South Gloucestershire Council’s ruling Conservative group voted through a Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) on Wednesday night that will see nearly 33,000 built across the area over 19 years. The Liberal Democrats voted against, with most Labour councillors abstaining.
Lib Dem councillor for Westerleigh, Claire Young, warned that the plan could prove a gift to big housing developers, saying: “much of the housing in this plan is concentrated in just five locations: Buckover, Charfield, Coalpit Heath, Thornbury, and Yate. Coalpit Heath alone is expected to double in size with an extra 1,800 houses.
“Not only will this place undue stress on those few communities, there is a very real risk that developers will argue the market in these areas won’t bear them building as quickly as expected – so they should have permission to build elsewhere too. These sorts of speculative developments are already happening, and are a big problem for local communities. The plan proposed by the Conservatives will just risk making the problem worse.”
Yate North councillor Mike Drew said: “The Conservatives claim that this plan will boost “Affordable Housing” – but they define this as houses costing 80% of the local market rate – far beyond what most people would consider affordable. In the time I have lived here, the number of houses in Yate and Sodbury have increased by 50% but prices have continued to rise. The Conservative plans for further houses on top of the 2,500 already in the pipeline will not improve that situation. The reality is that multiplying the number of houses that need to be built will just magnify the problems of land-banking by big developers, allowing them to flout plans and demand extra sites for development.”
Cllr Pat Hockey (Frampton Cotterell) said: “This JSP could have been a great opportunity to plan for the future of our area and combat the national housing crisis. Instead it has sold South Gloucestershire down the river with an overconcentration of new houses, few of which will be affordable for local people. It would take decades to build the infrastructure needed to meet this plan, even if we get the money for it, which is by no means certain. On top of that, the plan will see the narrowest part of the local Green Belt built upon, and see South Gloucestershire lumbered with the greatest loss of Green Belt in the West of England.”
Cllr Dave Hockey (Frampton Cotterell) said: “In recent years, planning policies have required an average of around 988 houses a year to be built in South Gloucestershire. This JSP, will require a staggering 1,711 houses to be built on average each year. There is no way developers will stick to this rate of building within the permitted locations, meaning that we will be stuck with development by speculative application until 2037, or until the Government changes the law to get tough with the big developers. At the moment it’s all carrots and no sticks for developers and it’s local residents who suffer as a result.”