Green belt under threat in blueprint for housing and jobs

CONSULTATION wIll begin this month on plans for thousands more houses to be built in South Gloucestershire over the next 15 years.

The council has put forward a blueprint that includes development of the “East Bristol fringe”, including huge estates in Shortwood and Warmley.

The proposals in the draft South Gloucestershire Local Plan have already led to accusations that “vast swathes” of the green belt will be lost.

The council says 20,490 homes are needed in the district by 2040, of which 11,230 already have planning permission, leaving the authority to find land for the remaining 9,260.

Under the draft Local Plan, which will go out to nine weeks’ public consultation on December 4 before being submitted to a government planning inspector for public examination, only 1,540 new homes will be built on “brownfield” sites.

About 7,500 are for “greenfield” locations, with the bulk of these – 5,740 – earmarked for the East Fringe, where the authority also aims to create more employment spaces.

Development is proposed at three sites in Hanham: Land at Castle Farm Road, 125 homes; Land south of Abbots Road, 85 homes; Land at Castle Farm Inn, 60 homes, Other potential development sites include Jarretts Garden Centre in Bitton, 95 homes; and The Sawmills, Bridgeyate, 110.

The Lib-Lab coalition, which took control of the council in May, said building on open fields was unavoidable.
Conservative group leader Councillor Sam Bromiley (Parkwall & Warmley) told a full council meeting on Monday, November 13: “The draft Local Plan proposes thousands of new homes on greenfield land – a lot of this looks like it will be situated in the greenbelt.

“The Conservative group has always said we would work to protect the greenbelt.

“Our residents who live in the East Fringe are right to be concerned that their greenbelt is going to be lost pretty much entirely.”

Maps of the exact sites earmarked for possible development were not available when the draft Local Plan went to the council for approval. They are expected to be issued on December 6.

The draft Local Plan includes 1,000 homes at two unspecified locations in “Warmley North”, another 1,150 at three sites in “Shortwood South”, plus a further 2,500 here beyond the year 2040, and 280 at one in “Shortwood North” – all of which it says are within existing urban boundaries.

In a “schedule of sites” list it includes 950 homes at Lower Shortwood, Pucklechurch & Siston, plus a further 1,550 here beyond 2040, 970 at land north of A420 and south of Goose Green in Siston, 280 on “land at Shortwood, Pucklechurch”, 65 on “land at Shortwood, Emersons Green”, 50 homes on “land south of Shortwood Hill, Mangotsfield” and 30 homes at 15 and 17a London Road, Warmley.

It is not clear whether any or all of these on the two lists overlap.

Warmley resident and former Tory cabinet member with responsibility for transport and planning Steve Reade told the meeting that the plan showed the Lib Dem/Labour coalition had already made up its mind that there would be some loss of the greenbelt.

He said: “I would have thought, as would many in my part of the region, that your starting point would be ‘no greenbelt loss’ rather than ‘how we can justify losing it’.

Lib Dem cabinet member in charge of planning Cllr Chris Willmore said: “We have taken every single brownfield site that the previous administration had identified and allocated them.
“But we’ve gone further and we’ve been hunting for more.

“It’s easy to make a promise that you’re not going to touch the greenbelt until you do the sums and you discover they simply don’t add up.

“There is no magic land tree, we are not Hong Kong, we don’t invent new land, we have a limited supply of land, and when you’ve taken off the table all the bits of land that can’t be developed for various reasons, you are left with saying reluctantly the only places it can go are in the greenbelt.”

She said the government’s calculation was that the council needed to provide land for 20,500 homes by 2040.

“Wherever they go, things are going to look mighty different,” Cllr Willmore said.

“Inevitably some local areas and fields will in future have affordable houses, spaces for employment, schools, surgeries, play areas and all the other local services on them. Inevitably that is going to affect existing communities and biodiversity, wherever the homes go. No one is underestimating the impact of new developments on our communities. The difficulty is that the large proportion of South Gloucestershire is greenbelt, so wherever we put the housing development it’s going to have an impact on the greenbelt – that is unavoidable.”

She said developing on the greenbelt around Siston and Warmley would help tackle “shocking” east-west employment inequalities in South Gloucestershire.

Cllr Willmore said there were more jobs than working-age residents in the North Fringe but that in the East Fringe there was just 0.4 of a job for every adult.

“That means over half the adult working population of the East Fringe has to leave the East Fringe every single day of their working lives to get to work,” she said.

“We have to tackle that economic inequality and that means bringing economic change to the East Fringe.”
Council co-leader Cllr Ian Boulton (Labour, Staple Hill & Mangotsfield) said he had been determined to ensure politics had not come into the plan’s preparation.

“There will be winners, there will be losers. However, it is based purely on evidence,” he said.The final plan is not expected to be adopted until Sept 2025.

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service