The “vision” produced by planning consultants Barton Willmore says Warmley has already been “absorbed” into Bristol and it is a “logical urban extension to East Bristol” with good transport links including the new MetroBus stop at Emersons Green and Bristol & Bath Railway Path.
Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore labelled the report “bizarre” as it failed to mention that the land identified is Green Belt and therefore protected from development.
Towards the end of last year Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset councils sought views on how to provide 85,000 new homes in the region over the next two decades, including 29,000 houses for which no provision has yet been made in their local plans.
Barton Willmore have concluded that the councils should actually be planning for 153,000 homes (132,000 excluding B&NES), rather than 85,000, and say land at Warmley should be identified as one of the sites in the West of England Joint Spatial Plan.
The area is bordered by the Avon Ring Road (A4174) to the west, Warmley and the A420 to the south, Webbs Heath/Siston Lane to the east and Shortwood Golf Course/woodland and agricultural land to the north and north east. It includes 147 hectares of agricultural land.
The report says common land in the area will need to be retained and existing properties incorporated into the development “sensitively”.
The site was earmarked for development as part of the previous Government’s South West Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) to build thousands of new homes on Green Belt land to the east of Kingswood, including Warmley, Siston, Oldland Common and Mangotsfield. The RSS was abolished in 2010 by the Coalition Government to the relief of local Save Our Green Spaces campaigners.
Barton Willmore’s report says the site at Warmley has been evolving for some years and with the new infrastructure being built locally, the concept plan “has become more robust and sustainable” and “demonstrates how a new urban extension of distinctive and varied character can be seamlessly knitted into the existing form of Warmley”.
The masterplan includes a mix of open market and affordable homes, a local centre with shops and a new primary school, plus an employment area of 7.7 hectares providing 3,000 jobs. Over 50 hectares of public open space is also proposed.
Mr Skidmore said: “This is a bizarre document, which does not mention that all this land is Green Belt land and therefore receives the highest level of protection under planning laws. For nearly 10 years since becoming the Conservative candidate, and six years since becoming the area’s MP, I have fought tirelessly to protect Green Belt land from development, which has ensured that we have managed to protect the character of the countryside surrounding us.
“I hope that the future Joint Spatial Plan being drawn up by our local authorities will also recognise the unique value of the Green Belt for our local area; by local authorities working together in this way, I hope that we can prioritise development on brownfield land across the region.
“We will always have to be vigilant against developers’ attempts to make speculative applications, but the legislation is clear and has been tightened in favour of Green Belt since I was elected.”
Cllr Colin Hunt, South Glos Council’s Lead Member for Planning, said: “We believe in a plan-led approach, rather than planning by appeal or speculation.
“The sites in the developers’ proposal are in the Green Belt and do not form part of our agreed Core Strategy. No planning application has yet been submitted but if such an application should come in, our Development Control Committee will consider it in the usual way, testing it against policies and guidance before coming to a balanced decision.”
And local councillor Ian Adams said: “These proposals do not form part of South Gloucestershire Councils’ Core Strategy and therefore they are purely speculative. In the Core Strategy the council did not identify any large-scale developments at all in the Warmley area. The countryside on the east of the ring road is part of our treasured Green Belt and therefore I will be strongly opposing the scheme.”
There are already pollution problems in Warmley linked to high levels of traffic locally. Last year we reported that tests had revealed that levels of nitrogen dioxide – which mainly arise from traffic emissions – were above Government target levels in Warmley and as a result South Glos Council has extended the Kingswood Air Quality Management Area eastwards along the A420 to the junction of Goldney Avenue in Warmley.