Keynsham residents begin battle for Breaches Gate green belt
Published on: 09 Mar 2014
Neighbours on a Keynsham estate say they are “in shock” that Bath and North East Somerset Council has earmarked green-belt land on their doorsteps for up to 250 new homes.
Residents of Teviot Road have launched an action group to fight proposals to remove the land’s protection, which are contained in the local authority’s core strategy – a document that maps out where development will take place over the next 15 years.
The group – the Friends of Breaches Gate – say they were in the dark about the plans until the final week of B&NES’ public consultation on the document, which refers to the site as “land adjoining east Keynsham”.
And a visit to around 50 homes on the estate, they say, revealed their neighbours were also not aware of the proposals for the fields, historically part of Breaches Farm and currently protected as part of the green belt between Keynsham and Saltford.
The council, however, says there was “extensive” consultation, including a full-page article in its own Council Connect mgazine delivered to every house, and a number of residents from the area attended an exhibition on the plans.
Charlene Fleck, who has lived in Teviot Road for 13 years, said: “The news was a complete body blow – neighbours and dog walkers are all in shock. It’s all very well saying we’ve had public consultation but the question we are all asking is ‘how did we not know about this?’”
The group, which has members who have lived at Teviot Road for nearly 50 years when the estate was new, say the land has been used over decades for recreation by residents and families and dog walkers from across Keynsham, as well as by children walking to school on a route that means they can avoid traffic.
The council’s core strategy document was amended last year to provide scope for more housing, with green-belt sites at Keynsham near Teviot Road to the east and off Charlton Road and Parkhouse Lane to the south earmarked for possible development as well as sites at Whitchurch and on the edge of Bath at Odd Down and Weston.
Public consultation on the changes ran from November 11 to December 20, along with a public drop-in event in Keynsham on November 21. People on the local development framework mailing list were also informed directly of the plans by the council but the Breaches Gate group say they believe more could have been done to inform those living closest to the sites in question.
A council spokesman said: “We were very pleased with the attendance at the East of Keynsham exhibition and our officers spoke to a number of residents who lived in the vicinity of the proposal. Towards the end of the proposal we received a phone call from a resident who lived in the vicinity of East Keynsham who believed there was insufficient publicity. In response, before the consultation ended we undertook door-to-door leafleting.
“Every single person we met during this leafleting was aware of the proposal, some had attended the exhibition and a few were unhappy the council was communicating with them again on the same issue.”
As part of the public consultation, members of the Friends have raised concern at the loss of the fields, fears over drainage on the site which they say acts as a “natural sponge” for run-off from their estate and the cost of bringing utilities such as electricity to the site on the edge of the town.
Proposals to provide an access road to any new development from Teviot Road have also sparked fears it could lead to a loss of parking in the existing estate and create a rat run.
Another Friends member, Bob Elcome-Thorpe, who has lived in Teviot Road for 10 years said he and his neighbours also worried that the site could end up accommodating far more than the proposed 250 homes in years to come. Developer Mactaggart & Mickel has already made a submission to the council proposing that 800 homes could be built on the green-belt land, it was revealed in January.
Mr Elcome-Thorpe said: “We came to live here because of this amenity and the tranquility – it’s a wonderful open space that has been used for at least 50 years by this community and at the stroke of a pen B&NES wants to remove it.”
A planning inspector is due to hold examination hearings on the proposed core strategy in a matter of weeks, with the Breaches Gate site due to be discussed the second of week of April. Members of the public who responded to the public consultation can speak at the hearing. Programme officer Chris Banks, who is arranging the hearings, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Friends of Breaches Gate are hoping more residents will join them in their battle to save the land, showing their support, offering help or advice, and have set up an email address for anyone who wishes to get in touch: email@example.com. Alternatively people can call Friends member Peter
Holland on 0117 986 9479.