News 2 January 2016
Nine months after a re-launch the North Somerset Mercury has fallen - again.
Its last edition which was published the week before Christmas was the latest reincarnation of the free weekly newspaper which first saw light of day at an early morning breakfast at Clevedon Hall back in March 2015.
And despite spending the summer decorating classrooms at Ravenswood School and organising an awards evening at Cadbury House all this community involvement failed to keep it afloat.
Poor distribution and little advertising – zilch from estate agents - plus owners Local World being involved in another takeover by Trinity Mirror were thought mostly to blame.
Although perhaps recruiting an ageing Piers McBride who nearly landed the previous editor on the Graham Norton show for a Nailsea football team photoshoot complete with naughty bits didn’t help?
However, the magnanimous people at Clevedon Pier said every time Piers in his Backchat column had a poke at the historic structure they received a flurry of donations and their membership went up!
The biggest lament seems to be from Clevedon Civic Society and former chief reporter Frances Hardcastle who used the newspaper for nostalgic pieces.
So while district reporter Heather Pickstock goes back to her day job with the Bristol Post maybe Portishead young mum Holly Golightly and talented writer Bertie the Bassett will share job club breakfast in the dog house?
Established in the 1860s the Clevedon Mercury evolved into a modern, free award-winning local newspaper with a circulation of nearly 40,000 at the turn of the millennium.
It was the best read newspaper in North Somerset and received top ratings in an independent survey by TNS Media.
With weekly paginations from 80-140 pages on top of its free distributions is sold more than 1,500 copies weekly from retail outlets.
Its Clevedon based editorial reporting team together with a small army of village correspondents ensured it was first with the news and views of its community.
It supported the Curzon cinema and seafront pier – both listed buildings fighting for funding.
In Portishead it chronicled the town’s growing pains and traffic gridlock and in Nailsea it was first to report the proposed £30+ million rebuild of the town’s secondary school.
But that is all old news and in 2012 the newspaper closed its Sixways production, advertising and editorial offices with the loss of many jobs.
A rebranded free title under the banner of Local People lasted a little more than a year with publisher Bristol News and Media, a division of Northcliffe Media.
Where to build next in Nailsea?
There was a fierce debate about social housing during a housing and transport consultation at Nailsea library this week.
Fears that it could attract the wrong types to the town and devalue property prices were mixed with the need for cash-strapped young people being able to buy or rent locally.
Many people also saw more housing as a way of keeping the shopping centre vibrant and schools from closing.
Four councils are conducting a West of England wide survey on what gets built where in the next two decades.
Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol City, North Somerset and South Gloucester councils have joined together for this review and it appears the provision of affordable housing is top of the list.
Knightstone and Sovereign housing association providers of social housing in North Somerset and the National Housing Federation (NHF) support the West of England Joint Spatial Plan and Transport Study which gives local residents the opportunity to help shape development plans until 2036.
In Nailsea developers are looking at various sites from Engine Lane and Youngwood Lane to The Causeway and out towards Wraxall but it was the more immediate builds that residents at library on Wednesday wanted to talk about.
One ‘hot potato’ was whether to move the Green Belt with Nailsea Town Council calling for a review and the West of England Building Our Future document opposed to ‘urban sprawl’.
Nailsea Town Council vice chairman Clare Hunt was at the library consultation.
She said: “We need to have a Green Belt review and we need to fight to have a Green Belt review and this is the only way that we that we can find the right places to build the right houses in Nailsea.
“Unfortunately North Somerset Council is very averse to having a Green Belt review.
“It does not mean we take everything out of the Green Belt – we take some out and we put some in.
“Land in the north west of Nailsea is ideal for development which would save good farming land elsewhere.”
Currently good agricultural land is not in the Green Belt while poor farmland is, the consultation heard.
Mrs Hunt supported building on town council-owned land at Engine Lane which could speculatively net the council some £4 million but was adamant only with a legally binding contact with the proposed developers to ensure social housing was built.
She said: “I have checked out how we can be sure the types of houses we want get built.
“Similarly to Lidl who entered into a contract with Ellandi to purchase land subject to a successful planning application, Nailsea Town Council would be selling subject to a successful planning application."
Nailsea Town Council clerk Ian Morrell said: “North Somerset Council’s policies require that 30 per cent of homes in a scheme like this would need to be social/affordable housing.”
Mrs Hunt added: “The land will not be sold and handed over to the purchaser.
“I would never agree to do anything which resulted in the exact opposite of what I'm hoping to achieve.
“It is a long way to go down the road yet of course, but the other thing to remember is, Barratt Homes, as a company, has changed over the years and is now well known for producing good quality homes of the type needed.”
Nailsea town and district councillor Jan Barber was also at the consultation.
She would like future development in Nailsea to go to the north west of the town off Causeway View.
Planning permission for 450 houses has not been granted but the site has been earmarked in the Core Strtegy which is a blueprint for future development.
Both Mrs Hunt and Mrs Barber thought whether this goes ahead would hinge on a massive line of pylons – the Hinkley nuclear power plant link – which could straddle the land.
Mrs Barber said: “People like me who live near to Youngwood Lane do not want that developed as we want a barrier between us and Backwell and it is also the same for people who live opposite the proposed development on Engine Lane used to looking out on open countryside.
“North west Nailsea would be the logical place for up to 500 houses and help Kingshill School which has falling numbers but this could be in doubt because of the pylons.”
The West of England is economically successful; it is currently worth £26bn and 95,000 new jobs are forecast by 2036.
The joint plan aims to map where new and affordable homes will be based in future to accommodate this growth.
It is estimated that 85,000 homes are needed in this period, 29,000 of which are expected to be affordable.
Knightstone chief executive Nick Horne said: “We’ve seen first-hand the positive impact of working with local communities in the development of affordable housing.”
Sovereign development director James Gibson said: “What we’re seeing in the city region is a housing crisis.
“In just the last year, house prices have risen by 11.2 per cent - the highest rate outside London.
“Our waiting lists are also growing and increasingly residents are concerned how their children can afford their own homes in the future.”
This view was echoed by retired teacher Felicity Brock who said her own children could not afford to live in Nailsea because of its high house prices.
Mr Gibson added: “As we’ve seen in Bradley Stoke in the past, where housing is built, jobs tend to follow; industries flock to areas where there is a quality labour supply.
“Housebuilders want to invest where there are lots of opportunities to build, so by freeing up land and thinking about infrastructure in advance, you’ll create a more competitive market.
“Not only will you build more, you’ll make renting or buying a home more affordable as well as encouraging companies to invest locally.
“Housebuilding not only provides jobs and homes; it also invests in important public services like libraries and schools."
So far hundreds of people have participated in the consultation since its launch in November, attending road shows, leaving comments online and joining a conversation on social media around the dedicated #WEbuildourfuture hashtag.
It is estimated 85,000 new homes are needed in the West of England area during the next 20 years.
Of this, 56,000 homes are already ‘planned and predicted’ that is they are in projects with existing site allocations, sites with planning permissions, sites that are known to be ready for allocation or small sites likely to get planning permission.
To read more about the proposals for Engine Lane click HERE.
f you were unable to get to the consultation you can go online by clicking HERE to record your views.
More planning stories on the Breaking News page.
One door opens...
It was a year ago when we told you that Nailsea was going up in the 99p market and getting instead a Poundland store.
See story left.
Then the Competition and Markets Authority stepped in and it took until September for them to wave through the discount retailer’s deal.
It decided the combination of the two chains would not lead to less choice for consumers and Poundland was finally given the final green light to complete its £55m acquisition of rival 99p Stores.
But when one door opens another closes and Ewe Knit 20 the wool shop at Colliers Walk which opened in a fanfare when owner Emily Rickard was victorious in the win-a-shop competition has closed.
It was more than two years ago the yarn emporium opened and although all seemed well up until Christmas a notice about closure went up this week.
Nailsea People understands it will not reopen.
However, Queens Head the pub at 91 High Street which has been on the market for months if not years at £275,000 is finally ‘under offer’ by Rightmove and former security guard Paul Griffin tells Facebook fans that Decades is being turned into officers and the nightclub has nowhere to relocate locally...
On the QT we understand several potential retailers are looking at opening at Crown Glass shopping centre.
And we are still waiting to hear if Lidl or shopping precinct property management company Ellandi will appeal the decision not to let the budget supermarket go ahead...
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.”
Crackdown on illegal airpot parking
North Somerset Council's fight to protect the Green Belt from unauthorised airport car parking has received a major boost.
The Planning Inspectorate has dismissed two appeals by car park operator Gregory Wedlake against enforcement notices issued by the council relating to sites in Backwell - one on land to the north of Coombe Dale, Potters Hill and the other at 15 Hyatts Wood Road.
In both cases the breach of planning control involved unauthorised airport car parking.
The notices stated that the use of the land for parking vehicles for this purpose was inappropriate development in the Green Belt.
The notice for the Hyatts Wood Road site also required the removal of a portable building and hardstanding, used as a vehicle parking reception facility for the Forge car park.
The Planning Inspectorate's decision to uphold the two enforcement notices means that both sites can no longer be used for airport parking.
The operator has 14 days to comply with this and has been given four months to remove the portable building and hardstanding at the Hyatts Wood Road site.
Failure to comply with the enforcement notices would be a criminal offence with a maximum fine on conviction of £20,000.
In a separate action the council has issued a Community Protection Warning under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 regarding unauthorised airport car parking taking place on land to the south of St Andrew's Church, Congresbury.
The site was used by Bristol Valet Parking Ltd who were previously operating from Yew Tree Farm in Sandford, which was subject to separate successful enforcement action by the council last year.
The Community Protection Warning was issued on the basis that the use of the land for airport parking was causing noise and disturbance to local residents, was resulting in a highway hazard and was causing harm to the setting of the adjacent grade 1 listed church and to the character and appearance of the area.
The land was cleared of vehicles within three days of the warning notice being issued.
North Someret Council deputy leader and executive member for strategic planning Elfan Ap Rees said: "The council is committed to protecting the Green Belt from damage caused by unauthorised car parking.
"We will continue to investigate and take the appropriate action against those who flout planning regulations."
Schoolwear: uniforms, shoes, nametapes and more
Sportswear: PE kits and more
Footwear: football boots, Wellington boots, trainers, shoes, velcro daps
Dancewear: RAD approved ballet, tap, modern, jazz
Uniforms and accessories: Beavers, Rainbows, Cubs, Brownies, Guides and Scouts
Visit new shop at Colliers Walk, Nailsea
Tel: 01275 857491 Twitter: #schooltogsnailsea