New homes approved in 'high-risk mining area' in Coalpit Heath despite 50 objections
PLANS for five homes in Coalpit Heath have been approved, despite claims they would “spoil” the tranquillity of a church and graveyard have been approved.
The houses, opposite St Saviour’s church cemetery in Bell Road, Coalpit Heath, were granted permission despite objections from South Gloucestershire Council’s own conservation officer, 46 residents, ward councillors and Frampton Cotterell Parish Council.
Before giving the green light, councillors spent half an hour debating whether they should refuse the buildings because there was no proposed pavement at the end of the drive, only for a planning officer to eventually realise there was one.
By then, members had voted by 5-4 against both accepting officers’ recommendation to approve the two pairs of semi-detached houses and one detached property and then to reject the advice and turn down the outline plans, including demolishing the existing bungalow (below) opposite the Grade II*-listed church.
Based on the “new information” about the footway, the development management committee voted again on approving the homes, this time by 8-1 in favour.
The remote meeting was told an old mineshaft was thought to be in the rear corner of the plot but its condition was unknown.
Frampton Cotterell ward councillor Tristan Clark said: “There are a number of issues with this application.
“It is a high-risk mining area.
“While there is a proposed condition to require the applicants to carry out a coal-mining investigation, that is putting the cart before the horse.
“If this mining survey takes place and finds the land would not support the amount of houses being proposed or the layout, then it makes a mockery of establishing the outline stage.
“The five properties would not be in character with the area and would directly overlook the churchyard.
“That is why the conservation officer’s recommendation is that this application should be refused, because it would utterly change the setting of this church and churchyard.
“It is a tranquil graveyard, despite the fact there is a main road close by.
“St Saviour’s church represents the first Anglican church designed by the noted Victorian architect William Butterfield.
“The proximity and concentration of the proposed properties will spoil the beauty and serenity of the parish church.
“Residents have raised concerns about parking and access. That stretch of Bell Road is a one-way street and very narrow.
“As this would be drive-on parking spaces, it poses the risk of accidents.”
Principal planning officer Marie Bath told the meeting previous proposals for six larger houses and two flats were rejected in 2018 but the new development was “completely different”.
Artist's impression of two homes in the new development
She said: “The public benefits do outweigh the harm to the listed church.
“While accepting that the proposed development would disturb the view from the churchyard, given the context of it being surrounded by existing residential development, the impact would not justify refusal of the scheme.
“There will be views of the churchyard from all five properties, but those views will not be significantly different to the views afforded by anybody else walking along Bell Road.”
Emersons Green ward councillor Judy Adams said: “This is a scrubland site and this application would be a vast improvement.
“There are large trees in the churchyard and the five properties will blend in well with all the other houses.”
Committee chairman Keith Burchell said: “I can see no problem with the views from the site into the churchyard, bearing in mind this churchyard is flanked on one side by the main Badminton Road, the A432, with horrendous amounts of traffic.”
Stoke Park and Cheswick ward councillor James Arrowsmith told the meeting on Thursday, June 25: “I have concerns over the issues of the mining shaft.
“I don’t have much of an issue with the design.
“I am quite torn.”
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service