Houses may still be built on a Bath field in an apparent u-turn after hopes were raised that the nature reserve would be saved from development.
The new leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council scrapped controversial plans to build 37 homes on Tufa Field on 4th May.
Kevin Guy said the council was committed to ecology and protecting green spaces and would reassess the use of Tufa Field, a 0.9 hectare site of Scientific Nature and Conservation Interest behind Englishcombe Lane in Odd Down.
Cllr Guy said the land would not be sold off, allaying previous fears that it would end up in the hands of a private developer.
But three weeks later, it has emerged that the council is still considering building up to ten homes on the important ecological site.
Former councillor Bob Goodman railed against the apparent u-turn in a public statement to cabinet members on 20th May.
He referred to a reply he said he had received from Richard Samuel, cabinet member for economic development and resources, confirming that a smaller development was still under consideration.
“I like others had assumed the field was saved for all time,” Mr Goodman said. “Then we heard councillors indicating that the decision by Cllr Guy’s predecessor to look at a smaller development was still being considered, with talk of up to ten houses.
“This has now been confirmed in reply to a cabinet question by Cllr Samuel, in which he says: ‘A smaller, more [compact] development that will provide social benefit is being considered.’
“This is a betrayal of the residents and, more importantly, this special ecological site.”
Mr Goodman asked Cllr Guy to publicly promise that no building development would take place on Tufa Field.
The Liberal Democrat leader did not respond.
Instead, Tim Ball, cabinet member for planning, said: “As well as an ecological emergency, we also have a housing emergency at the moment and we do need to deliver housing for people who have no homes.
“A smaller development which then protects the land in perpetuity from further development is probably a good idea and not a bad one.”
Mr Goodman, who was a member of the previous cabinet that approved the making of the original planning application, said he thought ecology came before houses “in this particular case”.
Cllr Samuel said it would cost the council around £750,000 if the scrapped plans for housing on Tufa Field did not go ahead “in any sort of form”.
He said: “The council cannot make that decision without the context of exploring whether there are any other development possibilities on that land, which was a decision taken both by the previous leader of the council and agreed by the current leader of the council.”
Responding to the news on their website, campaign group The Tufa Field said: “This means our focus has to go back to protecting this special site.
“We had hoped the council would conduct a full consultation on the use of this site, taking into account as wide a set of views as possible.”
Danny Groves, who lives near the field, said: “It remains to be seen whether future plans to try to redevelop would represent a stunning u-turn by the council, sadly reinforcing the public’s view of politicians being duplicitous, incompetent and untrustworthy.”
Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter