The Secretary of State has stepped in and stopped planning consent for 213 homes at Withies Green in Keynsham.
In May we reported that a call had been made for the Secretary of State to act after the “premature” decision by Bath & North East Somerset Council to allow developers Mactaggart & Mickel outline planning permission to develop the greenfield site next to the new Hygge Park development.
Saltford Environment Group, Saltford Parish Council and Keynsham Town Council contacted local MP Jacob Rees-Mogg who made strong representations on their behalf to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, asking that the planning decision be called in.
There had been almost 600 objections to the plans. Most of the concerns related to the impact on the already congested A4, on air quality and the loss of greenfield land that helps to maintain the separation of Keynsham and Saltford. Objectors also said the land was supposed to have been safeguarded against development until at least 2029 and that the decision pre-empted the public examination looking into the council’s Local Plan Partial Update.
The outline planning permission included a new playing field for the Two Rivers C of E Primary School that is being built at Hygge Park, as well as allotments, a community orchard and open space. Part of the development site is still in the Green Belt but there was an assurance that there would be no new buildings on that part; instead it would be used for open uses only, such as the playing field, allotments and an orchard.
Saltford Environment Group has welcomed the news that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has now written to B&NES Council and stated that in exercise of his powers under Article 31 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015, the Secretary of State directs the council not to grant permission “without specific authorisation”.
This Article 31 direction was made by the Housing Minister Stuart Andrew and was issued to enable the Secretary of State to consider whether he should direct under Section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 that the application should be referred to him for determination.
This week Saltford Environment Group said that while it greatly welcomes this news, “we are aware that the final decision on this highly inappropriate planning consent that went against the overwhelming wishes of the local communities affected and their elected representatives, has yet to be made by the Secretary of State”.
“The case against planning consent is so strong that we remain hopeful common sense will prevail, democracy in local planning will be restored, and that this inappropriate planning consent will finally be overruled by the Secretary of State.”