Saltford Environment Group
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West of England Joint Spatial Plan in limbo
We reported in August the cancellation by Government Inspectors of the examination hearings for the Strategic Development Locations (SDLs) including the North Keynsham SDL that had been scheduled for September 2019 due to their significant concerns about the selection of SDLs for the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP). The inspectors issued a letter to the councils drawing up the West of England JSP on 11 September setting out in detail their concerns.
The inspectors felt that the SDLs had been selected on the basic presumption that any candidate SDL anywhere within the plan area could meet the plan area's housing needs just as well as any other candidate, an approach the inspectors could not agree with as the JSP was intended to meet the needs of two housing market areas, wider Bristol and Bath.
One particular comment concerning the Green Belt from the inspectors was that although the JSP contended that exceptional circumstances existed to remove land from the Green Belt for five of the proposed SDLs, on the stated basis that any candidate SDL could meet the plan area's housing needs just as well as any other, there would, on the face of it according to the inspectors, "be little justification to select SDLs in land currently designated as Green Belt when there are reasonable alternatives outside the Green Belt". However, the inspectors recognised "that early Sustainability Appraisal work identified that a strategy of entirely avoiding the Green Belt would be likely to result in unsustainable patterns of development".
The inspectors said they had not definitively reached the view that any of the individual SDLs proposed in the JSP could not, in principle, form a sound part of a plan for the West of England or for any of the individual local authority areas. However, they concluded that robust evidence had not been provided to demonstrate that the 12 SDLs proposed in the plan had been selected against reasonable alternatives on a robust, consistent and objective basis.
Consequently, given that the SDLs are an integral part of the plan's spatial strategy, they could not conclude that the spatial strategy was itself sound.
The inspectors also made the point that the absence of a robust SDL selection process or a strategy which is not based on specific SDLs means that there is not a clear basis on which to select alternative/additional SDLs should that become due to deliverability problems or if development needs were to change over time.
The process of preparing and examining the suite of plans and strategies could be very complex, potentially confusing to the public and unwieldy and would be likely to delay, rather than accelerate, the planning and delivery of new development across the Combined Authority area and North Somerset. With that in mind, the inspectors thought it might be an appropriate time for the councils and Combined Authority to consider whether the currently envisaged approach in respect of the Spatial Development Strategy, JSP and local plans continues to be the most appropriate.
The inspectors recognised that the councils/Combined Authority may need some time to consider their response and therefore they set no deadline for a response. The councils are now reviewing the many points made by the inspectors. No timetable has been given by the inspectors or the councils for what happens next.
The reminder from the inspectors that any loss of Green Belt can only be in exceptional circumstances and that the protection of the Green Belt "is a strong element of national policy" is welcomed by SEG. We cannot predict how B&NES will respond and how the different Local Plans including the B&NES Local Plan will be amended, re-focused or simply continue to proceed towards finalisation regardless of the JSP process.
SEG will continue to monitor developments closely and alert members to any attempt to change plans to develop Saltford's Green Belt and disadvantage the local and wider community.
The Joint Inspectors' post-hearing letter of 11.9.2019 and other JSP Examination News can be found on this web page: www.hwa.uk.com/projects/west-of-england-joint-spatial-plan/ (select the "Examination News" link).
Saltford Heritage Centre open, Sunday 22nd Sept (2.30 - 4.30pm)
Saltford Heritage Centre will next be open to the public from 2.30pm to 4.30pm on the afternoon of Sunday 22nd September as part of the B&NES Heritage Days initiative (13-22 Sept). Saltford Brassmill will also be open that day (10am - 4pm) so why not make it your local heritage day and visit both venues?
In addition to our displays describing Saltford's fascinating past and examples of local artefacts on show including the fascinating 11th Centry bronze Saltford Viking Buckle we will display Historic Maps of Saltford from 1742. These include the first OS map showing Saltford (1817) and the 1837 Tithe Map showing the original field names. We shall also have an internet linked display screen so that we can show visitors how to access our comprehensive online material.
Admission free. You can find out more about the Heritage Centre here: Saltford Heritage Centre.
Mactaggart and Mickel Homes Ltd withdraws its Appeal against planning refusal!
The 330 residents and organisations that had submitted an objection to B&NES Council against the Mactaggart and Mickel Homes Ltd planning application to build 200 homes on safeguarded Green Belt land between Saltford and Keynsham (outline planning application 18/01509/OUT) will be delighted, for now, to know that the appellant's agent has withdrawn the appeal (appeal reference APP/F0114/W/19/3230009). The withdrawal was announced on 16th August.
Our members will be aware that SEG and Saltford Parish Council submitted robust statements to the Appeal Inquiry earlier this month (reported here on our website). No explanation has been given for the withdrawal after wasting everyone's time, effort and expense on such an unwelcome planning application and appeal. It is likely that the appellant is now waiting to see what happens next to the West of England Joint Spatial Plan after the Government's Inspectors cancelled continuation of the examination hearings on 1st August.
The local community understands better than anyone what the consequences are of poorly conceived and wrongly located new housing developments. What a welcome change it would make if developers sought to work with the local planning authority rather than against, the effect of which is to disrupt local plans. This latest appeal against a planning application refusal, a refusal that had been strongly supported by the local community, highlights the flaws in our planning system.
For developers to try at will to influence where and when new housing developments are built regardless of sustainable development principles and the wishes of the local community and their local planning authority does not contribute to good planning and ignores the Government's declared policy that new developments should be genuinely plan-led, i.e. not developer-led.
Saltford Wombles next Litter Pick : Sunday 25 August
Our next monthly litter pick will be on Sunday 25 August from 2-4pm, meeting outside The Little Coffee Shop on Manor Road. The focus will be the A4 and other litter hotspots in the village, for a good tidy up before all the schools go back.
If you have litter pickers, gloves and high viz vest please do bring them, but if not we can provide them. We have bags provided by B&NES Council.
As with any Saltford Wombles litter pick, everyone takes part at their own risk and it is essential that children are supervised at all times by a parent/carer.
If you would like to attend this litter pick, or find out more about the Saltford Wombles, please contact Barbara at the following email address: email@example.com.
SEG submits statement to the Appeal Inquiry for 200 homes on safeguarded Green Belt between Keynsham & Saltford
On Friday 9th August SEG submitted its statement to the Appeal Inquiry to be held from 22 October over the Mactaggart And Mickel Homes application to build 200 houses on safeguarded land between Keynsham and Saltford.
The key points making the case against allowing the appeal contained in that statement were:-
SEG also described the negative consequences of the existing over-development of Keynsham, and pointed out that the developer had made no real attempt to justify the development as genuine sustainable development, i.e. on environmental, economic, and social grounds and make provision of a net environmental gain whilst describing why this was particularly important to the B&NES area. SEG agreed with the statement submitted to the Inquiry by Saltford Parish Council (SPC) on 6th August.
In conclusion, on behalf of our 550 members, we therefore asked the Appeal Inspector to show that a plan-led approach to planning where local views shape the development of local communities will not be over-turned by a developer seeking to benefit from higher property prices achievable by disregarding sustainable development principles. Those principles are to build affordable housing where it is actually needed, i.e. close to the main centres of employment, and without loss of valuable Green Belt or other green field land that does or can provide eco-system support for farmland whilst providing the health and quality of life benefits from access to open countryside for local residents and city dwellers alike.
You can download SEG's full 2-page statement to the Appeal Inquiry here:
SEG statement (pdf opens in new window)
Our Chairman Phil Harding met with our MP Jacob Rees-Mogg on 9th August and presented him with, and discussed, the SPC and SEG submissions.
NOTE: You can see below our report of the SPC statement to the Inquiry.
B&NES Council & responding to the Climate Emergency
A timetable and information about Bath and North East Somerset Council's immediate plans to address the climate emergency have been set out as part of the council's response to a 2030 carbon neutral goal.
The council declared a climate emergency in March this year and added the new 'Responding to the Climate Emergency' button on the site's home page to set out its approach for the coming months. The button at www.bathnes.gov.uk takes website visitors to a timeline of the council's actions up until now and for the coming months.
Since March development of the first Climate Emergency report on action planning has begun and will be presented to full the Council in October. In July, the Leader of B&NES Council, Dine Romero, led the initiative that resulted in the West of England Combined Authority declaring a climate emergency and carbon neutrality by 2030.
Dine Romero said: "Bath and North East Somerset Council is making good progress on the development of the first Climate Emergency report. We will soon have more detail on the area's carbon footprint and options on how to reach our 2030 carbon neutral goal."
"This report will include the proposals for a Climate Emergency, Environment and Place Partnership to provide the leadership and drive to make things happen quickly. It will also include proposals for engagement across the community - including citizens' assemblies. This is when we will need people's support and participation."
"Responding to the Climate Emergency requires action from national government, local government and all aspects of society in order to achieve the big energy and transport system changes needed. Many residents and local businesses ask us what they can do, which is why we are also providing a list of relatively simple actions that can be taken. Whilst we should all do what we can, these individual actions on their own are not enough and we will be seeking support from the community for the larger system changes that are needed."
Suggested actions for businesses or organisations:
More information can be found from this link to the B&NES website.
Appeal Inquiry for 200 homes on safeguarded Green Belt between Keynsham & Saltford: SPC agrees submission statement
At the meeting of its Planning Committee on the evening of 6th August, Saltford Parish Council agreed its formal submission statement to the Appeal Inquiry to be held from 22 October over the Mactaggart And Mickel Homes application to build 200 houses on safeguarded land between Keynsham and Saltford.
The key points contained in that statement in summary were:-
SPC also said in its statement that it agreed with the Senior Highways Development Control Engineer at B&NES Council who has made it clear that the existing road network in the vicinity of the site has insufficient capacity to accommodate the increase in traffic likely to be generated by the proposed development. In conclusion, SPC asked the Inspector to support a plan-led approach to planning where local views shape the development of local communities by rejecting the appeal and refusing to grant planning permission.
SEG will be submitting its statement before the 20th August deadline.
Keynsham's Tesco store helping to recycle soft plastics
The trial underway at the Tesco store in Keynsham for the recycling of food packaging was recently reported in Keynsham Voice (August edition). The town's store is one of ten in the Bristol and Swindon area trying out the new system. Customers can return everything from pet food pouches and crisp packets to cling film and shopping bags.
The Swindon based company Recycling Technologies is working with Tesco by using its specialist 'feedstock' recycling process to help keep plastic waste in the economy and out of landfill and the environment including oceans. The company's process chemically converts plastic waste, which currently cannot be recycled, into a hydrocarbon product.
Whilst the key objective must be for society to move away from using plastics wherever possible, this trial can help divert plastics away from landfill, as well as from our countryside, rivers and oceans.
As reported in Keynsham Voice, you can return to Tesco in Keynsham:-
SEG response to cancellation of the JSP SDL Hearings in autumn 2019
[See previous news story "JSP Examination Hearing for North Keynsham Strategic Development Location cancelled!"]
The cancellation of the Strategic Development Location (SDL) hearings due to concerns raised by Inspectors that they were not persuaded that there is evidence to demonstrate that the SDLs had been selected for inclusion in the plan, against reasonable alternatives, on a robust, consistent and objective basis will doubtless cause some delay on finalising the West of England Joint Spatial Plan. Additional consultations etc. seem likely before progress can be made on identifying or discounting alternative locations for new SDLs.
It is noted that the Inspectors did not take the view that any of the individual SDLs proposed in the JSP could not form part of the West of England JSP or as allocated developments in, for example, the B&NES Local Plan. We await further information from the Examination Inspectors on what they will be seeking from local planning authorities within the West of England area and also information from B&NES Planners.
As the transport corridor between Bristol and Bath through Saltford is already at over-capacity and with increasing frequency unable to handle peak travel periods without serious levels of congestion and resultant air pollution, it would be impracticable to create new SDLs along or near this corridor.
Such development would also be contrary to local and national planning policies. For example, the landscape setting that gives Bath its UNESCO World Heritage status due to Bath's "grandiose Neo-classical Palladian crescents, terraces and squares spread out over the surrounding hills and set in its green valley" that are a "demonstration par excellence of the integration of architecture, urban design and landscape setting" and allowed for "the deliberate creation of a beautiful city*" would be put at risk. Creating a mass conurbation by merging Bristol with Bath through incremental development and new SDLs between these two cities would undermine Bath's World Heritage status.
Furthermore, national planning policy as set out in in NPPF (2018) explicitly places specific purposes on the Green Belt in Chapter 13 to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas; prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another; to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment; and, especially important for Bath, to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns.
NPPF (2018) also gives protection to the local landscape and its intrinsic character in Chapter 15 "Conserving and enhancing the natural environment". The policy clearly states that planning policies and decisions should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by: protecting and enhancing valued landscapes; recognising the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside; and preventing new and existing development from contributing to, being put at unacceptable risk from, or being adversely affected by, unacceptable levels of soil, air, water or noise pollution or land instability.
SEG will continue to watch this issue closely and maintain close links with Saltford Parish Council and B&NES Council's strategic planners.
JSP Examination Hearing for North Keynsham Strategic Development Location cancelled!
On 1st August the Government Inspectors for the West of England Joint Spatial Plan (JSP), Malcolm Rivett and Steven Lee, issued a letter to the West of England Partnership announcing that they had significant concerns over the JSP. They cancelled the hearings for discussing the Strategic Development Locations (SDLs) including the North Keynsham SDL (described as matter 7.1) that had been scheduled for September 2019.
In their letter they said:
"In particular, we are not persuaded that there is evidence to demonstrate that the Strategic Development Locations, and thus the overall spatial strategy, have been selected for inclusion in the plan, against reasonable alternatives, on a robust, consistent and objective basis. We therefore cannot conclude that these fundamental aspects of the plan are sound. Although there are a number of outstanding detailed points which arose during the hearings on which the Councils were intending to submit notes, these would not affect our conclusions on the selection of SDLs and overall spatial strategy."
"In view of this it would be clearly inappropriate to hold the proposed Matters 7.1 - 7.12 hearings, provisionally arranged for September/October, to discuss the SDLs in more detail. Consequently, we have asked Helen [Helen Wilson, the Programme Officer] to cancel these hearings."
They plan to issue a further letter in mid-August setting out their concerns in more detail.
Members will recall that SEG submitted its formal statement on the proposed North Keynsham Strategic Development Location (SDL) to the West of England Joint Spatial Plan Public Examination (Matter 7.1) in June 2019. Proposals for the SDL include 1,500 new houses in a mixed-development near Pixash Lane and SEG was intending to attend and present to the Examination Hearing for this SDL. We published a summary of our evidence in June 2019 on our website.
As a result of this news SEG is concerned that further pressure will be applied to B&NES Council from landowners and developers for (unsustainable) development on parcels of Green Belt hitherto kept out of the B&NES Local Plan that is being consulted upon alongside the JSP Examination process. We will continue to watch this issue closely and maintain close links with Saltford Parish Council and B&NES Council's strategic planners.
The Joint Inspectors' letter of 1.8.2019 and other JSP Examination News can be found on this web page: www.hwa.uk.com/projects/west-of-england-joint-spatial-plan/.
More and older news stories from SEG
Our 'Newsletter' archive page features most of our past and recently published news stories (click on image):-
Current areas of local volunteer assistance sought by SEG
Here are the current vacancies:-
Website skills wanted!
Our website is a popular resource for our members and others which means that in addition to keeping it relevant we want to make sure it continues to function as it should.
If you live in or near Saltford, care about your local environment and have current knowledge of website design and might be interested in using your IT skills for a bit of IT volunteering to help us behind the scenes please get in touch with our Chairman by email to firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-obligation chat on possible volunteer help.
First published June 2018
Want to get more involved with SEG?
SEG is seeking new Executive Committee members to help steer and develop SEG's future as we address the environmental concerns of our members at the local level. If you think you might like to get involved and join our Executive Committee (enthusiasm is more important than expertise!), please contact our Chairman, Phil Harding, for an informal non-committal chat.
The Executive Committee only meets 4 times a year and its working method is more about sharing ideas and getting things done in a friendly and productive atmosphere than being bogged down with time-consuming administration.
First published February 2018, updated April 2018
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Saltford Heritage Centre's next scheduled public opening will be on Sunday 22nd September from 2.30pm - 4.30pm during the B&NES Council Heritage Open Days initiative.
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