PEOPLE are being urged to have their say over where thousands of new homes in South Gloucestershire should be built in the next 15 years.
The ‘preferred’ version of the council’s Local Plan, a blueprint for future development, proposes allowing almost 1,500 new homes to be built on fields around Shortwood – a village that currently has only about 90 houses – by 2040.
A thousand more would be built near Lyde Green and in Mangotsfield.
The council is holding a series of meetings this month, to explain why it believes it has to build on greenfield sites and to listen to residents’ ideas.
The council launched a consultation in December and wants as many people as possible to comment on the proposals before it closes on February 7.
Three sites east of the Avon Ring Road, surrounding the village of Shortwood, appear on what the council calls its ‘emerging preferred strategy’, a compromise between the need for new housing near existing urban areas and keeping the Green Belt – an area where new developments are banned to keep cities and towns separate – intact.
Between them they would accommodate 1,480 new homes over the life of the Local Plan, from 2025 to 2040, with an extra 200 possible after that.
On the other side of the ring road, a field that was the subject of a planning battle in 2009, where residents campaigned against a housing development, appears as a potential site for 195 homes. The field between Mangotsfield United’s Cossham Street stadium and Mangotsfield School on Rodway Hill Road is known locally as the Taylor Wimpey field, after the developers who own it.
Another site off Pomphrey Hill has been earmarked as a possible site for 65 homes, with 60 at a site in Pucklechurch opposite Eagle Crescent.
North of Lyde Green a huge area of land between the M4, Westerleigh Road and the railway to Westerleigh oil terminal, next to the Lyde green to Yate cycle path, could accommodate 800 homes by 2040, rising to 1,200 after that.
The council says it has to find sites for 9,260 homes to help meet a target of 20,490 homes in the district over 15 years. Leaders believe at least 7,813 will need to be built on greenfield land outside urban area and towns, “some of which is currently designated Green Belt”.
The council said: “We know this will be very challenging for those communities affected by this.”
A further 8,080 homes already have planning permission and 3,150 will be built on small sites not included in the plan.
The council has posted a series of maps and web pages explaining the thinking behind what it calls its ‘emerging preferred strategy’, which can be found online at www.southglos.gov.uk/newlocalplan.
The council cabinet member with responsibility for the Local Plan, Chris Willmore, said it has to “tackle several challenges”, including finding homes for the next generations while preserving the area’s “wonderful environment”, and tackling the lack of facilities on new developments.
She said: “The council hasn’t made any decisions yet, but we want to talk with our communities about these ideas and to hear theirs.
“When we say it is ‘preferred’, that simply means that we think the approach we’re presenting is a positive way of meeting our collective needs in response to the challenges we are all facing together. But we are still open to hearing more ideas. We want to know where people think this draft plan is right and where it can be improved.”
‘Shock’ at proposals
Shortwood is part of the council’s Boyd Valley ward.
Conservative councillor Ben Stokes said he was “shocked” by proposals that are “a clear move away” from the previous Tory administration’s policy and include a total of 3,265 new homes in his ward, which as well as Shortwood includes Pucklechurch, Siston and Bridgeyate.
He said: “By building on our protected Green Belt land, there is irreparable destruction to the nature corridors and the distinct green ‘belt’ that marks-out our communities.
“Furthermore, I don’t see enough thought being given to the capacity of our local health services and rural road network.
“The proposals would create more congestion, raise issues about road safety and impact on local pollution levels.”
“Our historic villages do not have the infrastructure to support such widespread development.”
Cllr Stokes said the plan had a “damaging approach to the Greenbelt”, adding: “Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Marilyn Palmer said: “When it became clear that development in the Green Belt was only way that South Gloucestershire Council could find enough sites for the number of houses required by the Government, I made it very clear to the Council that the distinct community of Shortwood had to be protected with a green cordon to prevent it being subsumed by any new development.
“The proposed development is not an extension of Shortwood and it should not be seen in that way. Shortwood has a unique character and we have to preserve that.
“The developers have drawn their boundaries right up to existing back gardens of houses on Main Road, but that it is simply not acceptable.”
Cllr Palmer said it was “really important” that residents take part in the consultation, attend meetings and make their views known.
People who are not online can call the council on 01454 868009 for information.
Pucklechurch Parish Council advises residents to look at the planning and consultations page on its website to help them understand what is proposed.