Saltford Environment Group
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You can find lots more news further down the page or on our theme pages.
New Saltford Green Belt Inquiry Archive
To help other communities defend their Green Belt from speculative development and to provide a record for our own members, SEG has created a special archive page. This records and documents the successful 2 year defence by the community of Saltford, from 2012 until the Saltford Green Belt Inquiry determination in 2014, against an attempt by the developer Crest Nicholson to build on Saltford's Green Belt. This can be found from our Green Belt page or from this direct link.
UN Climate Summit - from Saltford to Bristol to New York
To quote from the UN Climate Summit website: "Climate change is not a far-off problem. It is happening now and is having very real consequences on people's lives. Climate change is disrupting national economies, costing us dearly today and even more tomorrow. But there is a growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are available now that will enable us all to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies." UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to galvanize and catalyze climate action.
2,808 solidarity events in 166 countries made the weekend of 20/21 September the largest non-party political climate march in history to tell world leaders meeting at the UN summit on climate change in New York on 23rd September that "There is no planet B" and that there is strong public support for real and immediate action to address the climate crisis.
For the South West, a march was held in Bristol on the afternoon of Sunday 21st September from Castle Park through the Broadmead shopping centre and ending at College Green where a petition was presented to Molly Scott Cato, the Green Party MEP for the South West. Over 2,000 participated in the Bristol march including members of SEG. Bristol march organiser Holly Templar said: "Bristol residents are taking part to highlight the level of public support for a global deal that will avert climate catastrophe and unleash a new 100% clean future. The People's Climate March is snowballing into a massive international call for leaders to do more to stop runaway climate change."
Many different organisations were involved including Avaaz, 38 degrees, 350.org, WWF, Christian Aid, and Oxfam. The website for the People's Climate March is: peoplesclimate.org. The twitter link is twitter.com/peoples_climate and the hashtags are #PCM and/or #PeoplesClimate .
The UN Climate Summit 2014 is recognised as an important opportunity to build political momentum towards a global climate deal in Paris in 2015. World leaders and leading figures from business and civil society will come together to bring announcements and actions that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015. The summit website is www.un.org/climatechange/summit/ and the social media hashtag for the UN conference itself is #Climate2014 .
Parking on roads from the A4
Saltford Parish Council is asking B&NES Council, as the highways authority, to consult all Saltford residents about possible parking restrictions on roads from the A4 to reduce or prevent all day on-street car parking.
We hope B&NES Council will respond to this request and that as many residents as possible will participate in a consultation on this topic so that a work-able solution can be found to this issue.
Saltford Station - What if..?
To help the village focus on the many potential benefits of getting our station back we have published some "What if?" questions on our station campaign page. For example: "What if visitors had the option to arrive in Saltford by train?" or "What if motoring and bus travel becomes much more expensive and we haven't got a local option to travel by train?"
To see more "What ifs?" check out our station page >>.
SEG AGM on 5th October (7.15pm)
SEG will be holding its Annual General Meeting on Sunday 5th October at 7.15pm in Saltford Hall - members will receive an invitation plus agenda by email.
SEG's AGM is an opportunity for members to let the Committee have their views and to help us plan and shape SEG's future activities in Saltford including, for example, our new Saltford Wombles initiative to tackle litter in the village.
Raptor Migration, Keynsham, 14 Nov
A talk entitled "The Magic of Migration - Birds of Prey" has been organised by the Avon Wildlife Trust's Keynsham Group with Ed Drewitt, naturalist, broadcaster and wildlife detective. Ed will explore the different migration movements of many of our familiar raptors. This will be one of their special themed evenings with extra activities for all the family at Wellsway School. Details: Friday 14th November 7pm - 9pm, doors open 6:30pm, admission £2.50 adults, £1 children.
Further information from Kathy Farrell tel: 0117--9869722.
New rock exposure on the Railway Path - opportunities to help (2 & 3 Oct)
This project on the Railway Path at Saltford (Grid Ref: 687678) has been given the go-ahead following a successful funding application to the Geologists Association. The clearance work will involve the removal of talus (loose rock fragments) and vegetation covering a section of the rocks in the cutting at Saltford. This will be carried out in two phases:-
Phase 1 - Initial Mechanical Clearance: Use of a mechanical excavator on 2nd and 3rd October to remove coarse material (vegetation, soil, tipped railway ballast and loose rocks). This material will be spread along the opposite side of the cutting and not taken off site.
Phase 2 - Final Clearance (by hand): Use of community volunteers (Trust for Community Volunteers) to complete the final clearance by hand, using hand tools and brushes. This work is likely to take two days and dates are still to be arranged.
For Phase 1 (2nd and 3rd October) there are opportunities for members of the community to assist including protecting nature, warning passing cyclists about the excavator etc., creating a photographic record, and rescuing geological material. If you might like to assist you can download a project information sheet here (word doc) to find out more.
Simon Carpenter, field naturalist and geologist, is co-ordinating this project to create a new rock exposure on the Railway Path at Saltford. The rocks here are approximately 180 million years old and were formed during the Lower Jurassic period. A superb exposure of these rocks can be seen along the length of Mead Lane, Saltford. These rocks are not accessible to the public as the outcrop is in private gardens. The new exposure on the railway path will link to other rock exposures in Saltford to form an accessible circular geology trail so that visitors can explore the local geology for themselves.
The Lower Jurassic rocks in Saltford are particularly interesting as they contain an abundance of well-preserved fossils. The coiled shells of ammonites are particularly common and can be seen built into walls around the village.
The clearance work will commence in late summer/early autumn to minimise disturbance to wildlife and people. The site has already been cleared of trees and is located between the Avon Lane gated access and the Avon Lane footbridge (if joining the railway path at the 'Bird in Hand', turn left towards Bitton).
Simon Carpenter, grew up in Saltford but now lives in Frome, Somerset. He has led geology walks around Saltford on several occasions in recent years and is very excited by the new project which has been funded by a grant from the Geologist's Association.
If you would like more information, please contact Simon Carpenter by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
New 'Saltford Wombles' group
SEG is pleased to announce that we are setting up a Saltford Wombles group. So, if you hate litter and waste and want to get involved in helping make Saltford a cleaner, litter-free village, do get in touch with Julie Sampson so that Julie can advise you of the emerging plans for this new group. Encouraging residents to be more proactive on picking up litter and targeted litter picks for problem areas are just some of the things Saltford Wombles will be doing. All ages welcome.
Other towns and villages have their own Wombles (e.g. Keynsham Wombles) that have proved to be fun ways of helping the community look after its own environment effectively and keep litter down to a minimum.
Interested in getting involved? Please contact Julie by email to: email@example.com or tel: 01225--874603.
More information about Saltford Wombles appears on our Less Waste page >>.
Vote for your favourite British bird
In the 1960s the Robin was voted Britain's favourite bird. David Lindo, aka 'The Urban Birder', feels it is time to find out if the Robin is still our favourite bird or if another bird deserves that position.
The vote is in two parts; firstly to find the top 6 running (flying) candidates and then the voting will re-open to find the overall winner. Anyone can vote for the 6 birds that they think best personifies all that is good about our nation. You have until 31st October to vote for your top 6 birds from a list of 60 candidates. Why not involve all the family?
BBC's Springwatch presenter Chris Packham has commented: "I think it would be a good idea if nations, states and regions now selected a bird in some kind of conservation crisis. This would draw attention to its plight and perhaps also help fuel its protection. This certainly helped the North American Bald Eagle when its numbers had become precarious. Maybe it would do the same for others. So forget the Robin, how about having the Lapwing as the British national bird?"
The voting website is: www.votenationalbird.com where you can pick from a list of 60 nominees.
We list the 100 birds most regularly observed in Saltford on our wildlife page >>.
Save your seeds for 'Seedy Sunday', Keynsham
Transition Keynsham are organising a gardeners' seed swap in February 2015 and they need your seeds! Start saving now, and bring them along (in a labelled envelope) to swap on Sunday February 15th 2015 at a central Keynsham location (details to follow closer to the event).
Seedy Sunday offers people a fun and practical way to grow locally adapted fruit, vegetables, flowers and herb varieties whilst helping support a vibrant local gardening and food growing culture.
At Seedy Sunday you can swap seeds or make a donation if you have no seeds to swap; buy seed potatoes; talk to seed doctors; and find out about some of the amazing community initiatives going on in and around Keynsham.
Seedy Sunday brings together gardeners, seed savers, herb and wild flower enthusiasts, local gardening and community groups as well as organisations campaigning for sustainable food production and biodiversity.
The Hummingbird Hawk-Moth in Saltford
One insect well worth looking out for in Saltford on the last remaining sunny days of our summer and early autumn is the fascinating Hummingbird Hawk-Moth. Native to North Africa and southern Europe, the Hummingbird Hawk-Moth has been observed in Saltford during this summer (as recently as the second half of August) and it is now increasingly common in southern England. This remarkable day-flying moth is named from its appearance that is very similar to a hummingbird as it hovers, probing flowers for nectar in sunny locations with its long proboscis. It is smaller than any hummingbird but if you are close enough you can hear a hum from its fast beating wings.
More information on the Hummingbird Hawk-Moth can be found on our wildlife page from this link >>.
SEG's Treasurer post on our committee has recently become vacant and we are now seeking a volunteer to fill this role. Could that person be you? Perhaps you might like an introduction to voluntary work in the community or to build on your existing voluntary activities. This post provides an interesting opportunity for helping SEG as it continues to develop and adapt its role in the community.
SEG as an organisation is friendly and positive; our approach is to encourage better environmental practice in the community rather than to lecture or criticise. We have access to expert advice so you don't need to be an environmental expert to join SEG's committee, just share our enthusiasm to try and do our bit towards a better future for our village community.
The time commitment for our Treasurer is difficult to estimate but it is on average just a few hours per month including brief quarterly committee meetings. The post is not particularly onerous as we do not charge members annual membership subscriptions or employ any paid staff so the financial transactions made each year are relatively manageable.
If you live in Saltford and think this voluntary position might possibly be something you could take on and you would enjoy being part of a small friendly team, do contact our Chairman by email (include your telephone no.) for a non-committal chat to see what is involved and if this might be suitable for you.
We would like to record our sincere thanks to Will Marchbank for looking after our finances so well for the past 3 years. Will has regrettably had to step down as Treasurer due to his other commitments, but he has and will continue to be a strong supporter of SEG and will look after our accounts until a replacement is appointed.
Strong show of support for re-opening Saltford station
A large group of Saltford residents gathered at the former station site on Saturday 23rd August to remind B&NES Council that there is overwhelming support for reopening the railway station in Saltford. B&NES Council Cabinet will be considering the latest report due out soon from the consultants exploring the feasibility of the station. B&NES Council Cabinet will then consider whether to move the project on to the next stage of the process which will include more detailed work on costs, technical issues, and design for re-introducing this important piece of transport infrastructure.
Once re-opened, the station will be able to provide a regular train service for Saltford when the forthcoming Metro West project provides a half hourly service across the Bristol-Bath sub-region.
For information about our popular station campaign visit our station page.
Saltford station latest
The latest report by Halcrow consultants on Saltford station based on a "High Level Output Assessment" (HLOA) using sophisticated computer modelling should be available to members of the public soon. B&NES Council Cabinet will be considering the report's findings at its meeting on 12th November when it will almost certainly make an important decision on funding the next stage(s) of the GRIP (Guide to Railway Investment Projects) process. It is likely at that meeting to also make a decision on the continuing funding contribution by B&NES for the Metro West Rail Project as a whole.
We can advise that during August Network Rail confirmed to the station campaign that there is passive provision for a re-opened station at Saltford and this will not be affected by the electrification of the Great Western Mainline or by associated electricity distribution and re-signalling work at Saltford.
Following misleading and inaccurate comments from an opponent to the reopening of Saltford station in a local publication, we thought it might be helpful, especially for our newer members, to summarise the strength of support in the village behind the station campaign that has been shown:-
Majority in favour of station
Following a positive public meeting about a re-opened station attended by 140 residents in July 2011, in September 2011 the Parish Council voted overwhelmingly to support the station campaign whilst being mindful of the need to ensure any concerns of local residents were addressed. During November 2011 over 2,000 signed the village petition in favour of re-opening Saltford station with support in at least 65% of households. Approximately 30% of householders were unavailable to participate in the 2011 petition when the petition team called but of those residents that did speak to our petitioners, well over 90% supported the campaign.
This high level of support led in turn to B&NES Council agreeing to be the official promoter of our station in April 2012 and the B&NES Cabinet voting unanimously in June 2012 to fund the development of the business case for a re-opened Saltford station. Throughout this period and subsequently, key members of the campaign team maintained close working contact with the Metro West project that incorporates Saltford station so that Saltford residents will be able to take advantage of the forthcoming half hourly service between Bristol and Bath. To make sure residents' concerns and opinions are known, B&NES Council carried out a consultation event in February 2014 to which all households received an invitation from the council and of the 370 questionnaires returned, nearly 70% wanted a station in Saltford.
Further background and other information about our campaign to re-open Saltford station can be found on our Station campaign page.
Free driver awareness training for safer roads
Avon and Somerset Police are offering free 2 hour driver awareness training sessions in the local area (Keynsham and Bath) to help improve driving awareness amongst drivers. Over 95% of all collisions on the road are caused by human error and one third of all serious crashes involve people aged 17-24, whilst the result of a collision can be life-changing for all involved.
Most of us do not engage in any form of driver training after passing our test, but instead, we engage in a lifetime of guided discovery as we hone our driving skills. However, how do we know whether we are driving as safely and as fuel efficiently as we could?
These new and potentially life-saving sessions are available to all drivers; to see the dates on offer and to book a place visit www.roadsmart.org.
Previously permissive footpaths
The Parish Council facilitated a public meeting on Wednesday 20th August at Saltford Golf Club to discuss possible ways forward for the previously permissive paths which were recently closed. Over 100 were in attendance including walkers, horse riders and others with an interest in using the paths including some horse riders from Compton Dando.
The objectives of the meeting were to enable attendees to understand the history and issues around the loss of previously permissive paths; to gauge the extent of the interest in re-opening permissive paths in Saltford parish among walkers and horse riders; to determine an order of priority for any re-instatement of these footpaths; and to consider possible future arrangements including the establishment of private legal agreements between users of these paths and the farmer who was unable to attend due to a domestic matter.
Views were aired including the suggestion that one of the permissive paths (from Manor Road to the community woodland) qualified for 'public right of way status' and the pros and cons of initiating a subscription payment system for compensating the farmer for reinstating some or all of the paths. Attendees were asked to make themselves known to the Parish Council if they would like to form a group of walkers and riders responsible for taking forward negotiations with the farmer, Adam Stratton. If you would like to assist with the formation and organisation of that group you should contact the Parish Council.
Background: We reported in April the regrettable loss of permissive footpaths and bridleways on the south side of Saltford that have been brought back into arable use by the landowner following the loss of Government funding for providing public access under the (former) Countryside Stewardship Scheme. Permissive paths/bridleways like these are there at the voluntary discretion of the landowner, they are not public rights of way, but nevertheless they have become an integral part of life in Saltford. Our Parish Council has been investigating this issue and holding discussions with the landowner.
Footpath Maps. The 'Saltford on foot' maps, which were available from Saltford Post Office for £1 each, have been temporarily removed from sale as the information about the permissive paths is now inaccurate.
Tree Hive Beekeeping
Intensified agriculture and forest management have reduced appropriate nesting sites and habitats for honey bees across most of Europe. Especially large and old trees with cavities are increasingly rare in our forests. Such 'habitat trees' however are considered as crucial elements of biodiversity conservation in forests since they provide important niches and microhabitats for a wide range of flora and fauna. The ancient practice of creating artificial bee habitat in trees has vanished from our forest ecosystems yet it still exists in parts of Eastern Europe and there is now a growing interest amongst European beekeepers for reviving this conservation approach to beekeeping.
Tree hives do not replace the functional role of natural cavities in forest ecosystems but they can contribute to supporting the increase of such microhabitats whilst reviving an old cultural heritage and technique.
An example of the new interest in tree hive beekeeping at the European level is a training course being held in Ebrach, Germany (from 23-26 October 2014) featuring training from a team of traditional Polish beekeepers - details at www.beeswing.net/p/tree-beekeeping-course.html.
Many are concerned at the dramatic loss of bees in our countryside; SEG has a feature item about bees and making Saltford more bee-friendly on our wildlife page. The growing awareness of the value of tree bee hives is an encouraging sign that action such as reviving this ancient custom can be taken to reverse the decline in bee populations.
P.S. The Great British Bee Count
The Great British Bee Count finished at the end of August. Full results should be posted in the autumn on the Great British Bee Count website at: greatbritishbeecount.co.uk.
Second Giant Hogweed sighting in Saltford
Following our discovery of the invasive and highly toxic Giant Hogweed growing in a clump on the side of the railway path in Saltford in May we have discovered a second occurance of the plant growing on public land in July. This was promptly reported to B&NES for urgent action to destroy the plant. Contact with Giant Hogweed can cause severe burns, blisters and lasting skin damage. Presence of sap in the eye can even cause temporary or permanent blindness.
This plant is a serious health hazard for anyone who comes into direct contact with it without protective clothing so whilst there have only been two isolated occurrences of the plant this year it is important that members keep an eye out for this plant whilst walking or cycling in and around Saltford.
The plant can be confused with Common Hogweed. We have posted details about Giant Hogweed on our wildlife page so that you can be aware of what the plant looks like and the dangers associated with it.
If you come across Giant Hogweed in a public area in Saltford DO NOT TOUCH IT but report it as soon as possible to B&NES Council (Council Connect on 01225 39 40 41) and our Parish Council. Please let SEG know too but the immediate priority is to get it dealt with promptly by B&NES Council.
Remaining vigilant for ash dieback
[This article was first published in the trees section of our wildlife page in July 2014.]
Found widely across Europe, ash dieback disease is spread by the Chalara fraxinea fungus, a fungus that was found in England in 2012 after being imported in infected trees from Holland. It causes the crown of ash trees to blacken and wither, and eventually kill the tree, killing younger trees more quickly. Experts advise that the spread of the disease cannot be stopped, and are resigned to mitigating the worst distribution and impact of the organism on the UK's estimated 80 million ash trees. Local spread of spores, up to some tens of miles, may be by wind (including possibly from mainland Europe) whereas over longer distances the risk of disease spread is most likely to be through the movement of diseased ash plants. Movement of logs or un-sawn wood from infected trees might also be a means of transmission but that is considered to be low risk.
Chalara fraxinea is treated as a quarantine pest under national emergency measures and any suspected sighting must be reported. So far, no trees have been identified within B&NES but the Council is reliant on residents remaining vigilant. If you find a tree which you think is infected please report it; the B&NES web page with contacts for reporting ash dieback is at www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/environment/trees-and-woodlands/ash-dieback-disease.
If you're not sure that you've identified ash dieback the Forest Research Disease Diagnostic Advisory Service can be contacted on tel: 01420 23000, email firstname.lastname@example.org or the Forestry Commission's Chalara helpline is 08459 33 55 77, email email@example.com. The Forestry Commission has the latest scientific research and other information on ash dieback at www.forestry.gov.uk/chalara.
In and around Saltford, the landscape changed enormously with the loss of mature elms in the 1970s. As a result, ash became an even more important tree for wildlife away from woods and river-banks, and is a major constituent of native woods. Losing such an important tree to our landscapes and wildlife is obviously a major concern. Some ash trees may have a genetic resistance to this disease so it makes sense not to cut down healthy ash trees unless absolutely necessary.
B&NES Council adopts Core Strategy - Saltford's Green Belt not included
At the Council Meeting on 10th July 2014 Councillors voted to adopt the Core Strategy. Saltford's Green Belt is NOT in the Core Strategy as land identified for development.
The Core Strategy now forms part of the Development Plan for the District and will be used in the determination of all planning applications submitted to the Council alongside policies in the Joint Waste Core Strategy (2011) and those saved policies in the Local Plan (2007) not replaced by the Core Strategy. Following the adoption of the Core Strategy, there is a six week period during which any person aggrieved by the Core Strategy could make an application to the High Court under Section 113 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 on the grounds that the document is not within the appropriate powers, or that a procedural requirement has not been complied with.
Developers had sought inclusion of our Green Belt for housing development, something SEG and others had lobbied strongly against over a lengthy period. Whilst SEG welcomes the excellent news that Saltford's Green Belt has retained its status and protection, we naturally have concerns that other parcels of Green Belt land in the B&NES area will be developed including land East of Keynsham which will have a negative effect on the existing traffic congestion on the A4 and surrounding roads, quite apart from the unsustainability of developing such land.
The Core Strategy is the economic and planning strategy for this area's development over a 15 year period (to 2029) and determines where new housing will be located. It will be reviewed every 5 years however the first review will be timed to co-ordinate with the review of the West of England Core Strategies in around 2016. In terms of the 5 year housing land supply (plus a 20% buffer to provide for flexibility) that B&NES is required to identify, B&NES has stated the assumption that housing will start to be delivered on the sites removed from the Green Belt during 2017/18.
The next stage is for the Council to prepare its Placemaking Plan; Saltford Parish Council submitted the Saltford contribution that was produced by a small working party in December 2013. The purpose of the Placemaking Plan is to complement the strategic framework in the Core Strategy by setting out detailed development principles for identified and allocated development sites (other than the strategic sites allocated in the Core Strategy) and other policies for managing development across Bath and North East Somerset.
Further details and background information on the Core Strategy as it affects Saltford can be found on our Green Belt page >>. The adopted Core Strategy document itself and news concerning the Core Strategy can be found on the B&NES website from this link: www.bathnes.gov.uk/corestrategy.
Himalayan Balsam removed from Railway Path Habitat project
On the evenings of 3rd and 8th July a small team of 6 SEG volunteers pulled out and cleared the huge volume of the invasive, fast growing and damaging Himalayan Balsam from our Railway Path Habitat project. Having cleared this we shall be re-checking regularly for any fresh growth so that it can be uprooted to avoid the production of new seeds. It is important that we prevent this invasive plant from re-seeding itself so that there will be a lot less to remove next year.
Our priority has been to clear the upper parts of the embankment slope. The pilot area is a short distance towards Bath from the Bird-in-Hand Public House on your right as you cross the bridge opposite the old Rectory.
More information about this project is on the project's feature page >>.
For a description of why this plant is such a threat to the local ecology see see our earlier news item below.
Eating Himalayan Balsam...
Searching the web reveals that the seeds of Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) have a nutty flavour and have been eaten in India for hundreds of years (e.g. in curries or even raw). Research suggests that the young leaves can be eaten as a vegetable, the flower petals are edible (in salads and summer drinks) and, apparently, the young stems can be eaten too after they've been blanched.
We haven't tried Himalayan Balsam ourselves and are therefore not in a position to recommend its consumption, but we would be interested to hear from anyone in Saltford (or beyond) who successfully cooks and eats this plant. If it sounds good we'll share your recipe on our website. Caution: Some people can react to Himalayan Balsam so if you are attempting to eat it for the first time (at your own risk!), we suggest you try a very small quantity first...
Why Himalayan Balsam is bad for our ecology
[This article was first published on our widllife page in June 2014.]
Whilst many might agree that the Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is an attractive looking plant (see photograph courtesy of the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat) it is not native to the UK and its invasive nature is causing major problems for local habitats and ecosystems. It grows and spreads quickly and smothers native plants. It flowers from June to October; each plant lasts for one year and dies at the end of the growing season.
A serious issue for our rivers including the Avon in Saltford is that the plant leads to river bank erosion as it smothers out native plants and undermines the stability of riverbanks, especially when it dies down in the winter leaving the riverbanks bare and exposed.
According to the Government's Non Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) Himalayan Balsam is listed under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; as such it is an offence to plant or otherwise allow this species to grow in the wild.
Supporting the ecological case for preventing non-native invasive plants like Himalayan Balsam from destroying the habitat of native plants and insects must surely be paramount if we wish to have a balanced, healthy, wildlife-friendly environment. For this reason it makes sense to eradicate this non-native invasive plant from growing wild in and around Saltford. Removal should ideally be before it produces ripened fruit capsules - each plant ejects hundreds of seeds a distance of up to 6 or 7 metres.
For further details about Himalayan Balsam including an identification fact sheet visit the Non-Native Species Secretariat website - click here: Himalayan Balsam - NNSS.
Stop Fracking in Somerset petition
The Stop Fracking in Somerset petition addressed to Somerset County Council and Tessa Munt MP for Wells (who opposes fracking) can be found at: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-fracking-in-somerset.
The petition states:
We call on Somerset County Council to reject all planning applications for exploration, appraisal or production of shale gas and other unconventional gas. This is the only opportunity for local people to have any say in whether their area gets fracked. Once planning permission is granted all decisions about the exploitation of our area will be taken by central bodies in London (the Environment Agency/DECC/HSE).
Fracking companies do not have to disclose exact details of the chemicals they will inject into our land (25-75% of which will remain there), because they are "commercially confidential". It will be impossible for local people to make proper representations about the planning application if they don't know what the chemicals are, so it will be impossible for the planning application process to be carried out fairly and in accordance with natural justice. It will necessarily be procedurally unfair and unreasonable (and perhaps also an infringement of the Human Rights Act).
For more information on this controversial topic, visit our Fracking page >>.
Open garden at Eastover Farm proved popular
Over 170 attended the open garden and wildflower meadow at Eastover Farm organised by SEG on the afternoon of Sunday 29th June. SEG thanks the hosts, Ray and Penny Buchanan, everyone who baked a cake, our Fairtrade Group, Signs of Saltford, Saltford Community Association, Saltford Girl Guides for helping with the catering arrangements, the local Tesco, Waitrose and Co-Op stores for donating Fairtrade cake ingredients and all those working behind the scenes to make the event so enjoyable and a success.
Proceeds from the event will support the Citizens Advice Bureau and also help replenish SEG's funds to enable us to continue our work towards a better future for our village. A small donation is also being made to Saltford Girl Guides as thanks and recognition for all they did assisting with the catering and for the construction and donation of a 'bug hotel' for the gardens.
Can you identify the Swifts and Swallows over Saltford?
Even when our skies are grey, a sign of summer is when the Swallows, Swifts and House Martins can be seen flying their acrobatic displays overhead as they pluck flying insects and airborne spiders from the air.
They are welcome summer visitors to Britain, but can you readily identify the different species just from their shape when they are in flight? Swifts are larger and have longer scythe-shaped wings and short tails, Swallows have long tail streamers, and House Martins have a more dumpy appearance and much shorter tails (see the illustration below).
It is Swifts you can hear screaming overhead. Swifts appear to be all black, although close up they are dark brown. House Martins and Swallows both have white undersides with a glossy blue-black back but the Swallow has a distinctive red chin and throat.
The Sand Martin, also observed in Saltford, is similar in shape and can be confused with the House Martin but its white underside is divided by a dark breast band just below its head and it has a brown back.
If you want further information about these fabulous birds, our wildlife page has links to the RSPB web page about each bird (the links are on the right-hand side list of birds observed in Saltford).
[This article was posted on our wildlife page on 3rd June 2014]
Saltford Parish Council in 2014-15 - new Councillor
The Parish Council announced during May that it had filled the following positions for 2014-15 by election:
Chair - Councillor Duncan Hounsell
Following the resignation of Kim Johnson, due to pressure of work, a vacancy for a Parish Councillor arose. An election was requested and one candidate, Marie Carder (a member of SEG), was nominated by the 30th May deadline; Marie was therefore elected unopposed on 1st June.
Railway Path Habitat Project: Girl Guides show how to get involved
During the summer months members, their family and others can get involved with this exciting project to re-establish the former wildflower-rich rough grassland habitat on the west facing embankment for a short stretch of the railway path and cycle track near the Bird-in-Hand pub.
Occasional clearance sessions will be arranged by SEG to keep down the re-growth of perennial weeds and any new tree saplings, shoots etc. Check out our feature page for further details.
Many thanks to Saltford Girl Guides who spent the evening of 21st May pulling weeds and in particular Himalayan Balsam at the project's cleared area (see photograph). Their enthusiasm and effort in clearing so much of the re-growth in one session is much appreciated.
This year's tick warning & advice
Following the mild damp winter, health experts have warned that ticks, the bloodsucking, disease-carrying arachnids, appear to be on the rise in the UK. Residents and visitors to Saltford will need to be careful when walking in long grass or wooded areas where deer may have been present.
For advice on how to safely deal with ticks on your or your child's skin and how to watch for the symptoms of the bacterial infection Lyme disease (which requires prompt treatment to avoid complications), click on this link to the article on our wildlife page:
The value of deadwood to our local ecosystems
Dead and decaying trees have an integral and ecological value as wildlife habitat. In "over-managed" woodlands, for example, the felling and subsequent removal of trees and debris means that the amount of deadwood is greatly reduced compared to natural woodlands, thus impairing biodiversity and reducing the health of local ecosystems.
Rather than being a wasted resource, deadwood has many key roles in our environment including as a habitat and food source for many terrestrial and aquatic species; seedbeds for plants (including trees); a store and source of water, energy, carbon and nutrients (e.g. providing a steady, slow-release source of nitrogen); and a structural role that can contribute to the structure and functions of streams and rivers including providing a cover for fish, slowing the river's velocity, reducing soil erosion and regulating flooding.
Over a third of woodland wildlife is dependent on deadwood. Standing dead trees and fallen trees and branches provide a huge array of microhabitats. There is an extensive range of deadwood-dependent organisms including fungi, lichens, invertebrates, mosses and birds, many of them having very specific requirements, and some specialising exclusively on one particular microhabitat. This means that for all species to persist, deadwood of all sizes from massive trunks to twigs, both standing and fallen, and at all stages of decay from freshly dead until rotten away, are important.
In summary, a healthy, natural and balanced environment includes standing dead trees and fallen trees supporting numerous life forms that thrive on decay. It is therefore important that we resist the temptation to clear away deadwood and instead see it as a natural resource integral to supporting the many wildlife species living in and around our village.
[This article was posted on our wildlife page on 23rd April 2014]
SEG thanks paddlers for clearing the river at Saltford of litter
We would like to say a big "Thank you" to the group of 20 kayak paddlers who journeyed back and forth between The Riverside Inn and The Jolly Sailor many times to remove rubbish from the banks on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th April. The Riverside Inn supplied them with coffee and bacon butties.
They were led by Vanessa Hiller from the Avon Outdoor Activities Club and did this to clear our beautiful river of litter whilst fund raising for The Youth Adventure Trust (www.youthadventuretrust.org.uk), a children's charity that provides outdoor activities for disadvantaged children to help them build confidence and self-esteem.
They did a super job in clearing away so much rubbish and improving the look of our river. If you want to make a donation, their Just Giving Page is: www.justgiving.com/RiverAvonCleanup.
A significant amount of rubbish had accumulated on Saltford's river banks especially during last winter's high river levels that brought rubbish to Saltford from further upstream. SEG welcomes this approach from regular users of the river to help return the river to a litter-free environment. Vanessa Hiller has told SEG they hope to make this an annual event.
If you would like to borrow a litter-picker tool for litter-picking in the village, contact our committee member Tina at Signs of Saltford on 01225 874037.
Consultation shows strong support for Saltford station
The results of the Saltford residents' consultation survey carried out by B&NES Council on the possible re-opening of Saltford Railway Station have been released by B&NES Council. 370 questionnaires were returned. 68.9% (255) wanted a station at Saltford and 20.5% (76) did not, with 10.6% (39) not having a view. If a station was to be provided, 62.7% (232) said that they would walk to it and 10.8% (40) said they would cycle whilst 11.7% (43) said they would drive.
Chris Warren, leader of the Saltford Station Campaign, said "The positive results of this BaNES survey will feed into the report by consultants. I firmly expect that the work of the consultants will lead to a decision to take the project onto the next stage of detailed study."
The consultation findings are in line with the station campaign petition of our village during November 2011 which revealed support in at least 65% of Saltford's households for the re-opening of Saltford railway station. Approximately 30% of homes did not participate in the 2011 petition as either the house was empty (e.g. for sale) or the occupants were away when the petition team called, despite return visits. Of those residents that did speak to our petitioners, well over 90% supported the campaign.
Further information on the consultation results and the campaign to re-open Saltford station can be found on our station page.
Safer walking & cycling on Manor Road lanes
Residents will be aware of the public consultation in 2013 on the introduction of 20mph speed limits for Saltford's residential roads by B&NES Council; residents' responses were 2:1 in favour. Saltford Parish Council's Chairman Duncan Hounsell has since approached B&NES over his concern that both the lane immediately behind Montague Road and the part of Manor Road (lane) from the top of Grange Road towards the first T-junction in the Keynsham direction were left out of the original indicative diagram.
We can report that the response from B&NES has been that whilst the rural nature of these lanes would not normally be appropriate for a 20mph speed limit, due to local circumstances they agree that the 20mph limit should be applied on the Manor Road lane behind Montague Road and on the other section of Manor Road, between Courtney Road and Grange Road.
This is welcome news on safety grounds as it should help reduce speeding by motorists in those lanes which are in constant use by walkers, cyclists and school children. We understand that B&NES will advertise the necessary Transport Regulation Orders in April/May, with potential implementation in June/July of this year (2014).
Annual Saltford Dawn Chorus Walk, Sunday 27th April
The April 2014 Dawn Chorus Walk organised by the Keynsham and Saltford Branch of the Avon Wildlife Trust was held on Sunday 27th April starting at Saltford Shallows car park. 36 species of birds were identified on the walk westwards along the Bristol to Bath railway path. Birds identified included Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Black Cap, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Rook, Carrion Crow, Kestrel, Wren and Yellowhammer as well as the early risers the Blackbird and Robin, of course.
RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results out
The RSPB has published the results of the nationwide Big Garden Birdwatch, the world's largest wildlife survey, that was held in January when over 7 million birds were counted by nearly half a million participants. The top 10 birds observed (top 10 Somerset observations shown in brackets) were:
1. House Sparrow (House Sparrow)
Despite staying at its No. 1 spot, the House Sparrow is a red-listed species (highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action) and is down 62% since the first Birdwatch in 1979.
Full details of the 2014 Birdwatch can be found on the RSPB website at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/.
Saltford Green Belt Inquiry: Secretary of State dismisses appeal and refuses planning permission!
On 4th March (2014) the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, Eric Pickles, dismissed the appeal and REFUSED planning permission for the Crest Nicholson planning application to build up to 99 dwellings on Saltford's Green Belt fields south of Manor Road.
SEG welcomes this decision. The Secretary of State, on examining the evidence given at the Inquiry in August 2013 and the Inspector's report, overruled the Inspector's recommendation to allow the development. The Secretary of State concluded that the appeal proposals were inappropriate development in the Green Belt, harmful to the Green Belt's openness and harmful to the Green Belt's purpose of preventing encroachment into the countryside. He disagreed with the Inspector about the extent of that encroachment and attached considerable weight to that issue.
We have more information about the Secretary of State's dismissal of this planning application on our Green Belt page.
We wish to thank everyone who joined the campaign to oppose the proposed housing development on Saltford's Green Belt.
We especially wish to recognise and thank the Saltford Green Belt Campaign for helping to demonstrate the residents' opposition to building on Saltford's Green Belt.
We would also like to thank local councillors from all political parties who opposed this planning application, our MP Jacob Rees-Mogg for his advice and support, B&NES Council Planning Department for its work relating to this Inquiry, and also our Parish Council for its support.
As we have reported on our website in recent weeks, we are conscious that there may be further attempts by developers to build on our Green Belt. This important decision by the Secretary of State does show that the community was right to defend Saltford's Green Belt. We hope progress on the Core Strategy can be made rapidly so that we do not face a similar situation again.
Our evidence and further background information including photographs can be found on our Green Belt page.
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Saltford Environment Group
"Think global, act local"
Saltford Lock, a local beauty spot popular with visitors in the summertime. Photograph © Phil Harding
Link: current level of the River Avon in Saltford (recorded on the Environment Agency website).