Bath & North East Somerset Council is planning to remove safeguarded status from land on the A4 in east Keynsham as it updates its vision for future housing development.
Along with three other sites being reviewed in the update of the council’s Local Plan, it will mean another 331 homes to be built in Keynsham.
This week’s council meeting is expected to agree a package of proposals for public consultation that are designed to comply with its climate change pledges. The most controversial is the parcel of land known as K26C, or Withies Green, next to Crest Nicholson’s Hygge Park on the A4.
In the 2007 Local Plan which included Hygge Park, parcel K26C was similarly removed from the Green Belt but identified by the council as ‘safeguarded’ for future development needs. The policy at that time stated that planning permission would be granted only following a review of the Local Plan.
But that policy has not prevented developers from trying to build there. In 2018 Mactaggart & Mickel’s planning application for Withies Green was refused by B&NES on the grounds that the site was not currently allocated for development and the existing road network could not cope.
The developer lodged an appeal but subsequently withdrew it. Then in 2020 the same company lodged another application for 213 houses which has yet to be determined by the council.
The proposed update to the Local Plan will now bring forward the land for development of 210 new homes because, according to B&NES, “mitigation opportunities” have been reviewed following the climate and ecological emergency declarations to ensure that they meet the council’s requirements to maximise sustainable transport improvements: “This has included identifying measures which will also shift some existing car trips to sustainable modes in order to release capacity for additional housing growth in advance of major strategic interventions such as metrobus and mass transit.”
The conditions under which Withies Green will be permitted for development include references to better cycling and pedestrian links to the town centre, as well as from the opposite side of the A4 to the Bristol & Bath Railway Path via Worlds End Lane. Improved frequency of bus services on the A4 and around Keynsham are also mentioned. But cynics will point to the fact that 200 houses will equal 400 cars whatever mitigations the council believes it has identified.
For residents of Keynsham and Saltford, the development of Withies Green will undoubtedly trump the headlines of B&NES Local Plan Partial Update which are intended to meet its climate emergency response. These include a net zero carbon policy for new-build residential and non-residential property, and a requirement for developers to deliver 10% biodiversity net gain as part of their housing schemes. The latter of these is included in the proposed policy for Withies Green.
Similar justifications are cited for removing safeguarded status from another parcel of green land in east Keynsham. Parcel K26A, known as Breaches Gate, lies to the south of the Hygge Park development and east of Teviot Road, and the only road access is through either of these residential areas. Under the review, 70 new homes can now be built here.
Old fire station
At the time of the 2007 Local Plan, Keynsham Fire Station was still operational but plans were well advanced for the new facility at Hicks Gate. The old fire station site was included within the planning policy which covered much of the now completed Civic Centre and Riverside projects.
The fire station site has since hit the headlines, initially for being purchased in 2017 for £750,000, more than twice the guideline asking price. In 2019, it was at the centre of a speculative planning application for a hotel, retail and residential complex which was later withdrawn. Now the Local Plan policy envisages a mix of business and residential accommodation comprising 21 flats.
The final new policy update for Keynsham is the old Treetops care home site next to the health centre at St Clements Road.
An application for a new care home was refused at appeal in 2020 on design and layout grounds. The site is currently the subject of two separate applications lodged with B&NES this year. One is for 39 flats, the other for a care home which seeks to address the reasons given for the previous refusal. Both applications are still pending a decision.
But the new policy favours residential development with around 30 flats which “maximise sustainable transport opportunities for future residents, particularly in terms of capitalising on the active travel potential of its location”.
People will have their chance to comment on the proposed updates during a consultation process which will run from 27th August to 8th October. We’ll publish more details on how to respond following Thursday’s council meeting.
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