‘Swathes’ of countryside at risk

‘VAST swathes’ of countryside between Emersons Green and Pucklechurch will disappear under housing in a new blueprint for 20,000 new homes, say opposition councillors.

Conservative group leader Sam Bromiley told a South Gloucestershire Council meeting that the Green Belt east of the Avon Ring Road would be “lost pretty much entirely” and that the village of Shortwood could end up merging with Siston and Warmley to the south under a new blueprint.

The council’s new 15-year Local Plan will be put out to public consultation from December 4.

A draft document outlining the plan suggests 1,280 new homes could be built around Shortwood between 2025 and 2040, with a further 1,500 added after that, as well as industrial, distribution and other employment development.

North of Lyde Green another 750 homes could be built over 15 years, rising to 2,000 after that, along with other business development.

Four potential Shortwood development sites would be near another two sites labelled Warmley North, with the potential capacity for 1,000 homes.

The draft document outlining the plan was approved at a council cabinet meeting on November 13.

Although it contained no maps, it included a list of possible development sites and the number of houses that could potentially be built there, including:

Three sites at Shortwood with a total of 1,295 homes – one with 950 homes, employment facilities, a school and park & ride, one with 280 homes and one with 65 homes.

• North of Lyde Green – 750 homes plus employment, primary, local centre and park & ride.

• Cossham Street, Mangotsfield – 195 homes

• East of Abson Road, Pucklechurch – 60 homes

• South of Shortwood Hill, Mangotsfield  – 50 homes

• North of A420 and south of Goose Green, Siston – 970 homes.

The Cossham Street site is likely to be a field owned by developer Taylor Wimpey between Cossham Street and Rodway Hill Road, near Mangotsfield School: an application for 180 new homes there was rejected in 2009.

The council says it has to find sites for 9,260 new homes between 2025 and 2040 to help meet a target of 20,490 homes in the district – they will be added to 8,080 which already have planning permission and 3,150 on sites for under 10 homes not included in the plan.

The authority’s Lib Dem/Labour administration defended allocating open fields for housing and insisted the impact on communities and land that currently had protected status was “unavoidable”.

Cabinet approved the document outlining where houses, jobs and infrastructure will go between 2025 and 2040, which will be sent out for public consultation next month.

Conservative Cllr Bromiley (Parkwall & Warmley) told the meeting: “The draft Local Plan proposes thousands of new homes on greenfield land – a lot of this looks like it will be situated in the Green Belt.”

He said it was “embarrassing” to have to tell people who were “losing sleep that houses could be built or may not be built around their homes” that no maps were available yet.

Lib Dem cabinet member for planning, 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. We are reviewing all of the council’s property portfolio to see if there is any brownfield land in there.

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

“The difficulty is that the large proportion of South Gloucestershire is Green Belt, so wherever we put the housing development it’s going to have an impact on the greenbelt – that is unavoidable.”

Cllr Willmore said developing the Green Belt east of the A4174 would help tackle “shocking” east-west employment inequalities in South Gloucestershire.

She said that there were more jobs than working-age residents in the north of the district but in the east there was an average 0.4 jobs per adult.

Cllr Willmore said: “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.

“We have to tackle that economic inequality and that means bringing economic change to the East Fringe.”

Council co-leader Ian Boulton (Lab, Staple Hill & Mangotsfield) said he had been determined to ensure politics had not come into the plan’s preparation.

He said: “There will be winners, there will be losers. However, it is based purely on evidence.”

The draft Local Plan can be found online at tinyurl.com/429rm47c.

Meeting report by Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service