Withies Green homes go-ahead halted

July 28 2022

OBJECTORS are hoping that planning permission for 213 homes off the A4 Bath Road in Keynsham might be overturned.

Bath & North East Somerset Council granted outline planning consent for the development on the 25-acre Withies Green site earlier this year.

But now the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities has intervened to stop the permission.

Among those objecting to the scheme were Keynsham Town Council, Saltford Parish Council and Saltford Environment Group.

They contacted local MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who at their request made representations to the Secretary of State, asking that the planning decision be called in.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities has now written to B&NES Council stating that in exercise of his powers under Article 31 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015, the Secretary of State directs B&NES Council not to grant permission “without specific authorisation”. This Article 31 direction was made by Housing Minister Stuart Andrew and was issued to enable the Secretary of State to consider whether he should direct under Section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 that the application should be referred to him for determination.

The department said that the direction “should not be read as any indication of the Secretary of State’s attitude towards the application scheme.”

Saltford Environment Group responded: “Whilst SEG greatly welcomes this news, we are aware that the final decision on this highly inappropriate planning consent that went against the overwhelming wishes of the local communities affected and their elected representatives, has yet to be made by the Secretary of State. The case against planning consent is so strong that we remain hopeful common sense will prevail, democracy in local planning will be restored, and that this inappropriate planning consent will finally be over-ruled by the Secretary of State.”

The Withies Green proposal 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 in 2018, but B&NES 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. Then a revised proposal was 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.