B&NES votes for more houses in Keynsham and Whitchurch

B&NES Council has ratified plans to add a further 1870 homes to its blueprint for economic development (the Core Strategy) for the next 15 years.  Assuming the strategy is adopted next year, the total number of houses to be built in the District by 2029 will be 12,700 and this will include an extra 450 houses on top of the 1600 already planned for Keynsham and 200 homes for Whitchurch.

As we reported in last week’s issue, B&NES Council is in a race against time to have its presently stalled Core Strategy approved by the Government Inspector.  A special meeting of full council sat in a mammoth session on Monday evening and while several concerns and reservations were expressed, there was common acceptance across all political parties that this was the last chance saloon. Council Leader, Paul Crossley said B&NES had to demonstrate to the Inspector that it was ready to meet his requirements. Failure to do so would signal a free for all for property developers.

Anticipating a large turnout from the public, the venue was switched from the Council Chamber at Bath’s Guildhall to the Assembly Rooms. Unfortunately, the sound system at the temporary venue fell well short of expectation and many of the 200 or so members of the public struggled to hear the arguments while Council Chairman Rob Appleyard sounded more like a railway station announcer. Councillors debated each of the nine proposals to increase the housing numbers and eleven members of the public made representations. As almost all the land under review currently lies within the Green Belt, there was understandably strong opposition to many, particularly Whitchurch where Jill Britten and Mary Walsh from the Whitchurch Action Group spoke against. Mark Owens, Managing Director of HorseWorld supported the plan to build 200 homes in the village as key to the charity’s future development. In Keynsham, both the Labour Group and Conservative Ward Councillor Alan Hale opposed plans for further development of the K2 site on Charlton Road claiming ‘enough was enough’ in that part of the town.

When it came to voting for each of the schemes though, the overriding sense of inevitability persisted and each of them was passed by a convincing vote. The Council then went on to consider a series of amendments to the general development requirements for each site.  For the scheme to build 200 homes between the southern boundary of the existing K2 West site and Parkhouse Lane, a key point was added to improve road access ‘to the wider road network, especially the A37, to alleviate traffic through Keynsham town centre.’  The Keynsham East scheme, which provides for up to 30,000m2 of employment land and up to 250 houses in an area from Boadmead Lane to the Manor Road Community Woodland also had one significant amendment.  A proposal by the Conservative Group was accepted to investigate possible locations for a re-opened Saltford Station on the west side so that it could be accessible to residents of East Keynsham.

As we reported last week, the plan is now for public consultation to take place in the affected areas.  A six week period will open between 26th March and 8th May during which the Council plans to hold local surgeries, exhibitions at Libraries and Council Connect Offices as well as posting details on the website. All public comments will go directly to the Government Inspector who will re-open the Public Examination into B&NES Core Strategy some time in June or July.