'All trust in North Somerset lost' over plan for thousands of houses says one of its own members

PUBLISHED: 13:00 11 March 2018

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North Somerset Council's handling of housing issues mean people have 'lost faith and trust' in a system which has a 'major impact on their lives' according to a councillor.

Congresbury representative Tom Leimdorfer is unhappy with the council’s managing of its Site Allocations Plan (SAP), which plots where houses should be built for the next eight years.

The SAP has been drawn up to meet Government housing requirements from 2006-2026, with the council required to allocate land for more than 20,000 homes over the period.

There has been much debate between the council and Government over the numbers, but a final total will be approved in April.

More than 13,000 homes remain to be built – including 3,400 in Weston and 5,665 in ‘Weston villages’ – and many housing applications, before receiving planning consent, have been included in the SAP to ensure it is approved by Government inspector Wendy Burden.

But Cllr Leimdorfer is critical of how this plan has been handled, arguing schemes have, in effect, been pre-approved and the public have little influence the process.

Speaking after the council’s February planning and regulatory committee (P&R) meeting – where plans for 41 homes for Churchill were approved despite widespread discontent in the village – Cllr Leimdorfer criticised council officer Richard Kent’s ‘strong steer to members for approval’ due to its inclusion in the SAP.

He said: “This rides roughshod over the parish council’s well-argued and clear objections.

“Residents have lost all trust in the council and have lost faith in being able to influence the process which has a major impact on their lives – which is why they did not bother to turn up to P&R to object.

“They knew full well that while their councillor Liz Wells would have her say on their behalf, the matter has been predetermined by an assured majority.”

A North Somerset spokesman responded: “The council has a requirement to prepare local plans to identify where new housing can be built.

“Once it has identified sites in its plan this has to be given weight when deciding a planning application for housing on that site as it indicates, in principle, the site is suitable for housing.

“This doesn’t mean applications will automatically be approved.

“There may be specific issues, such as impact on neighbours, which have to be resolved.”

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