Saltford Environment Group
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What is the Green Belt?
The Green Belt covers 12.4% of the land area of England and is the area around many of our towns and cities that provides the countryside next door for 30 million people.
The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open. The concept of a Green Belt to protect a belt of countryside around large towns and cities originated in the 19th Century and became a reality in the 20th Century. In the 1930s a Green Belt was created around London by the city's local authorities. After WWII as the nation began to re-build its towns and cities, The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 allowed local authorities to include Green Belt proposals within their development plans. Subsequently local authorities around the country were encouraged to use formal and clearly defined Green Belts designations.
Today there are 14 Green Belts in England and 1 in Wales. Saltford is surrounded by the Green Belt which is part of the "Bristol and Bath Green Belt" (aka "The Avon Green Belt").
"People deserve countryside on their doorstep where agriculture is less intensive, where there is space for nature that everyone can explore and enjoy and which is accessible to all. Green Belts have a crucial role in enhancing the sustainability of our cities. Green Belt land can provide essential ecological functions and recreational benefits which are fundamental to health and wellbeing. And this can go hand in hand with sustainable agricultural production and climate change mitigation"
SEG's Green Belt Campaign
Protecting Saltford's Green Belt from development is a key objective of SEG. SEG therefore maintains pre-prepared documentation setting out the planning case for why the Green Belt and other relevant policies of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), prove why, in national and local planning policy terms, Saltford's Green Belt is not appropriate for new housing or mixed-use developments.
SEG does not deny that new homes are required and especially affordable homes for an unmanaged growing population, but they must be built in appropriate locations and represent genuine sustainable development. The annual reports from the CPRE on the state of brown field land in England reveal that this previously developed land could accommodate well over 1 million new homes and a significant number on the West of England's brownfield sites.
Key news of activities associated with SEG's continuous campaign to protect Saltford's Green Belt from development can be found on this page. Campaign news will feature regularly on our home page.
As a reference source we have published at the end of this page in our Campaign Archive some of SEG's written evidence, articles and other lobbying material etc. from our campaign. See also our special Green Belt Inquiry (2013) Archive Page.
Saltford's Green Belt
The housing development area of Saltford is surrounded by Green Belt and the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) on the eastern bank (Bath side) of the River Avon towards Kelston and the Round Hill. Saltford is also surrounded by the Community Forest of Avon area (N, W and S sides of the village).
The Parish Plan (2010) describes the local purpose and views about our Green Belt as follows:
"Saltford lies within the Bristol/Bath Green Belt which is how it has managed to keep its countryside setting, and there is a clear view amongst residents that this Green Belt surrounding the village should continue to be protected from erosion through housing development."
93% of respondents to the Parish Plan questionnaire circulated in September 2009 thought it was important to preserve the Green Belt around Saltford. This demonstrates that a key reason why people choose to live in Saltford is for the quality of the local natural environment and countryside. The habitat it provides for local wildlife is also important and highly valued by residents.
If we wish Saltford to retain the character and size of a rural village (Saltford is classified as a Rural Area RA1 village in the B&NES Placemaking Plan 2017, i.e. development will be acceptable within and adjoining the housing development boundary on land outside the Green Belt), then the protection of the Green Belt surrounding the village from development is essential.
Against the background of a rising population, climate change and an ecological emergency it is also increasingly important that, for the ability of the local area to produce food for current and future generations, we protect viable agricultural land and natural/semi-natural land within the Green Belt. Farmland requires the ecosystem support (e.g. habitat for pollinating insects) of surrounding Green Belt and natural/semi-natural land to function.
The Green Belt has a valuable role in providing food and habitat for our wildlife and thus protecting the biodiversity that is so important for a healthy environment that in turn is essential for our quality of life whether we live in Saltford itself or in neighbouring towns and cities where recreational access to the countryside is equally important.
The Local Plan (or Development Plan) in Bath & North East Somerset primarily comprises the Core Strategy (adopted in 2014) and the Placemaking Plan (adopted in 2017), both of which cover a plan period up to 2029. B&NES Council is required to review the Local Plan every five years in order to determine whether it remains fit for purpose or whether all or part of it needs to be updated.
SPC's new evidence for Local Plan Partial Update's Public Examination
The B&NES Local Plan Partial Update (LPPU), as submitted to the Secretary of State on 17th December 2021, will be examined for its compliance with statutory requirements and on its soundness by an independent Inspector appointed by the Planning Inspectorate at a Public Examination starting on 21 June. The Inspector will only consider written representations to the Public Examination that contain new evidence to representations already submitted to B&NES Council when B&NES Council consulted on the draft LPPU in 2021 (and will be available to the Inspector).
SEG, through its close and direct relationship with Saltford Parish Council Councillors, fully supports the new evidence submitted by SPC to the Public Examination. Latest news on the Local Plan Partial Update features regularly on our home page.
SPC and SEG respond to B&NES Local Plan Partial Update consultation
On 5th October 2021 Saltford Parish Council agreed its response to B&NES Council on the draft Local Plan Partial Update (LPPU) - this update is being made by B&NES Council to take account of the climate and ecological emergencies before a full review of the Local Plan alongside the West of England Combined Authority Spatial Development Strategy (SDS) in 2023.
The proposed update from B&NES does not threaten Saltford's Green Belt with development but an additional 280 houses are proposed for the safeguarded former Green Belt land on the east (Saltford) side of Keynsham.
It is hard to find anyone who seriously considers this to be a sound way to meet new housing needs.
SPC's response to B&NES, which SEG fully endorsed as a consultee in its own consultation response on 6th October 2021 to B&NES Council, contains several key points that reflect a shared view on protecting the Green Belt, restoring ecology and supporting sustainable transport.
You can download the full text of SPC's response here:- SPC LPPU response 5.10.2021 (pdf opens in new window).
SEG supports the Green Belt in B&NES Local Plan Partial Update consultation response
A full review of the B&NES Local Plan will be undertaken alongside the WECA Spatial Development Strategy (SDS) which is scheduled for publication in 2023. In the interim B&NES is undertaking a Partial Update of the Local Plan to address a number of urgent issues, e.g. a climate emergency and an ecological emergency has been declared by B&NES.
SEG submitted detailed comments to B&NES Council on its Local Plan Partial Update (LPPU) consultation on 4th February 2021. SEG's response was similar to the Saltford Parish Council response agreed at its February meeting. The consultation ends on 18th February and more information can be found from this external link.
In addition to commenting on a proposals concerning infill boundaries for Green Belt villages, SEG submitted comments on the proposals for further development of land at north and east Keynsham. SEG agreed with SPC that this area is at risk of over-development taking account of the demands on transport and other services and the loss of green spaces around and within Keynsham as a whole arising from the recent developments authorised by the Core Strategy/Local Plan.
In its response SEG reminded B&NES Council that if the two safeguarded sites at east Keynsham are to be developed, such development should be in response to genuine need, not demand, for new housing that cannot be satisfied from use of vacant buildings (e.g., the repurposing of retail and offices) and underused previously developed land outside the Green Belt, i.e. in accordance with planning policy announcements in 2020 from B&NES Council, the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government.
SEG also submitted comments on the Housing & Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) 2021 update for Saltford and referred to the planning reasons for not developing the 9 Saltford sites in Saltford's Green Belt that were assessed in 2018 for the 2019 HELAA (see map below) that all still remain valid.
Finally, SEG referred to B&NES Council's obligation and responsibility to protect the Green Belt for the potential eco-system support for nature and biodiversity it can provide helping to underpin food production and food security, whilst open green space has recreational and quality of life value for local communities, a value heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taking those factors into account, the combined environmental, societal and economic value of the Green Belt far outweighs any short-term economic gain from its development, development that would be contrary to sustainable development principles and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
The text of SEG's full response can be viewed here:-
OLDER LOCAL PLAN NEWS ITEMS (for reference)
SEG submits its response to B&NES Local Plan Options
On 11th December 2018 SEG submitted to B&NES Council its response to the B&NES Local Plan Options consultation. We have reported previously concerning the similar response on 4th December from Saltford Parish Council produced jointly with SEG - that can be seen at the end of this news item.
Key points in SEG's detailed response included the following:-
A website version of SEG's response can be downloaded here: SEG LP Options response 11.12.2018 (pdf opens in new window).
The Saltford Parish Council agreed response can be downloaded here: SPC LP Options response 4.12.2018 (pdf opens in new window).
The map above shows all 9 of the Saltford Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) sites that were considered/assessed in order to inform preparation of the B&NES Local Plan Options for development. Those 9 site are all on Saltford's Green Belt and were submitted to B&NES by developers/land owners following a call for sites in early 2017. Our campaign's objective is to make sure those sites stay out of the Local Plan, as they are unsuitable on planning and sustainable development grounds for development, and to protect from development the Green Belt surrounding Saltford.
You can download SEG's HELAA response in November 2017 here:-
A larger version of the above map together with a short briefing note on the B&NES Local Plan and West of England Joint Spatial Plan process that was discussed at our 8th October AGM can be downloaded from the link below. Please note that the dates within the note are all subject to change.
The dedicated B&NES Local Plan web page can be found from this link: B&NES Local Planning Policy.
HELAA: SEG makes case to B&NES that our Green Belt is not appropriate for development
B&NES Council is carrying out a Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) review and SEG submitted its response to the B&NES report on 9th November 2017. HELAA is required in order to identify and assess land that could be considered for allocation in the Local Plan (previously known as the Core Strategy Review) that will cover the period 2016-2036. The primary purpose of the Local Plan 2016-2036 is to identify and allocate sites to meet the housing and economic development requirements established by the West of England Joint Spatial Plan (JSP).
The council undertook a call for sites (CFS) between January and March 2017 requesting land to be identified and submitted to the council for assessment through the HELAA process. Anyone could submit land for consideration, but part of the assessment relates to the availability of the land and therefore land normally needs to be owned by someone who is willing to develop it or to sell the land to a third party who is willing to do so. Apart from availability, it was stated that the assessment would consider both the suitability and the achievability of land.
As SEG predicted, developers have identified Green Belt land on the south and west side of Saltford that they would like to build on. SEG and the Parish Council have responded accordingly, SEG on 9th November, and both responses were strongly against such development for a range of planning and sustainable development reasons including traffic congestion, new developments should be close to the sources of employment to reduce the need to travel for commuting and that it is unsustainable to build on the Green Belt which would be contrary also to national planning policy (known as NPPF).
Furthermore at the public meeting held at Saltford Golf Club on 1 December 2016 the Leader of B&NES Council, Tim Warren, said that the "current B&NES administration had no intention to allow housing development on Saltford's Green Belt in the Joint Spatial Plan".
On 9th January 2018 SEG submitted its response to B&NES to the B&NES Local Plan 2016-2036 Issues & Options document.
SEG said it supported and was in full agreement with the response from Saltford Parish Council that was agreed by the full Parish Council on 2 January 2018. The response underlined and gave reasons for protecting the Green Belt and raised concerns over transport issues and stated that it was essential that appropriate and necessary transport infrastructure changes are made to reduce vehicles use on the A4 before any additional housing is planned for the area that would in effect place more vehicles on the A4 through Saltford or on other pinch points on the A4 route between Bristol and Bath.
In addition to comments on affordable housing, the protection of archaeological sites and the importance of the rural villages close to Bath, SEG added a further explanation behind why the Green Belt needs protection as follows:-
81% of B&NES is farmland compared to the national average of 57% yet only 5% of B&NES is natural or semi-natural land (heathland, natural grassland etc.) compared to a national average of 35% (data source: Dr Alasdair Rae, University of Sheffield, using Co-ordination of Information on the Environment (Corine) land use codes, 2017). Farmland requires the ecosystem support (e.g. habitat for pollinating insects) of surrounding Green Belt and natural/semi-natural land to function. It would be irresponsible not to protect B&NES' natural/semi-natural land that underpins the economy of the B&NES and wider West of England area and our future food security in a changing climate made more critical by unmanaged population growth.
Updated January 2018
1. Saltford Placemaking Plan
Saltford's Placemaking Plan was produced by a Working Group appointed by the Parish Council and published on the Parish Council website in December (2013). The community was consulted on its contents between 23 November and 6 December 2013.
The purpose of this plan is to complement the strategic planning framework provided in Bath & North East Somerset Council's Core Strategy. It provides an updated and refreshed planning policy framework for managing development in the Parish of Saltford. The plan breaks Saltford down into 7 distinct character zones: Green Belt, Conservation Area, housing settlements (north and south of the A4), river Avon frontage, A4 corridor and the two large satellite sites within the Green Belt.
The following extract from the Green Belt character assessment (Chapter 6) and is as relevant today as it was in 2013:-
The Cotswold AONB ridge and the distinctive local landmark of Kelston Round Hill (also known as Kelston Tump) together with Saltford's Green Belt and the river Avon provides a rural setting for the village. Despite Saltford's proximity to the cities of Bath and Bristol and the neighbouring town of Keynsham, this landscape gives Saltford its own distinctive character complementing and preserving both the setting of Saltford's Conservation Area with its historical buildings and the newer housing developments within the village.
The openness of Saltford's Green Belt also provides a sense of permanence to the countryside surrounding the village, provides separation whilst keeping in check urban sprawl from Keynsham, Bristol and Bath, and helps to safeguard the adjacent countryside including the Cotswold AONB from encroachment.
It is also a very important green infrastructure asset for Saltford and the wider community of Bath & North East Somerset. It provides ecosystems that support agriculture and wildlife together with an element of flood protection for the village from the river Avon and from surface water flooding arising from extreme rainfall events.
In addition to sports facilities offered by Saltford Golf Club and the sports ground by Saltford Hall, the Bristol and Bath Railway Path together with Saltford's extensive network of public footpaths provide the community and many visitors from neighbouring urban areas with a healthy environment much of which is considered locally to be of outstanding scenic value. This also enables leisure activities such as walking and cycling that are important for healthy lifestyles and a general sense of well-being.
93% of households that responded to the Saltford Parish Plan questionnaire in 2009 specifically said that they wanted Saltford's Green Belt to be protected. This clearly expressed view is reflected in the 2010 Saltford Parish Plan's objective to "prevent development that will encroach upon the Green Belt around Saltford".
2. B&NES Placemaking Plan
The B&NES Placemaking Plan is an important document as combined with the Core Strategy (adopted in 2014) these form the B&NES Local Plan.
You can view the B&NES Placemaking Plan that was adopted in July 2017 on the B&NES Council website from this link: B&NES Placemaking Plan web page.
A road bypass for Saltford?
The loss of Green Belt land from construction and the infill development that would inevitably follow, is just one of several reasons why a discussion paper produced for Saltford Environment Group's Committee says that at the present time the case has not been made for a bypass as a suitable solution for peak time traffic congestion in Saltford. The discussion paper looks at the potential adverse effects our village might face if a bypass was to be built, creating more environmental, social and economic problems than it would solve.
The threat to our Green Belt and agricultural land from a bypass would be considerable as shown by the rejected proposals by B&NES Planners in January 2013 for a southern route bypass containing an infill of 5,000+ houses in the context of the draft Core Strategy. Furthermore the West of England Transport Study Final Report by Atkins (October 2017) concluded that a southern route bypass "would cross difficult terrain, with steep slopes south east of the village. It would be necessary to create a significant cut in the hillside, with a relatively steep gradient and potential requirement for a climbing lane in the westbound direction. These issues would collectively result in landscape impacts, major earthworks and relatively high scheme costs."
The policy discussion paper on a road bypass for Saltford (first published 9.1.13) is a 'living document' that we shall review and update periodically. It can be downloaded here:
Standing room only at the Saltford bypass public meeting (1.12.2016)
On the evening of 1st December 2016 c.200 residents attended a public meeting at Saltford Golf Club. This was arranged at short notice by Saltford Parish Council to give residents an opportunity to hear about the proposed bypass as illustrated in the West of England Joint Transport Study "Transport Vision" document which has a very short consultation period from 7th November to 19th December.
On the panel stating their position on a bypass and taking questions from residents were Cllr Tim Warren, Leader of B&NES Council; Cllr Tony Clarke, B&NES Cabinet Member for Transport; Cllr Francine Haeberling, Ward Councillor for Saltford (Cons); Cllr Chris Warren, Chairman of Saltford Parish Council; and Duncan Hounsell, representing B&NES and Saltford Liberal Democrats. The meeting was chaired by independent chairman and Saltford resident, Dick Bateman.
Cllrs Tim Warren and Tony Clarke were emphatic that the line on the map showing a bypass route south of Saltford was illustrative only and there were no plans for a bypass on any particular route around Saltford. It was being considered in only general terms at this stage as part of the mix of transport solutions to help alleviate the traffic congestion on the Bath-Bristol transport corridor as part of the Joint Transport Study which was intended to cover a 20 year period from 2016 to 2036.
The majority of questions from the floor expressed concerns at the potential impacts on Saltford and the potential for infill housing on the Green Belt from a bypass. The need for evidence based information on the different options or solutions before the community was asked to express a firm opinion was also emphasised by several residents.
A number of residents in the audience and the panel members from Saltford asked for the next published draft of the transport vision to not include any indicative line for a Saltford bypass. It was strongly felt that any indicative line showing a possible bypass would put an unnecessary long term housing and planning blight on a large part of Saltford.
Food Security and the Green Belt:
On this page:-
In every walk with nature,
The future will be green,
When we heal the earth,
Man's heart away from nature
The British countryside is threatened
"...this Green Belt surrounding the village should continue to be protected..."
"Think global, act local"