The decision by a planning inspector to allow up to 260 homes to be built on Brislington Meadows has been met with dismay.
The site, off Broomhill Road, was allocated for housing in Bristol City Council’s 2014 Local Plan to help address the city’s acute housing shortage.
Homes England, which in 2020 spent £15m buying Brislington Meadows, pushed ahead with plans to build on the site even though the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees announced in April 2021 that it would be kept as a local green space as part of the council’s plan to tackle the ecological emergency.
The appeal to the Planning Inspectorate was made against the failure of the city council to determine the application within the statutory period. The council subsequently took the application to planning committee and agreed reasons for refusal had the committee been able to make a decision.
Following a planning inquiry held earlier this year the inspector has this week upheld the appeal for up to 260 homes together with pedestrian, cycle and vehicular access, cycle and car parking, public open space and associated infrastructure.
He concluded that the benefits of the scheme ‘significantly outweigh the harms” – namely loss of trees and hedgerows, ecology, and loss of open space and recreation.
He also said the council cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land and that the land is still officially listed by the council as a place to build new homes.
Mayor Marvin Rees said he was “deeply disappointed to see the Government approve plans to build on Brislington Meadows – this wildlife haven needs protection. Homes England’s plans are at odds with my administration’s efforts to save the site from my predecessor’s 2014 Local Plan”.
The Brislington Meadows campaign group said: “Unfortunately the planning inspector decided to be on the wrong side of history. We are beyond disappointed that democracy was ignored and we are looking at our options moving forward.”
The group said that 74% of the ancient hedgerow will be lost including the bluebells and “veteran trees”.
Bristol Tree Forum said: “We are deeply disappointed this precious green space, filled with important habitat including exceptional trees and important rare, historic hedgerows, is being sacrificed to housing.”
In a statement Brislington East councillors Tim Rippington and Katja Hornchen said: “We are bitterly disappointed that the Planning Inspectorate has allowed Homes England to build on Brislington Meadows – an ecologically important, wildlife-rich meadow that is loved and used by the local community. We, alongside residents, believe that Brislington Meadows’ ecological values far outweigh the benefits of building houses there and we made this view clear to the Planning Inspectorate.
“This is not only our view but the view of Bristol City Council as a whole. We have declared an ecological emergency and, recognising the value of the meadows, have removed the site from the emerging Local Plan following its inclusion by our predecessors in 2014 – instead including alternative brownfield sites to make up for lost housing.
“As local councillors, we have opposed the proposals alongside Mayor Marvin Rees and Kerry McCarthy MP, based on the ecological evidence provided by the likes of Avon Wildlife Trust. Sadly, Homes England and the Planning Inspectorate have chosen to side-line local democracy and impose this development on us against the will of the city.”
Cllr Rippington added: “It could still be stopped, regardless of what the law and planning regulations say. There is still time for the Government to change its mind. I will be writing to Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) to personally plead that he reconsiders the position of the Meadows and puts himself on the right side of history.”
An application for costs was made by Bristol City Council against Homes England which will be the subject of a separate decision.
And an application for costs was also made by Homes England against Bristol City Council. Again, this will be the subject of a separate decision.