North Somerset Council is hoping to stop the edges of villages being swamped with housing developments, with a new local plan that puts the focus for housing developments in towns.

The local plan will also mean more new housing needs to be affordable, require new homes to be more sustainably built, and expand the green belt, albeit while keeping the plans for the new village at Wolvershill. The number of new homes needed in the region — although scaled back significantly — is still high at almost a thousand homes a year.

North Somerset Council’s executive approved their final pre-submission version of the local plan at their meeting on October 18. This is the version of the plan which will be sent to inspectors and the secretary of state, but it will first need to go through another round of public consultation. The plan is set to run from 2024 to 2039.

The local plan is the main consideration in determining planning applications and plays a key role in the future development of North Somerset. Speaking at the executive meeting, the council’s executive member for spatial planning, placemaking and economy, Mark Canniford said: “We will be seeking adoption by the council at the end of this year.

“This is important because currently we are getting to a scenario where we are not giving our officers the tools to control development.”

The new local plan is set to crack down on the development of fields next to villages. Mr Canniford said: “The current strategy allows development adjacent to settlement boundaries. But this will be replaced with ‘development within settlement boundaries will be acceptable.’ Elsewhere will be strictly controlled.”

The housing target has also been scaled back. North Somerset had been told by the government that they needed 20,085 new homes to be built in the district by 2039, but the council instead opted to go for a locally-derived figure of 14,902. Although a significant reduction, this still means the area needs almost a thousand new homes a year.

The plan sets out that almost half of these should be delivered in Weston-super-Mare, with just under a quarter of new homes to be built in villages and the rural area. Clevedon, Nailsea, and Portishead will each take about 5% of the homes.

In an earlier version of the local plan, three “strategic locations” for growth had been identified but, following consultation, only one will now go ahead — the new village at Wolvershill. Mr Canniford said: “Wolvershill, north of Banwell, will include 2,800 dwellings, employment, and a local centre. There will be nearby jobs, services, and transport links to this strategic sites.”

Nailsea and Backwell had been identified as another “strategic location” but now the plans to build a new road and take land out of the green belt for development there have been dropped, although some space for new development is still identified. A new stretch of land will be added to the green belt between the town and village to prevent them from merging.

Backwell councillor Bridget Petty said: “To have the village sandwiched between two proposed major new sites was inconceivable. […] I am pleased that the road proposal is gone and that the locals of Backwell will not have their local green belt covered in new houses.”

An amendment to the local plan was successfully proposed at the meeting by executive member for homes and health Jenna Ho Marris, requiring housing developments on green field sites to consist of 38.5% affordable housing and limiting the emissions from new building developments, through a limit on embodied carbon.

She said: “With every home we could be locked in carbon. We can be increasing training for skilled local jobs, generating local energy, supporting healthier people and communities. It’s a triple win for people, climate, and nature.”

She added that it would bring North Somerset “up to the standard” of neighbouring local authority Bath and North East Somerset, who introduced a limit on embodied carbon in new developments in their local plan partial update in January.

The amendments were accepted into the local plan, which the council executive approved unanimously. The pre-submission local plan will go out for public consultation in November.

Council leader Mike Bell said: “There’s lots of things to celebrate in this plan. My only cautionary note is that it is ultimately a development plan. It is a spatial plan for North Somerset and it doesn’t, on its own, control what happens in reality.

“And so let’s not make the mistake of thinking once we’ve landed the local plan we’ve done it. Because actually we’ve got a lot of hard work to do to make sure that some of these things become reality in the right kinds of ways.”