Huge interest in blueprint for future of homes, jobs and transport
THE number of people wanting to attend the public hearing sessions of the region’s new planning blueprint has been described as “possibly unprecedented”.
The West of England Joint Spatial Plan will set down policies for the sustainable development that is required to meet the area’s needs for the next 20 years, for housing, jobs and transport.
It involves four local authorities – South Gloucestershire, Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset and North Somerset – working together and acknowledging the impact of developments across boundaries.
In a letter sent to people who have expressed an interest in attending, programme officer Helen Wilson said that the number of requests had been “even higher than anticipated”, and “possibly unprecedented for a local plan examination”.
The hearings will now be held at the Guildhall in Bath, starting on July 2.
The hearings are divided into specific areas, with some examined in July and others in October.
The first hearings will concentrate on the scope of the plan, strategic development locations and the greenbelt, the requirement for housing, and the spatial strategy.
Inspectors will probe the evidence already submitted to them and contributors will include developers, landowners, unitary, town and parish councils, campaign groups and residents. Among them will be the North West Thornbury Landowner Consortium, the campaign groups Trapp’d (Thornbury Residents Against Poorly Planned Development) and VALID (Villagers Against Local Intended Developments), the CPRE, Bloor and Barrett Homes, and South West Strategic Developments.
Hearings examining specific potential developments such as Buckover Garden Village and a proposal by Bloor Homes at Coalpit Heath are scheduled for October.
For local politicians, the hearings are also an opportunity to put their case.
Claire Young, the Liberal Democrat group leader on South Gloucestershire Council, above, said: “We will be arguing at the public hearings that the West of England has taken the wrong approach to delivering the houses we need. The plan is over-reliant on massive developments in just a few locations.
“Rather than doing a proper review of the Green Belt they have chosen to remove some of the narrowest parts, risking our towns and villages merging into one another. They have done little for the more deprived areas and not enough of the housing is affordable. They cannot explain how they are going to fund the transport infrastructure needed to stop our area grinding to a halt.”
Labour group leader Pat Rooney said: “We are concerned with the lack of focus on disadvantaged areas, with little mention of the biggest problem facing South Gloucestershire – affordable housing provision – and the omission of a coherent transport infrastructure. Our roads will only become more congested by the increase in houses proposed over and above the original number forecast originally and held back from public knowledge until after the local elections."
The Conservative-run council’s cabinet member for planning, Steve Reade, said: “This is the culmination of a large amount of work to get to this stage and testament to the way the four unitary authorities have worked together on strategic planning and transport matters.
“With regards to the greenbelt, any proposed reduction has been very carefully considered and assessed. Proposals for appropriate additional greenbelt designation are included in one of the policies.
“The JSP is the first of its kind and we know many other city regions are following this very closely. The running of the examination is now the job of the independent inspectors. We need to respect this and work with them to help secure a successful examination.”
A previously suggested development of 500 homes near Almondsbury on the site of Woodlands Golf Course and Country Club may not now materialise. Owners the Golf Group have recently sold their Shortwood Lodge course near Mangotsfield and say they intend to continue to run Woodlands as a golf venue.