Protecting The Green Belt
Monday, June 3, 2013 at 9:58AM
Geoff Ward in BANES, BANES, BANES Development Control Committee, BANES Planning Policy, Bath, Bath, Bath & North East Somerset Council, Bath Conservative Party, Bath Conservatives, Bath Council, Bath Councillor, Bath Councillors, Bath Green Belt, Green Belt, Green Belt, Local Planning , Radstock, Somer

I voted against all Bath urban extensions for the following reasons:

  1. I believe them to be unnecessary, there are enough brownfield sites and sites where planning applications have already been agreed to satisfy the critical requirement of a 5-year land supply. The BANES Planners should be focussing on delivery of those sites before any other sites are considered.
  2. In my opinion the 12,700 housing requirement may be too high. I not convinced full account has been taken of the future employment patterns where remote and home working is likely to accelerate as IT infrastructure improves to high speed Broadband. Many firms are looking to downsize office and workplace space and service engineers now commonly work covering geographic area based on their home location. I believe BANES is still holding on to a bygone age when it comes to this more modern approach to working. What is probably needed is more hub style business units where Skype/ teleconferencing can be made more reliable and cost effective. The effect of more work from home is less need for travel and less housing in the long run.
  3. It's clear to me that the focus of BANES thinking is about the sustainability of transport and climate change and not on economic development. Whilst this might be topical and a laudable path for the Administration to take, they have not given enough weight to the need for sustainable communities and social life. Putting the houses near the City of Bath on the face of it achieves transport sustainability as new residents are encouraged to use public transport but the reality is it concentrates growth and causes economic and social unsustainability of rural areas and local market towns. It justifies neglecting the road network and this in turn weakens the opportunity to encourage business to establish itself away from the current central band of habitation and growth - the area between Bath and Bristol.
  4. If the Bath Green Belt urban extensions go ahead there is risk of damaging the World Heritage setting. The City and it's setting is the key reason why a lot of us want to live and work in and around Bath and why tourists visit us. The Green Belt and ANOB was put there for a reason - to prevent it from being extended and encroaching on the slopes and also joining up the urban areas. It is now under a lot of pressure and recent decisions including:
    • The skyline development of housing next to the MOD site on Lansdown.
    • The expansion of facilities at Oldfield School - the monstrosity of the new wooden faced gymnasium now visible from miles.
    • The building work now progressing at Bath University - visible on the Bath skyline for miles.
    • The sixth form centre at St Gregory's, again, very imposing on a key road into Bath.

I cannot deny we need to have development but the skyline is under attack like never before and if much more happens the future of Bath as we know it and as a World Heritage City must be under threat.

View from Colliers Lane of the building on the Lansdown escarpment, Bath skyline

My alternatives (not excepted) was to spread the development and develop the whole of BANES with forward thinking infrastructure developments. This would include better links to and from the motorways and around Bath, links to the Airport, ring roads around Bristol and better co-ordination and partnership with riparian Authorities, try to ensure Radstock and Somer is connected with London etc. etc. We must allow sustainable communities to be put first so rural villages and hamlets justify schools, shops, post offices and above all commerce and economic activity. Housing should be spread with smaller sites and units, not the mega greenfield sites so favoured by the Planners and the Developers. We really should be thinking of a bit bigger if the BANES area as a whole is to have an sustainable economic future.

I can only hope that the Inspector who will examine the revised Core Strategy in public, will concur with some of my thoughts. We shall have wait and see!

All Councillors had to reach a consensus on the main provisions of a revised Core Strategy, otherwise even more Green Belt would have been at risk throughout the whole of the BANES area. There were many who were not happy with the Bath urban extensions.

Cllr Geoff Ward

 - Former Shadow Portfolio - Homes and Strategic Planning 

 - Now Shadow Portfolio - Nieghbourhoods 

Article originally appeared on Geoff Ward (http://www.geoffward.net/).
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