Wednesday, 29 August 2007

What's made of plastic, paper, and foil and is not recycled in South Glos?

Answer - lots of those "paper based liquid food and drink cartons". The sort that you buy fruit juice in, and maybe milk from the corner shop. They're actually rather clever multilayer cartons, but this makes them hard to recycle. The manufacturer has set up a dedicated recycling plant - big enough to deal with a fifth of all the liquid food and drink cartons used in the UK.

They offered local councils FREE recycling bins. South Glos could have had five special collection points, with all the cartons taken away free for the first two years.

Lots of other councils have accepted - but what has South Glos done? Turned the offer down!

Emma Bone (Prospective Lib Dem MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke) said "I'm simply astonished... Lib Dem Councils up and down the country have already signed up to this free win-win scheme”

Lib Dem Councillor Peter Tyzack (Pilning & Severn Beach) commented “I am amazed and appalled that the Conservative administration didn't sign up to this free scheme to recycle them. We get fine words from them promising to improve on the previous Liberal Democrat led Council’s recycling rate but no real action!"

Update - It is now reported that the Executive Member for Communities will meet the company this week. Maybe the Tory South Glos Executive is having a rethink?

Our colleagues Emma Bone and Peter Tyzack with just a few of the cartons that South Glos could have recycled

Renewable energy

It was good to see the new wind turbines installed at Avonmouth recently. They're certainly an impressive sight - this photo was taken from Portishead.

In the meantime, we're doing our bit to make small-scale renewable energy cheaper. A while ago a £50 fee was introduced for people wanting advice about permitted development - in other words, whether or not you need to put in a planning application. It turned out that they were even charging for advice on applying to put in solar panels and the like - just the wrong message when you want to encourage them! Now, after pressure by Lib Dem councillors, the charge has been removed completely for advice on renewable energy proposals.

P.S. Those wind turbines weren't the first renewable energy project at Avonmouth. Back in the Eighties the Wessex Water sewage treatment works, which generates electricity from methane, was connected to the mains network. The Evening Post headline at the time was "Power from the people"!

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Climate Change as entertainment?

After Dodington Parish Council showed Al Gore's climate change film "An Inconvenient Truth" locally, we asked Steve Webb to try to get it shown on network television. He's received a reply from the BBC's Deputy Director-General as follows:

"While I am sorry to disappoint Councillor Hulbert and his colleagues on the Council, I must report that at the moment the BBC has no plans to broadcast this film. I understand however that it is considered likely that it will indeed receive an airing on national television in due course"

We suspect this means that someone like Channel 4 got in first.

However according to the newspapers the BBC is planning a big show provisionally entitled "Planet Relief" for January 2008, maybe with Ricky Gervais and Jonathan Ross. Instead of asking for donations, the idea is to get people to switch off all unwanted gadgets. The floodlighting on major landmarks will also be switched off. They hope to be able to switch off a major power station with the electricity saved.

There has been criticism that this is not the sort of activity that the BBC should be involved in. The editor of the BBC's own Newsnight programme, Peter Barron said it was "not the corporation's job to save the planet" ( Daily Mail, 27 August )

But isn't this one reason why we have public broadcasters? To "inform, educate and entertain", as their mission statement says?

Anyway, if this sort of show isn't to your taste, you could still join in - switch off the TV instead and save a bit more energy!

P.S. It must be better than yesterday evening. At midnight BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 were all showing films at the same time - not a scrap of original programming on terrestrial TV.

Beech Hill Farm tipping application

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Beech Hill Farm - blue line shows tipping boundary, pointer shows access from Westerleigh Road

This is the property on the right as you go from the Shire Way mini-roundabout, under the bridge towards Westerleigh – the place where they periodically sell fireworks and the like. The land behind the buildings is just across the track from the Westerleigh Rd railway embankment, so the neighbours are Chedworth and Rodborough. Over the years there has been a history of failed planning applications and enforcement notices.

Many years ago the land was tipped, but according to the planning application paperwork it is too contaminated for grazing – some of the tipped material was waste sand from a foundry. Most of the original tipping was domestic waste. Test pits have confirmed this, finding amongst other things a Wellington boot and a dead cat. Apparently the clay capping on the landfill has failed.

It is proposed to cover the site to a depth of 2 metres - 1 metre of clay, 0.75 metres of subsoil and 0.25 metres of topsoil. This would mean importing 54,000 cubic metres of material – some 6350 lorry loads over 2 years, roughly similar to the railway embankment works, but spread over a longer period. This would be an average of 11.3 lorries per working day (based on 3 axle trucks holding 8.5 cubic metres each – if 4 axle trucks are used there would be fewer journeys)

There would be temporary roadways and wheel cleaning to minimise mud, and a mechanical road sweeper on Westerleigh Rd when necessary.

Proposed working hours are 0800-1800 Monday to Friday, and 0800-1300 or 1600 (the paperwork is inconsistent) on Saturdays. This road is of course very busy in both rush hours.

They have shown turning dimensions for trucks going both ways, so presumably some traffic could go through the estate. Trucks would go round a loop within the site so they should not need to reverse onto the main road. Restoration would include appropriate hedge planting and drainage.

Westerleigh Parish Council has objected due to its “dangerous highway location” and noted that there has been a history of not complying with conditions of a planning appeal. Yate Town Council has objected that it would be detrimental to nearby residents’ enjoyment of natural amenity, and that there would be an unacceptable increase of traffic at peak times. A local resident has objected on the grounds of noise, traffic, vibration and dust.

South Glos Technical Support (Street Care) has expressed concerns about potential flooding, unless an Environment Agency report is received to the contrary. They also point out that there are major sewers and drains across the southern part of the site – two Wessex Water surface water sewers, a Wessex Water foul sewer and the Network Rail land drain, all of which would need to be protected.

The land drain is the one that drains the embankment and carries the water from the Shire Way club tipping site, where it is suspected that tipping crushed a drain, causing the flooding at Besom Lane.

Dodington Parish Council will be discussing the application at its meeting on 5 September, and then the application will go to South Glos Council for decision. All the paperwork is available from the file on South Glos's website, but be warned, there's a lot of it.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Out and about

Last Wednesday evening a group of Dodington Parish Councillors took our summer minibus ride round the parish to make sure that we all know what we're talking about (well, hopefully)

We hired the minibus from Yate, Sodbury and District Community Transport - a group that the Parish Council has supported for many years. (Many thanks for an excellent trip!)

These are some of the sites we looked at, together with a brief update on several of the "hot potato" issues:

  • Sea Stores - The government has put it up for sale, and is awaiting bids. When someone buys it we expect to see a planning application for housing, plus a little community land.
  • Kelston Close Playing Fields - Should we upgrade the changing rooms, maybe get rid of the garage and put in some better storage?
  • Westerleigh Road railway embankment - No, Network Rail haven't gone away and forgotten it. We're hoping to have another meeting with them soon about planting - watch this space.
  • Beech Hill Farm (just in Westerleigh Parish Council's territory) - A proposed tipping site just the other side of the railway from the Westerleigh Rd embankment, Rodborough and Chedworth. More details to follow here shortly.
  • Wapley allotments - They were looking very well-kept as usual - well done!
  • Wapley picnic site - We get complaints from next door from time to time, when people camp out overnight, which they're not supposed to, and light fires other than on the barbecue. We have talked to the police about the incidents of rowdy behaviour.
  • Wapley burial ground, next to St Peter's Church - the Parish Council runs the burial ground and the churchyard.
Then we toured some more of the South Ward, which stretches right out to the motorway. We glimpsed some deer in the twilight up near Dodington Ash. Finally we stopped for refreshment at the Codrington Arms. We can recommend the Codrington Codger, brewed just down the road at Cotswold Spring Brewery (no, neither of them sponsor this blog!)

Are there things in the Birds or in the area between Shire Way and Rodford Way that we should have looked at? Or do you have comments about some of the issues above? Please let us know through the feedback form - click here and fill out the form in the right hand column.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

GCSE results - well done

Well done to those who've got their GCSE results this week. As with the A Levels, ignore people who say it was harder in their day. It was just different.

There's an interesting article by Mike Baker on the BBC website. He points out that one purpose of exams is "to show individuals what they are good at and what they are not so good at" because nowadays education and training doesn't usually stop at 16, and this could help with their career choice.

(Mind you, when I did O levels - the old equivalent - I didn't choose to carry on with the subjects I scored highest in, because something else interested me more - Editor)

Mike Baker makes the point though that people who score low in maths and English need to do something about it as "these grades indicate a need to improve these skills because literacy and numeracy skills will be essential for the future".

He sums it up neatly: "So exam grades are all about helping to identify strengths and weaknesses, about guidance towards further learning and future pathways. They are about the here and now. So, questions about how today's examination results compare with the past are, frankly, of little relevance. "

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Frenchay Hospital A&E "not at risk" - pull the other one!

North Bristol NHS Trust has apparently told the BBC that Accident and Emergency services at Frenchay are not at risk. Are we seriously expected to believe that moving specialist services to Southmead isn't going to make things worse?

Put that together with today's Department of Health funded study that your chances of survival are worse the further you have to travel...

Yes, local accident facilities help minor injuries and certain conditions. But moving our main hospital miles away through some of the heaviest traffic in Bristol must be a wrong move.

Steve Webb and local campaigners have been fighting this for years - don't let our concerns be whitewashed by non-elected bureaucrats!

Click here to join our campaign "SOS for the NHS"

Friday, 17 August 2007

Cotswold Way and Kennedy Way exhibition results

South Glos Council has announced the results of the questionnaire from the exhibition at Chipping Sodbury School. There were 69 replies. South Glos will now work up a detailed scheme for the full legal consultation. They say:

"From the above results and comments made at the exhibition, the Formal Consultation plans will include proposals to maintain the current speed limit for the interim and carry out traffic calming measures on the southern side of Cotswold Road/Kennedy Way" (That's the side nearest to the school - Editor).

"The proposals will include reducing the existing dual carriageway from the Smarts Green Roundabout in a westerly direction to one lane and providing hatching. A cycle lane will be provided on this length of road along with a vehicle activated sign. A short length of protected parking will be provided on this side of the road and hatched markings".

"Following formal consultation and scheme implementation, it is proposed to monitor the vehicle speeds and driver behaviour on this southern side of Cotswold Road before progress is made on the northern carriageway".

It does seem a bit strange that they aren't proposing to reduce the speed limit, even though three quarters of people asked for it. Maybe they're hoping to get the speed down to its present limit first...

Thursday, 16 August 2007

A Level results

Congratulations to everyone who got the A Level results they wanted. At this time of year there's always negative press comment saying "It was harder in our day". Ignore it! It's not easier now, it's just different - and probably taught better too. Enjoy your success, it's well deserved.

And if you didn't get quite what you wanted, keep an open mind about courses and opportunities - there are lots of universities and colleges out there with places still available.
(in fact, why not look at UWE - but I would say that, I teach there - Editor)

My own story might be useful to some people out there. I had the right number of points for my first choice, but in the wrong combination. I'd done better than required in one subject but worse in another. I talked to them, and they agreed to take me after all. If you're in that situation, it's worth a phone call!

Friday, 10 August 2007

Why bother opposing mobile phone masts?

Because occasionally, just occasionally, the mobile phone companies can be made to change their minds.

The Evening Post reports how O2 has decided not to go ahead with a mast overlooking a school playground in Winterbourne, after a meeting chaired by Steve Webb MP.

But O2 says that it didn't change its mind because of the protests - it's just that they "found a better site". (The phrase "Pull the other one" comes to mind...)

A cut above...

Residents have watched this season in dismay at the frequency and standard of the grass cutting service received from South Gloucestershire Council.

Martin Harris of Blaisdon, Yate ( seen here in picture ) said "I'm so fed up with what the council have so far done, I've come out with my own mower to clear an area that the children can safely play on. Parents want close to hand, tended areas for their children to safely play upon. The council is failing to provide this."

Dodington Parish Councillor Mandy Sainsbury added "I'm in complete agreement with Mr Harris, despite communication from myself and fellow councillors we have seen little improvement in cutting - our public grassy spaces look untended and ill kept".