South Gloucestershire’s long-term planning blueprint, or Core Strategy, has been formally adopted by the council following a majority decision at last week’s Full Council meeting.
The decision follows last month’s approval of the strategy by independent Government Planning Inspector Paul Crysell, who concluded that the strategy was ‘sound’ and suitable for adoption subject to a number of final modifications.
As South Gloucestershire’s main planning document, the strategy sets out the area’s agreed overarching development vision until 2027, helping the council to guide delivery of the new jobs, homes and infrastructure that will be needed in the future while protecting the area from inappropriate or undesirable development.
Economic measures set out in the strategy include the creation of three new Enterprise Areas in Filton, Severnside and Emersons Green, with the potential to deliver thousands of new jobs by 2027.
The strategy also makes provision for a total of 28,355 new homes, including affordable housing, of which the majority will be located near major employment sites in the North Fringe areas of Filton, Patchway/Cribbs Causeway and Harry Stoke.
Housing development will be accompanied by new public transport infrastructure and community facilities such as schools, community centres and open spaces, to enable the new and existing communities of South Gloucestershire to prosper.
The decision to adopt the strategy follows extensive public consultation and engagement over a number of years, as well as a full independent public examination held last year by Mr Crysell.
The final approved version of the strategy, including all agreed modifications, will be published by the council after Christmas.
Liberal Democrats have welcomed the adoption of the Core Strategy, which they say makes South Gloucestershire one of the first councils in the country to have a National Planning Policy compliant framework.
Cllr Pat Hockey (Frampton Cotterell), Lib Dem lead member on planning, said:
“We welcome the fact that the Core Strategy has gone through. This means we won’t get planning by appeal. It’s an important milestone for proper planning for South Gloucestershire communities.”
“All over the country, unwanted development is being imposed on local communities. It’s going where developers rather than the council have decided they would like to put it because they haven’t got their planning blueprint in place. We’re well aware that some people are losing out because of the huge developments they will be finding on their doorstep. As one of the most attractive places in the country to live, work and invest, we have no choice but to play our part in making way for the much-needed economic development and housing.”
Labour councillors expressed mixed feelings over the adoption of the Core Strategy, describing it as “controversial” because it accepts that the Filton Airfield site will be allocated for future housing development, a move that Labour “opposed at every stage”.
Labour councillors had a free vote on the final adoption, with Group Leader Cllr Andy Perkins explaining that whilst some councillors felt it was best to have a plan in place to regulate future development, for others the airfield was a ‘line in the sand’ and they could not vote to accept its closure.
Cllr Perkins (Labour, Woodstock) said:
“Having an adopted plan in place is the council’s best defence against speculative development anywhere in South Gloucestershire. Without it our planning decisions would be wide open to challenge and appeal by developers, with major planning judgements being determined by national inspectors. The plan contains many necessary provisions such as a requirement for a greater proportion of affordable housing, and more realistic car parking ratios.”
“Labour Group has consistently opposed the redevelopment of Filton Airfield throughout the plan process, but our attempts to remove it were voted down by Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors and ignored by the Inspector. Tonight we faced a ‘take it or leave it’ decision and, on balance, I personally felt it would cause more harm for the district as a whole not to adopt the plan.”
Cllr Ian Scott (Labour, Filton) was one of the Labour councillors who voted against adopting the strategy. He said:
“The Tory-led government, through its inspector, has imposed 28,355 new homes in South Gloucestershire and this has given a green light for the airfield’s owners to close it and profit from developing the site for housing. This is recklessly short-sighted because a national commission is currently looking to increase airfield capacity in the country just as the Filton airstrip is torn up.”
“Local people strongly oppose the closure and this is not just a sentimental reaction. Filton Airfield could have a future as it is a key component of the unique hub of high-tech industry in the Filton/Patchway area, strategically located close to the M4/M5 motorway and rail interchanges. South Gloucestershire Council should have continued to designate it as an airfield even if the current owners did not want to run it, which is what Labour proposed two years ago.”
“5,000 additional houses on Filton Airfield will only worsen the environmental and transport problems of our area. The road network can hardly cope as it is and will become a nightmare with increased traffic volumes.”
Conservative councillors welcomed the fact that “vast swathes” of Green Belt land will remain protected, stretching from across the Severn Vale and down the eastern side of Kingswood, areas which they say had been threatened with a new ‘urban extension’ under plans set out in the previous Labour Government’s now-abandoned Regional Spatial Strategy.
Cllr Keith Cranney (Conservative, Stoke Gifford), who had fought to protect the quality of life of residents who live under the Filton Airfield flight path, welcomed the news, saying:
“I’m hugely relieved, on behalf of the community that I represent, that a majority of councillors have supported the planning inspector’s rejection of the vanity scheme put forward by Labour councillors to reopen the airfield to passenger flights as part of a new Filton International Airport.”
“Such a massive change would have smashed the quality of life of the thousands of Stoke Gifford residents who live under the airfield’s flight path.”
“I also welcome the Core Strategy’s support for MetroWest rail, the Stoke Gifford Transport Link and the associated rapid transit scheme which will dramatically improve public transport in the area and relieve some of the traffic congestion locally.”