News 1 January 2016
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EU in or out - that is the question?
Scottish born North Somerset MP Liam Fox wants Britain to leave the European Union.
Speaking on BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show this week Dr Fox said he would be willing to stand alongside UKIP leader Nigel Farage and campaign for Brexit – Britain’s exit from the union.
He said: “I took the decision because for me two things had to happen to want to stay in the EU.
“One was a fundamental change in Britain’s relationship with the EU but more importantly a change of direction from the EU away from the concept of ever-closer union.
“That’s clearly not going to happen.”
Dr Fox also voiced his dissent by writing in the Sunday newspapers about his support for leaving the EU amid rumours of cabinet splits within the Conservative Party.
Dr Fox in The Sunday Times said: “Ever since I entered parliament 23 years ago, I have been told that ‘Europe is coming in our direction’.
“It is time to end the pretence - it is not.”
The 54-year-old former defence minister and Nailsea GP, who has represent North Somerset since 1992 said issues such as a single border force meant he no longer wishes for Britain to remain in the EU.
Dr Fox added: “People who want to stay in the European Union aren’t unpatriotic and those who want to leave aren’t idiots.”
He said those wishing to cut ties with Europe – including UKIP – now needed to focus on policy rather than personality.
The Conservative government has promised an in-out referendum on EU membership which is likely to happen in 2016 or 2017.
Prime Minister David Cameron is in talks with EU leaders in Brussels about changing the country’s deal and it is rumoured that three senior cabinet ministers – Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and Theresa Villiers – have intimated they will resign if they are not allowed to freely campaign for Brexit.
But according to Mark Field, a vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, ministers who want to campaign for Britain to leave the European Union should resign and stop ‘undermining’ the PM.
Mr Field has become the first senior party figure to publicly reject calls for a free vote by saying it would be ‘wrong’ for cabinet ministers to be allowed to back exit.
He also openly criticised ‘eurosceptic’ former frontbenchers demanding collective responsibility is waved by that saying they put ‘ministerial careers before principle’ by not backing calls for a referendum while in office.
Mr Field argued that all ministers were elected on a manifesto promise to renegotiate Britain’s membership and hold an In/Out referendum which the government will take a stance on and should continue to ‘stand behind’ that position.
As well as being anti-EU Dr Fox is also against any return to Avon County Council which looked as if it was creeping onto the local council’s agenda with the increasing cooperation between North Somerset Council, Bath and East Somerset Council (BANES), South Gloucestershire Council and Bristol City Council.
This Greater Bristol alliance is already been working together on housing, highways and forward planning.
In mid-December in the House of Commons Dr Fox asked the secretary of state for Communities and Local Government in the Chamber Greg Clark if there was a possibility that Avon County Council which came into being on April 1974 and was abolished on March 1996 could be reinstated?
This is how the exchange was recorded in Hansard:
Dr Liam Fox: South Gloucestershire, Bristol and Bath and North East Somerset councils work very well as a functional unit. Does my right hon. Friend understand that any attempt to reintroduce Avon, directly or through the back door via Treasury pressure, would be regarded as an enormous betrayal, and will he guarantee that it will not happen?
Greg Clark: I can assure my right hon. Friend that I have no intention of reintroducing Avon by the front door, back door or side door.
Nailsea land sale to net millions
Nailsea Town Council could pocket several million pounds if it sells land at Engine Lane for housing.
The town council bought 10-acres of farmland called Gaulacre for £114,000 in 2008 for sport and recreation use.
The Department for Communities and Local Government currently values North Somerset land with residential planning permission at £1,730,000 per hectare making Gaulacre worth a cool £7 million.
Land in Bristol is priced at closer to £2 million per hectare.
The Gaulacre deal would have to include 50-50 split between the town council and the farming family who originally owned the land because of a covenant concerning resale.
However this would still put enough cash in the town council coffers to say buy Youth House or the Royal Oak garage.
There is also a much bigger scheme in the pipeline for 60 acres at Youngwood Lane which if it goes ahead could begin to change the shape of Nailsea as we know it.
Since the 1960s when Nailsea expanded sixfold- from a village to a town of nearly 20,000 residents - its recent history has been of resisting further development.
It was this determination to keep a green barrier between Nailsea and the communities of Backwell and Tickenham that protesters fought proposals for Morgan’s Hill and the Causeway.
The Elms, at Wraxall, did go ahead but now abuts green belt.
Barratt Homes want to build 185 houses on the town council owned land with options for adjourning fields.
Few envisaged Nailsea could join up with Clevedon yet as councillor Phil Barclay warned at the November meeting if this goes ahead there would be nothing stopping development from Engine Lane to the Blue Flame and beyond.
Various options for Gaulacre have been considered in the past eight years including allotments, pitches for Nailsea Junior Football Club, community orchard and wildlife wetland.
Yet despite spending thousands of pounds on ‘green space’ consultants nothing happened due to lack of funds.
Part of the field is leased to Nailsea and Backwell Rugby Club but earlier this year the town council thwarted plans by National Grid to put pylons across Gaulacre instead it negotiated cables buried along Engine Lane.
With the population of Nailsea on the decline and threatening future posterity people are beginning to think some ‘limited’ new homes is an option.
Nailsea Town Council chairman David Packham said: “The population age structure in Nailsea is becoming increasingly unbalanced.
“This has a major impact on our schools, the retail sector, health and leisure.
“There is also the issue of high house prices which makes it very difficult for young people, and especially families, to be able to afford to live in the town.
“Nailsea needs more houses, sooner rather than later, particularly aimed towards the younger generation.”
Mr Packham said it had in mind starter homes for young families and older people wanting to downsize.
He added: “The town council has decided with some reluctance in principle to sell its land on Engine Lane and is in negotiations with Barratt Homes.
“If an appropriate scheme cannot be agreed with Barratts the land could be put on the open market.
“Of course, any development proposal is subject to obtaining planning consent and nearby residents will be consulted before any application is submitted.”
Not on agenda
More than 30 angry Engine Lane residents turned up at the council meeting in mid December to discuss what they see as a contentious land sale.
Among them was Antony Evans.
He said afterwards: “The town council is between a rock and a hard place over the proposal but while the action could upsets nearby residents such a sale could potentially generate a substantial sum of money to use for the greater good.
“The degree to which the council had thought the whole issue through was not clear.
“ It claims that one of the main reasons for the housing was to provide more affordable homes in Nailsea especially for those who are on their own, and to re-balance the ageing population of the town with younger people.
“It goes without saying that all councils are under significant pressure to agree to sanction the building of many more new houses.
“The point was made by Engine Lane residents that such a site, as far away as it is possible to get from the centre of Nailsea and most of its amenities, is not a suitable place for young families or single people and would not integrate the young with the old or ‘re-balance the population’, certainly not geographically.
“Furthermore the site is low-lying, already floods, the building would add to the water run-off into already well filled rhynes at a period in weather history when storms and torrential rainfall are becoming more and more common.
“This development will, the residents emphasised, go against advice not to build on green field sites, not to build on low-lying floodable land, not to build where the existing infrastructure will not support more people and cars, to look after and cherish our green spaces especially on the edges of our towns for agricultural, environmental, recreational reasons and not least for the fresh air we breathe.
“They averred that the land had originally been sold to the council with an express wish that it should be used for recreational purposes and not for more housing, and this seemed to be supported by council minutes and comments from 2008 and 2013.
“The residents denied that the area was not used – it is on a daily basis by ramblers, local farmers for grazing, dog walkers, and horse riders.
“The residents were not persuaded by some councillors’ assertion, stated several times, that ‘we have moved on’, and times change, as a good reason for this development.
“They were similarly unconvinced by the argument that, unless Nailsea’s population increases, our schools will contract and we will lose all our good teachers.”
Nailsea councillors were split and the decision to sell was nine in favour and eight against.
Cllrs Mike Bird, Jeremy Blatchford, Hamblin, Clare Hunt, Rod Lees, Neil Middleton, David Packham, Julie Petford and Anne Tonkin voted for the motion.
Cllrs Jan Barber, Phil Barclay, Mary Blatchford, Anita Heappey, Jane Holt, Saeeda Jameel, Mary Ponsonby and John Wilson voted against the motion.
Barratt plans to submit a detailed consultation scheme in January.
STOP PRESS...STOP PRESS...STOP PRESS
Residents in North Somerset are being urged to have their say about future local housing, employment and transport provision.
The West of England's four councils - North Somerset, Bristol City, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset - are carrying out a major public consultation to help shape the Joint Spatial Plan and Transport Study being developed for the area.
North Somerset Council executive member for strategic planning, highways, transport and housing and economic development Elfan Ap Rees,, who also chairs the West of England Planning, Housing and Communities Board, is urging residents to take the opportunity to give their views.
The council has organised a Nailsea drop-in consultation at the library on Tuesday, January 12 from 10am-noon.
The West of England is growing and economically successful.
The area is worth around £26bn a year to the UK economy and forecasting shows that at least 80,000 more jobs are anticipated by 2036.
An estimated 85,000 new homes are needed in the West of England area during the next 20 years.
With 56,000 currently planned or approved, options on where a further 29,000 homes could be built are being explored.
Cllr Ap Rees said: "I know many residents are concerned how North Somerset can meet the consequent demand for homes and transport infrastructure without infringing on the green belt and other sensitive areas of the district, but if the region is to remain successful it is vital to have those jobs with homes and transport in the right place to accommodate future growth in a sustainable way."
If you are unable to get next week's consultation you can go online by clicking HERE which has information about the options and the various ways you can leave your views.
Police station flats
A formal planning application to build flats for the elderly on the Nailsea police station site was submitted to North Somerset Council was submitted three days before Christmas.
Leading UK retirement house builder McCarthy & Stone want to demolition the police buildings and replace with a three and four storey retirement block with communal facilities and car parking set in landscaped grounds.
Following community consultation the plans were submitted to the district council for the Retirement Living housing which will consist of 40 one- and two-bedroom apartments and 30 car parking spaces.
Feedback from the community indicated more than 70 per cent approval for the proposals with 18 per cent expressing concerns, said the company.
McCarthy & Stone regional managing director Shane Paull said: “We are grateful for the local feedback we have received through our public consultation.
“The input from the community has been valuable in helping to shape our plans for this scheme.
“We have sought to provide a scheme that makes use of this brown field site, respects the surrounding area, and provides an attractive building on the edge of the town centre.
“There is a real need to increase delivery of this type of specialist housing to match the rapidly ageing population and the proposed development would help to meet this housing need.
“As well as boosting the local economy, an additional benefit of this form of specialist housing is that, on moving, residents in later life tend to release under-occupied family housing, which helps to stimulate the housing chain and enable young families and first-time buyers to have a better opportunity within the local housing market.”
Anyone who was unable to attend the exhibition can visit the project’s dedicated website by clicking HERE.
McCarthy and Stone is the UK’s leading retirement house builder with 70 per cent share of the owner-occupied market and since 1977 it has sold 50,000 apartments across more than 1,000 developments.
To comment on the application click HERE.
Fracking fuel on our doorstep
Just days after the British government joined nations from all around the world in agreeing to reduce global carbon emissions, it has voted, not only to allow fracking to take place under national parks, but has also announced a new round of Petroleum Exploration Development Licences (PEDLs) nationwide.
Included ARE 11 newly licenced areas in the West Country.
These licences allow exploration and production of unconventional oil and gas, which may include fracking.
Because these areas are important and special in terms of nature and wildlife, they have recently been subject to assessment under the ‘Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.’
It's not just National Parks that are threatened by fracking after last week's vote in the House of Commons to allow fracking under protected areas.
Fracking will also be allowed under the following protected areas if they lie within a PEDL licence area: Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI’s), Ramsar sites, World Heritage sites, National Monuments, ancient woodland, Special Protection Areas (SPA’s), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC’s) and Groundwater Source Protection Zones (SPZ’s), which are the major aquifers that supply the country with its drinking water. Despite all the evidence submitted during the consultation period by conservation groups and Frack Free Somerset to show the deleterious impact that drilling would have for wildlife in these areas, the government has made it amply clear that it is committed to putting its vested interests in the fracking industry ahead of any serious attempt to create a sustainable future for our children.
Frack Free Somerset is concerned about the air pollution, water contamination, toxic and radioactive waste, health effects and industrialised landscapes that affect the communities in which unconventional gas and oil companies have already been working, and points to the growing body of evidence and peer-reviewed scientific evidence continually emerging from the US and Australia, as proof of the dangers inherent in this industry. Frack Free Somerset is concerned that the seven new licences in North Somerset, just south of Clevedon, through Weston-super-Mare, via Steart marshes, Hinkley Point and onto the edge of Exmoor National Park, pose an enormous threat to the communities and wildlife along the north Somerset coastline.
The four new licenses, east of Frome, which cross over into the Wiltshire border, affect 11 groundwater source protection zones, which we believe should remain free of oil or gas exploitation.
Members of Frack Free Somerset will resist any attempts by the government and unconventional gas and oil companies to impose this toxic industry on our communities, and will be working in close collaboration with anti-fracking groups across the county, including local groups such as Keep Wiltshire Frack Free.
To learn more about this campaign click HERE.
Weston MP John Penrose MP has welcomed news that electronic signs will compare the cost of fuel at motorway service stations for motorists on the M5 from next year.The signs will compare fuel prices at service stations between Bristol and Exeter, so drivers can easily identify the cheapest place to fill up their cars and, in turn, encourage keener price competition between service stations, which have been criticised for higher fuel prices in the past. Five signs will be trailed between Bristol and Exeter, but should the results be positive they could be rolled out nationally.Mr Penrose said: “This is an early new year present for motorists. “We’ve all felt the pressure when the fuel light comes on, but we don‘t know which service station is cheapest. “And the RAC says some charge a premium price of between 10p and 16p a litre more than places a few miles off the motorway. “These signs will solve all that, telling us the fuel costs and distances to each station so we won’t get ripped off in future. “‘Knowledge is power’, as the saying goes, and this puts motorists in charge by giving them both.”
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