River community 'invisible' in plan for 326-berth Keynsham marina

January 06 2016
River community 'invisible' in plan for 326-berth Keynsham marina

Keynsham residents who fear they will be evicted from their homes on the River Avon if a 326-berth marina goes ahead say they feel they are “invisible” in the developer’s proposals.

January 2016

Keynsham residents who fear they will be evicted from their homes on the River Avon if a 326-berth marina goes ahead say they feel they are “invisible” in the developer’s proposals.

People living on 35 boats on the river near the Broadmead Lane industrial site say homelessness is a very real prospect for some should council planning chiefs grant permission to the scheme being put forward by Enzygo Ltd.

The marina, which would be for leisure not residential use, would be created on 21.2 hectares of farmland in the green belt and include parking for 144 cars, as well as facilities such as a laundry, showers, toilets, a café and an office.

The scheme would result in the loss of the existing residential moorings, where residents say there is an established community with many working and sending their children to schools in the local area and some living on the stretch of river for as long as 15 years.

The application went before Bath and North East Somerset Council’s development management committee on December 16 when councillors heard from residents and from the developer’s agent Next Phase Development.

Stewart Kemp, who lives on one of the boats with his son, who attends a local school, said homelessness was a very real possibility for him and his neighbours. He told the meeting: “We have been treated with disdain by the applicants… We are invisible in this application, as if we did not exist.”

In their report to councillors, planning officers said: “Unfortunately there are no policies to protect existing residential moorings and therefore, whilst the loss is very disappointing, a reason for refusal on this point is not considered to be justified.”

The report, however, does recommend the marina is thrown out, giving seven reasons for the decision, including the risk of harm to wildlife, trees and hedgerows; a lack of safe pedestrian and cycle routes and alternatives to using a car to access the town; the loss of agricultural land; inappropriate development of the green belt and the development’s impact on the surrounding landscape.

River resident Ruth Baker told councillors at the meeting she agreed with the officers’ arguments, particularly safety issues on the surrounding roads, as she either cycles, walks or drives under the narrow railway bridge on Broadmead Lane every day.

She said: “It’s a hair-raising experience under the current conditions as some drive cars, trucks, vans and lorries at speed, and there’s no room for a pedestrian at the same time as a vehicle. It’s difficult but manageable, but with 300 boat owners I strongly feel this would become a much more dangerous place for walkers and cyclists – there could be an injury or fatality before too long.”

The applicant says the marina would directly create eight full-time jobs and contribute £300,000 (GVA) to the local economy while indirectly creating an additional 12 full-time jobs, contributing £480,000 (GVA).

Speaking at the meeting, Christopher Whitehouse, from Next Phase Development, countered officers’ reasons for rejecting the marina, saying little risk to species of wildlife had been identified in surveys carried out at the site, the land was prone to flooding so was not good quality farmland, there was easy access to the Somerset Cycle Network and those looking over the landscape would see the marina in its context against the railway line and recycling centre.

Arguing there were special circumstances to allow the development in the green belt, he said it was “clear the proposal has beneficial impact of real substance to people and the environment”.

Councillors voted to visit the site at the start of January before making a decision on whether to permit or reject the marina scheme at their next meeting on January 13.