213 homes approved off A4 in Keynsham

May 25 2022
213 homes approved off A4 in Keynsham

PLANS for 213 homes off the A4 Bath Road in Keynsham have been approved despite opposition.

Almost 600 objections were made to the scheme, including from Keynsham Town Council, Saltford Parish Council and Saltford Environment Group.

Most of the concerns were about the impact on traffic on the already congested Bath Road.

The 25-acre site, known as Withies Green, also includes a new playing field for the Two Rivers C of E Primary School being built at the neighbouring Hygge Park development, as well as allotments, a community orchard, football pitch and open space, including a wetland park.

Developer Mactaggart & Mickel tried to secure outline permission for 200 homes on the site in 2018, but Bath and North East Somerset Council rejected the application, saying the site was not needed for development and that the existing road network could not cope with the extra traffic.

An appeal against refusal was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate but was later withdrawn.

But a revised proposal has now been approved by B&NES planning committee.

It voted to accept the advice of the council’s planning officer, who said there were significant considerations in favour of the development, including a significant contribution towards maintaining a five-year land supply in B&NES, the provision of 30% affordable housing and sustainable transport improvements.

But many objectors were sceptical of the reliance on green and active travel options, saying the proposals would reduce the reliability of bus services on the Bath Road and increase car dependency.

Most of the site was removed from the green belt in 2014 and was safeguarded to ensure there was land available to meet future housing development needs.

Land along the site’s northern edge will be safeguarded for any future Metro Bus proposals.

After the planning meeting, local councillors Andy Wait (Keynsham East), Hal MacFie (Keynsham East) and Duncan Hounsell (Saltford) expressed their disappointment at the decision.

In a statement, the Lib Dem members said: “We believe the decision was premature. We would have preferred that the public had been given the right to voice their opinion at the hearings, about to take place, into the B&NES Local Plan Partial Update (LPPU) on whether or not this site should be brought forward for development.”

This view was echoed by Keynsham Town Council, which said in its objection: “Developers do not have a strategic policy-making role other than to say where they can build houses when invited to do so.

Keynsham Town Council request that Bath and North East Somerset Council strongly resist this unwelcome attempt to undermine the Local Plans.”

Saltford Environment Group (SEG) said that “by contravening its own Local Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), B&NES Council’s erroneous planning decision has undermined confidence and trust in its own Local Plan.

“It has also pre-empted the Government Inspector’s public examination for its partial update that is scheduled to ask the question of whether it is right to bring forward this development on former green belt land that was safeguarded from development until at least 2029.

“The development will also change the use of an adjacent parcel of green belt land, south of the development.

SEG added: “This controversial issue has created a mix of upset, incredulity, and concern in Keynsham and Saltford, where severe traffic congestion at peak periods has demonstrably got increasingly worse in recent years.”

Saltford Parish Council echoed concerns about increased traffic congestion and about the integrity of the Local Plan.

It agreed with the view of Saltford Environment Group and Keynsham Town Council that the planning system should meet local needs identified by local authorities. They considered it was “not appropriate for developers to attempt to decide where or when houses should be built by applying pressure through lobbying, constant challenging and other means to the plan-making process.”

B&NES received two comments of support for the plan, on the grounds that Keynsham needs more housing, the shortage of which has pushed up prices, and that objections were fuelled by a “not in my back yard” culture.

Mactaggart & Mickel said after the decision that it carried out a three-month virtual community consultation that asked residents what they would like to see in the new neighbourhood.

Ken Hopkins, head of strategic land, said: “We’re looking forward to delivering a neighbourhood that responds to the feedback given by the community and brings multiple benefits to the area, from much-needed new homes, including affordable homes, and new sustainable transport links, to new outdoor spaces.

“Mactaggart & Mickel pride ourselves on not just creating new homes but also encouraging a sense of place, and community. The landscaping and green spaces, alongside the wetland park and woodland, will create a fantastic environment for people of all ages to enjoy.”

The developer said that, following its community consultation, its revised proposal included the incorporation of a community hub, an expansion of the sports pitches, open space including wetlands and orchards, electric vehicle charging points, green roofs, bird and bat boxes, community gardens and allotments.

It also proposed improvements to cycle routes between the site and Keynsham town centre and railway station.

Image: Mactaggart & Mickel