Sunday, 12 June 2011

Let's get the Council moving on Grove Wood

Grove Wood at full council from 6pm on Tuesday 21st June 2011

It is now over a year since Bristol City Council’s Cabinet declared their intention to designate Grove Wood a Local Nature Reserve and compulsory purchase it from the landowner if they could not reach an agreement with them.

Well precious little seems to have happened in the last year as far as we can tell. We know that the Council sent a letter to the landowner in November 2010 offering to buy the wood from him, but no official proceedings to declare the wood a nature reserve seem to have started. We can only assume that nothing is being done.

We are therefore going to lobby the next full Council meeting on Tuesday 21st June at 6pm. We have submitted a series of questions to the Council for the appropriate Councillor to answer so we can find out what is going on.

You can help put some more pressure on Bristol City Council to get moving by sending in a statement telling them exactly how you feel about this situation. Please send in a statement in your own words, but you might like to tell them that:

• Snuff Mills Action Group and the local community have been campaigning for over 3 years to get Grove Wood in to safe hands
• Thousands of people signed a petition to seek the declaration of Grove Wood as a Local Nature Reserve
• The landowner appears to have very little respect for the woods, local people or the attempts of the Council to resolve the situation
• The Action Group is seeking to make Grove Wood a Town Green, but this would not get it in to safe ownership or ensure that it is properly looked after
• It’s time the Council helped the local community in its efforts to save Grove Wood by compulsory purchasing it from the landowner

But this is really the time for you to say why you think Grove Wood should become a nature reserve and tell them how disappointed you are that nothing seems to be happening.

Please keep your statement polite and send it to no later than noon on Monday 20th June. If you send us a copy, we will paste it on to the blog for others to see, to give them ideas.

If you wish to speak to the full Council meeting, let them know and don’t forget to join us outside the Council House on College Green at 5.45pm for yet another protest – bring those trusty banners from other protests or make a new one!

Everyone in Snuff Mills Action Group thinks it's time for the Council to take action - help us make that happen.


stevem said...

Submission from Sue, Stapleton resident:

Dear Councillors and Officers

I was present at the cabinet meeting, over a year ago, at which a decision was taken to move forward with the proposal to make Grove Wood a Local Nature Reserve, with the likely result that the wood would be compulsorily purchased from the current owner. An assurance was given that the funds were in place for the purchase, and that the Council would ensure the process was initiated, and this was fully approved of and supported by cabinet members and officers.

To date, I have seen no evidence of progress at all. While I understand the Council must negotiate with the landowner with a view to agreeing a management plan, and failing that, the purchase process would come into effect, there has been no information whatsoever from the council about what their communications have demanded of the landowner, nor of any timescale for a response before the next stage of the process took effect.

Assuming the landowner has not agreed to be involved in the creation of LNR, it is difficult to see why the Council has apparently not made the next move in the process. No real explanation of progress or its lack has been offered by the Council to Snuff Mills Action Group, whose members have been working to secure the future of the wood in their own time and at their own expense, for over three years now.

It is difficult to conclude other than that there is no wish to pursue this process on the part of the Council. The ongoing Town Green hearing has yet to reach a conclusion, and is not guaranteed to succeed. In the event of its success, it would still provide, in my view, insufficient protection from the landowner’s apparent wish to turn Grove Wood into some kind of commercial venture. It is entirely unsuitable for commercial use if it is to retain its current high value as both an amenity for the local community and habitat for numerous protected animal species and rare plants.

There is a sustained, keen interest in the future of this wood in the local area, and BCC has an opportunity to be a force for good here, by purchasing the wood and thereby acting on behalf of its people, rather than playing to the business interests and self aggrandisement of an individual with no history of any positive or beneficial activity within the community.

I am deeply disappointed that, no matter how hard local people work, or how diligently they attempt to use the legal processes available to effect change, the Council seems to be indifferent to their entirely public spirited actions, dragging the process out interminably.

This is not a selfish campaign to benefit a handful of people, it is a campaign to keep a valuable asset for the whole community’s enjoyment, and to preserve a diverse habitat and beautiful oasis of wildness in the city.

I look forward to effective action from the Council to move this process forward, rather than yet more empty assurances followed by further months and years of unnecessary delay.

stevem said...

Statement from Andy, local resident:

Statement for The Full Meeting of Council Tuesday 21st June 2011: One whole year has passed since Bristol City Council voted to declare Grove Wood in Stapleton aLocal Nature Reserve (LNR). The plan was to advise the landowner of this and offer to enter into amanagement agreement with him which, if unsuccessful, would result in the Council purchasing theland using a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO). To my knowledge nothing has been done other than a letter being sent to the landowner offering tobuy the land. This is only hearsay as there is no publicly available information on the progress ofthe plan for the LNR or the CPO. The officer who has been put in charge will not divulge anydetails of the process, even to the elected councilor for my ward. Could you please explain what has, if anything, been done and make that information available in apublic forum? If there has been no progress (as I suspect) then I would urge you to make it apriority once more. The local people have campaigned long and hard to save this woodland and thecouncil has, on the whole, responded positively and done the right things. It is now in theCouncil's own interests to finish the process with the LNR/CPO, stop wasting any more time and get the woods into public ownership.

Mogz said...

It has been nearly two years since a petition carrying thousands of signatures was submitted to Council demanding that Grove Wood be purchased for the good of the people of Bristol. As the lead petitioner, I am not only awaiting a formal reply on behalf of the signatories, but am still awaiting firm action which will place this precious place in safe hands. If indeed you have no intentions of using your powers to compulsorily purchase the land, then at least make your position clear and desist from the constant use of smoke and mirrors which serves no one well.

stevem said...

Sue's statement

I wish to support Snuff Mills Action Group in their request for information about the progress of the City’s intention to purchase Grove Wood.

There seems to have been no detectable action on the matter for over a year. Why is the Council so dilatory?

Grove Wood is a quiet undisturbed wooded area alongside the River Frome. Its steep rather wild parts offer habitats for many species which would not have a chance elsewhere. The Council has a duty to protect biodiversity and so should declare the area to be a Nature Reserve, which would be respected by visitors other than, perhaps, the current owner,

stevem said...

Sonia's statement:

Thousands of people signed a petition and were delighted when the
Council announced its intention to declare Grove Wood a nature reserve.
Also there were plans to move towards compulsory purchase of this
beautiful piece of land if there could not be suitable negotiation with
the landlord for its protection . Since then, the landlord's statements
and behaviour don't appear to be any more reasonable than they ever
It is very disappointing that nothing whatsoever seems to have
happened since the statement. Please will members ensure that the
protection of the wood becomes a reality soon?


stevem said...

Andrew's statement:

It always has, and will always be, difficult to juggle the public purse to give "The people" what they want.
BUT. Councillors, are looked upon, as a group ,made up of "Elders" to decide & act on the best wishes of. the people . The whole of the Froom Valley SHOULD be SAFE in their hands , for Bristolians NOW , and in the FUTURE to enjoy, as my parents did, my family , and their family. To permit any development, here!, against the will of the people, ------- this councill will be forever remembered , ------ unforgivingly , by BRISTOLIANS . .. .. .. .. The storm & foul water drains engineered in the
valley in the early fiftys & sixtys , a greater part of the budget was to make it , least intrusive as possible. Much of the concrete, covering the piping, became part of the walk ways, enhancing/ extending the access to some of the steeper parts of the valley to Frenchay. If developers continue,( spoiling this wonderfull enviroment, ) the money spent covering the drainage system, would be wasted. and we might as well have had a 2ft diametre black pipe,all the way down the valley
. May I suggest, all the councillors, this month, early one , NICE SUNNY MORNING Meet & start, at the river entrance to EASTVILLE PARK . Half 5-6 o'clock,----- " Walk the Walk" through to Snuff Mills , The more adventurious on to FRENCHAY . I am sure you will have a greater understanding of what Bristolians have & WANT to keep. Andrew

stevem said...

Dr Naiem and family statement:

Dear Sir/Madam,

We are writing to you to understand the progress the council has made in securing Grove Wood and fulfilling its commitment to make it a public nature reserve. As I am sure you will know it has now been over a year since the council
agreed to do this after the petitioning of thousands of local people.

The landowner seems to have very little respect for the woods evidenced by the tree felling and the erection of unsightly and redundant fencing (which has only very recently been removed). The Snuff Mills Action Group would like to
make Grove Wood a Town Green. This is a very laudable cause, our only worry is that this alone would not get the woods into responsible ownership or ensure that it is properly looked after. At the moment, volunteers help in keeping this
area free of litter. We ourselves have on a number of occasions had to report illegal fishing. The council’s help is sorely needed to preserve and maintain this wonderful community amenity before it is irrevocably damaged.

We really would like the council to now act promptly in line with the clear wishes of the local community and issue a CPO for Grove Woods.

Emphatically yours,
Dr Naiem

stevem said...

Andrew's message:

For some time there has been talk about taking Grove Wood into Council ownership and protecting it in one way or another for future generations to enjoy.

Much talk but it would seem little action.

Is there a timetable or is there some problem preventing progress?


stevem said...

Mark's statement:

Statement for The Full Meeting of Council Tuesday 21st June 2011

Dear Councillors,

On June 10th 2010 the Cabinet made two decisions in relation to declared the land known as Grove Wood in Stapleton as a Local Nature Reserve.

1. That it be agreed that the Council should seek to enter into an
agreement with the landowner of Grove Wood, and declare
and manage the site as a local nature reserve , in consultation
with Natural England.
2. That, in the event that the Council is unable to secure a
satisfactory agreement on reasonable terms with the
landowner, the Head of Legal Services be authorised to make
a compulsory purchase order to acquire the site for the
purpose of a local nature reserve and, if the compulsory
purchase order is confirmed, declare the site as a local nature
reserve in consultation with Natural England.

As a year has now passed and no information on how this is proceeding has been made available to the public.

I would like to reiterate to the Councillors that this woodland is a valuable natural resource and that if an agreement has not been made with the landowner in a year then surely it is time for the Head of Legal Services to proceed with the process of making a Compulsory Purchase Order. As no notices have been posted to this affect then one has to assume that this process has not even started.

Members of Snuff Mills Action Group and the local community have been campaigning for over 3 years for the protection of Grove Wood. A epetition was signed by 1110 people seeking the wood be declared as a Local Nature Reserve and Compulsory Purchased.

Snuff Mills Action Group are also seeking to make Grove Wood a Town Green and they are part way through this process. As I am sure the Councillors will be aware this is a long process and although if eventually the application is found in favour of making Grove Wood a Town Green this will not prevent the actions of a landowner from causing damage to the sensitive ecosystem found in the woodland.
The only true way to prevent this from happening is to bring the ownership of the woodland into public ownership and declare the site a Local Nature Reserve.

I urge the councillors to continue their support as was shown previously but ask that they request officers to deal with this matter in a timely manner so as to spare the local community any more anguish and protect the woods for future generations to enjoy

Yours Faithfully