District in ‘state of flux’ over housing

PUBLISHED: 08:00 22 June 2015 | UPDATED: 10:31 22 June 2015

Housing plans were debated.

Housing plans were debated.

Archant

A GOVERNMENT decision on the number of houses which must be built in North Somerset has been delayed, according to one district councillor.

Councillor Jill Iles, who represents Yatton, told members of Yatton and Claverham’s Parish Council planning committee on Monday the decision will not be made until July.

North Somerset Council had outlined in its core strategy – a legal document which outlines its long-term planning regulations – it wanted 14,000 homes to be built between 2006-2026.

However, following a challenge from the University of Bristol over housing numbers, independent planning inspector Roland Punshon ruled that 14,000 homes was insufficient and raised the target to 20,895.

Mr Punshon also declared the housing backlog must be cleared within five years.

But in March, MPs for Weston and North Somerset, John Penrose and Dr Liam Fox, referred the case to the former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, because they felt the higher figure was ‘unacceptable’ and would put North Somerset’s greenbelt at risk.

Current Secretary of State Greg Clark’s ruling, which could have a significant impact on the future of the district, was expected at the end of this month.

Cllr Iles said: “I really hoped the Secretary of State would make the statement at the end of June, but it now looks like it will be July.

“We are in a state of flux with not knowing the agreed numbers. I do not really understand why they have said they need another month and I am slightly concerned.

“But I know the council’s planning officers are in contact with the Secretary of State’s office and are trying to make sure they have a decision as soon as possible. They will not let it roll on.”

When asked to comment by the Mercury, a spokesman for North Somerset Council said the authority was not aware of any delay in the decision.

He said: “We haven’t been given a date of when we may get the decision from the Secretary of State, but nor have we had any indication that it has been delayed.

“From our perspective we would like a decision as soon as possible to be able to move forward in getting the core strategy adopted.”

The Secretary of State’s decision is likely to seriously affect villages like Yatton, which could see more than 800 homes being built.

A spokesman from Yatton housing pressure group No Moor Development (NMD) said: “The current hiatus is leaving our communities vulnerable.

“We need to see more evidence that North Somerset authorities are not following an acquiescent policy.

“The developers are calling the tune and have been lobbying the powers-that-be for years.”

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