Press Release – Anger at threat to local beauty spot

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Press Release

Anger at threat to local beauty spot

Planning application submitted for popular green open space

Frome Valley and Eastville Park.

Property developers acting for the Bristol Merchant Venturers have submitted plans that would see luxury houses built on a much loved green open space beside the Frome Valley Walkway and Eastville Park lake – in one of Bristol’s most beautiful and cherished historic landscapes – on land dismissed by the developers as ‘an unsightly corner’ (see picture below).
Local people have vowed to fight the plans and have formed a Community Association to organize their campaign.They say that this kind of insidious, piecemeal development threatens all green open space in Bristol, pointing out that the land is already protected within Bristol City Council planning policy1, but planning permission, if granted, would send out a signal that all green open space in Bristol was potentially available for development.They point to the recent CPRE report2From Wasted Space to Living Spaces’ – based on research by the University of the West of England – that shows Bristol has the capacity for to build more than 30,000 new homes on brownfield or previously developed land and that greenfield sites such as this do not need to be developed to meet housing needs. The report ‘paints Bristol’s use of brownfield land for development in a relatively positive light, saying Bristol City Council is good at encouraging the development of smaller ‘windfall’ sites, which means that they have less need to look at greenfield land for development’. Local residents say ‘this needs to be much more robustly enshrined in planning policy and that, as European Green Capital, Bristol should be much clearer in setting a national example in prioritizing brownfield development to protect green open space’.They also point out that the landowners, the Merchant Venturers, own Clifton Downs and share the management of Durdham Downs with the City Council.Campaign organizers are questioning how anyone proposing to build on such a unique green space purely for profit can be trusted with the stewardship of any important public space – will we see proposals for similar piecemeal development on the Downs?Earlier in the year, the proposed development site at Stapleton was brutally stripped of all vegetation and flailed back to bare earth before any ecological assessment was carried out. Locals reported the matter to the Police, believing that the clearance work had caused the partial collapse of a badger sett, and that this constituted an offence3. They were dismayed to see an area of dense undergrowth that had become a sheltered nesting site for birds and which supported such a variety of wildlife devastated at the start of the nesting season.Campaigners say this showed the developers in their true colours – as venal profiteers who sought to line their pockets at the expense of both the environment and a much loved local amenity. Local people have also been angered at the developer’s claims to have ‘allayed resident’s fears’ and say such claims have merely stoked their determination to fight the plans.The Protect Frome Valley @ Stapleton. Community Association4 are appealing to everyone who cares about the Frome Valley and Eastville Park – and the importance of preserving all such places across Bristol for future generations – to object to this application. Details and guidance can be found on the Association’s website http://protect.fromevalley.org/ENDS

Notes to Editors:
  1. Proposed development site is recognised in Bristol Local Plan as part of the Stapleton and Frome Valley Conservation area. It is also designated as part of a ‘Historic Park and Garden’ and as ‘Important Open Space’ for its amenity value, and as a ‘Wildlife Corridor’ for its importance to wildlife’. It is immediately adjacent to an ‘Area of Conservation Interest’. Such areas should be protected from development according to published planning policy. See http://protect.fromevalley.org/bristol-city-council-planning-policies/
  2. From Wasted Space to Living Spaces report published by Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and based on research by UWE. It is the first comprehensive figure for brownfield capacity in almost five years, and shows a minimum of 976,000 new homes could be built on identified brownfield sites across the country, with 30,000 in Bristol.
  3. The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 prohibits any work that might kill, injure or disturb badgers or their sett. Such work requires a licence from Natural England and it is unlikely that one would have been granted during the breeding season, running from December to June. The clearance work was done in early February. For further details see http://badgertrust.org.uk/
  4. Campaign organized by ‘Protect Frome Valley @ Stapleton’ Community Association. For details see http://protect.fromevalley.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/savefromevalleyatstapleton
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