POLL: Fight continues against 20,985 homes by 2026

PUBLISHED: 09:00 20 March 2015

Archant

A PLANNING inspector has decided the minimum number of homes which must be built in North Somerset by 2026 – but community leaders are gearing up for a fight, warning it is ‘open season’ for developers and villages are ‘vulnerable’.

The latest planning inspector’s report on North Somerset Council’s core strategy has deemed a minimum of 20,985 homes must be built within North Somerset from 2006-2026 – a far cry from the council’s initial target of 14,000.

Council leaders have described the report as putting ‘undue pressure’ on the authority and the housing target as ‘unsustainable’ and have now taken the unprecedented step of writing to the Secretary of State to ask him to intervene.

At the council’s executive meeting on Tuesday, its leader Nigel Ashton said: “We believe this is the first time any council in the country has taken such action, but we believe it is the right action to take to ensure that North Somerset is not forced to provide unsustainable levels of housing development.”

The authority set a target of 14,000 new dwellings in its original core strategy but this was challenged by the University of Bristol and deemed unlawful by the High Court in 2012. It then revised its core strategy and upped its target to 17,000, but this was still judged insufficient.

Deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees said: “The situation is this; we will not stop fighting.

“I think that (17,000) is probably a reasonable figure. Obviously things have changed since we first started but 17,000 seems doable and realistic.

“We could do that without jeopardising the greenbelt land and without jeopardising some of the villages.”

But the latest report has set a minimum requirement of 20,985 homes, and says any backlog should be addressed within five years.

Cllr Ap Rees said: “The reason there is a backlog is because developers were not able to meet previous targets.

“How the new inspector thinks that is going to dramatically change, I really don’t know.”

But the report says: “In March 2014 the council argued any housing requirement above about 18,000 could not be physically constructed and marketed.

“However, I heard evidence from the development industry that this was not the case and that there was capacity and desire to build more dwellings.

“I am satisfied the housing requirement set out can be delivered.”

Cllr Ap Rees warned the ruling will make villages ‘vulnerable’ and said: “Unfortunately, because of flood plains, greenbelt land and areas of outstanding natural beauty, when you put those three things together it stops a number of potential sites for development – and that’s when you have the likes of Yatton, Backwell and Congresbury becoming vulnerable.

“All it does is practically provide developers with open season to pick off greenfield sites wherever they like.”

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