This process, which started back in 2015, is vitally important to the future of our local countryside. We have engaged fully on behalf of our members and our beautiful local countryside.
The outcomes of the initial consultation were positive. They told us that there is support for protection for the Green Belt, and maximising the use of brownfield sites, while maintaining or enhancing environmental quality. We do have deep concerns that the plans do not make clear how we can ensure that brownfield sites are developed first, before allocating our precious green field land; how we make sure that developers provide the high proportion of affordable housing needed; how we can provide a high quality and attractive public transport system; and how our local landscapes are given the recognition and protection they deserve.
The Joint Spatial Plan consultation proposes 105,000 houses to be built in the next twenty years in this area, and the Joint Transport Study proposes a number of transport options, such as new roads, park and rides and an extension to MetroBus. The vision the documents are trying to achieve is a worthy one. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee, with the current proposals, that there will be the high proportion of affordable housing wanted, built on existing brownfield locations. CPRE Avonside believes that there should be more focus on urban regeneration and building on brownfield sites before Green Belt or greenfield sites are released. We also want to see a public transport system that offers a viable alternative to the majority of residents of this area. Currently, the consultation proposes a vision of reducing car based journeys from their current level of 60% to 48%. Given the increase in population that is predicted, we could well end up with just as many cars on the road as now, if not more.
We are supportive of the need to build more houses, particularly affordable houses, locally. However, we don't believe that just allocating more greenfield land will achieve the houses we need in the most sustainable locations. If we allow developers to ‘cherry pick’ our best greenfield sites before tackling suitable brownfield sites, then we are likely to end up with more expensive houses that are only accessible by private car.
Our local landscapes are well loved. They are what make our area desirable as a place to live, and ultimately contribute to its economic attractiveness. We need to ensure that we don't lose what is special and distinctive about our area in this process.
In transport terms, we are concerned by many of the suggestions, including plans for more roads and more park and rides. These tend to swallow up large areas of land, which can increase flood risk and damage our beautiful local landscapes, which are highly valued by local people and provide great health benefits to those who use them. Large Park and Rides are also an exclusive form of public transport, being aimed at those who already have access to the private car. Their increased use can threaten existing rural bus services rendering them unviable and putting more vulnerable passengers (particularly the elderly and the young) at risk of isolation. We want to see an integrated and forward thinking transport policy that allows people to leave their cars at home, and maximises the use of effective public transport.
We know the West of England can do better than this. We are a thriving area, which needs housing and public transport, but we believe we must value and protect our local countryside for the enormous landscape and amenity benefits it brings to our two fabulous cities of Bristol and Bath.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. Our members are united in their love for England’s landscapes, and stand up for the countryside so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations. We are working hard to influence this process and you can download both our responses to the consultations here:
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