Good news (for now) on Leckhampton’s bus service

Martin with Warden Hill councillor Graganm Beale and Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Max Wilkinson, widely tipped to be Cheltenham's next MP.
Local Lib Dems were quick off the mark campaigning to save our bus service. Martin with Warden Hill councillor Graham Beale and Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Cheltenham, Max Wilkinson, widely tipped to be Cheltenham’s next MP. Photo by Anna Lythgoe.

Last autumn local people were horrified to hear that Leckhampton’s regular regular local bus service – the F bus – was soon to be lost. Its operator Marchants, who had struggled for some time to deliver a reliable service, notified Conservative county transport bosses on 17 August that they were pulling out. But Shire Hall were caught asleep at the wheel and didn’t begin ‘formal market engagement’ on a new service until 14 October blaming Stagecoach for the delay.

Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Max Wilkinson, widely tipped to be Cheltenham’s next MP, was quick off the mark supporting Martin and other Lib Dem councillors in their campaigns to save services as soon as the news became public in October. In the end the county subsidised Marchants to run an ’emergency’ replacement L bus service just in time. It is only 16 buses a day not 24. The L bus route is shown below.

The weekday L bus route.  Currently free but fares will be back soon.
The new replacement L bus service will last at least until November 2023 and for now it’s free. But enjoy that while it lasts: fares will be back soon.

It was unclear then how long this would last, especially as no fares are being charged so far, and whether the weekend F bus, scheduled to end this month, would also be replaced. Now Shire Hall have confirmed to Martin that a weekend service with “similar coverage” to the L bus will replace the F and that the contract with Marchants runs at least until November 2023.

Sadly, the freebies are coming to an end though with fares coming as soon as the proper equipment can be fitted to Marchant’s buses.

Martin said ‘This is good news for now and we have time to campaign for a permanent reliable local service now.’

‘In the face of climate change, growing awareness of air pollution and rising fuel costs we should be doing everything possible to encourage and grow public transport. But Conservative leaders at Shire Hall seem to be lurching trom crisis to crisis and presiding over reduced services instead.’

There’s still time to have your say on the future of Leckhampton!

Until 15 November you can still have your say on the future of Leckhampton by visiting (or by using this QR code) and taking part in the Parish Council’s Neighbourhood Plan survey. And every submitted response enters you in a draw to win £100!

Scan this QR code to go to the Neighbourhood Plan consultation

Parish Councils are the butt of many jokes (thank you Vicar of Dibley and Jackie Weaver!) but their Neighbourhood Plan is surprisingly important. It sets out our community’s approach to protecting local green spaces, where we want development to go and how we want it to look and which local facilities we value. Neighbourhood Plans were introduced in the Localism Act passed when the Lib Dems were in government and they really count in planning permission decisions alongside the National Planning Policy Framework, the Cheltenham Plan and (in the the case of our three councils Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Cheltenham) as Joint Core Strategy (JCS) that allocates land for major housing developments.

For historic reasons, it doesn’t yet cover all of Leckhampton but you can still have your say if you’re in the area.

The area inside the red lines has already been protected as Local Green Space in the Lib Dems’ Cheltenham Plan – but the Neighbourhood Plan can reinforce that protection

In the case of the Leckhampton Fields, we managed to get them taken out of that JCS to stop pretty much all of them being built on and then got 26 hectares protected in the Lib Dem borough council’s Cheltenham Plan last year alongside 350 new homes – many of them affordable – and the new secondary school which is now going up on Kidnappers Lane. The parish council’s Neighbourhood Plan strongly supports the permanent protection of these treasured green spaces. But it also lists the community facilities like local shops and play areas that we value most and includes policies on our heritage assets and even how we want to protect the area against flooding.

The parish council and its Neighbourhood Plan working group (which I co-chair with Councillor Graham Beale) has already organised thousands of leaflet drops and two drop-in events and we’ve had hundreds of responses but we still want more. And please don’t use the unofficial survey issued in the name of ‘Leglag’. If you want a paper copy, call the parish clerk on 07739 719079 and she will make sure you get the proper one.

The drop-in events have finished now but you can still respond online by 15 November.

And there’s a bonus too. If we get all the way to a final referendum on the plan, probably in the first half of next year, and if the plan is approved, the parish council will get even more to spend on local facilities through the Community Infrastructure Levy which comes from the developers building all that housing. So new projects like the fundraising appeal just launched for a revamped Scout Hut on Leckhampton Road would be great candidates for some of that money.

So get online now and complete the survey! The whole plan is 160 pages long and the survey has links to key policies which are themselves quite long in places but please keep going even if you have to skim through it a bit. Remember you could win £100 and help the local community along the way!

Action on corner parking in Leckhampton

It’s been a long time coming but consultation by the county council as highways authority has finally begun on a proposed Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) to tackle dangerous corner parking in Leckhampton. It covers hotspots across Leckhampton and some neighbouring wards as well.

Dangerous corner parking was one of the first issues that was raised with me when I first ran for the council back in 2018, particularly the exits onto Leckhampton’s big main roads. Since then I’ve raised it repeatedly including during my stint as chair of the parish highways group. First there was negotiation over the possibilitity of combining multiple sites to reduce the cost of consultation, then over who would fund the consultation and then over which sites really justified even consideration of new yellow lines (several visits were apparently necessary and parish councillors were despatched to talk to residents). Finally there was further discussion of actual detailed plans. Now we have an agreed list to consult members of the public on but even that has started in a very limited way . Don’t worry though – you still have the chance to have your say: more formal consultation is planned for later in the process and I’m told “site notices and plans are placed around the site on street furniture, adverts placed in the local press and a page posted on the Gloucestershire County Council website”. Watch out for them!

I thought it would be helpful for people to see all the plans that are being considered so here are the ones proposed in or very near to Leckhampton ward..