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News Review and more

Posted on 22nd November, 2013

Bleadon PC News review & Other Issues


Firstly, thank you to all BOB readers who have taken the time to pass on their comments, issues and concerns regarding our village of Bleadon. Whilst BOB doesn't always agree/disagree with your issues or concerns I endeavor to raise them with our readers, many, if not all, of the currents ones have been included in this update.


BVN Autumn/Winter 2013BOB is delighted to see that this community website has at last got a mention in the latest BVN, and that so many of your blog post topics seem to be included (albeit in less accurate or balanced detail) alongside other interesting articles and photos. However, BOB was sorry to see that the latest edition will be the last until Spring. Also, that there is no longer the free Bleadon business listing page, only paid adverts. Perhaps it is so that more paid advertising space can be made to ensure BVN is truly 'free' to Bleadon Homes. For your information, some Bleadon Business can still be found here


PROW signAs regards South Hill PROW footpaths and loss of access to all, BOB emailed the PC for their support before BVN publication and although this has been stated on blog posts before, it is worth restating in light of the BVN article....The landowner can of course put fencing where he wants on his land but NOT if it blocks the line of an existing PROW, as it currently is. The current official paths are indeed as shown in the BVN (and at http://www.bleadon.org.uk/prow) BUT these paths are currently subject to a landowner application for an order to divert them so they should not have been blocked until that order had been successful and the PC (or their representatives) should not have allowed or indicated otherwise. The landowner's application for the PROWs to be diverted is still going through the North Somerset process and has not yet reached a conclusion. If an 'order' is made by NS this still needs formal public consultation and no consequential sustained objections before taking effect. 


The lost route Moreover, for many decades, and generations, Bleadon walkers have been able to walk other routes on South Hill (& elsewhere) not just these 'official' PROWs. These paths can be claimed as 'new' PROWs. Although this will take time BOB, and its readers, are currently undertaking the collation of the necessary material to try and make this happen with North Somerset PROW team. If you have regularly walked South Hill please let BOB know so that we may talk to you about your experiences and whether they may help reopen these historic paths. Given the history of the hill, it would be nice if the landowner could provide a permissive path by allowing a currently 'barbed' gate to be opened to make this happen, only time will tell.


BTW, BOB has offered to assist the Bleadon Rights of Way Group to maintain our PROWs. I have also asked the parish council for the group's schedule of works in order to publish it on BOB so that, as stated in the BVN, if you "have the time and energy to help maintain and improve Bleadon's footpaths", you'll know where to find the team working within the village. I'll let you know when the schedule has been posted.


The Ball WallThe farce of the Ball Wall (for so long known as the 'GoalPosts' and first raised a year ago by the PC!) could have been done so much more cheaply and quickly had the users of the park of all age groups, immediate neighbours and ROSPA been fully consulted before installation and not hidden behind 'blind' minutes. The BVN states "Children have been using the structure as a climbing challenge", that the posts "are very securely installed to withstand the onslaught of hormone enriched youngsters" and so "the tops of the posts will be cut at an angle to discourage youngsters climbing along the top of the posts", when will the parish council recognise that the users of the park need to climb!


Put a Climbing frame hereThe BVN also writes "re-locate the ball wall in front of the two Silver Birch trees", that is exactly where the original, challenging, well used, appropriate for all ages and abilities climbing frame was sited before they removed it and introduced a ball wall instead! Perhaps a new climbing frame should be added to the PC "wish-list"? (NB: The last solution to the ball problems was the installation of the current, tall, noisy & expensive steel fence.) The PC seem to want to discourage climbing, but why not discourage the football as "an affordable and practical solution to the problems created by the new ball wall"? The sign on the park gate says soft balls only, perhaps footballs should be classified as a hard ball especially when kicked hard by stronger children at an immovable and noisy structure?


I'm all for better facilities for our youth but it has been said the Youth Club is getting a much higher profile than ever before and perhaps more than the census profile of Bleadon residents merits. As the BVN noted "Bleadon has over twice the national average of residents aged over 45" and that "many villagers are seeing a real reduction in their spending power"? How many YC members aged 10+ actually live in Bleadon?  Also, why does it now seem the YC is competing more against Village Halls for functions & meetings? (Nb: A recent funeral was 'gifted' to the YC by Halls)


Solar FarmThe BVN writes of the Solar Panel Park "the direct impact of the development on a majority of Bleadon residents was fairly minimal". The Bleadon parish council's minuted response on 10th June to this solar application was "if North Somerset implements its strict guidelines when reviewing this application we can raise no objection to this proposal, We would however once again urge the council to take note of any concerns raised by Bleadon parishioners". The final decision was with North Somerset who, agreeing with Bleadon Hill residents, refused the application. As BVN writes, NS "refused the proposal by reason of the scale, form and proximity to public viewpoints and residential property. Fearing that the resulting development would dominate the landscape and cause unacceptable harm to the landscape and character".It seems that the impact would be hardly minimal. So if you have concerns about any application affecting Bleadon's character and landscape (surely that's why we live here) it seems advisable to respond directly to the application at North Somerset, as well as informing the parish council.


Marshalls re-developmentMarshalls Quarry promised to share public comments from the meetings in September with our PC & NS, so hopefully these comments will be reflected and/or shared in their planned final re-development presentation on November 27th in the Youth Club. There is concern among residents that the extra infrastructure needed to support this development is crucial, not least to cope with the extra drainage and traffic joining onto A370 at 50/60 MPH, which will need proper research and resourcing. Section 106 has/is being replaced by Community Infrastructure Levy but it is not clear what % of CIL Bleadon would receive (depends on our Neighbourhood Plan) and on what it should be spent, which surely needs to be properly related to the development for it to be fully accepted and to be a successful 'legacy' for Bleadon.


As I'm sure our PC is aware, accessing and leaving the village via the A370 at the Anchor Road end will also need careful consideration in relation to the Weston Park Lakes proposed development with the increase in traffic that may result from a successful venture. It should also be remembered that in the Parish Plan Questionnaire village respondents identified the A370 as a danger spot, with 75% stating that there are speeding problems around the village. Perhaps now is an ideal time to review all traffic issues within our village.


It also appears that Community Infrastructure Levies can be used for a diverse range of things as a consequence of development. Perhaps it's time to think less of what the PC members want, e.g. a PC office and to think more of what the population of Bleadon needs. The BVN notes that there are suggestions that the PC "should be doing more for the older members of our community". For a long time Bleadon has had access to a Police officer on a weekly basis and a health visitor at Baby Toddlers on a fortnightly basis, both giving residents easy and personal access to services without the need to travel into Weston or surrounding villages. Perhaps now is the time to consider a Community Health Service where all services can be accessed in the village thus saving a commute into WSM, supporting all Bleadon residents ongoing health requirements e.g. doctor, optician, nurse, health visitor, services advice, etc. for all ages, especially in light of our resident population being "over twice the national average of residents aged over 45". For more community views see also the results of the 2005 Parish Plan Questionairre


Parish BoundaryBOB has no problem with the sentiment stated in BVN "Looking after ourselves", however, BVN writes "Having councils doings things like weeding of our pavements, sweeping of roads and regular clearing of drains are likely to become fond memories ... Clear those weeds from the kerb and pick up the litter outside before it blocks a drain and becomes a real problem. No one else is likely to do it." . Our authorities (or their contractors) have been paid in the past to keep services to a contractual standard yet these services are not delivered to that standard, or indeed if at all, yet the costs do not reduce. For example, the A370 highway foot/cycle paths are overgrown with grass, weeds etc. NS (& Sedgemoor) has been paid to keep paths clear since they were created but clearance is obviously not enforced and because of this lack of diligence, users are often forced into the road by overgrown shrubbery & vegetation. E.g. a mobility scooter was seen driving into 50/60 mph oncoming traffic towards Bleadon, highly dangerous we agree, but what were they expected to do in thatUse it  situation?


So who is expected to 'weed' this Bleadon Parish pavement? Where has the money gone for poor or non-performance of these services? Lost in administration or spent on non-statutory services that we are now expected to undertake or forego them! Surely if statutory services are lost we should expect/demand to see Council Tax & Precept falling not standing still or worse, rising to do less? Our PC should also lobby NS & our MP to ensure these questions are answered and services maintained.


SavingsSavings - or, what do you NOT want the PC to spend your money on? As stated previously, the offer made by BOB to the BPC in May was not taken up but, BOB is happy to continue posting PC Agenda, Minutes. I could also add other documents such as policies etc. thus potentially saving the PC several hundred pounds per annum and duplicated effort on the PC's own website. BOB would again also like the PC to critically review the attendance cost/benefit of members on SLCC 'training' as it seems not all members have the opportunity to practice this costly training, so is it worth it? The BVN writes "The Finance Committee and the Parish Council will be deciding on next year's budget over the next two months", so to ensure that your views are heard regarding what the PC spends, or doesn't spend, your money on please write to the parish clerk and/or BOB ASAP.


Finally, Twitter & Facebook, the PC (like BOB did sometime ago) has recently decided to utilise social media (BTW, ex-councillor Pete Trevitt originally set up a PC facebook account so perhaps this is the one they will now maintain). BOB will 'follow' this new move with interest and hopes to 'like' what's being done! Of course, like all good public authority organisations this doesn't come without the need for a governing policy so it will be interesting to see how the members policy copes with the spontaneity of social media response.


BPC logoAs seen from above there is still concern via BOB reader feedback and conversation that certain BPC members seem to adopt the style of, we know best, we are elected, we don't need to consult, we can do what we like, spend (and potentially waste) public money as we see fit and raise the precept next year! This attitude can breed apathy and suspicion from the electorate so surely, the criteria for what makes a quality council (which of course is what Bleadon aspires to be) needs to be reconsidered by some to fully engage the community or ultimately risk a Community Governance Review. Let us hope the parish council will continually reflect on their Chair's statement to "continue to serve this village with diligence and vigor".


In the meantime, please continue to let BOB know your concerns, and/ or suggestions, about what you would like see happening, or not happening, in our village via BOB@bleadon.org.uk, and I will endeavour to communciate them to all interested parties.


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