Elm Park campaigners: our local councillors now have a chance to put things right
Published on: 20 Dec 2017
The chairman of the Save Elm Park action group has called on Filton's South Glos councillors to 'put things right' and ensure the Community Garden is protected when green spaces are looked at next year under the council's Local Plan.
Dave Mikkelson has spoken out after South Glos voted through its Policy, Sites and Places plan which aims to protect dozens of green spaces including Elm Park - but which has left open the possibility that much of the Community Garden could be 'land grabbed' for road widening.
A full council meeting last month marked the end of campaigning - for now - with a 3,000 signature petition and huge public anger surrounding the issue.
Mr Mikkelson said the three Filton South Glos councillors - Adam Monk, Roger Hutchinson and Ian Scott - and the town council failed to miss opportunities to lodge protests after the community garden and other parts of Elm Park were taken out of the protection zone.
Cllr Monk said the Filton councillors had not been advised of any significant changes and were 'confident there had been no change'.
Mr Mikkeslon said: "We have to look at why we got into the position and why it was the residents who had to take the fight to South Gloucestershire Council. In the June 2016 consultation the whole of Elm Park was designated as a green space so happy days.
"However between November 2016 and February 2017 there was a further consultation with input from the Highways Department and this is where the buffer zone was introduced. Our South Gloucestershire Councillors and the Town Clerk were advised of this further consultation but took no action, they felt that had dealt with it in June 2016 so did not need to look at it again, crucially they missed the opportunity to attend a workshop and also meet with the inspector and object at that stage to the buffer zone.
"Our South Gloucestershire Councillors were also informed about the changes in May 2017 but again did not take any action and look at the documents presented to them. This happened again in June 2017 when they and the Town Council were provided with the completed consultation and again they did not read the documents presented to them. We are very fortunate resident Helen Johnson did because otherwise we would be none the wiser.
"The Town Clerk and our South Gloucestershire Councillors now have the opportunity to put this right under the Local Plan, there is no room for complacency."
Mr Mikkelson said it was vital the Millennium Green and the field at Shellard Road also need protection as they could be prime spots for development.
Cllr Monk said: "In the 2015 version of the Plan the buffer zone in Elm Park wasn’t included but was added at a later date. Obviously Filton councillors had no cause to object then, and consequently we were not invited to meet with the inspector at a that stage. We did object at the subsequent consultation once the addition had been found but the Inspector decided to uphold the decision that she had made and therefore didn’t invite us to meet.
"So the suggestion that we had failed to accept an invitation to meet the inspector is not correct.
"We did however meet with officers as members of the Labour Group when invited.
"We as councillors were used to officers advising us when significant and insignificant changes were proposed but that wasn’t done on this occasion so we were confident that there had been no change at a later time, we were therefore unaware that action was required.
"The (Conservative) group that currently runs the council do of course receive briefings that we are not given.
"The key element is that we ensure that Elm Park & other green spaces in Filton are protected through the Local Plan which is the next policy document the local plan which is shortly going to be the subject of a further consultation."
The council meeting saw a large contingent of campaigners attend with several speaking out strongly against the threat to the garden and other land.
Mr Mikkelson said that he was comforted by the special mention Elm Park received relating to the Local Plan. He added: "I would like to give my thanks to those who spoke so well and passionately at the meetings, Helen Johnson, Howard Bowker, Tony Hillier, Louise Davies, Keith Briffet, Darryl Collins, Brian Smith and Elizabeth Elesden and also the people of Filton and wider community who supported the campaign in numbers.
"I believe that much has been achieved by the residents and South Gloucestershire Council will be more receptive when the Town Clerk and Councillors negotiate with South Gloucestershire to protect our green spaces next year, SGC are on notice that we will not be ignored."
Earlier this year dozens of residents made their views felt at a protest in the garden.
The Community Garden has been created by volunteers, with the support of the town council and local schools, and has won multiple awards from the Royal Horticultural Society.