Thursday, 29 May 2008

Last Post for Post Offices

The Post Office have announced the results of their "consultation" about closing 29 post offices in the Greater Bristol area. Surprise, surprise - all 29 will be shut!

In our area this means Tesco Express Station Road and Old Sodbury. So people will be travelling to post offices a long way away, and standing in the long queues at Yate Post Office.

Steve Webb told the Gazette "The depressing thing about the whole consultation process was that we always knew that if we got the post office to change their mind about one of the offices on their list they would simply substitute another one.

"As soon as the government decided that 2,500 offices had to go, the die was cast."

Which ones will go on the next round, we wonder? How long before they want to shut Chipping Sodbury, or Abbotswood, or North Road?

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Buses - First may be prepared to listen?

Steve Webb met the Managing Director of First Bus this morning, and it sounds like First may possibly be going to listen to all the comments they've had about their proposals to restructure the bus service and withdraw the "X" express buses from the Yate/Sodbury routes. You can read Steve's account of the bus meeting here.

Meanwhile local councils have been protesting - Dodington Parish Council, for example, has said that we need more X buses, not fewer. What's more they have asked South Gloucestershire Council to start discussions with alternative bus companies about providing more services in this area. Let's hope that South Glos actually do something about this.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

X factor bus bombshell petition

Lib Dem Councillor Sheila Mead and fellow councillors handed in a petition from residents affected by the proposed cuts to the bus services in Chipping Sodbury and Yate to the Executive member of S Glos Council. Sheila believes it’s vital to make sure the Conservative Council listens to their concerns.

Sheila Mead said, “Those people who’ve signed the petition really want their concerns taken seriously. We want the Council to make sure First Bus understands that these cuts are unacceptable without offering better alternatives. If streamlining one part of a service to make it better then leaves other people without any buses it will not improve or increase the public use of bus transport. I also hope that everyone who signed the petition will respond to the consultation by First which ends on 25th May.”

The petition reads: Due to proposed changes in the bus routes provided by First, there will be no bus servicing Cotswold Road from the end of July 2008. We feel that the removal of this service will seriously affect people’s ability to access local amenities, including Doctors Surgeries and shops. The extra distance people would have to travel to reach a bus stop would be beyond many local members of the local community and could effectively isolate people in their own homes. In a day and age when we are being encouraged to use public transport, it is extremely important that this service is maintained.

Cllr Ian Blair said, “It is disappointing that the Council failed to give prompt information to Councillors over the proposed bus timetable changes and consultation. There’s only 5 days to go before the deadline but the Council only saw fit to give members a briefing yesterday.”

He added, “As well as the petition presented from residents at today’s Council I asked the Executive member what is he going to do for Yate and Sodbury residents now that the Council has withdrawn funding for the Nibley park and ride? The answer I have received states the funding was reprioritised to fund a Park and Ride at Parkway Station. That’s all very well for the Executive members residents near that station but it still doesn’t reassure the public living in the Yate and Sodbury area about what this Conservative Council will be doing for them! And at the moment it looks as if they are doing nothing."

"To make matters worse the Council bus briefing given to us yesterday stated, 'There appear to be some positive proposals in the consultation package', this does nothing to reassure me that this Council is taking the bus timetable changes seriously.”

Can you spot YOUR local councillors in the photo?
- Front centre: Kay Crowe.
- Middle, right to left: Linda Boon, Howard Gawler, Sheila Mead, Dave Hockey.
- Back, right to left: Claire Young, Jon Williams, Sue Hope, Ruth Davis, Mike Drew, Mike Robbins, Alan Lawrance, Ian Blair.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Money released for M32 bus lane - but First doesn't want to run our buses up it

The Evening Post reports that the West of England Partnership bus route improvement money is now on the table.

"Work can now start on a network of new priority bus lanes around the city, starting with one along the M32, to form the Greater Bristol Bus Network (GBBN).

The West of England Partnership, made up of the four councils in the former Avon area, hopes to have the M32 bus lane complete by the time Cabot Circus opens in September."

Just in time for the Yate and Sodbury buses not to run up it.

Friday, 16 May 2008

5000 houses - another opportunity to find out the facts

Steve Webb MP and Cllr Linda Boon in last week's
crowded meeting at Chipping Sodbury Town Hall

Following Steve Webb's very full meeting in Chipping Sodbury last week and the previous meeting in Yate, residents have a chance to meet South Gloucestershire Council officials at a consultation event next week.

The Government has told the council to investigate where they would put 30,800 new homes, and South Glos are saying that 5000 of these houses would have to be near Yate and Chipping Sodbury.

The consultation meeting will be in Chipping Sodbury Town Hall next Tuesday (20 May) from 2pm to 7.30 pm, and you will be able to talk to the officials who are actually working on the Core Strategy, South Glos's outline plan for these massive developments.

For more about South Glos's Core Strategy click here.

Traffic confusion as bus breaks down

There were traffic problems in Yate today during the evening rush hour when a bus broke down at the end of Sundridge Park, next to Lidl. For some reason a foreign lorry appeared to be stuck behind it as well.

Traffic tried to squeeze past the obstruction, but if they timed it wrong some drivers had to reverse back into the traffic light controlled junction, and there were a few near misses.

We tried to call the police to direct traffic, but we got put in a very long unanswered queue for their control room - they were presumably busy with other incidents. We gave up after nearly ten minutes.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

10p tax made simple - Steve Webb explains the changes

Steve Webb's blog explains the Government's latest tax changes.

Are you a winner or a loser? Are the Government's changes a one-off, or will they apply next year as well?

Just a thought, is this U-turn anything to do with the Crewe and Nantwich by-election?

But there will be 1.1 million people that still lose out - earning between just over £6,500 and £12,800 - so they are worse off than most of the people who gain from this week's changes.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Sarah Turley joins the Lib Dems

Cllr Turley (second from left) is welcomed by (l to r) Cllr Marilyn Palmer, Cllr Ruth Davis and local MP Steve Webb

Councillor Sarah Turley (Boyd Valley) has left South Gloucestershire’s ruling Conservative group and joined the Liberal Democrats.

Sarah says, “When I stood for election last year I was determined to stand up for my local community. Unfortunately, over the last year I have found that my work has been undermined by members of the Conservative group on the Council."

“In particular, when I wanted to speak up on behalf of local residents against the in-vessel composter, I was discouraged from doing so. At the same time I have worked closely with community campaigners, many of whom are members of the local Liberal Democrats, and this is the way that I want to work."

“I look forward to working alongside local MP Steve Webb and Cllr Marilyn Palmer in standing up for the people of Boyd Valley over the coming years".

Lib Dem council group leader Ruth Davis greeted her new colleague warmly, saying, “We very much welcome Sarah to the team. She is a very capable and respected councillor and shares our commitment to the environment and to standing up for her local community."

Boyd Valley is the South Glos ward centred on Pucklechurch.

(Thanks to our sister blog Focus on the Ladden-Frome area for this story)

Steve Webb speaks out on bus service changes

Read the full story in today's Bristol Evening Post.

Note - story no longer available.

Well done Bristol City!

Congratulations to Bristol City on their result this evening, beating Crystal Palace 2-1 at Ashton Gate (4-2 on aggregate). In a real cliff-hanger City scored 2 goals in extra time.

City now go to Wembley on Saturday week to meet meet Hull or Watford, depending on their result tomorrow (Wednesday).

If City win at Wembley it will take them into the Premier League for the first time.

The BBC reports the match here

Monday, 12 May 2008

Cotswold Rd traffic scheme under way

Work is well under way on the eastbound carriageway of Cotswold Rd, i.e. heading towards Yate. The idea is to restrict the lane width so that it becomes less of a racetrack and traffic speeds reduce. This is being done by painting a cycle lane and parking bays. There will also be a flashing speed sign.

If you don't like it, please don't blame the cyclists - they didn't ask for the new lane. It's just way to make the road seem narrower so that drivers will slow down.

Westerleigh Rd railway embankment update

You may be wondering why there is still some temporary fencing opposite Rodborough. Network Rail have told us: "We are carrying out further investigation works into the drainage throughout the area, and it is possible that further works could be required. Therefore, the access road will be in place for the foreseeable future as it may be required to enable future works... There is a strong possibility we will be doing some more works to the toe drainage. Therefore it is not really beneficial to carry out any works to this section of fencing at this stage".

The embankment itself was spray seeded with grass and shrub seed last year.

Friday, 9 May 2008

All change on the buses - the slow way home?

First Bus are proposing major changes to bus routes and timetables between Bristol and Yate and Chipping Sodbury, affecting services to Frampton Cotterell, Coalpit Heath, Winterbourne and other communities on the route.

Some places will get more frequent buses, but some will get fewer or none at all. The express “X” services will be withdrawn, and none of these buses will go down the M32, making journeys longer.

Local Liberal Democrat councillors say that First’s consultation is totally inadequate. There’s not enough information – people need to know how much longer the new journey times will be. Current timetables show that in the evening rush hour the X42 and X30 services take 39 minutes to get from Bristol Bus Station to Yate. The comparable 342 and 328 routes take 46 and 52 minutes respectively, so we could see daily journeys taking up to a third longer.

Cllr Sue Hope (Cotswold Edge) said “"What is proposed is a cut in services - including the express service to Bristol - with nothing to replace it. These proposals make a huge hole in any decent public transport system between Yate and Bristol"

Cllr Claire Young (Westerleigh) commented “There is simply not enough information in the consultation leaflet for people to work out what impact these changes would have. I urge First Bus to provide more details and extend the consultation period to allow local people to have a real say about these changes”.

First Bus have not contacted town and parish councils as yet. They have spoken to South Gloucestershire Council, who told them to that the X-services were vital for commuters and that abandoning them would only encourage people to drive to work or use the already crowded (but cheaper) rail service. However First is still proposing to withdraw the X-services.

Maybe First need more competition at peak times - for example, the new efficient UWE buses have hit First’s passenger numbers hard on services between Frenchay and central Bristol.

We notice that Downend will be keeping its X service. That’s because local people organised a protest recently. It's important that everyone tells First what they think via the bus company's website or by writing to Have Your Say, Freepost 3782, Bristol BS5 0ZX. The closing date of their consultation is 25 May - only just over a fortnight away - but we're trying to get them to extend their deadline so that more people can have their say.

Please contact your local councillor as well - see the "Local Focus Team" link in the right hand column. We know that some people will think the proposals are an improvement, and some will think it's a bad idea. Please let us know what you think.

More details for our area are available from First Bus here.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Sodbury housing meeting - come early to be sure of getting in

As you may have seen in the recent Chipping Sodbury edition of Focus, Steve Webb MP is holding a public meeting at Chipping Sodbury Town Hall at 7.30 pm today (Thursday 8 May).

The meeting will discuss the proposals for around 5000 houses in the Chipping Sodbury and Yate area. As we explained here back in February, this is what a government panel of experts reckons we need to have. South Gloucestershire Council is currently consulting on options for where these houses could go.

If these numbers go forward, it is very likely that there will be a major expansion of Chipping Sodbury to the east and north - some 1500 houses in all. One area that could be developed is the farmland next to St John's Way, just across the Rover Frome, as well as some development between St John's Way and Chipping Sodbury Golf Club.

We understand that a large number of people are likely to come to tonight's meeting, and with a strict capacity of 250 people some people may be disappointed. So please arrive early if you want to be sure of a place!

Farmland across the river from St John's Way may have to take most of Sodbury's new houses

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Environment fun day at Yate library

This Saturday there will be a free event, "A wish for your world", at Yate library where families can take part in a range of environment-related activities.

Activities aimed at 4-7 year olds will start at 10am, those for older children at 12.30pm. Activities will include junk modelling, paper making, stories, quizzes, music and songs, plus there will be a chance to win a fruit tree. A Sort-it adviser will also be available to answer questions about recycling, composting and waste minimisation.

Housing bombshell - have your say

As you may have read in the last Focus, the Minister is currently considering recommendations for an extra 30,800 homes in South Gloucestershire. At the same time, South Gloucestershire Council has to consult on where the new housing should go. If you care about how much Yate, Sodbury and our villages should grow over the next 20 years you need to get involved NOW!

South Gloucestershire Council has officially launched its "Core Strategy Issues and Options" consultation. This runs for only 6 weeks, which means your comments have to be in by June 13th. You can read the document online at Alternatively printed copies should be at the One Stop Shops in Yate, Thornbury and Kingswood, and at all South Gloucestershire libraries.

You can have your say either on-line, by following the link from the Core Strategy page, or by using the Questionnaire Response Booklet. These can be obtained by phoning 01454 863469 or emailing . Alternatively, you can download the 47 page response booklet to print yourself from the consultation website by clicking "Respond to Consultation" and then "Respond by Post".

Don’t be put off by the length of the Core Strategy document! You may be interested in some or all of it. The section that deals with Yate/Chipping Sodbury starts
on page 99 and the section that deals with our villages, headed Rural Settlements, on page 117.

It is important to let the South Glos Planning Team know your view as they will use the responses they get as a basis for the next stage of consultation – the Preferred Options.

If you need help with this or have difficulty accessing the document, please contact one of your FOCUS TEAM (see the link on the right).

Steve Webb at a packed public meeting to discuss the proposals for 5000 new homes in Yate and Chipping Sodbury