Inspectors raise ‘significant concerns’ with plans for 25,000 homes in North Somerset
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Government officials have urged North Somerset Council to go back to the drawing board after raising ‘significant concerns’ with its plans for thousands of homes.
Planning inspectors Malcolm Rivett and Steven Lee have called for the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) - which proposes to build 105,000 homes in the West Country over the next two decades - to be withdrawn and re-imagined following a series of examination hearings in July.
The JSP, which has been created by councils in the region, earmarks North Somerset for 25,000 homes, with Nailsea, Backwell, Churchill and Banwell cited as strategic locations for housing growth - but the proposals have been plunged into doubt following the hearings.
Further examination hearings scheduled for the autumn have been cancelled after Mr Rivett and Mr Lee were left unconvinced the councils had considered 'reasonable alternatives' for the strategic development locations and unsure the JSP had been determined on a 'robust, consistent and objective' basis.
In a letter to the councils, the inspectors said: "We therefore cannot conclude these fundamental aspects of the plan are sound.
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"We currently consider withdrawal of the JSP from examination may well be the most appropriate way forward.
"We envisage, overall, a very substantial amount of further work on the plan needs to be undertaken."
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The councils' representatives at the hearings offered more evidence in favour of the JSP, but the inspectors remained critical of the masterplan.
A spokesman for the West of England authorities said the councils - Bristol City, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset, and North Somerset - were 'extremely disappointed' with the inspectors' findings.
They added: "Whilst the letter is disappointing and we don't underestimate that there is work to do, we also acknowledge this is part of the plan-making process and particularly for an ambitious joint plan of this nature.
"We see the JSP as a vehicle which could deliver a plan which puts communities back in control of the sustainable development of our area, and deliver the social, economic, and environmental infrastructure required to support this growth."