Threats to greenbelt land if house numbers cannot be agreed - executive fears

PUBLISHED: 13:00 02 June 2014

Archant

UNNECESSARY planning applications on green belt land may occur if the number of new homes North Somerset Council has to build cannot be agreed, warns an executive councillor.

The authority has been advised by the Planning Inspectorate it needs to build up to 25,950 new houses in the next 12 years, after its own housing strategy was judged inadequate.

Deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees thinks the council should focus on the next few years first, so it does not lose control of where the properties are built.

He said: “We can’t build that number of houses that quickly. The average amount of houses built in North Somerset a year is 700.

“Part of my arrangement would be let’s just worry about the first few years. We have to put together a cast-iron case for whatever figures we do come up with.

“If we have not got that element of the core strategy agreed sooner or later developers will start getting agitated and put planning application in which we do not see as necessary.”

The Mercury reported earlier this month how the Planning Inspectorate ruled North Somerset’s core strategy housing figure of 17,130 homes was not enough, unless ‘out-commuting reduces over the plan period’.

This came after a legal challenge was brought about by the University of Bristol, which wanted to create 1,000 homes in the area, and saw no backing through the core strategy.

The High Court ruled the authority’s original housing target of 14,000 was ‘unlawful’ and several features of the strategy for housing development and future proposals had to be examined.

Planning inspector Roland Punshon said he did not find the strategy ‘sound or compliant with national guidance’ and suggested the council withdraw its policy to review it.

Cllr Ap Rees said: “We can’t build the house numbers up to that level without affecting the employment strategy. Our best option is not just to walk away but to look at what he is saying sensibly and put an agreement together for why at least for the next three to four years we can get on with what we have got.

“We will look at the figures from across the West of England around 2017 or earlier than that.

“At the moment we have got control of where we want the houses to be built but if it gets into a situation where local authorities and local residents would lose control then there could be threats to green belt land.

“A number of settlements around North Somerset could be at risk, which is important for parish councils and 
residents.”

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