7 Mar 2013

Key issues for Randwick, Whiteshill and Ruscombe

Some 18 months ago I wrote a list of key issues for the ward (see below) - it was great to see how many of them have moved forward even since then - infact in my recent newsletter that I've delivered to all the ward in the last few weeks I revisited some of the 2006 pledges I made - see here - thanks to those who have been sending in comments or questions. Anyway rather than delete those key issues I thought I would post below....

Updated November 2011

This page gives a flavour of some of the local projects I have been working on over the last years as a local District Councillor. Please do let me know if you have any comments or thoughts. Many of these projects would not have been possible without the support and involvement of local people.

Now that I have been reelected I will be continuing to work on these and other issues.  See my thank you letter to local voters here.
1. Protection of the Ruscombe Valley, Randwick fields and other key unsuitable development sites. In 2004 local residents were angered by news that a landbanking company had bought three large fields in the Ruscombe Valley and sub-divided them into 184 house-size plots - see background here. The Ruscombe Valley Action Group (RVAG) was formed and we met regularly to campaign against any possible developments. There were a few successes like stopping the field being sub-divided by fences, getting the issue raised nationally and there was cross-party agreement that no development should take place.The District Council has been going through various consultations over the last years - see here my latest blog with news regarding the fields.

2. Whiteshill and Ruscombe Allotments. Well for over 2 years we worked on getting a site - it involved many meetings with police, planners, councils, landowners and more, along with many meetings to put together the lease, seek funds and agree terms etc - the lease was signed and the 20 small half plots were allocated and we have just seen the first year of production - see film of background and opening here. Names have also come forward in Randwick but we are still seeking a suitable site. If anyone is interested contact the Parish Clerk.

3. Ruscombe Brook: an end to sewage problems. Back in 2006 I was one of the founding members of the Ruscombe Brook Action Group which has met monthly and been involved locally in many projects including public seminars, talks at local schools, work with university students who were looking at water quality and testing the silt, direct action to clear the brook, an awareness raising leaflet (see photo) and negotiations to see reductions in sewage incidents - see 2007 article here, 2009 brief report here and see here Water 21 who were particularly helpful in helping us develop our understanding of the issues. We are delighted that there are now very few sewage incidents - and over the last months relining the sewer has started - at last!!! See here for other projects along the brook including the new culvert and grill to reduce flooding at Puckshole.

4. Better flood management. In 2009 I initiated the forming of the Stroud Valleys Water Forum which meets bi-monthly at Ebley Mill. It is a forum for the four local flood/brook action groups and individuals concerned with flooding. We have met with many key people including Severn Trent, the Environment Agency and our MPs to develop an holistic flood management approach - see here. Basically we need to put an end to those of us upstream dumping on those downstream. Too often the approach in the past to flooding would be larger culverts to get the water away quicker but this only sends the water on to those downstream often adding to flooding problems. My interests in water extend beyond just the brook group above and this forum - I am Stroud District Council's representative on the Customer Liaison Panel of Wessex Water - you can see the issues I raised by clicking here and scrolling down. You will also see on my blog considerable work around trying to promote Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems - see here.

5. Better waste management like food waste collection and alternatives to a large incinerator. A large incinerator would be a serious mistake - see here the alternatives. My blog carries reports of the considerable correspondence and actions to try and ensure that incineration is not part of the County's solutions to our waste. Paul Connetts talk  is a good place to start (see right a photo of Green party District councillors signing opposing an incinerator). I have also been working on ways to increase our recycling rates. Food waste collection is a priority: see Green proposals for AD here. I am disappointed that Stroud's lead in recycling has dropped significantly. We can and should be doing much more.

6. 20 mph in residential areas and transport issues. 20 mph cuts casualties, improves neighbourhoods and leads to more people feeling safer to walk and cycle. The County are reviewing their policy but appear reluctant to go for 20 mph in all residential areas like Portsmouth and an increasing number of other places. I am hoping we can change their minds. Working with the Parish Councils we have sought other traffic calming measures like the removal of the middle white line and hopefully gateways at the main entrances to the villages. The '20 is Plenty' scheme was part of the plan to move towards a mandatory limit. See lots re 20 mph on my blog here. I have also researched best practice in terms of traffic management and in 2005 wrote a well-received report entitled "Better Streets for Stroud District."  See also article in Resurgence that is a useful summary of the approach which is gaining credibility. I helped organise a seminar at the District Council to increase awareness of this important approach.

7. Improvements to public transport and cycling. I have taken a keen interest in transport issues like seeking improvements to cycling, better bus services, campaigning for the doubling of the rail line and helping lead a three year campaign to get a bus shelter.

8. Fuel poverty, energy security and climate change. I am passionate about these linked issues and frustrated that there is not more urgency. I have just chaired two inquiries at the District Council which made successful recommendations to tackle these issues. See here and here; these have also led to a ground-breaking Energy Strategy for the District Council which is set to be approved this month. It is only a small step although many were surprised to see the recommendations were accepted at all. I have also initiated and coordinated the hugely successful Eco Renovation Open Homes weekends to encourage people to take more energy efficiency and renewable measures. This is now in it's fourth year and has seen many hundreds of visits to local homes like the one pictured. Many people value the chance to talking to others about the options before embarking on an eco-renovation. See my report of the first year here. I also initiated the project to make Energy Monitors available in libraries to help people cut their energy use. I have also pushed measures within the District Council and have seen successes like the pool cover at Stratford Park Leisure Centre and ensuring sustainability is a key issue in any new leisure services contract. We need more urgency to tackling these issues - there are many opportunities. If for example the Council borrowed money to invest in renewables, we could pay back the loan with money saved from fuel costs. Such moves make economic and environmental sense, we just need the political will to make it happen! I am increasingly optimistic that we might develop a significant project locally.

9. Protecting our wildlife and environment. I have been involved in projects locally such as the local brook action group mentioned above, supporting the local Hedgehog Hospital, worked with a local badger group and helping develop the Stroud-based Global Bee Project to protect solitary bees - see for example here. I have opposed cuts to organisations like the Stroud Valleys Project that involve so many local people in important projects locally.

10. Other stuff!! As this blog will show I have been involved in many other projects and actions. Local projects that I'm hoping can go forward include a wood fuel project in Randwick woods, initiating a Potato Day for Stroud, improved Broadband services, expanding the use of the Stroud Pound, street parties and more apple juicing in a local orchard with hopes of setting up a community orchard.

I have also been involved in local actions regarding our public services like libraries, post offices and health services. Working for a charity that supports people with mental health problems and previous work as a Social Worker have made me acutely aware of the importance of local public services  - as I said in a letter to the press "Churchill, Gandhi and Truman have all said we can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable members." Issues of equality are crucial and I have supported many local groups and organised projects like flying the Rainbow flag on Ebley Mill on Gloucestershire's Gay Pride day.

My blog has lots more info like various petitions, the successful opposition to arts funding cuts, the campaign against Staverton Airport expanding or the attempts to stop another nuclear plant being built at Oldbury, plus more local stuff like seeking improvements to road gullies and grit bins, supporting locals regarding planning issues (some successful and some not so!) and larger planning issues locally like Tricorn House and Cashes Green Hospital site. Read my blog for more!

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