The Council’s Core Strategy – which will guide the long-term planning needs for the area – is set to be adopted following an independent inspection.
The Core Strategy focuses development on brownfield sites as far as possible and seeks to limit the use of Green Belt land to achieve the Council’s homes target to support local need. Once in place it will be the key guide for residents, developers and the Council for the next 15 years.
The Core Strategy has now been assessed by an independent inspector and moves forward to the final stage.
The inspector has concluded that the strategy is fit for purpose subject to some modifications.
The key recommended modifications are:
- An increase in the overall housing requirement from 2011 to around 13,000 dwellings.
- The allocation of four strategic sites for housing to be removed from the Green Belt at Odd Down at Bath, East Keynsham, South West Keynsham and Whitchurch.
- The site proposed by the Council at Weston is not recommended to be included in the Plan.
- The removal from the Green Belt of additional land at East Keynsham as safeguarded land.
- Setting different targets for the provision of affordable housing in different parts of the district to reflect the evidence on viability.
Bath & North East Somerset Council has been proactive in getting the strategy to this key stage so some of these modifications have already been proposed by the Council, gone out to public consultation and been accepted.
The next step is for the Council to consider the inspector’s report along with his recommendations and whether the Core Strategy should be adopted. This will be considered at a meeting on 10th July.
Cllr Paul Crossley (Lib-Dem, Southdown), Leader of the Council, said: “Adopting the Core Strategy will have a number of benefits for Bath & North East Somerset Council and the wider community.
“It gives a clear policy for residents and developers on the location and size of new developments which means we are better placed to resist harmful planning applications.
“It also helps encourage housing and economic growth in the right places and for the Council to put in place.
“Finally it helps us implement the Community Infrastructure Levy which goes towards funding the roads, schools and other services which are impacted by new developments.”
Cllr Tim Ball (Lib-Dem, Twerton), Cabinet Member for Homes and Planning, said: “Once we have the strategy adopted we can move forward with our Placemaking Plan which will allocate specific sites for development and we can update local plan policies. It means communities across the district will have a clear guide on what can be built where.”
The inspector’s report is available on the Council’s website at www.bathnes.gov.uk/corestrategy and to view at the Council’s main offices and all public libraries.
The Government Planning Inspector ruled that the site proposed on the edge of Weston would be unsuitable for new development due to the fact the land is designated as both Greenbelt and Area of Outstanding Beauty, as well as being within Bath’s World Heritage Site and conservation area.
In his recommendations to the Council, the Inspector stated that due to a number of issues affecting the site, the benefits of building on the land do not clearly outweigh the harm it would cause and so allocating the land for housing could not be justified.
Welcoming the news, Councillor Barrett (Cons, Weston) said: “This is absolutely fantastic news for our community here in Weston. After more than a year of campaigning, which has included public meetings, petitions and lobbying of the Planning Inspector, I’m absolutely delighted that our arguments against building on the Greenbelt here in Weston have won the day.
“The community spirit shown by local residents in opposing these plans has been tremendous. It was this weight of public support which made the Inspector listen to our arguments. I just wish that our Lib Dem Council had listened sooner, as it is clear that Weston should never have been earmarked in the first place.”
Councillor Gerry Curran (Twerton), Chair of the Development Control Committee, commented: “It’s hard to overestimate quite how important the adoption of a sound Core Strategy is for the future of Bath and North East Somerset. It will be the key document guiding housing and economic growth for our area.
“With the Core Strategy in place, the Council will be more able to defend against speculative planning applications on inappropriate sites. Without it, the implication is that developers would virtually have free range to build.”
Andy Stewart, Liberal Democrat campaigner in Weston, added: “I am delighted and relieved that the inspector has recommended the removal of the proposed Weston urban extension from the Core Strategy.
“The inspector listened carefully to representations from Weston residents, including myself, during the examination in public and he agreed there was a strong case for the removal of the Weston site. It’s excellent news for Weston that this has been confirmed.
“The arguments against the inclusion of the Weston site centred on the harm to the landscape and setting of the World Heritage City of Bath. There were also important considerations relating to the ecology and ground stability of the site as well as traffic and flooding issues.”