Residents gather to voice opposition to green-belt bid at inquiry

Published on: 13 Aug 2013

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Saltford residents gathered outside the Fry Club in Keynsham this morning to show the strength of feeling against a bid to build on green-belt land in the village ahead of a public inquiry which opened today.

Waving placards and shouting, "Save our green belt", more than 100 members of the community joined the demonstration against plans by Crest Nicholson to build up to 99 homes on land off Manor Road.

Resident Adrian Betts, a member of the Save Saltford Green Belt Group who helped collect a petition of more than 1,000 signatures from people opposed to the plans, said the turnout showed the overwhelming opposition. Saltford Inquiry Day 1

"Do local people decide where houses are built or is it the developers?," he said.

"People are concerned for the green belt and also concerned about the precedent it might set in terms of other green-belt land. It could have repercussions for B&NES as a whole and the wider situation."

Jackie Harper, a Manor Road resident, attended the demonstration with her granddaughter Holly Robinson, 10, who had made her own placard bearing the slogan "Horses not houses" as she enjoyed seeing the animals on the fields when she visited, Jackie explained. Saltford Inquiry Day 1

"It's not Nimbyism, it's because it's green-belt land and if we lose this they are going to build everywhere. I don't think we would be in this position if the Core Strategy had been in place and a decision had been taken by B&NES."

Crest Nicholson took its planning application to appeal after B&NES Council failed to reach a decision on the bid within the allotted time, although the development control committee subsequently recommended the bid was refused despite the decision being take out of its hands.

The resulting public inquiry was opened yesterday by independent planning inspector John Gray, who said after reading through the hundreds of comments on the plans sent to the council he felt the main concerns raised were the loss of green belt, density of development, traffic, the impact on services including the local school and surgery, drainage and that the development would not integrate with the village in terms of design and character.

Barrister Anthony Crean made his opening statement on behalf of the developer, saying that all parties were agreed green belt had a special status but it was not impossible to overcome depending on the facts of each individual case. He added: "This inquiry does not seek to redraw any green belt boundary."

In his opening statement Gary Grant, counsel for B&NES, said the council would seek to show that it was not a case where "very special circumstances" outweighed the harm to the green belt.

Saltford Environment Group and Saltford Parish Council will also be giving evidence to the inquiry and a number of residents have also asked to speak. 

The inquiry is scheduled to be held over five days, although Mr Gray, who has already made a site visit to Manor Road, said he hoped it could be concluded by the end of Friday.

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