A ‘vision’ for a garden village with 105 homes on 48 acres of the treasured Hanham Hills, plus a further 96 homes on the Hanham Cricket Club, was outlined to a packed meeting this week.
There was standing room only at the presentation to Hanham Abbots parish councillors and more than 50 members of the public. Tom Stanley, a director of Colliers International, revealed the “hypothetical” proposals that would hinge on relocating the cricket pitch and sports facilities from the current location on Abbots Road to land on the Hills, an estimated 600 metres away.
Hanham Community Centre owns the sports ground. It is not in the Green Belt but the Hanham Hills are. Hanham District Green Belt Conservation Society says the Green Belt in the area is “sacrosanct” and objects strongly to any threat.
Colliers have made representations to the West of England Joint Spatial Plan on why Green Belt protection should be removed to help meet the region’s need to plug a huge shortfall of houses.
Colliers are acting on behalf of the Green Belt site owner Mr F Francis. Mr Stanley said Colliers had not yet spoken to the trustees of the community centre but would be doing so.
Mr Stanley said if the land was removed from the Green Belt, Mr Francis would then hope to find a developer. He appreciated the Green Belt site was “sensitive” but said there would be greater benefits with the scheme than is normal when Green Belt land is released and Mr Francis would want the remaining part of Hanham Hills ‘gifted’ to a public or community body for perpetuity.
The vision for the current cricket club site is a mix of apartments and townhouses, and trees and hedges would be retained. Mr Stanley said he was aware of local flooding issues.
Cllr Kate Bell told the meeting that there was a brownfield site in the middle of Hanham (the old Kleeneze site) to be developed and was applauded when she said Hanham had taken enough housing already and needed to protect its green spaces.
Mr Stanley said that Colliers were marketing the Kleeneze site (Tesco abandoned its plans for a superstore on the site last year) and it had not yet been sold, although he hinted that there was interest in it as an extra care facility.
Kevin Lawrence, one of the trustees of the community centre, told The Week In that they had been disappointed to be invited at the last minute to the public meeting where, as a major stakeholder, they were only able to observe.
He said: “I was pleased to see such a high level of public interest in the matter, though this did mean the venue was packed and I had to try and listen from the corridor.
“I’m not sure I learnt a great deal from the presentation given which at present seems focused on the concept, with little detail worked out. On the positive side, Cadence (Colliers’ PR firm) are now making contact with us, with a possible initial meeting next week, where we might get a bit more information.”
Hanham Cricket Club chairman Richard Davis told the meeting that the club had wanted to talk to Colliers but had been blocked from doing so by the trustees of the community centre.
After the meeting, Mr Stanley told us that the document submitted as part of the West of England Joint Spatial Plan consultation in January 2016 was a one-off report commissioned from Colliers by Mr Francis and at the time the landowner had a different team working on his behalf to manage the project.
Mr Stanley said that formal instruction for Colliers to manage the project began last November. He said: “The instruction we now have, from November 2016, is more comprehensive and includes ongoing work – for example engagement with key stakeholders and the coordination/production of additional material, such as the vision document and managing consultants.
“We became actively involved in providing ongoing advice to the landowners and have influenced the shaping of the vision document.”
He said the housing numbers proposed have significantly reduced from that initial document (down from 390 on the Hills to 105 and down from 130 to 96 at the cricket club site.
Although the Hanham Hills site is on Abbots Road, it is confusingly described in the vision as “Willsbridge”. Mr Stanley said: “In terms of the project title, we understand that the naming convention is confusing and this will change to better reflect the location.” He added that it stemmed from the previous consultancy team’s working title.
Next Friday (17th March) is the date that responses to the latest round of consultation as part of the Joint Spatial Plan are due to be published.