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The CPRE Avonside AGM will be held on Saturday 24th November in Cossham Hall, Chapel Street, Thornbury, from 10:30am.

Welcome to the Spring 2018 edition of CPRE Avonside's e-bulletin.

Graham Harvey, writer of more than 600 episodes of the world's longest running soap, The Archers, teams up with one of the stars of the Harry Potter stage play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, James Le Lacheur.

Rated 4.8* out of 5
Includes after show discussion with Graham Harvey
Tuesday 6th March, 7.30, Ubley Parish Hall near Bristol and Bath

Thank you to all our members and volunteers, for all your support.

This Director’s Bulletin brings news of an important success for CPRE, and for protecting our precious countryside.

Celebrating 90 years of CPRE at our AGM

Like the Queen, 2016 marks the 90th birthday of the setting up of CPRE. We celebrated 90 years of protecting our beautiful countryside at our recent AGM with a delicious 90th birthday cake, made by a local Country Market baker from North Somerset. We had a great turnout and it was a chance to thank many of our fantastic volunteers for their time and commitment to keeping our countryside special.

A summary of recent activity and forthcoming events from CPRE Avonside

Merry Christmas and thank you to all our volunteers and supporters!

Funding application success

CPRE Avonside awarded Bristol Green Capital 2015 Small Grants Fund to tackle litter

We are delighted that the Quartet Community Foundation and Bristol 2015 Small Grants Fund have awarded us £5,709 to set up a community litter warden scheme in Bristol. We hope to work with existing community groups, neighbourhood partnerships and litter picking groups, to establish litter wardens in Bristol neighbourhoods. They will be given a one off honorarium of £100 Bristol pounds and their own CPRE/Green Capital branded litter picking kit. They will be responsible for local litter picking, and organising community litter picking events. If you are interested in this scheme or know someone who may be, please contact Sophie Spencer on 07854 741130.

Andrew Motion on litter

andrew-motionCPRE’s President recently wrote an article which lamented the lack of political will in our leaders to tackle our costly litter problem. Changing our litter habit would benefit our beautiful countryside and our local communities. A recent Communities and Local Government Report on litter and fly tipping shows that there is some move in the right direction, but only if recommendations are implemented will we see a real change in behaviour backed up by real powers. CPRE were delighted that the Government announced a charge for plastic bags will come into place in October 2015. We have been campaigning for years for this and teamed up with other organisations to set up the ‘Break the Bag Habit’ campaign. No need to wait until October though. You can pledge now to stop using single use plastic bags at breakthebaghabit.org.

Funding from CPRE National Office to promote local foods in the Green Belt

local-foods-in-the-green-beltCPRE Avonside have been successful in funding bid to CPRE National Office, open to all Branches with Green Belt. We will use the money to promote the Green Belt as a source of local foods for Bristol and Bath. We have a number of events planned where we will be promoting local foods: North Somerset Show (May 4th), the Bristol Festival of Nature (June 13th/14th) and the Bath and North East Somerset AGM (June). If you would like to volunteer to help out at any of these events, or have ideas for promoting local foods from our Green Belt, please contact Sophie Spencer on 07854 741130. Many thanks to those who have volunteered already.

General election approaching fast

hustingsYou may have noticed that we have an election coming up! CPRE Bath and North East Somerset were the first CPRE group to hold a hustings event, and were featured in a recent national officeParliamentary Newsletter. We have plenty of CPRE leaflets if any members are interested in promoting the countryside at an event in the next few months (contact Sophie on 07854 741130).
We are asking our members to help us to encourage all political parties to stand up for the countryside at the forthcoming general election by sending a letter to their local parliamentary candidates – click this link to Please send a letter to your parliamentary candidates.

New CPRE Report finds houses planned for the Green Belt are at the highest level since the start of new planning policy

green-beltThe Prime Minister recently declared that preservation of the Green Belt was ‘paramount’ and that development in Green Belt was at its lowest for 25 years. Not so. CPRE’s recent report Green Belt under siege: the NPPF three years on finds that over 219,000 houses are planned for England’s Green Belt – 60,000 more than August 2013 when CPRE last counted. This brand new research, with the help of CPRE’s branches, shows that more houses are planned for Green Belt land now than when the Government’s planning reform – the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) – was implemented three years ago. Green Belt designation was formally introduced in 1955 to prevent urban sprawl. Organisations from UN Habitat to the European Union have argued that unhindered urban sprawl causes economic and social dislocation.

The report comes hot on the heels of another piece of research published by CPRE in November From wasted space to living spaceswhich showed there is no shortage of brownfield land available across the country on which to build new houses. The report by the University of the West of England, showed there is capacity for at least one million homes on suitable brownfield land, including in Bristol. It showed that brownfield land is a renewable resource.

Better recognition for landscape character

landscape-characterCPRE were delighted that protection of landscape character – the ordinary countryside that is so often highly valued by local people – has received a boost from the Government. On 27 March, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Brandon Lewis MP, wrote a letter to the Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) to highlight several recent appeal cases in which harm to landscape character has been an important consideration in an appeal being dismissed. The Planning Minister states that National Parks and AONBs should rightly have the highest level of planning protection; but that outside of these designated areas the impact of development on the landscape can be important. In an application for 60 dwellings in Cheshire, with no adopted local plan and lack of five year land supply, the inspector concluded that the proposals would result in ‘obvious and irrevocable damage to the surrounding countryside and the character of this clear edge to the settlement…’

While the NPPF does mention the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside this has been largely ignored in planning decisions until recently. The letter to the Planning Inspectorate does not count as official policy but does demonstrate a shift in attitude by the Government. It represents a victory for CPRE as this is a concession to our comments on the draft NPPF that wider countryside should be protected.

Photo credit: Mark Howson

CPRE’s new report says huge investment is needed in energy efficiency to avoid disastrous impacts on the countryside

multio-fuel-stoveIn 2008 the Government passed the Climate Change Act, setting a legally binding target to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent (from the 1990 baseline) by 2050. Based on research conducted by Cambridge Architectural Research and Anglia Ruskin University for CPRE,Warm and Green finds that we can cut carbon emissions from homes by 44 per cent through an ambitious retrofitting programme. We need to massively reduce energy requirements if we are even to approach our 2050 carbon reduction target and avoid inflicting widespread damage on the countryside. The impact of infrastructure on the countryside is potentially huge if old and new homes remain energy inefficient. One scenario to meet the current demand is to plant half of England with biomass crops, build 3,500 new wind turbines, and install 8,000 hectares of new solar panels.

Energy efficiency has been underplayed in discussions on England’s future energy supply and there are currently high barriers to overcome before making energy improvements in rural homes and community buildings. There is a particular dearth of funding for improvements in rural areas – 18 per cent of the population live in rural areas, but receive less than 1 per cent of funding for energy efficiency improvements. We need more support to reduce energy and carbon emissions from our homes, and for rural communities to receive a fairer share of funding for energy efficiency. Read the report here.

Welcome to the first Director’s Bulletin for 2015 – a round-up of local and national campaign news from CPRE Avonside.

Happy New Year to all our volunteers, members and supporters. 2015 looks like it will be an exciting year ahead.

Bristol Green Capital

The Green Capital year was launched on the 24th January with a spectacular high wire walk between the A and  B Bond Warehouses (better known as the Create centre where we held our AGM in 2014).For starters we have Britain’s first European Green Capital, Bristol, on our doorstep. CPRE Avonside joined the Green Capital Partnership (with 700 plus members) and we hope to use this as an opportunity to highlight the importance that our local countryside plays in making our cities better places to live. Bristol won European Green Capital 2015 because it is the nation’s greenest city with more cycling, recycling, and less energy use than our neighbours in other major UK cities. One third of the city is green or blue open space, protected during the city’s recent growth while 95% of building development has been on ‘brownfield’ derelict land and properties. CPRE Avonside also believes Bristol benefits enormously from its Green Belt, which has done so much to contain the city and protect the countryside that surrounds it, as well as keeping it accessible to the city residents.

At the same time we have been granted a small amount of money by CPRE national office to run a campaign to raise awareness of our Green Belt as a source of local food for Bristol and Bath. The Bristol Green Capital year will feature a series of events and workshops and we hope to use some, such as the Festival of Nature in June, to increase the profile of Green Belt and local food. We will be seeking help and ideas from volunteers to run this campaign, and anyone interested should contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on 07854 741130.

General Election

PCCs from each of the main parties get ready to answer questions on protecting local countryside including Dominic Tristram (Green), Todd Foreman, (Labour), Ben Howlett (Conservative), Julian Deverell (UKIP) and  Steve Bradley (Liberal Democrats) (pictured from left to right). The event was chaired by Cate Le Grice Mack,  a local Bath resident and member of the CPRE Avonside committee (pictured centre). Photo credit: Sophie SpencerThis year, we also have a great opportunity to influence local and national policies in the run-up to the General Election in May. CPRE have published their own ‘manifesto’ www.cpre.org.uk/manifesto and we held a successful ‘hustings’ event in Bath in October. The Bath and North East Somerset District Group invited Prospective Parliamentary Candidates from each of the main parties, who gave their views on a number of key topics concerning the local countryside. This followed the controversial adoption by Bath and North East Somerset Council of a Core Strategy which sacrificed some of the local Green Belt for housing.

Read more about the event ›

Planning

Avonside Chairman Georgie Bigg talks to CPRE Chief Executive Shaun Spears at a housing development site outside Weston-super-Mare

Avonside Chairman Georgie Bigg talks to CPRE Chief Executive Shaun Spears at a housing development site outside Weston-super-Mare

As well as opportunities, there are some significant challenges ahead. We are preparing for an Avonside wide response to a new West of England Joint Strategic Planning Strategy, which will look at the distribution of housing development over the four West of England authorities (South Gloucestershire, Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) and North Somerset), supported by a Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment. This is likely to be a very significant document, eventually affecting Core Strategies in all of the 4 authorities. We are very fortunate to have committed volunteers in each of our districts, and we will work together to respond to this strategy. Comments on the ‘Pre Commencement Document’ and proposed sites and broad locations for housing and economic development are to be submitted by 6th March 2015. For more details see www.westofenglandlep.co.uk/jointstrategicplanningstrategy.

We have already, this year, seen legal challenges to applications for housing development in both North Somerset and BANES which, if successful, are likely to have significant implications for our local countryside. The housing numbers in the North Somerset Core Strategy are still unresolved and the arguments were put before an inspector once again in early January, with CPRE North Somerset District Group speaking at the hearing as the sole representative of the interests of the environment.

In January CPRE’s senior management team were, by chance, visiting the area and we were able to take them on a visit to some of the sites locally that are under threat in Avonside, and some of those where we are supporting house building. It was a very interesting outing and helped them understand better some of the issues that we face at the local level. This is the team visiting a site outside Weston-super-Mare, approved for house building.

Looking back at the highlights of 2014

George Ferguson speaks to members at CPRE Avonside’s AGM about how we can protect the countryside by making cities better places to live. Photo credit: Les Forrest

George Ferguson speaks to members at CPRE Avonside’s AGM about how we can protect the countryside by making cities better places to live. Photo credit: Les Forrest

CPRE Avonside were delighted when George Ferguson agreed to address our 2014 AGM on October 2nd. So much of our important work takes place in the rural districts around Bristol and Bath, by campaigners local to the area, you might wonder what interest the Mayor of Bristol has in protecting rural England. Well, as it turns out CPRE and George see eye to eye on a lot of issues. Building on brownfield land; increasing densities in cities; incorporating good design and green space; supporting production and supply of local food. Most of the population in our area live in Bristol and Bath, and many care passionately about their local countryside. There are a few issues we don’t agree on, such as Bristol’s decision to approve a new MetroBus, and the subsequent loss to green space and prime agricultural land.

Despite that, it seems that the problems faced by George Ferguson are more structural, political and financial, rather than down to values and vision. It was sobering when he estimated that around 70% of his time is taken up negotiating money from central government. Bristol, although it has a mayor, has not devolved its financial affairs in the same way London has. Nor does it have a Greater Bristol Transport Authority (like London’s), with its own dedicated funding. You get the impression that the mayor could be a lot more effective given the ability to plan and fund projects for the whole area, rather than limited to Bristol.

Read the full report of the talk ›

Sir Andrew Motion visits Avonside

CPRE President Sir Andrew Motion talks to local CPRE campaigner and farmer, Jill Britten, about threats to the green belt around Bristol. Photo credit: Benjamin Halfpenny

CPRE President Sir Andrew Motion talks to local CPRE campaigner and farmer, Jill Britten, about threats to the green belt around Bristol. Photo credit: Benjamin Halfpenny

In September we were delighted to welcome Sir Andrew Motion on a visit to the West Country. The former poet laurite and President of CPRE met local campaigners and members of CPRE’s Bath and North East Somerset District Group at Jill Britten’s farm (pictured above) near Whitchurch, Bristol. Jill is a farmer of organic beef in the Green Belt. Jill has refused considerable offers from developers for her land, while the local CPRE branch has been continuing to campaign against development of the surrounding Green Belt.

Sir Andrew said, “It has been fantastic to meet CPRE members and other countryside activists. Their work to protect and enhance the West Country’s beautiful landscapes is invaluable. Having been created with the assumption of permanence, the Green Belt is vital in preventing urban sprawl and preserving beautiful landscapes like that around Whitchurch. As with the case of Jill Britten of Whitewood Farm, it is absolutely wrong that farmers and people who own land should be pressured into considering offers for land supposedly protected against development. Both Green Belt and well-managed agricultural land is crucial to the balance and vitality of the countryside.”

CPRE Avonside director's bulletin Dec 2014 main image

Happy Christmas to all our volunteers, members and supporters. It’s been a hectic five months since I started as Director of CPRE Avonside, and I could not have managed without your help and support. There have been lots of events to organise and promote as well as the usual planning and policy work, which each of our district groups have been busy with at a local level. I have been experimenting with using twitter to publicise our organisation, work and events. Take a look at our account and receive regular updates by following us using this link at the bottom of this email. With a general election coming up and Bristol Green Capital 2015, we shall be looking forward to a busy but hopefully productive year ahead!

Update on our local District Groups

Much of our active campaigning takes place at a District level, with District groups responsible for overseeing CPRE’s work in their local areas. Planning policy is an important consideration for our local volunteers as it has such a significant impact on our countryside. For those not so familiar with planning terms, The Core Strategy is the key planning policy document for each planning district, setting out the general location of development, its type and scale, as well as protecting what is valued about the area. CPRE Avonside has been very involved in campaigning to influence the Core Strategies in each of our three district groups.

South Gloucestershire news

The South Gloucestershire district’s Core strategy is now adopted, but we have been dealing with some recent solar and wind energy applications, as well as plans for a large development at the Skansa site west of the A4018 at Cribbs Causeway. We have also responded to an application for a significant housing development Filton Airfield. There are proposed experimental floodlights in Westbury on Trym, which we have objected to, especially on dark skies, landscape backdrop and the effect on wildlife. There are no Neighbourhood plans in South Gloucestershire, but most recently we’ve responded to the South Gloucestershire Statement of Community Involvement consultation.

Bristol

Bristol does not currently have a separate district group, so work is undertaken by the South Gloucestshire district (for North Bristol), the North Somerset District (for South Bristol), and by the Branch. The Core Strategy is now adopted, so no new work on that. We are currently involved in two Alliances: the Alliance to Re-think MetroBus home | armalliancetorethinkmetrobus, and The Blue Finger Alliance http://www.bluefingeralliance.org.uk/. In the summer we responded to a consultation on Construction of North Fringe to Hengrove Package (NFHP) MetroBus: 14/01187/FB and to an application to make changes to Stapleton Allotments, as a result of the MetroBus gaining approval.

Campaigning to Rethink Metrobus

Campaigning to ‘Rethink Metrobus’ at the site of Stapleton Allotments and Feed Bristol. Despite significant objections the new route off the M32 motorway through this green space was given approval.

North Somerset News

Despite North Somerset Core Strategy going through the formal process and being adopted, a High Court challenge was then made in 2013 by Bristol University leading to the originally accepted housing numbers of 14,000 being rejected. CPRE North Somerset attended and spoke at the Inspector Hearings early in 2014 and is due to participate again in January 2015 where developers are now seeking new housing numbers of twice that previously agreed (28,000). Developers are using this planning void to submit applications for large developments in green fields and open countryside which we oppose. We are working locally and nationally to influence policy to ensure a proper plan led approach. In addition to housing we are seeing numerous applications for solar farms and relaxations in permitted development regulations introduced this year by the Government having detrimental impacts on the countryside. We have also been responding to new policies, our most recent being the changes to Section 106 and the Community Infrastructure Levy which provides new regulations for developer contributions.
The North Somerset Core Strategy Hearings are to be held on the 6th and 7th January 2015 at the Winter Gardens, Weston-super-Mare starting at 10am. See http://www.n-somerset.gov.uk/Environment/Planning_policy_and-research/localplanning/Pages/Core-Strategy-re-examination.aspx for further information.

Bath and North East Somerset news

The Bath and North East Somerset group was active in 2014 in trying to influence the local Core Strategy. This process dated back to 2007 but had been repeatedly delayed. The group had commented on a new draft issued in late 2013 and had a number of meetings with Senior Planners. Members of the committee attended the hearings which took place over three weeks in March 2014. In June the Inspector decided to remove the Council’s proposal to include housing on Green Belt land at Weston, Bath but accepted the Council’s proposals for housing at Odd Down, Whitchurch and Keynsham East. The draft was formally accepted by the Council in July. We realised that housing targets set left the Council with few options and took some comfort from the fact that the adoption of the Strategy should, for the moment, remove the possibility of other large developments being approved on Green Belt or Green Field sites. However we have recently been in contact with the Council and our MP about three brigaded appeals by the one developer concerning Greenfield sites despite them not being included in the Core Strategy. We are pleased to note that a number of areas are proceeding with the development of Neighbourhood Plans. We have recently been contacted about one plan that did not seem to offer adequate protection to prevent unsuitable developments and have made appropriate comments to the Council about this.

We held a very successful and well attended ‘hustings’ event with our local Prospective Parliamentary Candidates in the Autumn and will report on this further in the new year. We are holding our first meeting of 2015 in January and would welcome suggestions from Members about where our priorities should lie for next year.

B&NES Core Strategy again…

SOBAEvery month I sit down to consider the big stories in rural planning in our region, and pretty much every month sees a new twist in the saga of the Bath and North East Somerset Core Strategy. So I can only apologise for returning to it once again…

Very briefly, the Core Strategy – the strategic planning policy for the next 15 years – is undergoing Examination in Public at the moment, whereby a Planning Inspector works through the plans to ensure that they are sound and compliant with national policy. The process got halted because there were questions about the evidence that the council had provided for their housing numbers. Cynical observers felt that the only problem with the evidence was that it didn’t point to high enough housing numbers, but at any rate, the issue has now been resolved and the Examination is starting again.

However, the Inspector in charge of the process has recently written to B&NES Council to say – among other things – that in order to deliver the right number of houses at the right time, the suggestions that have been put forward regarding new housing in the Green Belt around Bath will have to be included not as outline plans but as specific proposals with a great deal more detail included. This in turn means that a new public consultation will have to be run about these Green Belt developments.

To say that the proposed developments are controversial would be an understatement. The plans involve releasing land from the Green Belt at Odd Down (near Southstoke) and at Weston; there is also a proposal to extend development at the ex-MOD site at Ensleigh. Between these sites, a total of perhaps 720 houses are proposed for green field, Green Belt locations in the setting of the Bath World Heritage Site – and the final figure could well be more, depending on how the details are planned.

Bath was named as a World Heritage site not just because of its Georgian architecture, but because of the extraordinary completeness of the original vision for the city: a civilised and beautiful urban space set within a Romantic rural landscape. So it’s barely an exaggeration to say that the preservation of the Green Belt around Bath has perhaps more importance to the character and future of the city than in any other UK city.

The consultation on the proposed Green Belt developments begins on November 11th, and we will be meeting on that date with other local organisations to discuss our response.

North Somerset Core Strategy

Long Ashton 1More Core Strategy news, this time from North Somerset. Earlier this year, a Judicial Review was held on North Somerset’s Core Strategy. It was triggered by Bristol University, who own land near Long Ashton which they wish to develop for housing (http://www.bristol.ac.uk/estates/long-ashton/). They challenged the housing numbers in the Core Strategy, in the hopes that higher housing numbers might mean urban extensions south of Bristol – into the land which they own.

The arguments were arcane in the extreme – you can read about the details here.

Long Ashton 2However, the result was by no means a clear-cut victory for the University. The judge ruled that Policy CS13, on the numbers of new houses needed, should be remitted for a fresh examination. If CS13 were to be found unsound, this would have implications for the rest of the Core Strategy as new sites for housing might need to be allocated.

Anyway, in the run-up to the re-examination of CS13, there has been a surprisingly frank exchange of letters between the council and the Inspector.

The Inspector seemed at first to suggest that the whole of the Core Strategy might need to be re-written. He wrote:

“I consider that these matters would go to the heart of the Core Strategy and are unlikely to be capable of being addressed by making Main Modifications…

Before proceeding further, I would suggest that the Council should give serious consideration to […] these fundamental issues and should assess whether it would be worthwhile to proceed further through, what is likely to be, a costly and time consuming re-examination process.”

The Council came out fighting:

“…there is concern about the perceived lack of balance in the Inspector’s initial letter. In particular the starting point seems to be that the remitted examination process is unlikely to result in a successful outcome…”

Not exactly bar-room brawling, but strong language for this kind of thing!

They went on:

“…it is clear that the projections as assessed now will be very different to those at the time of the original Core Strategy examination. They are likely to be substantially lower primarily as a result of the recalibration of the population base in the light of census data, reduced migration and household formation rates, and factors reflecting more recent economic conditions.”

“The Council’s position is that even if the housing requirement is increased, the flexibilities in the plan mean that this is likely to be able to be accommodated without changing the spatial strategy“

In plain English, they say that they don’t think that new sites will be needed, as if anything, they expect to lower the housing numbers or at least accommodate them in their existing plan.

The Inspector was put plainly on the defensive:

“In your response you refer to my having ‘pre-judged’ the outcome of the re-examination and having displayed a ‘lack of balance’ in my letter. I can assure you that this is not the case…”

The Inspector then shows his awareness that an expensive legal team will be watching his every move:

“I am cautious about the handling of the re-examination as I wish to avoid any possibility of further legal challenges.”

You can read the full text and find out more here:

http://www.n-somerset.gov.uk/Environment/Planning_policy_and-research/localplanning/Pages/Core-Strategy.aspx

North Somerset Council clearly mean to fight this challenge very hard. I would imagine that they are fuming that their lovingly prepared and successfully adopted Core Strategy is being hauled over the coals again. I’m not a gambling man, but I think I’d bet quite a lot that the very last place on earth that North Somerset Council would now allocate for housing is a certain stretch of land near Long Ashton…

Welcome once again to this monthly round-up of stories. I need to start with a brief reminder of two upcoming events:

CPRE Avonside AGM

Don Foster10am on Saturday 5th October at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute, 16-18 Queen Square BA1 2HN.
Our AGM this year will be considerably enlivened by a talk from Don Foster MP and the opportunity to put questions to him afterwards. Both members and non-members are welcome.

CPRE Bath and North East Somerset district group Special Meeting

7.30pm, Thursday 10th October at Bath City Football Club, Twerton, BA2 1DB.
This is an open meeting to discuss the ongoing planning policy situation in B&NES, the threat it presents to the local countryside and CPRE’s response to it. All are welcome. For more information on both of these, please do get in touch – Joe Evans, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone on 07854 741130.

Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showmen’s sites

Tranquil countryside at Oldbury-on-Severn, near Thornbury

Tranquil countryside at Oldbury-on-Severn, near Thornbury

CPRE’s South Gloucestershire District group recently submitted an objection to the proposal (S Glos Council planning application ref. PT13/3101/F) for a travelling showman’s yard adjacent to Pound Mill Business Centre, near Thornbury. Our concern was that the landscape impact of the site and associated works would be unacceptable – as had been stated by a Planning Inspector at a previous appeal relating to the same site. In addition, there have been serious concerns about flooding, drainage and transport access to the site.

Over the last year or so, CPRE Avonside has done a fair amount of work on the provision of Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showmen’s sites across the region. It’s a difficult and emotive subject. When Bath and North East Somerset Council published a list of possible sites for their draft DPD on the subject last year, it caused outcry among many communities. We examined the list ourselves, and spoke at a council meeting on the topic; our position is that provision of sites is essential, but that they must be the right sites in the right places. We objected to a number of the proposed sites for B&NES because they offered poor transport connections, poor health and education facilities for residents, and in some cases a considerable negative impact on local life and landscape.

Government policy is very clear on the matter. Gypsy and Traveller sites within Green Belt are considered ‘inappropriate development’ except in very special circumstances, and a recent written statement by the Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis made it clear that:

“…the single issue of unmet demand, whether for traveller sites or for conventional housing, is unlikely to outweigh harm to the green belt and other harm to constitute the ‘very special circumstances’ justifying inappropriate development in the green belt.”

Furthermore, the Government’s ‘Planning Policy for Travellers Sites’ of March 2012 states, among other things, that sites should be planned so as to:

“a) promote peaceful and integrated co-existence between the site and the local community
b) promote, in collaboration with commissioners of health services, access to appropriate health services
c) ensure that children can attend school on a regular basis
d) provide a settled base that reduces the need for long-distance travelling”

This makes a lot of sense, but in practice it’s extremely hard to identify sites that will meet these objectives. There can also be a great deal of local objection to new sites – rightly or wrongly, people often feel threatened by a proposal for a site in their area.

We will continue to argue in favour of the provision of good quality sites – and against those that do not met the standards set by national and local policy. When faced with a subject that can create highly emotional and personal responses, the careful application of actual planning policy is the best way to make the right decisions.

The Five Year Rule begins to bite…

The planning policy situation in Bath and North East Somerset has featured heavily in these bulletins over recent months. On September 17th, the Planning Inspector in charge of the Examination in Public of the B&NES Core Strategy agreed – with some conditions – that the Examination could continue. This is great news, because had he chosen to halt the process, the area would have been left with no proper local planning policy in place for many months to come.

The view from Bishop Sutton across Chew Valley Lake

The view from Bishop Sutton across Chew Valley Lake

Even as things stand, the reality of the situation is beginning to set in. A planning application for 41 houses in Bishop Sutton was refused by B&NES Council in April 2013. The Development Control Committee felt that the number of houses, the green field location and other factors meant that the plan was wholly unsuitable for the village; it also runs against the emerging Core Strategy.

However, the applicants appealed against this decision, on the grounds that as B&NES Council was unable to demonstrate a five-year supply of housing sites – the so-called ‘Five Year Rule’, then under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), local policy should be disregarded and decisions should be made solely on the basis of the NPPF itself. The appeal recently ended, and sadly the decision of the B&NES Development Control Committee has been overturned and planning application has been granted.

This is a sad day for democratic planning. This application, for 41 houses to be built on open fields adjacent to a small village, would have been refused under the old Local Plan; if the new Core Strategy is in place, it would also have been refused. But in the meantime, planning power has been taken out of the hands of the elected council by national planning legislation because the local authority has not been able to jump through the necessary hoops quickly enough. Our countryside is the worse for the decision.

Land for cars – or land for food?

In August this year, CPRE Avonside submitted a number of objections to Bristol’s draft Site Allocations and Development Management Policies DPD (SADMP). Bristol will be European Green Capital in 2015, and its own adopted Core Strategy makes plain its ambitions to be a green city.

M32 Park & Ride

M32 Park & Ride

However, this has not been entirely reflected in its planning policy. Our submissions included a call for clearer protection for ‘land of special food systems value’ – allotments, school gardens, community gardens and high-quality agricultural land. These are vital for the way that the city learns about food, grows its own food and connects to its surrounding countryside. In particular, we objected to the continued safeguarding of land at Stoke Lane, Stapleton, for an M32 Park and Ride. The land in question is part of the ‘Blue Finger’, a stretch of highly fertile land running north of Bristol alongside the M32 that was historically Bristol’s market garden quarter, and which remains a patchwork of allotments, smallholdings, community food projects and small farms. If Bristol is to be a green city, surely it needs to look after this precious resource right on its doorstep?

We want to see new protection for the best agricultural land, not just in Bristol but across the region. Less than 3% of UK farmland qualifies as ‘Grade 1 Agricultural Land’. This top-quality farmland is going to be crucial for food security as climate change continues to take effect: the deep topsoil of the best land holds water in droughts but drains well in heavy rain, and the increased fertility of the soil gives better yields from smaller areas.

We believe that Bristol needs to take a lead on this, as European Green Capital. But we’d also like to see the same policy across our region, protecting the best soil for all of our futures.

Firstly, my apologies – this bulletin would normally go out on the first of the month, but holidays and circumstances in general have conspired to put me behind schedule!

B&NES on the brink

The planning policy situation in Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) remains in turmoil. With no adopted Core Strategy, there has been something of a free-for-all for developers, a situation that CPRE and the Local Authority are equally keen to stop! The examination in public of the emerging Core Strategy will soon be re-starting and a crucial session is taking place on September 17th, in which the Inspector will look at the scope of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment to determine whether he feels that it is acceptable. If he doesn’t, and the Examination is halted again, it will frankly be something of a disaster.

In light of this and other issues, CPRE B&NES is holding an open meeting for all members and those interested in joining CPRE, at Twerton Village Hall on Thursday 10th October at 7.30 pm.

The meeting will cover the following topics, with plenty of time for discussion and debate on the best way forwards for those who care about our local countryside.

1 After the outcome of the crunch meeting between B&NES and the Inspector on 17th September will we still have a Draft Core Strategy or will B&NES have to start again leaving the area at the mercy of speculative developers?

2 News from our meeting with David Trigwell and Graham Sabourn regarding planning policy and the stock of unoccupied council properties.

3 Report on the mounting pressure on the Government to reform the effects of the NPPF policy of granting planning permission despite local opposition

4 Do our parish councils get the consultation on local issues guaranteed by the Parish Charter?

5 Members from the city and towns are important too

6 Local planning and environmental issues.

This is a meeting that all members should try to attend as it will address the major threats to our countryside. If possible, please contact the Secretary, Nigel Long, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are going to come along.

The Stoke Gifford Transport Link and the development of Bristol’s North Fringes

In August, South Gloucestershire Council submitted an application to themselves (normal practice, although it does sometimes seem odd…) to build a new road near Stoke Gifford, connecting Great Stoke Way in Stoke Gifford to the A 4174 Filton Road. It’s part of a general upgrading of transport infrastructure in the North Bristol Fringes, in preparation for the huge number of new homes that are planned for the area.

In some ways, CPRE is quite sympathetic to the approach that South Gloucestershire Council have taken to identifying sites for new houses. As far as possible, they have tried to fill in the spaces in the somewhat dispersed, low-density development of North Bristol to create a more sustainable urban area that can support more shops, schools and local services. However, the scale of what is planned is startling. In total, 12,700 new houses are planned for the North Bristol Fringes. The area currently has a population of around 50,000; this will rise by 60% to over 80,000.

The area already has transport problems. There is a higher-than average level of car ownership and car usage, which has resulted in terrible congestion problems on the roads. Public transport is poor and cycle lanes and other facilities are limited. But South Gloucester is extraordinarily optimistic about how this will change; their transport planning for the area is based on the assumption that with this 60% increase in population, car journeys will only go up 10%; bike and walking journeys will rise 20%; and public transport journeys will rise 100%!

I suppose all that is just possible, but only if all transport investment was focused on car-free travel. And that’s why we’re concerned about the Stoke Gifford Transport Link. It includes a shared cycle and foot path, but at 3m wide it is the minimum permissible size. There are bus lanes; but they don’t run right up to junctions, for reasons of cost and ‘land take’. Really, it’s a road with a few extras. It is certainly not what the area needs, which is a sustained investment into the best possible car-free transport.

Pylons on the march

After what seems like years of consultations and planning, National Grid appear to be moving closer to a final plan for a new transmission route across North Somerset, connecting the proposed new Hinckley C nuclear power station with a major substation at Avonmouth. On the 3rd September, their latest – and perhaps final – proposed route was published for consultation. You see the details and participate in the consultation here.

This has certainly been a controversial project. According to Tessa Munt MP, until this project was launched, the largest number of responses to any National Grid consultation had been about 250; over 4000 responses to this consultation had been received back in January 2011! CPRE’s North Somerset branch have been deeply involved in the campaign, with volunteer campaigners producing a highly detailed technical report arguing for greater undergrounding of power lines through sensitive landscapes, using Gas Insulated Pipelines. This report was presented to 10 Downing Street and our work has had the support of local MP Liam Fox.

Another alternative approach would be an underwater connection. Hinckley is of course on the coast, and a sub-sea connection might also have provided the crucial infrastructure to enable offshore wind and tidal power in the Bristol Channel. Many feel that offshore is the best place for wind turbines – they are considerably more effective, due to stronger and more consistent wind; and they do not mar treasured landscapes. The potential for tidal power in the Bristol Channel is well-documented, and the move away from plans for an environmentally-destructive Severn Barrage to plans for smaller tidal lagoons or underwater turbines is very welcome.

However, these more radical and forward-looking options have been rejected. Although the latest plan by National Grid does include some underground cables through the Mendips AONB, it otherwise sticks to pylons – the new, T-Pylons – which are routed through some beautiful and fragile landscapes, already at severe risk of losing their tranquillity and rural character as a result of other development. It will be a disappointment to many.

National CPRE research on threats to Green Belt

In August, CPRE’s National Office carried out a major piece of research on the scale of the threat to the Green Belt since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework. The results were startling and deeply worrying.

“Figures published by CPRE show that over 150,000 houses, along with over 1,000 hectares of mines, offices and warehousing, are planned for Green Belt sites. This is an increase of 84% in a year and comes despite Government assurances that its planning reforms would ‘maintain protection of the Green Belt’.” (from CPRE’s National website)

The map published by CPRE to illustrate this research shows clearly how the Green Belt around Bristol and Bath is under threat. Under severe pressure from the Planning Inspectorate, both B&NES and South Gloucestershire are looking to remove land from Green Belt. North Somerset’s adopted Core Strategy has been facing a legal challenge from Bristol University, who want land removed from Green Belt at Long Ashton to allow construction of new homes on a piece of exceptionally high-quality agricultural land that they own there; at Whitchurch, repeated applications have been put in to build new houses around the village and to fill in the gap between Bristol and the village.

CPRE was one of the driving forces for the creation of Green Belts, and the protection of the Green Belt remains one of our core priorities. Without it, cities face low-density urban sprawl, resulting in traffic congestion, poor urban environments and thinly dispersed services; without it, the countryside that we know and love could disappear. We need to keep the pressure on the Coalition not to break their promise to protect the Green Belt.

Notice of CPRE Avonside Annual general Meeting

Finally, I would like to give notice of our Annual General Meeting, which this year will take place at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute, on the morning of Saturday 5th October.

Don Foster MP will be speaking, alongside our Chair Georgie Bigg and others.

All CPRE members will receive notices of the AGM with full details. If you would like to attend, whether or not you are a member, please contact:

Joe Evans, Director, CPRE Avonside – 07854 741130 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

CPRE’s new national campaign: the Charter to Save our Countryside

Charter_CMYK [Converted].epsCPRE’s National Office has launched a new campaign, the Charter to Save our Countryside. The current government has made radical changes to the planning system, primarily the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This sixty-page document replaced over a thousand pages of legislation, and CPRE lobbied hard to ensure that it gave proper protection to the countryside. We thought we’d done quite well, but over the last couple of years, it’s become clear that the NPPF is allowing widespread greenfield and Green Belt development.

CPRE’s Charter is based on three simple demands:

Don’t sacrifice our countryside.

Our open spaces are being destroyed unnecessarily. Previously developed brownfield sites should be re-used first.

A fair say for communities

The cards are stacked in favour of developers. We want a democratic planning system that gives local people a stronger voice.

More housing – in the right places

The country needs affordable homes. They must be sensitively located, with excellent environmental standards and high quality design.

If you agree with these principles, please do sign up to the Charter, whether or not you are a member of CPRE. You can sign up and read more on our national website, www.cpre.org.uk.

Is the tide turning within the Conservative party?

Many countryside and environmental campaigners have been surprised by the attitude that the government has taken on some vital issues. Planning Minister Nick Boles, at the CPRE AGM this year, stated that meeting housing need “…may mean building on low quality, environmentally uninteresting fields.” (Read more about the AGM here). This seemed to many to be symptomatic of a lack of interest and care for the ordinary English countryside; the lack of any true vision for sustainability in the NPPF or indeed elsewhere echoes this lack of care for the landscape that sustains us.

The Conservative Party has deep roots in the countryside, and many long-term Conservative supporters are becoming frustrated with the Government’s seeming lack of understanding for the rural environment. Indeed, one of the most interesting things for me in this job has been to see that right now, young, left-wing urban environmental campaigners and older, Conservative-voting people in rural areas are campaigning side by side on the same issues. A love for the countryside and an understanding of its importance cuts across all party lines.

Nick HerbertHowever, there are signs that this discontent is beginning to reach higher within the Conservative Party. On 14th July, the Guardian published a piece by Nick Herbert, Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs, under the headline “Letting developers vandalise the countryside won’t solve our housing crisis.” And, perhaps in response to concerns from rural MPs , the Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis made a written ministerial statement on July 4th, saying:

“Having considered recent planning decisions by councils and the Planning Inspectorate, it has become apparent that, in some cases, the green belt is not always being given the sufficient protection that was the explicit policy intent of ministers.

The Secretary of State wishes to make clear that, in considering planning applications, although each case will depend on its facts, he considers that the single issue of unmet demand, whether for traveller sites or for conventional housing, is unlikely to outweigh harm to the green belt and other harm to constitute the ‘very special circumstances’ justifying inappropriate development in the green belt.”( https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/planning-and-travellers)

So could it be that the grassroots discontent on planning is beginning to find expression at ministerial level? We can only hope so…

Energy in the countryside: Solar arrays and Fracking

Fracking siteClimate change presents an unprecedented threat. Despite the highly vocal scepticism of some, the scientific evidence on climate change is overwhelming. Meanwhile, the cost of fossil fuel energy is rising fast, leading to increased energy bills, higher food and transport costs and rising levels of ‘fuel poverty’.

One result of this situation is that the countryside faces new pressures, as the need grows for alternative energy sources. The arguments regarding the impact of wind turbines on energy policy and landscape go on, but now large-scale solar PV arrays and fracking – unconventional gas extraction – are increasingly being proposed for the countryside in the West of England.

SolararraySolar arrays are large installations of photovoltaic (PV) panels. Even their most ardent supporters would not claim that they are attractive; fields full of black panels on steel frames, protected by high wire fences, do not sit easily in the English countryside. However, they are at least safe and can easily be removed at the end of their life if new energy sources render them unnecessary. They can also provide valuable new wildlife habitats, by creating ‘unimproved’ grassland environments below the panels, to support wildflower, butterfly, bee and other insect populations.

It would seem therefore that the key to solar PV arrays lies in the details: visibility within the landscape; biodiversity action plans; use of brownfield or less versatile farmland. Ideally, I would like to see building codes changed so that all industrial buildings could support PV arrays on their roofs, but this might not be economically realistic at present. With all this in mind, we welcome North Somerset Council’s work to create a planning policy document on solar PV arrays. Their draft, on which we submitted a detailed commentary, can be seen here: http://consult-ldf.n-somerset.gov.uk/consult.ti/rlce/consultationHome.

Fracking is a more problematic technology. It appears to hold the promise of greater energy independence and lower gas prices; but many analysts say that we are unlikely to see the dramatic falls in gas prices experienced in the US. And the potential dangers are great, from contamination of aquifers and surface water to the widespread industrialisation of the rural landscape.

I was interested to see that Bath and North East Somerset have united in a cross-party agreement to reject fracking, in a full-council meeting on 11th July. More recently, police arrived in considerable force to remove protesters from the site of a planned exploratory bore-hole in Balcombe, West Sussex. There is a highly vocal and active anti-fracking movement in the West of England too, led by Frack Free Somerset (http://www.frackfreesomerset.org/), and I suspect that our area will soon see similar scenes to the Balcombe protests.

The issues around fracking are complex. Some argue that by using imported gas, we simply pass the environmental damage caused by its extraction on to other countries; others point to the value of energy security. But CPRE feels that the landscape damage and loss of tranquillity; the impact on increasingly scarce water supplies; the creation of large volumes of contaminated water; and the potential for irreversible underground contamination, together outweigh the potential benefits.

South Bristol Link

No to South Bristol LInk roadAs part of the widely-criticised Bus Rapid Transit scheme, now re-branded as MetroBus, a planning application is in place to build a new road crossing open countryside between the A370 at Long Ashton and Hengrove Park. It seems odd to say the least that funding for public transport in Bristol is being used to build a road across open countryside in North Somerset.

The road, the South Bristol Link, has been discussed since the 1950s as a way to create better transport links to south Bristol. While we are fully supportive of any attempt to improve Bristol’s woeful public transport, we strongly oppose this scheme. It has been shown time and again that new road infrastructure does not have any long-term impact on road congestion. What Bristol needs is better urban rail services; big improvements in its expensive bus services; and serious investment into cycling infrastructure, to make cycling a real option for commuters and families who have no wish to mix with heavy traffic.

CPRE will be working with other campaign groups to produce a joint response to this proposal. You can see and comment on the proposed road development here: http://planningonline.bristol.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=MPM5ZYDN00C00

And you can read some really well-informed plans about how Bristol should be approaching its transport problems here: http://www.tfgb.org.uk/.

Event: The Battle for Bath

7.30pm, Wednesday July 24th
Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution

16-18 Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HN
01225 312084
Tickets £4 non-members, £2 members/students

http://www.brlsi.org/events-proceedings/poster-gallery/2013-07-24/sack-bath-forty-years

Forty years since first publication of The Sack of Bath, its author Adam Fergusson is revisiting the city to appeal again for its future. Caroline Kay, Chief Executive of Bath Preservation Trust and Joe Evans, Director of CPRE Avonside will also be speaking at the event to give their perspectives on the issues facing Bath and its setting today.

Adam Fergusson’s renowned 1973 book The Sack of Bath managed to halt the headlong destruction of those times, and saved some much-loved corners of the city, such as Walcot St, from the bulldozers.

On July 24th, Adam Fergusson will be in Bath to give a talk to mark the 40th anniversary of the first publication of the book, which drew world attention to the widespread demolition programme of the 60s and 70s. A new edition includes a new preface on current planning issues and reasons for concern. Adam Fergusson writes: ”We would be foolish to suppose that the battle for Bath itself is over.”

Although he now lives in London, Adam Fergusson remains passionate about our beautiful city. He is not against change as such, and praises “the wonderful open pool, crowning the new spa over one of the ancient springs”. But he warns that there are new threats to Bath’s unique character, in particular the loss of the surrounding green spaces which are a vital part of Bath’s heritage, and its charm.

Still fiercely outspoken in his eighties, Adam Fergusson writes “New threats to Bath’s historic and topographic integrity continue to alarm anyone who remembers how close it came to losing its unique character at the hands of the philistines forty years ago.”

This is an unmissable event for anyone who is interested in the recent history of our city and who cares about what is happening here today. A discussion at the end of the evening will give everyone the chance to air their views.

The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution is on the west side of Queen Square. All are welcome.

The talk will run from 7.30 until 8.15, with the discussion afterwards continuing until about 9pm. The new edition of The Sack of Bath will be on sale, and Adam Fergusson will sign copies bought at the meeting.

Contact for further details: Linda Gamlin Tel: 01225 315569 or BRLSI Tel: 01225 312084 or see the website www.brlsi.org

Southstoke makes national headlines

South Stoke ValleyIn May of this year, CPRE Avonside held a series of meetings in Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) to discuss how CPRE should respond to a consultation being run by B&NES council on proposed changes to their Core Strategy. Our final response included a strong objection to the proposed developments at Southstoke. Now the story has reached the national news, with Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s honest and thoughtful article in the Guardian this Saturday.

Read the story »

This is the latest in a long-running saga. A Core Strategy is the master planning document that sets the agenda for development over fifteen years or more. B&NES began work on a new Core Strategy to replace its old Local Plan way back in 2007. However, the council ran into difficulty in 2012 when the Inspector halted the process, citing – among other things – “a lack of an NPPF compliant assessment of the housing requirement”. The gist of the Inspector’s complaints was that the council was not proposing to allow enough houses to be built.

The council was therefore forced to identify more sites for new housing, one of which was the area between Bath’s boundary and Southstoke, which is, to quote Geoffrey Wheatcroft, a “pleasant, authentic country village”. The land is also about as well-protected in planning terms as is possible under UK law. It is Green Belt, green field, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and includes a scheduled national monument in the form of the Wansdyke. It is also an essential part of the setting of the Bath World Heritage Site. Now the proposal is to build some 500 new houses on these fields.

If you scroll down from Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s article on the Guardian website, you will find page after page of comments berating the author for being a selfish NIMBY. But this entirely misses the point. Good planning seeks to balance the need for housing and other development against the need to preserve what is of value. Our planning system does this by identifying important aspects of the landscape through various designations. When a development is proposed for an area that is protected by so many different designations, this should set alarm bells ringing: this is land which is important for many different reasons.

Secondly, good planning creates vibrant cities as well as protecting the countryside. Low-density, sprawling suburbs destroy cities, producing a car-dependent environment in which public transport and services are expensive to provide. Healthy cities need higher densities of development, to put people closer to work, schools and shops. The Georgian city of Bath was built a what would today be described as a very high density, with tall, narrow townhouses home to large extended families and servants. Instead of allowing the city to spread into the countryside, we should revitalise Bath as a living city. I recently learned that B&NES Council owns a large portfolio of commercial property in Bath, including many of the city-centre shops. But many of the buildings above the shops stand empty, because of minor access issues. Let’s find ways to rent out these beautiful buildings, and let’s build new homes within Bath that match the local vernacular of high-quality, high-density and highly-desirable urban residences. That way, we will have a better city surrounded by unspoilt countryside.

Food, planning and the Blue Finger

Bluefinger Alliance MapThe Blue Finger is a stretch of land running north of Bristol alongside the M32, then over the M4 into South Gloucestershire. It was christened by Richard Spalding of the University of the West of England, who noticed this strip Grade 1 agricultural land on an older land classification map; Grade 1 land is coloured blue on these maps, hence the Blue Finger…

The area was Bristol’s historic market gardening quarter, a patchwork of smallholdings and horticultural businesses growing fresh food for the city.

There have been many changes since then. We now rely heavily on cheap imported food, at the expense of small farm businesses. But many feel that this situation might not last. With rising world populations, rising oil prices and the growth of the far eastern economies, imported food might not be cheap for ever, and might become less available at any price.

CPRE Avonside is part of the Blue Finger Alliance, a partnership of organisations and individuals working to protect this precious stretch of food-growing land for the future, and to support the emergence of new food-growing projects in the area. We’re working with Avon Wildlife Trust, the Soil Association, Shift Bristol, Sims Hill Shared Harvest and others.

But we don’t just want to protect this piece of land. The Blue Finger Alliance is campaigning for a common approach to food and planning across the region. We want to see better protection for good agricultural land; new policies to make life easier for farmers and food producers who want to reach local markets; and better protection for the essential food infrastructure that smaller farmers and food businesses need – wholesale markets, abattoirs, small shops and so on.

You can find out more from the Blue Finger website and there will be news of specific campaigns here.

Anger grows towards the National Planning Policy Framework

dark cloudsIn 2012 the coalition government introduced the National Planning Policy Framework. This replaced around a thousand pages of national planning policy with just 60 pages, centred around a new and controversial ‘assumption in favour of sustainable development’. CPRE had lobbied the government hard through the process of developing the legislation, and we had felt that we had won some victories – continued protection for Green Belt and AONBs as well as good consideration of urban design, biodiversity and flood risk.

However, as time has passed, one aspect of the NPPF that didn’t receive as much attention at the time has sprung to prominence – locally as well as nationally.

Paragraph 49 of the NPPF states:

“Housing applications should be considered in the context of the presumption in favour of sustainable development. Relevant policies for the supply of housing should not be considered up-to-date if the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites.”

In plain words, unless a local authority has a plan in place that delivers a ‘five-year supply of housing’, all its policies on housing supply are thrown out of the window, and applications for new houses are considered purely on the basis of the NPPF.

We’re now seeing the result of this in B&NES. Because the Core Strategy process has been delayed, the council does not have a valid plan in place that delivers the required supply of housing land. This in turn means that decisions are being taken purely on the basis of national policy with no local control in place. As an example, B&NES Council recently refused planning permission for a proposed development at Maynard Terrace in Clutton. The site is outside the housing development boundary; the village lacks facilities; road access is awkward. The application was therefore duly refused. However, the developers appealed on the grounds that the council cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of housing sites, and that they should therefore have been granted planning permission under the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’.

I attended the appeal and spoke briefly, a slightly nerve-wracking business in the face of a team of highly-qualified planning lawyers! I wasn’t able to add anything very substantial by way of evidence, but I did try to make this point: the NPPF contains a distinct tension. On the one hand it seeks to promote ‘sustainable development’; on the other hand, it contains policies that are ushering through developments that are anything but sustainable.

We now feel strongly that the NPPF needs reform, and I was pleased to see that a petition is now gathering attention nationally. If you feel that local democracy is being undermined by this top-down national policy, then please do sign and share the petition, which you can find here:

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49495

Get involved!

CPRE is a volunteer-led organisation. The bulk of our campaigning work is carried out by district groups, volunteer committees for each local authority area that campaign on the issues that they know to be important locally. If you are passionate about the future of the countryside, you can join your local district group and get involved. Please do get in touch if you are interested.

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