B&NES Council will hold a special meeting next Monday (4th March) to consider removing more land at Keynsham and Whitchurch from the Green Belt in order to build an extra 650 houses. Land has been identified to the east and south west of Keynsham for housing and employment while Whitchurch is believed to have scope for some development.
The special meeting of the full Council is to consider B&NES response to its Core Strategy which the Government Inspector has thus far considered unsound. As we have reported in previous issues, B&NES faces a race against time to have its blueprint for economic development in the next 15 years approved by the end of this year. Failure to do so would starve the Council of vital government funds in the coming years as well as having very little control over future planning applications. One of the Inspector’s major concerns was the planned number of houses to be built by 2026 (11,500) was not sufficient while the Council had already fallen short of its current target. The new proposal is for 12,700 houses with half of the extra spaces being provided in Keynsham and Whitchurch and the balance mainly in Bath.
Having re-assessed the sites considered in the original draft of its Core Strategy, Council officers looked at five sites around Keynsham in addition to Whitchurch. When Councillors meet on Monday they will consider recommendations to remove Green Belt protection from land on the east side of the town between Wellsway School and the Manor Road Community Woodland. This could provide 250 houses and employment opportunities. On the south west side of town, land south of the existing K2 West development site has also been identified as having room for another 200 homes. At Whitchurch, while acknowledging the village is not best placed to serve Bath’s needs and does not form part of Bristol’s requirement over the same period, B&NES considers there is scope for some development (200 houses) and that the ‘special circumstances’ needed to justify removal from the Green Belt would be met. Other locations around Keynsham which were considered once more but not recommended included land on the west and south east sides as well as Hicks Gate. Saltford, where Crest Nicholson have an application for Green Belt land in Manor Road and where it is know that other developers have options on other land, plans were considered undeliverable within the time frame of the current Core Strategy (2026).
Assuming full Council approves the recommendations next week, public consultation will take place on the affected sites during March and April. Any comments made during the consultation will be considered directly by the Inspector and it is anticipated that the Public Examination of the Core Strategy which was suspended last year, will reconvene in the summer.