News 1 March 2016
Ding, dong Avon calling
Oh the games politicians play - two decades ago Avon County Council was abolished and now it looks as if it is coming back – in a different guise of course and with a £1 billion ‘bribe’ to make it happen.
Avon came into its powers on April 1, 1974 and was abolished on March 31, 1996.
It was at that time the only non-metropolitan county in south west England.
It was replaced with four authorities: Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire Council, North Somerset Council and Bath & North East Somerset Council.
But now the government is offering a devolution deal to boost the West of England economy with the added bonues of a metro mayor.
Chancellor George Osborne revealed in his budget speech this week a sweetener of more than £1 billion worth of investment and promises of new opportunities for businesses and residents.
Supported by the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, five council leaders including the Bristol mayor have negotiated with the government for more powers, funding and responsibilities to the region.
But before it goes ahead it has to be considered by all four councils.
The move would represent a major change bringing decisions to this Greater Bristol alliance on:
A joint statement said: “The West of England is the most productive city region outside of London, with a number of flourishing sectors.
“These including creative, health, advanced engineering, aerospace, food and drink, business services such as legal, property and insurance and a growing ‘low carbon’ technologies and services industry.
“The deal could mean a significant boost to economic growth and prosperity for businesses and citizens.
West of England strategic leaders board chairman Tim Warren who is Conservative group leader and chairman of Bath & North East Somerset Council said: “I’m pleased that the chancellor has recognised that there is a case in the West of England for a devolution deal to build on the area’s very successful local economy.
“The deal would bring over £1bn of investment, which would allow the region to bring forward some important infrastructure projects.”
West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) interim chair Robert Sinclair said: “Businesses in the West of England are very supportive of this ambitious devolution deal which transfers new strategic powers and responsibilities to local decision-makers.
“Importantly, we see a critical need for investment in major infrastructure projects to unblock congestion and drive economic growth and prosperity in this vibrant region of the UK.
“The deal will build on the successful joint working arrangements in place, be a real catalyst for sustainable, long-term growth and ensure the West of England can reach its full potential as the most productive economy outside London and a great place to live and work."
Chancellor George Osborne said: “When I delivered my Budget today I said that believing in our United Kingdom is not the same as believing that every decision should be taken in London.
“That is why this government is overseeing the most radical transfer of power to our different nations, great cities and counties in modern British history.
“Today for the first time we have reached agreement for the West of England authorities to all be part of our devolution revolution.”
The Rt. Hon. Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said: “The West of England already offers significant opportunities across a range of innovative industries – we’re determined to ensure this success continues for years to come.
“Today’s historic devolution deal does exactly that, transferring a host of powers from Whitehall directly to local people who know their area best so they can shape its future, through more homes, better transport links and improved skills provision.
“By agreeing this deal and the proposed creation of the new Combined Authority, local leaders will be at the forefront of driving economic growth for the area.”
The agreement will see:
The creation of a West of England Investment Fund to deliver infrastructure to boost economic growth. Government will provide £30m a year for funding towards this fund for 30 years, or £900m. Additional sums from other sources take the total over and above £1 billion;
Devolution of multi-year transport budgets, enabling the area to deliver more ambitious transport projects with greater certainty. This will be coupled with further powers over transport including the ability to franchise bus services and responsibility for a Key Routes Network of roads;
Responsibility for the new Adult Education Budget from 2018-19, helping the West of England ensure that adult skills provision meets the needs of local businesses and learners;
Enhanced powers to speed up the delivery of new housing where most needed and resist unsustainable developments that are not in line with jointly agreed planning policies;
Closer cooperation between government and the West of England on promoting trade and investment with the region;
Co-design with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) of the new National Work and Health Programme focusing on supporting those with a health condition or disability and the very long-term unemployed. The West of England will also bring forward a pilot scheme to offer intensive support for those furthest from the labour market; and
Support for realising the potential of the Bristol and Bath Science Park, the Food Enterprise Zone at Junction 21 of the M5 and the development of the West of England Growth Hub.
Final agreement remains subject to the legislative process and is conditional upon the agreement of the four local councils that would make up the Combined Authority.
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It was demolition day at the old skate park at Nailsea this week as the builders moved in start work on a state-of-the-art new replacement.
And it all goes well they hope to finish in less than two months.
On Wednesday, March 9, North Somerset Council signed the £112,000 contract with Wheelscape Ltd to build the new skate ramps at Millennium Park.
It has taken 18 months to fundraise for Nailsea Skatepark Project which has so far banked £109,000.
The district council agreed that the existing skate park was ‘at the stage where it was no longer serviceable and would have to be decommissioned if not substantially repaired or replaced’.
NSP spokesman Phil Williams said: “It is hard to believe this day has finally arrived.
“Work started on Wednesday to dismantle the old park in preparation for the new build.
“This will be on the same site at Millennium Park, and if all goes well will be completed in eight weeks time.
“Financially we have raised a staggering £109,000 and just need another £2,000 to completely fund the project.”
The plan is to formally open the new skate park at the annual festival and showcase on Saturday, July 9.
The new skate park which well be build on the existing asphalt base will be made of concrete.
This requires considerable less maintenance than the 14-year-old rusting metal construction which was the result of a ‘planning gain’ when Tesco supermarket came to Nailsea.
North Somerset Council has given £10,000 towards NSP.
Phil said: “After a year and a half of fundraising this is a really exciting week for all concerned and huge thanks must go to the many who have contributed to the vision either through finances or practical ways to get the project where it is today.
“Obviously the outdated and run down original skate park will be closed till the new park has been commissioned and fully opened.
“The NSP team ask all users to please make sure that you do not enter the park until it is completed as it is now a building site.
“Regarding the finances, the team have now raised a staggering £109,000 out of the total required of around £112,000 so if you're reading this and you have a final fundraising idea or have been waiting until this time to give us a donation then now is the time to do it.
As well as numerous individual and local business donations support has come from Nailsea Town Council, Wraxall & Failand and Backwell parish councils, Holy Trinity and Trendlewood church, Nailsea Community Trust, Trendlewood Community Festival, Alliance Homes, Nailsea Lions, Nailsea police, Carpe Diem, Rotary, Nailsea Community Christmas Fair, Arthur Davey funeral directors, Portishead Skatepark Project, Elmgrant Trust, Tithe Barn Trust, Tesco and Waitrose supermarkets.
Phil added: “I don't think any of us realised how quickly the dream could become a reality.
“That has been down to the amazing response from our community, not just with the younger generation but also with had donations from a number of older retired people, a fantastic encouragement for us.”
The final plans were tweaked after talking to the youth people who use the park and include access for wheelchair users and novice riders.
If you would like to contribute to the final £2,000 click HERE to go to the Golden Giving page.
Click images to see slide show.
Nailsea organistations are invited to take part in the 'showcase' at the skatepark festival which allows clubs and charities to set up a stall to let people know what they are all about. To reserve a space all you need to do it click HERE to download a booking form.