Neighbourhood Plan Consultation Begins!

Glastonbury’s community-led Neighbourhood Plan – to guide the future development and conservation of our local area – formally gets underway this month, with Mendip District Council holding a consultation on the physical area that the plan will cover.

On 26th May 2016, Glastonbury Town Council formally applied to Mendip District Council to designate the Neighbourhood Plan area – which is to be the existing parish boundary of the Town Council’s four wards.

The proposed Glastonbury Neighbourhood Plan area
The proposed Glastonbury Neighbourhood Plan area

Mendip District Council are now undertaking a public consultation on Glastonbury’s Neighbourhood Plan application – from Tuesday 7th June to Tuesday 19th July 2016 – notifying ‘potentially affected parties’ on the area the plan will cover and inviting comments; “to seek views from people who live and work in the community as to whether the area identified is considered to be appropriate.”

Mendip’s website states: “At this stage, views on the content of the Neighbourhood Plan are not being sought, as these will be gathered in consultation exercises organised by the town council during production of the plan…  We would urge local residents to respond to the consultation if they think the boundaries being used should be different from what is being proposed.”

If you wish to make a comment on whether the proposed neighbourhood plan area (which follows the parish boundary) is appropriate you can do so either:

  • By emailing planningpolicy@mendip.gov.uk
  • Or by writing to: Planning Policy Team, Mendip District Council, Cannards Grave Road, Shepton Mallet, BA4 5BT

Please submit your comments by 5 pm on Tuesday 19th July 2016.

Please note that at Mendip district Council are not asking for comments on the potential content of Glastonbury’s Neighbourhood Plan, only whether the proposed area it will have an effect on is appropriate.

For more information on neighbourhood planning please visit National Planning Policy Framework for England’s Planning Practice Guidance.

If you have any questions regarding the area designation process then please contact Natasha Durham by email: natasha.durham@mendip.gov.uk or telephone: 01749 341 316.

“Where are we now?” – an update on Glastonbury’s Neighbourhood Plan

Neighbourhood-Planning 2

One thing I have learnt over the past six months or so is that Neighbourhood Planning is not a quick process – but perhaps that’s only to be expected when undertaking something that truly needs to involve as many people as possible; that will – eventually – become part of the statutory policies for the future development of our area; something with real legal force!

So – as David Bowie might say – “where are we now?

I couldn’t start this blog without mentioning the amazing Paul Sander-Jackson, who has been a major force-for-good on Glastonbury Town Council in support of the Neighbourhood Plan.  Elected in May 2015, Paul became Chair of Glastonbury’s Planning Committee and oversaw the initial Neighbourhood Planning steering group meetings – which researched the process and recommended that the council proceed with a Neighbourhood Plan.

Sadly, Paul had to stand down from the council at the end of March due to ill health. His expertise, mindfulness, and congenial nature will be sorely missed; his time as an elected member may have been short, but it leaves our community the opportunity to undertake a Neighbourhood Plan as its legacy.

As part of that legacy, I am delighted to report that in February, Glastonbury Town Council advertised the post of Neighbourhood Planning Officer – a post ‘responsible for all aspects of the neighbourhood planning process’ – and in March, recruited Gerard Tucker!

Gerard began working for Glastonbury on 3rd May, and has already begun developing Glastonbury’s very own Neighbourhood Plan ‘road map’ – to help our community set out a positive vision for how we want Glastonbury to flourish and develop over the next twenty years!

The Neighbourhood Plan process [from Locality]
The Neighbourhood Plan process [from Locality]
The first item on the agenda is the town’s official application to Mendip District Council to designate Glastonbury as a ‘Neighbourhood Area’, which will be followed by a period of publicity and consultation by the Planning Authority.

As the ‘Qualifying Body’, the Town Council has already begun to gather baseline information and evidence which will help determine the scope and complexity of the plan – such as housing need data, development viability considerations, environmental designations, and flood risk assessments.

In addition, I have provided Gerard with a whole host of Neighbourhood Planning material and information provided through the COM fund, and the considerable amount of data arising from my work on the Local Plan Part II consultation – which contains the main strategic policies for the district in general and Glastonbury in particular.

Great-British-High-Street1

Once the Neighbourhood Area has been approved by Mendip – and the scope agreed – then it’s full steam ahead into the real purpose of the plan: to engage and consult with you; the people living and working in Glastonbury!

This will involve a whole host of activities, ranging from formal consultation events to questionnaires to the stalwart of all good community organising – knocking on doors and listening…

Let’s get planning !

Consultation

‘Crazy Horse’ funeral as last bank closes

Lloyds Bank is committed to the industry wide Access to Banking Protocol introduced by the British Bankers’ Association in May 2015. Before we made the decision to close the Glastonbury branch we carried out a thorough review to assess the impact of the closure on customers and the wider community.

On Tuesday 5th April, despite a huge effort by the local community to keep it open, Glastonbury last bank – Lloyds – closed for the final time…

Chief Mourners, ‘Undertaker’, Deputy, and Mayor Michell photographed by Tor Webster – at the ‘Wild South West’ funeral of ‘Crazy Horse’.
Chief Mourners, ‘Undertaker’, Deputy, and Mayor Michell photographed by Tor Webster – at the ‘Wild South West’ funeral of ‘Crazy Horse’.

Marking the event in Glastonbury’s own inimitable way, the Last Bank Standing community group organised a fourth ‘Flash Mob’ – A ‘Wild South West’ funeral procession to mourn the demise of ‘Crazy Horse’!

A hand drawn funeral-bier, carrying the Black Horse’s coffin (its legs sticking out the top!), was pulled through the packed streets by the town’s Deputy, ‘Undertaker’, and chief mourners.

Crazy Horse’s coffin arrives at Lloyds Bank - photograph by Laura Zaky
Crazy Horse’s coffin arrives at Lloyds Bank – photograph by Laura Zaky

The procession was met outside Lloyds Bank (in the High Street) by the Town Crier, the town’s Mayor, the Member of Parliament, and many of the 6,000 residents who had signed the petition to keep the bank open!

Last Bank Standing Chair, Paul Manning told reporters: “I fully agree that people are banking online, but [Lloyds] are not thinking of their customers, because 30% of them don’t. Particularly the elderly and the more socially-disadvantaged who won’t, or can’t use the internet.

Lloyds Bank published this statement: “Following our review and period of contact with local customers and key members of the local community, we have decided to proceed with the closure of the Glastonbury branch on 5 April 2016.

Glastonbury’s community replies: “WATCH THIS SPACE !

Last bank standing is set to cash up for good - Central Somerset Gazette, 31st March 2016
Last bank standing is set to cash up for good – Central Somerset Gazette, 31st March 2016
A black day as the Black Horse is laid to rest - Front Page, Central Somerset Gazette, 7th April 2016
A black day as the Black Horse is laid to rest – Front Page, Central Somerset Gazette, 7th April 2016
‘Dead horse’ wheeled to doors of last bank in protest at its closure - Central Somerset Gazette, 7th April 2016
‘Dead horse’ wheeled to doors of last bank in protest at its closure – Central Somerset Gazette, 7th April 2016

OTHER MEDIA COVERAGE:

ITV NEWS: Protestors replace bank sign with horse leaving town [30th March 2016]

Protestors replace bank sign with horse leaving town

WESTERN DAILY PRESS: Last bank in Glastonbury to shut next week [31st March 2016]

glastonbury_banks_campaign_logo2_0

BBC ONE: Glastonbury Lloyds to shut despite 6,000 signature petition [5th April 2016]

BBC 6000 petition

ITV WEST: Glastonbury’s last remaining bank closes its doors [5th April 2016]

ITV Last bank closes doors

Central Somerset Gazette: Last bank closes in Glastonbury as ‘dead horse’ led to its door in mock funeral protest [7th April 2016]

CSG Mock funeral photographs by Jason Bryant

This bird has flown…

Glastonbury’s branch of Barclays Bank closed its doors for the last time on Friday 4th March 2016.  Glastonbury’s community turned out en masse to demonstrate how they felt about it; cameras from ITV and BBC were there to capture the town’s third Flash Mob protest organised by the Last Bank Standing.

Glastonbury’s response to the expected closure of all the town’s banks has been hailed as an inspiration by other communities facing the same fate; has caught the attention of the national press – and even prompted acknowledgment at Prime Minister’s Questions, when the MP for Glastonbury, James Heappey, asked David Cameron if he would encourage the banks “to think again”.

The Barclays’ Flash Mob follows hot on the heals of the hugely successful ‘Crazy Horse’ – developed into a spoof ‘Spaghetti Western’, which has received over 2,000 views on YouTube!

Crazy Horse still Blog 6

More community action is planned for 5th April – the date when Lloyds Bank threaten to close Glastonbury’s last bank for good…  It could very well end with a ‘show down’ between the Deputy and the Black Horse !!!

Last Bank Standing’s Paul Manning told ITV: “There’s still a chance Lloyds could change their minds, but I think it’s also sending a message out there, to the banks, that they’ve really got to live up to the promises that they’re making to their customers!

The campaign continues…

Protests rise as last banks in town get ready to close - Central Somerset Gazette, 25th February 2016
Protests rise as last banks in town get ready to close – Central Somerset Gazette, 25th February 2016
Fight to keep town’s last bank open - Central Somerset Gazette, 10th March 2016
Fight to keep town’s last bank open – Central Somerset Gazette, 10th March 2016

ITV WEST: Protesters march on Glastonbury over bank closure [4th March 2016]

ITV Barclays' closure 2

Growing Community by Sharing the Harvest

Transition Glastonbury emerged “in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring”.   I recall a number of different people coming to see me, over a week or two in the summer of 2006, all excited about “what’s going on in Totnes!

TGLOGOhighres-In 2006, Glastonbury’s community was a receptive and fertile place for the new ‘Transition Town’ concept, which was founded on the principles of Permaculture, with the key aim of addressing two issues:
1) what response – if any – can we as communities make to tackle climate change?
2) how do we prepare for a future where the world’s finite fossil fuels become exhausted… ?

There was already a ‘Climate Action Now’ group, and my own organising work had led to the development of the ‘Glastonbury United’ campaign, which was about getting more people registered to vote and more engagement with local politics.

Transition Towns: From oil dependency to local resilience
Transition Towns: ‘From oil dependency to local resilience’

Key to Transition was the idea of ‘local resilience’ – the ability of a community to cope with ‘shock’; the shock of increasingly unpredictable, more extreme weather conditions; the inevitable shock of living through the depletion of oil, and the unavoidable ‘energy descent’ that would follow.

By 2007, two prominent Transitioners, community activist Linda Hull and straw-bale house pioneer Caroline Barry, had been elected onto the Town Council under the ‘Glastonbury United’ banner, and a vibrant Transition Glastonbury was engrossed in an attempt to fathom a fundamental, Maslowian question: “could Glastonbury feed itself?

Volunteers were mapping local food production in a 30 mile radius of the town – to establish just how resilient Glastonbury could be if the oil supply was turned off; if transport systems broke down; if we had to rely solely on local producers to feed 9,000 local people…

At the same time, all the local food suppliers, cafés, and retailers were asked where they sourced their products…

‘A Celebration of Local Food’ - Transition Glastonbury 2008
‘A Celebration of Local Food’ – Transition Glastonbury 2008

The results were analysed, collated, and Glastonbury’s local food directory ‘A Celebration of Local Food’ was published.

The answer to the question, “could Glastonbury feed itself?” was a bit of a shock for all concerned; for – although there were certainly a good number of meat and dairy producers in the vicinity of the town, and Sharpham Park could provide enough grains – the local farms were not producing anywhere near enough vegetables to meet the needs of the town…  Indeed, the nearest vegetable producer of any size was over 20 miles away!

It became very clear that Glastonbury needed to begin to ‘grow its own’, and people started to set up food initiatives in earnest, with one of the first being ‘Torganics’, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) at Paddington Farm, just north-east of the Tor.

Over the years, other great initiatives have grown, including Healing Gardens Co-operative, Incredible Edible Somerset, Feed Avalon, and Glastonbury’s annual Harvest Show!

The latest is Plotgate Community Supported Agriculture (Plotgate CSA) – a new co-operative aiming to “grow local food for local people, and sharing the fun of farming.”

L-R: Corganiser Jon Cousins, Alex Lawrie of SCS CIC, with Amy Willoughby and Dan Britton from Plotgate CSA
L-R: Corganiser Jon Cousins, Alex Lawrie of SCS CIC, with Amy Willoughby and Dan Britton from Plotgate CSA

On Saturday, 12th March, Plotgate will be formally launching its business with an evening of “informing and enthusing about fresh, local and seasonal vegetables that are sustainably produced and ecologically enhancing” – to be held at Barton St David Village Hall, just outside Glastonbury.

Supported by the Just Growth Programme, Plotgate CSA will be using Community Shares to raise finance for their venture.  Their pioneer share offer opens on the evening of the launch; providing an opportunity for local people to join the CSA and invest in the project.

To find out more, please visit Plotgate’s website, or e-mail: plotgate.csa@gmail.com

Do you like your spaghetti (South) Western?

Listening to hundreds of local people during the past few months, the over-riding concern for many in Glastonbury is the closure of all the town’s banks.  By April – when Lloyds close their door for the last time – Glastonbury will no longer have a High Street Bank…

Glastonbury is not unique; towns up and down the country are facing the same situation! Traders who will struggle to get enough coins and notes for change, or to deal with cash at the end of the day; people being excluded – especially older members of our communities, who do not use the internet or who feel uncomfortable dealing with banks over the phone…

Do the banks care? ” – a question raised at one of the packed public meetings; “we can’t boycott them! Everyone needs a bank!
Yes! ” came a reply, “they care about their reputations…
Publicity is important,” someone else suggested: “People know about Glastonbury – haven’t we got a big enough profile to do something?

Absolutely

Last Bank Standing Oracle February 2016
The Last Bank Standing in the Glastonbury Oracle magazine, February 2016

The first Flashmob – Jerusalem – attracted a great deal of attention. It caused a stir at Lloyds HQ, when the 23 head directors each received a memory stick containing the video.
We’re reliably informed “They did not like it!
It caused a stir in Westminster too – resulting in a mention at Prime Minister’s Questions that our “World famous town will lose all three of its remaining banks within 12 weeks of each other! ”  The Prime Minister agreed that the “physical presence” of banks on the High Street was important…

More bank closures ahead as the Co-op plans to pull out of Street CSG 4th February 2016
More bank closures ahead – from the Central Somerset Gazette, 4th February 2016

Our petition has attracted over 5,000 signatures – and it was handed to County Councillor Terry Napper on 11th February.
It reads: “In view of the severe difficulties businesses and people, who don’t bank online, will face when all banking provision is withdrawn from a community; we call upon our County Council to actively engage with the Banks to ensure their adherence to the Access to Banking Protocol.”
This now means that Somerset County Council will have to debate the issue of the bank closures at their next meeting.

Petition handed to County Cllr Terry Napper
Last Bank Standing campaigner Gabriel Avalon hands over the 5,000 strong petition to County Councillor Terry Napper at Glastonbury Town Hall

You can still sign our Last Bank Standing petition to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP by clicking HERE.

At their January meeting, Glastonbury Town Council – prompted by Last Bank Standing – decided to support the campaign by adding the remaining banks to the District Council’s Assets of Community Value list – which provides “land or property of importance to a local community” additional protection from development under the Localism Act 2011.

Councillors vote to protect threatened bank buildings CSG 28th January 2016
from the Central Somerset Gazette, 28th January 2016
Flash mob will keep pressure on banks - Central Somerset Gazette, 18th February 2016
Flash mob will keep pressure on banks – Central Somerset Gazette, 18th February 2016

WANTED Black Horse 1What next? A Spaghetti Western (of course)…

Crazy Horse!

The call went out: “Flashmob 11.45 am, Saturday 20th February – outside St. John’s!

The nod was given – the Black Horse had been spotted.

Time to get the Deputy…

 

Community Shares are ACE

Avalon Community Energy's first public meeting, August 2013
Avalon Community Energy’s first public meeting, August 2013

In August 2013, a public meeting was held at Glastonbury Town Hall by members of our community who wanted to get organised over re-localising energy production.

As a CO, I supported the group who coordinated the meeting, and I helped facilitate the community engagement and consultation – listening to what those present loved about renewable energy, their concerns, their visions for local energy projects, and their ideas for the future.

The event attracted a good-sized audience, who heard from two keynote speakers:  SCS’s Alex Lawrie – who explained how to set up a Community Energy Co-operative – and Robin Mewes – who gave a presentation about Wedmore Community Power, and how they raised over a £1,000,000 through the issue of ‘Community Shares’.

The first public meeting in August 2013.

The public meeting asked the question: “Do you think Glastonbury should generate its own source of renewable energy?
The answer was a resounding “YES!

I continued to be involved, and over the following months, Avalon Community Energy (ACE) Limited – registered as a Community Benefit Society, number 31969-R – started to build its membership; listening to the wider community; expanding its base to the West Mendip district, including Wells, Shepton Mallet, and Street, in addition to Glastonbury and the surrounding rural areas. The founding directors being Graham Lucas, Madeleine Milnes, Chris Briton, Earl Bramley-Howard, Alyson Black, Owen Saward, and… I found myself being elected the Chair!

Parallel to the board of directors, a ‘Breakthrough Technology’ group developed out of the community engagement and consultation – meeting regularly to explore the potential of new energy generation devices, cutting-edge research, and alternative technological solutions.

In the spring of 2014, an ACE website was created, and we put together a number of funding bids and possible projects – based on the feedback and suggestions coming from our community.

ACE made a successful application to the Cooperative Enterprise Hub for funding to secure development support, and also received a £20k grant from the Rural Community Energy Fund – part of the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) – to conduct a feasibility study on our potential projects.

Early in 2015 – following the completion of the feasibility study, conducted by Communities For Renewables – two roof-top Solar PV projects were identified: Brookside Academy and Evercreech Junction industrial estate.  Detailed plans were made, and the group prepared to raise funds using Community Shares.

A Share Offer Document was produced during the summer of 2015, and a Pioneer Share Offer was launched to raise £150k.  A video supporting the offer was filmed and edited by local resident Kitty Treacy.

The Share Offer closed on 27th November 2015, with supporters and members of the community investing £184k into the project – £34k over the original target!

As I write, ACE is waiting for the Ofgem pre-registration of the Evercreech Junction project, which will install 173kW of solar PV over 6-8 rooftops on the industrial estate; and Ofgem’s pre-accreditation of the Brookside Academy project’s 88kW solar PV installation on the roof of the school.

 

To find out more about Avalon Community Energy please visit the website, or follow ACE on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.