I have always championed the protection of our Green Belt countryside and – even before being elected – I was campaigning against the then-government’s hated Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), which would have concreted over our Green Belt countryside with around 10,000 houses.
A change in government saw the RSS scrapped in 2010, but history suggests that we should always be on our guard and the recent announcement from Redrow and Ashfield Land that they are seeking to build around 150 houses on Green Belt land in Hanham is a stark reminder.
Their plans appear to be a result of the Regional Mayor’s well-documented attempt last year to force South Gloucestershire to build 37,000 more houses – 10,000 more than government figures suggest is needed to meet local demand. The Green Belt countryside around Hanham and Longwell Green was earmarked for several thousand new houses. Whilst South Gloucestershire Council blocked this plan from the West of England Combined Authority, the development industry were busy snapping up the land needed to meet the Mayor’s damaging target. They will now be trying their luck in putting their plans in before the council’s new Local Plan is published later this summer, which will re-confirm the importance of protecting the Green Belt.
In the meantime, I will be objecting to Redrow’s plans for The Batch site on behalf of the community and I commend the work of the Hanham District Green Belt Conservation Society, campaigners and local councillors in helping to raise awareness in the local community. Building more homes here without the necessary investment in services and infrastructure will just pile pressure onto already-stretched facilities.
When it comes to building the homes, jobs and infrastructure we need for local people, we should prioritise brownfield development and urban regeneration.
That’s why the regeneration of Kingswood town centre and sites like Kleeneze in Hanham and the old Grange site in Warmley are so important.
We shouldn’t see our precious green fields concreted over when empty brownfield sites remain in the area, which could provide the new affordable homes we so desperately need for the next generation.