Members of the South West Regional Assembly are expected to
agree a draft version tomorrow of a document called the
Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) which will create a blueprint
for the way in which the region grows during the next 20
years.It shows the quota for the former Avon area is expected
to be 92,500 new homes until 2026.
The main new areas of growth on the Bristol fringes are
likely to be:
There would also be up to 9,000 homes to the east of
Weston-super-Mare and about 1,500 homes to the south of Bath.
The rest of the total would be built in urban areas and on
what is known as "Brown Field" sites - land which is being
reused after previous development, including former industrial
The areas zoned for development would give a guide to
planners and developers where new homes could be built. But
the zones will depend on a review of the Green Belt and new
homes could not be built without planning permission.
The overall plan must also be approved by Deputy Prime
Minister John Prescott, who could alter the target figure for
Mike Roe, former Tory leader of North Somerset Council and
currently chairman of the West of England Partnership, a body
which represents the four councils in the former Avon area,
said they realised growth was inevitable but were unhappy
about the number of homes which will be permitted.
He said: "The councils feel they are being bounced into
higher numbers than they feel comfortable with." Initially,
the assembly was suggesting that the number of homes in the
former Avon area should have been more than 100,000.
Mr Roe said it was with "huge reluctance" that the councils
had accepted the 92,500 figure.
He warned: "This is subject to central Government coming up
with the funding to provide the highway and public transport
improvements which will be needed to cope with these extra
homes." The fear is that the number of new homes will create
widescale congestion unless there are major improvements to
ease traffic delays.
The Evening Post revealed earlier this week that traffic
delays in the Bristol area are costing the local economy an
estimated ?350 million a year.
But it's only the Government that can provide the funding
for major projects such as light rail systems, extensive
showcase bus routes and investment in rail services, to ease
That's why the councils in the partnership have drawn up a
Joint Local Transport Plan which shows what they believe is
needed to help people travel around the sub-region without too
Mr Roe said the councils had agreed to a review of the
Green Belt boundaries, but due to the numbers of new homes
involved, it was inevitable that some of them would have to be
built on existing Green Belt land.
He said: "It is absolutely essential that we sort out the
funding for the infrastructure so we don't end up with
horrendous congestion and we sort out the details of where the
Green Belt should be." South Gloucestershire Lib Dem cabinet
councillor Pat Hockey said:
"We are extremely unhappy about the number of homes which
will have to be provided.
"It's inevitable that you cannot accommodate such a number
without some encroachment of the Green Belt." Paul Crossley,
Lib Dem council leader of Bath and North East Somerset, said:
"We are not prepared to decide which Green Field sites are
affected at this stage - that's the core of our argument with
"We feel we must have the debate with the public about
where the Green Belt should go and if any land is taken out,
then we should be compensated elsewhere.
"The problem is that the Government is forcing change on us
without allowing a proper debate about how that change should
come. " Bristol's Labour leader Helen Holland said: "We need
to get the Green Belt boundaries sorted out so they remain
robust in the future."
The draft Regional Spatial Strategy says that as the urban
areas will not be able to accommodate the amount of growth
expected, then "well-planned urban extensions will be needed
to meet this shortfall". In other words, it's inevitable that
Bristol and, to a lesser extent, Weston-super-Mare and Bath,
The Government is expected to hold a public inquiry - known
as an examination in public - before the spatial strategy is
This might take several months because the RSS covers a
region stretching from Devon and Cornwall to Gloucestershire
and across to Swindon.
It could also result in Secretary of State John Prescott
increasing the housing quota from the 92,500 level councils in
the Bristol area say should be the absolute maximum.