Local Group Name - Campaign to Protect Rural England

Skip to navigation

Director’s bulletin for October 2013

Tuesday, 01 October 2013 15:51

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.

join us

Back to top

woodland glade