Written evidence from Oldland Common Save
our Green Spaces (ARSS 51)|
Granted the Regional Spatial Strategy gave certainty
on housing locations and prevented opportunistic and costly development
applications, but the residents of Oldland Save Our Green Spaces
group celebrated its passing. The Coalition Government appears
to have put a satisfactory interim arrangement in place to fill
the policy gap and its replacement must be seen to be fairer from
the residents' point of view, as the field for objection and stopping
the process was narrow indeed.
We have considered in particular the effects on the
area of Oldland Common, in particular on a site called Barry Road.
On this site there was an application to build 450 houses (just
the first phase) a general store (likely Tesco) 60 bed care home
and employment warehousing, all on grade two agricultural land.
Under the RSS, that would have gone ahead, under the localism
agenda of the Coalition, it would not.
There was no connection with job opportunities. There
must be a proven need for people to fill the local jobs market
BEFORE housing permission is granted. There must be a restriction
on settlement expansion if employment is inadequate.
There must be an assessment of the impact on existing
shops of any supermarkets development which often accompany these
applications. The Oldland High Street with its restrictive parking
would have died with the unfair competition of a supermarket.
The number of homes that were demanded under the
RSS was always under some suspicion. There must be a transparent
method of assessing the local need for housing as numbers are
easily manipulated by amongst others, multiple council housing
applications, people unsuitably housed or those just wishing to
move. These figures must be available to all members of the public
who will then have the ability to question their justification.
The Regional Spatial Strategy was originally having
to be completed on line, was complicated and difficult to manage
as it was so lengthy. The site was subject to crashing and losing
previously entered data. It was advertised in public libraries,
an unsuitable method of communication and so communities were
often ignorant of a consultation which would have enormous bearing
on their lives. Older people without internet access and abilities
often excluded from the process.
The Oldland Common application had the accustomed
one third affordable houses. Therefore more than two thirds of
the housing would have been superfluous to local need and providing
affordable housing, in effect, a tax on the builder's profits.
Under the present system S106's are used as a community bribe
to provide social housing but we think this is wrong and all developments
should stand or fall on their own merits.
As the Oldland site was on the inner edge of green
belt land, it would have to be accessed by what is at times, a
single track road. We ask that no development be allowed to proceed
without the necessary new infrastructure being in place.
This un-necessary development would have swallowed
up acres of productive farmland. We ask that more value be placed
on the protection of our food source, especially in the light
of climate change and Britain's advantage of its temperate climate.
So under the RSS, South Gloucestershire would have
to provide an un-necessary care home, warehousing
to build houses without job provision which would
put more cars on an already overloaded road system; and
to overload the local health facilities (the local
dentist said she could not take on anymore patients, the doctor
All on the strength of a perceived housing number
with no transparent process of justification, and all on valuable
farm land which is now being farmed.
There might well be a problem if the incentives offered
by Government or direct by developers (as has been suggested)
are such that they entice local councils, in cash stricken times,
to try to bulldoze through planning applications without the necessary
community consent. This situation would result in the campaigning
groups fighting with their local councils against inappropriate
development, instead of the as it was Labour Government under
the RSS arrangements.
If the incentives to build are offered directly by
developers to the community, presumable the local authority will
be bypassed in this process. I would offer a word of caution on
this process, as no provision appears to have been made for the
supervision of suitable materials to be used, building regulations,
funds for architect fees for supply of appropriate plans and their
unlimited adaptation to meet community approval. A local authority
has the tried and tested ability to co-ordinate all the various
planning processes and is able to ensure that nothing slips between
the cracks in a way that direct developer/community participation
The Government needs to consider incentivising the
re-use of the 800,000 vacant properties that are in the UK by
introducing some sort of grant system or reduced interest rates
for developers. The planning system must include some "time
limits on use" to address the second holiday home and "buy
to leave" issues.
The Government needs to also consider stopping charging
full rates on empty commercial properties which will help prevent
wasteful demolition or deliberate property damage to avoid rate
The link between house building and our Gross National
Product should be severed. Building houses must not be used as
a vehicle for economic growth rather than a function of need.
There must be allowances within the planning system for respect
for our ecological limits.
Whilst admitting that the revocation of the Regional
Spatial Strategy has left some policy gaps, its demise has given
local people the chance to influence future development that would
never have otherwise been afforded. The people of Oldland Common
value their green belt above all else, a key factor in the change
of administration at the recent election.
With careful thought, a future policy can be put
into place that will never again allow the views of the population
to be so completely ignored.