Developers respond to traffic concerns as new planning bid for 200+ homes at Withies Green in Keynsham is submitted

Following the recent public consultation by house builders Mactaggart and Mickel over their plans for a 25-acre site next to Hygge Park in Keynsham, a planning application has now been submitted to B&NES Council.

The outline plans for the Withies Green site at the A4 Bath Road are for approximately 213 homes, a sports pitch serving a new primary school at Hygge Park, open space, landscaping, access roads, footpaths and cycleways.

The land, which is bordered to the south west by Manor Road Community Woodland, was removed some time ago from the Green Belt and is ‘safeguarded’ for future residential development in the Bath and North East Somerset Core Strategy.

In 2018 the developers tried to get planning permission for the site, when there were more than 300 objections. The council refused permission, saying that the site was not currently allocated for development and that the existing road network didn’t have the capacity to copy with the increase in traffic that would be generated.

M+M subsequently lodged an appeal with the Secretary of the State but dropped it last summer.

The public consultation staged in advance of this latest application for  the development was held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the key questions was whether people supported the provision of new homes as well as community facilities at Withies Green, to which there were 75 responses with 81% saying no.

Traffic congestion along the A4 was a recurring theme in the feedback. The developers acknowledge that like many towns and cities, Keynsham experiences peak-hour congestion, but add: “Outside of Bath, Keynsham is considered the most sustainable location in Bath & North East Somerset and has therefore been a focus for development in recent local development plans and was a focus in the withdrawn Joint Spatial Plan. It is important that development is located where residents have good alternative travel mode options to the car to minimise car use.

“Withies Green has excellent bus links to Bristol and Bath, is well located for access to the Bristol to Bath Railway Path at Saltford, particularly for cycle journeys to Bath. Keynsham town centre and rail station are within walking and cycling distance of Withies Green. Walking and cycling routes will be available through Hygge Park to the Broadmead Lane roundabout; and beyond the site, significant offsite pedestrian and cycle improvements are proposed on the route to the town centre and train station to encourage these modes.”

They say a transport assessment, which includes modelling undertaken with data obtained before the COVID-19 crisis, demonstrates that the proposed development would not result in traffic impact which is considered severe.

The applicants add: “We are aware that the Joint Local Transport Plan (4) published in March 2020 identifies extending the Metrobus network along the A4 corridor between Bristol and Bath with a longer term aspiration for mass transit. It also identifies the potential for a light rail link between Hicks Gate/Keynsham to Bristol. These improvements will represent very significant investment in transport facilities and the Withies Green development would be ideally located to take advantage of the proposed Metrobus route (and any future upgrades) along the A4.”

A mix of housing is proposed at Withies Green to provide for all generations and family groups, and  each home would be equipped with electric car and cycle charging points. The new estate would blend “seamlessly” with Hygge Park.

A number of respondents to the consultation raised concerns over the loss of Green Belt land and its effects on wild flora and fauna.

The developers say of a total site area of 10.26 hectares, more than 50% will comprise “green infrastructure” which is significantly in excess of the council’s requirements. In all 500 trees are proposed to be planted

The planning reference is 20/02673/OUT. Consultation runs until 4th September.