Leaders row over housing targets for South Gloucestershire
SOUTH Gloucestershire could be forced to take 9,000 more homes than the Government thinks it should over the next two decades, its council leader fears.
Conservative Toby Savage told a council meeting in April that an initial version of the region’s housing blueprint indicated 37,000 homes would be earmarked in the district – almost a third more than the 28,000 that Whitehall calculations suggested were necessary.
Cllr Savage told the council’s cabinet: “I cannot in all good conscience agree to land our communities with unsustainable levels of new growth over the next 20 years.”
He criticised Labour Metro Mayor Dan Norris, who as head of the West of England Combined Authority is required to publish the spatial development strategy (SDS), a strategic vision setting out overall numbers and broad distribution of housing, jobs, infrastructure and growth.
Cllr Savage said Mr Norris was “resistant” to meetings over the SDS and, as a result, the document and 12-week public consultation had been delayed.
Asked to respond, Mr Norris said afterwards it was the Government who had set the housing numbers and was demanding at least 105,000 new homes in the West of England over the next two decades.
Cllr Savage has previously criticised Mr Norris for a “mushroom farming approach” to preparing the SDS in “darkness and secrecy”, while the Weca mayor has accused the council leader of “living in a parallel universe” and having “delusions of grandeur”.
Cllr Savage told his cabinet on April 4: “It’s disappointing we are in a position where the decision on pushing on with an SDS has needed to be deferred because of a lack of preparedness and engagement that is a true reflection of the words ‘engagement’ and ‘collaboration’ across the region, but this is where we find ourselves.
“The Weca mayor has been resistant to meetings of mayors and leaders to discuss the SDS.
“While I’m happy we have now had a grand total of two meetings on this topic – two more than we’ve had in the last six months – it has ended up being too little, too late to meet the original timescale for the SDS."
Mr Norris said afterwards: “It is the Conservative Government that has demanded the West of England must build a minimum of 105,000 new homes over the next 20 years. It is the Government that has set exacting rules for this complex and highly expensive process.
“Conservative councillors angry at their own Conservative Government’s imposition of high housing numbers and facing difficult local elections in just over a year’s time are bound to wobble."
Members of pressure group Thornbury Residents Against Poorly Planned Development (TRAPP'D) say that the new figures would result in South Gloucestershire having to "find almost double the amount of new developments that they were expecting".
The group said: "The details of the draft SDS remain secret, but we are certain that it contains 'outline locations' for development which include the 3,000 houses at Buckover and several other greenfield sites around the town."
The group has made an objection to WECA and met with Thornbury & Yate MP Luke Hall to discuss the issue.
They said: "We are horrified at the proposal from WECA to allocate up to 10,000 houses of Bristol’s unmet need onto our green fields."
*An appeal into plans to build 595 new homes on the outskirts of Thornbury is now due to start in late May.
An inspector was set to start hearing Barwood Development Securities' application to build 595 homes at Park Farm, Butt Lane, at the end of March but it was delayed at the developer's request.
The inquiry, at the Ship Inn in Alveston, is now due to start on May 23. It is expected to last at least a week.
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service