Author Topic: Swindon Council 'Sock Puppet' Company Wants Shaw Community Forest For Solar Farm  (Read 6645 times)

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Offline Geoff Reid

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Swindons Deputy Mayor, (soon to be Mayor, Cllr Nick Martin (Shaw Ward), previously an apparently staunch defender of public open space in West Swindon has publicly U-Turned and is now leading the charge to fence off a large part of Shaw Community Forest and turn it into a Solar Energy Plant.

See: http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/10145419.Shaw_Forest_lined_up_as_solar_farm_site/

Cllr Nick 'Busy Hands' Martin told the Adver:

Quote from: Cllr Nick Martin
" “We have restored Shaw Forest in a fantastic way, which has a large green space in the middle and thousands of trees around the outside, and a lot of wildlife. “In this case we are seeing an opportunity where we can generate cheap electricity. There is an opportunity to connect to the main grid.

“Swindon Commercial Services came forward with the idea of putting solar panels on.”


Swindon Commercial Services are, according to Eric Pickles MP (Secretary Of State For Communities & Local Government), a 'sock puppet' company. Swindon Commercial Services are wholly owned by Swindon Borough Council and Swindon Borough Council is currently controlled by Conservative Councillors. 

I believe it is fair to say that the decision to proceed with this plan is fully supported by the Conservative administration and, when considered in context alongside their plan to build a school on a large part of Mouldon Hill Country Park, (Mouldon Hill is several hundred yards to the North East of Shaw Community Forest),  Cllr Martins U-Turn on West Swindon's open spaces represents an unedifying event for residents already already worried that the Moredon Bridge, Tadpole Farm, Ridgeway and Pry Farm developments will turn the existing semi-rural Western edge of Swindon into a high density, grid-locked, urbanised f*cking mess.

A four hour drop in session will take place between from 10am-2pm on February 2nd at The Peatmoor Community Primary School for residents to peruse the proposal, which will take about 25 acres of the Community Forest out of public use.

In case it's not readily apparent, I am very disappointed with Nick.



Offline Muggins

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Seeing as how most of that park is built on top of a tip and several barriers and layers of clay and top soil on top of that, the forethought of running pipes through that never occured to them.

I've said before that the park was created with lots of consultation with town-wide groups and local people.  As far as I remember the outcome plan was very much of their wishes.

I don't know how I feel about putting  solar panels on it.

How will the panels be protected?  (Unsightly fencing?)

How much land will be taken from public use?

Can wildlife make decent use of what's left! i.e. under and around the panels? 

Will it bring in an income to help maintain the rest of the park and maybe other green spaces too? 

How much damage by it's installation to what's already been done?
Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline jennyb

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A park is a park.

A solar farm is a development.

A solar farm within a park is development of open and public green space.

SCS are a bit like international aid... lots of money goes in ... but the money could have been put to better use with more effective endeavours elsewhere.

Consultation... so how many taxpayers will need to 'approve' this for the Administration and Officers say that it is OK? It took 17 for the Croft ,  maybe the same for Mouldon Hill?

Nothing is safe from the rapacious tentacles of this administration and the officers who support them. They have single handedly created an environment where anything they state should be read with distrust .

Appalling.
It takes wisdom to know what you know and wisdom to know what you don't know and when to call in those who do. Often the people who do know will advise that evidence and research are very helpful when making decisions. Who knows it might even save a bit of money.

Offline Bobby Bingo

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The Master Plan for Shaw Tip was drafted in August 1994 and yes Muggins you are quite right the tip was capped to a minimum of 8 feet with spoil from the Northern Development. The developers were charged per cubic metre, delivered, and they avoided the land fill tax. We not only had the tip capped but also made £730,000 on the deal.
Nick, as usual, fugal with the truth, claims he was involved in the 80's. The idea was not even thought of then! As a matter of interest I still have a copy of the Master Plan and the plateau that Nick refers to was to be an entertainment area and viewing platform. For instance you could see the big church in Cricklade on a fine day and many other items of interest. The year that David Glaholm was the Mayor, to celebrate the Chinese New Year over 2000 whips, small trees, were planted.
Bobby

Offline Muggins

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"The year that David Glaholm was the Mayor, to celebrate the Chinese New Year over 2000 whips, small trees, were planted."

I know, I was there! (It was a bit muddy and damp that day) and at most if not all the planning meetings. And I too, somewhere, have the paperwork, or at least some of it.  I could not remember the planned use for the top of Phase Three, indeed even if there was a firm one, but now you say, I remember.

The people of West Swindon have fought for this site before and hopefully they will do again. Although I don't live there, I also demonstrated with them, and will do so again if necessary. 

But what I want for that Park is not so important as what they want so I expect them to be asked.

PS and I remember David being Mayor!  Blimey, I was at his Mayor making!
Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Online Terry Reynolds

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What I liked about the article in the adver, was the piece about Nick saying that there were loads of open spaces in west swindon, yet when we had the meeting, to discuss the sale of the headlands sports field, he got up and spoke for the development, and houses on the site, no thought of our needs re open spaces.. :santa_wink: :santa_wink:

Offline jennyb

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It is my understanding that all calculations on open space/per head of population are based on the 2006 local plan. According to SBC's numbers by ward , this equates to a population of 201k.

The 2011 census showed a population of 209k. The new draft local plan talks of an increasing population which by SBC's calculations should mean that more green space has been needed since 2006 and indeed will continue to need to be expanded.

Try as I might to get some sense out of SBC as to where the public may look to check what green space is under risk of development proposals from this Administration or the Officers who support them all I find is obfuscation.  What's new you might ask?

As we know , the choice or location of a site is not a material planning consideration , therefore any suggestion that the LPA will scrutinise a PA submitted by Officers is risible.

Anyhow.. here's how the BS office purports to explain 'excess open and green public space'.  It relates to the Croft but I believe would apply anywhere in Swindon.

The 2006 Local Plan, which was consulted on, designated the land on which the development was proposed as excess public open space within the ward.

Q: Can you provide me with the precise location and report within which a member of the public would be able to read that the Croft site had been designated as excess open and green public open space either in 2006 or since that date?

A: The Council has previously provided a response to questions of open space surplus in the past. As you know, there is no policy which states that the specific land on which the school is built is surplus, because the open space policy does not operate in that way.

As we have previously advised, Policy R4 of the Local Plan requires open space to be protected unless the proposal in question meets at least 1 of 3 criteria. One of these criteria is whether there is a surplus of open space in the ward.

The Open Space Audit and Assessment is available on the Council’s website. It assesses open space in each ward highlighting those wards which have a surplus against population, and those which do not.

The following link takes you to the Audit and Assessment (Ward Profiles 2011):

http://www.swindon.gov.uk/ep/ep-planning/forwardplaning/ep-planning-monitoring/Pages/ep-planning-monitoring-openspace.aspx

The relevant information for the ward in which Croft is located can be found at Page 39. It clearly shows a surplus of open space at the ‘Total Open Space Provision’ table which can be found at the bottom of Page 40 (Please refer to the surplus / shortfall column and the hectares of open space per 1000 population). This means that if a proposal came forward on open space in this ward, no objection would be raised on the basis of loss unless it was of such a size, quality and of a scale that it took up so much open space (and failed to re-provide a commensurate amount elsewhere) that the overall ward quantum was put into deficit.

This approach was endorsed by the Local Plan Inspector, and the policy has been operated since its adoption in 2006. Indeed, para 74 of the recently promulgated National Planning Policy Framework replicates our approach.


As far as I am aware, unless Swindon's Boundaries are increased, the open and green public space we have is finite.. and when it is gone.. it is gone... 
It takes wisdom to know what you know and wisdom to know what you don't know and when to call in those who do. Often the people who do know will advise that evidence and research are very helpful when making decisions. Who knows it might even save a bit of money.

Brandysnap

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This is Machiavellian, to attack someone who wants to build a development on open public green space is positively cool, but to attack someone who wants build a green Eco energy power station is uncool.

What does one do when there is a plan to build a green Eco energy power station on public open space inter alia adjacent to a community forest area, be cool or uncool?

I'm with Jennyb on this they aren't building anymore green land in Swindon and when what little we have is gone it's gone.

25 acres is approx 23 football Football pitches, an area of about 121,000 sq yds. 25 acres is approx 10.1 hectares. To put it in perspective the new B&Q distribution site is about 7.4 hectares.

Offline Mickraker

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I believe that in the 1980s the tip was in operation owned by WCC and Cllr Nick Martin was a councillor in Stratton St Margaret. I could be wrong as I was much younger in those days and not into what was happening in the adver unless it was reported in the back pages.
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Offline Simon

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I know it was 8 years ago but surely Nick Martin can't have forgotten this already? I don't think I've seen the like of it in Swindon either before or since.





I'm all for solar panels, but I don't think a forest is really the best place for them. Rooftops are a much better place.
We are all in this together, but some of us are more in it than others (with apologies to George Orwell)

Offline ph1lc

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I'm all for solar panels, but I don't think a forest is really the best place for them. Rooftops are a much better place.

Now this is where Swindon need some commercial expertise.

At work i'm looking at spending £250K on a massive rooftop array. I reckon that it will be cash positive to the business in around 18 months. To achieve that we will have to use 75% of the electric ourselves. Electric is sold to the grid at around half the rate we pay for our electric (FIT payments from Govt are the same).
Timing and VAT reclaim are essential - as are Corporation Tax savings.

Hopefully SBC will be using SCS to purchase and manage the system for them. That way it can make it a pretty good return for the town.

Just don't send for Hunt.


Offline darrey80

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I would say Shaw Forest needs to be just that, a Forest. I think there is mass planting happening to link up with Purton.  Solar panels can go elsewhere.  Not many green spaces, small parks aside,  in Swindon so focus should be on enhancement if anything.

Offline Muggins

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Shaw Forest is just a name for it, (and a rather silly one) it has never been a forest and it isn't one yet, only in as much as it's within the bounds of the much, much larger Great Western Community Forest.

It's the one piece of large 'green/open space' in Swindon that's been created, (apart from the pocket park) i.e. it wasn't there before.

It was the Rodbourne Refuse/landfill TIP ( that doesn't mean 'point' it means 'dump')  before and in effect it was an extremely brown field site. The only reason it hasn't been built on is that what is underneath it, is too toxic and therefore another use had to be found for it  And there is a theory that what has been planted will die anyway when the stuff starts leeching through - although I hope not! Gas is being piped off just to make it safe to use!

The part that is being talked about is phase 3 of the creation of that green space and thus far, as far as I know, has not even been planted yet. It can be whatever anyone chooses within the limits of that underground toxicity.

The people who live there should decide, because this is moving away from the plan previously consulted and decided upon.

The thing of real value is next door in the Nature Reserve saved by a Greenmeadow lad via Thames Water and later the Wiltshife Wildlife Trust. The lakes were the old Thames Water holding tanks.

Noting Simon's photos you would think that the strength of feeling about it has already been proven and therefore consulted upon before now.

Just found one of my 'set in shiny paper' docs: 

"Great Western Community Forest:
page 12.  1.16

A long term vision: 

Community Forests are a bold, long term vision, a commitment to the future. They will require many years of support and activity from all sectors of the community.  Improvements will be felt as soon as planting begins to gather pace; together the community will create a healthy, diverse and attractive countryside around their towns and cities giving practical and profitable gains and sustained pleasure to many people. 

They will be a legacy to future generations, a change for the better.2

We should also remember at this time there was a dedicated Community Forest team of 8, a similar number of rangers that grew bigger before it shrank to 2? 4? and a fully working (too numerous to mention) parks dept and  countryside team. And most importantly a regularly called Environmental Forum with about 100 representative from environmental groups around town and a beyond.

Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline jennyb

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http://www.swindon.gov.uk/ep/ep-planning/forwardplaning/ep-planning-monitoring/Documents/openspaceaudit-wardprofiles.pdf

SHAW & NINE ELMS
Population (2010): 9,500
Area: 336.5 Ha

Description
Shaw and Nine Elms has large sways of open spaces flowing throughout it varying from semi-natural spaces such as Shaw Forest Park, to many playspaces. More localised open spaces are limited within estates however the larger spaces tend to be of a high quality and are attractive, well-used spaces providing benefit to the residents.

Site Details :

General Recreation
Site ID Site Name Size (Ha)


13035 Bramptons Pond 0.02
00610 Clay Pit Park 0.84
09530 Clayhill Amenity Space  0.68
00590 Middleaze Drive Open Space  3.95
13017 Nine Elms Amenity Area  1.06
12455 Old Shaw Lane 0.96 00450 Old Shaw Lane / Roughmoor Way   0.43
00390 Peatmoor Copse 0.73 12453 Peatmoor Lagoon North 0.48
01240 Peatmoor Lagoon MOS  12.34
12561 Rivermead East (part) 5.12
00580 Rye Close LOS 1.37
13030 Sharp Close Amenity Area 0.18
09080 Shaw Forest Park (n)   21.72
12553 Shaw Forest Park (s)   17.59
08700 Shaw Ridge Pos   15.87
00570 Shaw Valley Parkway  3.02
12450 Sparcells Central   0.25
09280 Sparcells Field   1.47
12552 Sparcells South 2.43
02230 The Bramptons 0.20

Total 92.40 Hectares 
 

Ward Analysis

There is a large surplus of total open space within Shaw and Nine Elms consisting of mainly general recreational spaces. The average quality meets the standard with parks and gardens and strategic green corridors scoring above the standard. Overall accessibility is excellent however access to playspaces is limited.


This is what Officers state and Council have agreed. It is wise to bear in mind that by the time a planning application has been submitted by the LA to the LA there will no way to question or challenge the choice of this site as location is not a material planning consideration.

I believe that there has only been 1 occurrence of a refusal of a LA planning application in the last 10 years and this was ( if I am correct) for a cycle track.

I predict that the consultation will be a sham and if even 1 person states they support this no matter how many objections may be raised the LPA will just nod their heads and do as the Officers tell them.

Green space across Swindon is at threat. Do not be fooled.
It takes wisdom to know what you know and wisdom to know what you don't know and when to call in those who do. Often the people who do know will advise that evidence and research are very helpful when making decisions. Who knows it might even save a bit of money.

Offline Muggins

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I agree Jennyb, and mainly the rights we once appeared to have - and they were few enough in reality have disappeared now and mostly since the start of the the Cabinet style council.

At least before an interested local councillor would tip you the wink, or an uninterested one would let something slip that made you follow it up to find out what was going on.   

And of course, that Open Space Audit didn't help, it was done for one reason only, to find out which bits they could build on. 
Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline Richard Symonds

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I was there on a wet Saturday Morning eight years ago when Nick the **** Martin said he would lay down in front of the bulldozers to prevent the development of the site for a football stadium.

Since that time he has lost influence and has been removed by Rod Bluh as the Lead Member for Finance and it hurt him very deeply.   Has he been responsible for the inappropriate sale of the land in front of the 'forest' for the construction of a car dealership?  We have yet to find out if the 'forest' will become a 'demonstration' site for four wheel drive vehicles?

For someone who is presently Deputy Mayor and hoping to become Mayor in May he seems to be involved in some very controversial incidents.  Is this a further example of what he would seem to do to ingratiate himself to the man who will determine his future?
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Offline swindoncentric

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This will make Shaw Forest look like a Casio calculator....

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-21030534