Council agrees sites for hundreds of new homes in North Somerset
PUBLISHED: 07:14 18 September 2017 | UPDATED: 07:29 18 September 2017
Houses which North Somerset does not need will be built just to please the Government, according to the council leader.
Nigel Ashton has hit out at the Conservative administration after North Somerset Council was ‘forced’ to approve 22 further sites for housing, creating the opportunity for developers to build another 821 homes.
He admitted education services and roads in North Somerset are not designed for the large influx of housing being imposed, adding: “I don’t think we need anywhere near the number of houses we are being asked to build.”
Cllr Ashton was speaking at last week’s executive meeting in which the authority added to its sites allocation housing plan.
The move comes after a Government inspector told the council its original plan did not guarantee enough houses would be built over the next five years.
The council – again at the Government’s demand – has had to find room for 20,985 homes between 2006-2026 but due to concerns over the speed of delivery was asked to find extra sites to make sure short-term targets are met and it was these which were agreed on September 5.
It only considered sites where developers had started planning a housing scheme, including 10 homes on the former Dauncey’s Hotel site in Weston and more than 20 near Congresbury’s Smallway junction.
Steve Bridger, co-chairman of North Somerset Villages’ Alliance, said: “If we are being asked to give up our precious countryside this should be for genuine housing need, not for private profit.
“There is simply no evidence whatsoever that releasing more greenfield land around our villages, allocating more sites will persuade the volume private house-builders to build on the scale that is deemed necessary, or to the high design quality that communities want.”
He called for the council to ‘show resolve’, but executive member Elfan Ap Rees said the plan was the best option under the circumstances, even if it does not please councillors.
He added: “We have done everything we possibly can to represent our residents’ views and trying to reduce the housing requirements in North Somerset.
“I consider I represent all residents of North Somerset, not just my own ward which has been bit like many of us.
“But we absolutely have to meet the inspector’s requirements otherwise we risk letting developers build wherever they want.”
The areas listed in the sites allocation plan do not automatically gain planning permission.
Developers will still need to apply as before, however the likelihood of the schemes being accepted is inevitably increased.
Cllr Ann Harley said the developments in her ward – which may potentially reach 500 over the next nine years in areas such as Churchill, Sandford and Winscombe – will have a dire effect.
She said: “The traffic on the roads in the past month has been horrendous.
“I’m concerned as nothing has come forward about the infrastructure – in my opinion that should come first.
“I know the officers are in a difficult place but these numbers in my ward are unobtainable.
“I really do feel we have to make a stand. I know the Government is forcing this on us but we have to fight back.
“We cannot just plonk houses and hope it works – it will be chaos.”
Cllr Ashton though said the ‘disgraceful’ diktat from the Government means the council’s hands are tied and admitted some housing schemes have received planning permission to avoid the authority losing an expensive independent appeal hearing.
He said: “We are fighting back weekly. We have said we don’t need this number of houses – but if we don’t do it we will be overruled.
“It’s the biggest single issue we have to deal with but we don’t have the political power.
“I totally get the frustration of villages. I have always supported the greenbelt for rural areas but I’m having to allow applications to go through which are disgraceful, but we don’t have a choice.
“It happens to be my party (in power) at the moment but I think it’s disgraceful.”