Relief as 'unsustainable' housing targets are scrapped
CAMPAIGNERS and politicians have expressed "relief" that government plans to more than double targets for new housing have been scrapped.
A consultation on the Planning Reform Bill proposed that the number of new homes to be built over the next 20 years in South Gloucestershire be increased from 23,000 to 51,000 – something critics said would make more large developments near Thornbury unavoidable.
But a change of heart by the government in December meant that South Gloucestershire would not be expected to help meet the new housing needs of neighbouring Bristol, prioritising use of brownfield and urban land for new schemes.
South Gloucestershire and Thornbury town councillor Maggie Tyrell said: "The Government’s decision to change the proposed housing numbers for South Gloucestershire is a relief, as their previous calculation would have completely swamped our communities and eaten up yet more huge swathes of our countryside.
“We can’t be complacent, though – there is still pressure to build large numbers and we need to be sure we’re meeting the needs of our communities, not taking pressure from elsewhere.”
Colin Gardner, spokesperson for Trapp’d (Thornbury Residents Against Poorly Planned Developments) said: “In practice this means no requirement for major new greenfield sites, such as the huge 3,000 unit car-based housing estate put forward for Buckover, near Thornbury.
"Therefore, if such a scheme finds its way into the new forthcoming Local Plan, it will be a political decision, rather than one forced upon the local authority by the housing targets.” Trapp’d had previously estimated that the government's abandoned higher housing target would have added “another 6 Buckovers” to the target for the area.
The council's Conservative administration raised its concerns publicly over the proposals before submitting its response to the consultation.
On hearing they had been scrapped the council's cabinet member for regeneration, environment and strategic infrastructure, Steve Reade, said: “We are delighted that the Government has listened to the strong representations we have made to reconsider the unsustainable new targets being proposed.
“We are ambitious in our delivery of new homes, and in fact continue to over-deliver, but we remain focused in our plan-led approach to create new communities across South Gloucestershire with sufficient local infrastructure to support them.”
A total of 1,979 homes were built in the area between April 2019 and August 2020, despite delays caused by the impact of COVID-19.
The Liberal Democrat group on South Gloucestershire Council put forward a motion opposing the proposed government targets, which won all-party support.
Group leader Claire Young said the governments reforms still presented “huge problems", including "massively reducing the power of councils and the local communities they serve to decide the future of their local areas".
She added: "The Government’s plans would cut the amount of affordable housing and vital infrastructure that gets built, while doing next to nothing to demonstrate that they realise the seriousness of the climate emergency we face."
Explaining the government u-turn on the plans, a spokesperson from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We’ve listened to the views of local people and the reforms will put communities at the heart of these decisions, while continuing to protect the Green Belt and prioritise building on brownfield and urban centre land.”
South Gloucestershire Council is currently running a consultation on its local plan, which is intended to shape development in the district for the next 15 years and guide decisions on where large numbers of new homes and jobs should be provided.
The consultation is open until March 1 and people can take part by visiting www.southglos.gov.uk/Localplan2020.
People who are not online can call 01454 868004 for more details about the consultation.