passed. We argue that the plans are so far from the original as to require a total rethink, and, in addition, we now know that BANES has recently considered a proposal to vary the terms of a Section 106 in Keynsham - this proposal was not ruled out of order and has created a precedent for the reconsideration of other Section 106 agreements, so let's get the Radstock one reconsidered.
Further evidence that there is little appetite for democratic action and involvement came last week with the news that the BANES Development Control Committee will hear the latest Radstock 'regeneration' proposals in the week of Easter Monday, when the planning officer, like half the world, is on holiday. Good eh? We've asked BANES to comment, but so far, there has been no reply.
This on top of the fact that, as usual, the meeting will be in Bath presumably - or maybe they'd like to hold this meeting in Radstock close to the views of those who will have to live with these decisions.
for Radstock Action Group
RESPONSE TO PLANNING APPLICATION 08/02332/RES IN RELATION TO RAILWAY LAND - 20TH MARCH 2009
for Radstock Action Group
NEW MEETING WITH BANES for RADSTOCK ACTION GROUP - 17TH MARCH 2009
On Tuesday 17 March, members of Radstock Action Group met with David Trigwell, Head of BANES Transport and Planning, and two of his colleagues, Kaoru Jacques and Rab Smith. The three members of planning came to Radstock again following the public meeting held in January.
David Trigwell listened to our comments about the serious situation facing Radstock and its future and our frustration at being told that nothing that has already been agreed can be undone, although it appears that Bellway could technically change its plans. We talked to them about our plans for developing a town which meets the needs and wishes of local people, traders and visitors.
We asked about the new transport modelling which is about to start and which will include traffic monitoring around Radstock - it seems that this, whatever it proves, cannot influence any decision on the future possible road carrying traffic through the centre of town from the Frome Road, but that it can be used further into the future.
This seems slightly perverse - is there any point in going ahead with a road which doesn't meet needs and movements likely to be identified through the new transport modelling - and what a pity none was done prior to the agreement to the plans that have got Radstock into this mess.
Notwithstanding these problems, it was encouraging to see three important members of the BANES planning set-up in Radstock for the second time in as many months. We are going to continue to talk to them and to feed our views into their planning processes. We will also be organising events for the people of Radstock to add their views as the debate develops. At the least, we seem to have a new willingness on the part of some people to take Radstock into account.
A full report on our meeting will be on the website later this week.
Amanda Leon for Radstock Action Group
PRESS RELEASE: ROAD TO DAMASCUS MOMENT FOR BANES? - 10TH MARCH 2009
According to the Somerset Guardian article, 'Regeneration of town centre hit by delays', (5 March 2009) Radstock's regeneration project might be facing a few hitches. Not a moment before time.
- We welcome the apparent progress in BANES - John Betty says there is a need for modelling work for Midsomer Norton and Radstock 'to enable a detailed assessment of the impact of new development on the existing transport networks'. Well Radstock residents have been saying this for a very long time and Radstock Action Group is glad to have a convert at the highest level.
- But what is really stunning is that nothing of this type was undertaken in the lead up to the original planning application by NRR/Bellway nor insisted on by BANES. Neither Bellway/NRR nor BANES is showing even a hint of embarrassment at their total failure to adhere to the most basic of rules in relation to planning - gathering information, data, commissioning modelling and projections prior to application, let alone approval of plans.
- The question now is, 'Where does this leave the current planning application?' Residents and traders in Radstock have been arguing ever since the new road scheme was first proposed that it could do nothing but damage, if not entirely destroy Radstock, and its beautiful town centre, with its conservation area and nationally recognised cultural heritage sitting within an area of environmental value and interest, the home to valuable species of plants and animals, all of which stand to lose out if the road is ever built - and that's on top of the inevitable congestion and pollution which will be produced by runnning main road, through traffic along the streets of the town centre.
- Three parties are involved in the road plan (NRR, Bellway, BANES) and yet each of them says that even though they are not in favour of the road, the other two are and they have no power to stop it going ahead - it's not true, they could stop it and it's time for them to sit down together and thrash out a solution to the chaos - it is to be hoped that John Betty's call for some modelling work will help them in their discussions.
In addition to these specific issues relating to the road, we were entertained to read that NRR chair, Cate Le Grice-Mack has explained to the Guardian that 'As the project continues to advance, NRR's intention to reinvest any profit into the community remains as strong as ever, and we (NRR) have recently reduced our administration costs to assist with this'. We assume she is referring to the closure of the NRR office in favour of operating from a Wells Post Office Box, coupled with the apparent departure of the staff. Perhaps Cate Le Grice-Mack would like to reveal the savings from such actions - we can't believe that the sums of money involved are really going to fund the regeneration of Radstock.
Victoria Hall not for sale - well not this week anyway
BANES was good enough to send us a copy of the letter Malcom Hanney, BANES deputy leader, has submitted to the Somerset Guardian about their intentions regarding the Victoria Hall. We didn't find the contents reassuring.
- At the Norton Radstock Town Council meeting of 9 February, councillors considered a letter from BANES which referred to the Victoria Hall's future being considered in relation to wider regeneration, with hints that occupancy by the town council at low rent was certainly far from certain. Should the council be forced, for practical/financial reasons, to move out, this could jeopardise the financial viability of the building. Nothing in Malcolm Hanney's letter counters fears that the longer term future of Victoria Hall has yet to be secured for residents, visitors and traders.
- Malcolm Hanney seeks to reassure readers that 'any fears on the part of the Town Council that the building will be sold to meet BANES debts are unfounded'. But there are no assurances that it won't be sold for other reasons. Radstock Action Group doesn't believe that the Victoria Hall should be BANES property to sell under any circumstances, having fallen into their hands by administrative changes to local government structures. BANES never paid a penny for the building so they should certainly not be able to even contemplate selling it, let alone pocketing the proceeds.
- The Victoria Hall is part of the heart of Radstock and belongs to the residents of the town in the broadest possible sense. It is essential that its future as a community resource is guaranteed and that adequate funds are made available to ensure it is restored to good condition.
The letter boasts of £40,000 of repairs/maintenance having been done by BANES last summer - fine and we should be grateful (well a bit). But this £40,000 is not in the same league as the £300,000 identified as being needed in 2005 by the Symons report which was commissioned by NRTC. BANES has not monitored the building for damp, for cracks, for other sources of building degradation and the result is that the building becomes ever more at risk of major structural damage and, we don't have firm facts to enable action to be taken to safeguard this irreplaceable venue/resource.
At the bottom of his less than reassuring letter, Mr Hanney mentions the Town Centre Vision Stakeholders Group - this group is not active, though a meeting is promised towards the end of April - the stakeholders who have been invited to the 'feast' are BANES, Norton Radstock Town Council, RADCO, NRR and Somer Valley Partnership - now there's a truly representative group .... the track record of most of these organisations doesn't guarantee that they will represent the views of Radstock Residents and Traders.
Radstock Action Group will shortly be meeting again with David Trigwell from BANES and his team, following the public meeting held earlier this year.
For Radstock Action Group: Amanda Leon
PRESS RELEASE: VICTORIA SQUARE PUBLIC TOILETS - 17TH FEBRUARY 2009
Last summer, members of Radstock Action Group attending an NRTC meeting were shocked to hear, without any prior discussion, that the public toilets in Radstock were to be closed. At this week's Planning and Environment Committee Meeting, there was an agenda item from BANES asking for comments on the arrangements to do a deal with RADCO so that their own toilets would be made public toilets, in return for some remuneration from BANES. Progress of a sort, in that BANES seems suddenly to have remembered the magic word 'consultation' but it is far too late as everything is now virtually decided.
Radstock Action Group agrees with councillors who expressed concern that those using the toilets in RADCO would have to pay £1 to park and then, spend a pound in the store in order to recoup their outlay. But this is only one aspect of this matter. In addition:
- The decision to close the public lavatories was taken on the grounds that there were concern about abuse of the facilities and related anti-social behaviour - so all the residents and visitors to Radstock are punished rather than the council looking at the social causes for such behaviour and taking appropriate action to address the underlying causes of such anti-social behaviour.
- Having the public toilet facilities in RADCO will mean people have to go in there and then shop if they wish to recoup their parking fee. Where does this leave all the other traders in Radstock? At a disadvantage, of course.
- Radstock is allegedly at the centre of a range of strategic initiatives in planning and regeneration terms. Sadly this latest decision about the toilets reflects a total lack of strategic planning by the authority. Radstock Action Group has maintained for some time that all that is certain with the current proposals for town centre development is that it amounts to nothing other than a housing estate with no infrastructure or community facilities. Plus a road that no-one wants and which will lead to the decline of the conservation area that it will run through. Here, in this latest fiasco, is more evidence (as if it were needed) that there are no serious strategic goals for regeneration, that regeneration is not a reality.
- We believe that Radstock has a great future as a tourist centre with a varied retail set up plus many interesting tourist sights. Our small traders provide many vibrant, small scale and friendly services to shoppers and we think that a public toilet facility is a logical part of this scenario.
Recently, at a Radstock Action Group public meeting, David Trigwell from BANES talked about the town becoming a strategic site in the regional Core Strategy - yes very interesting and worthy of serious discussion. But can we really have any faith in a council which can't think further than another step in the decrease in infrastructure and a move to house public toilets in a private business on a five year initial contract?
We hope that all Radstock councillors will respond to the request for comments on the proposal to close the Victoria Square toilets and use RADCO - let's see the costings for some alternatives. Let's see if BANES is serious about regeneration of our town.