As we make clear on the grounds to object page, this development should be turned down as the site is green belt land. Lets look a little more at green belt land.
Green belt land is protected by both national and local planning frameworks. As the Open Space Society says, green belt land acts as a buffer between towns, and between the town and countryside. It prevents urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open. This proposed development would clearly both destroy the green belt and allow urban sprawl.
Both National and Local planning frameworks note the importance of green belt land as did Bristol City Council when the land owners contacted them about this development (see below).
National Planning Policy Framework
Chapter 13 of the National Planning Policy Framework (Feb 2019); is about “Protecting Green Belt land”. It starts by noting that: “The Government attaches great importance to Green Belts. The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence.” (133, p.40).
The proposed Ashton Vale development will both threaten the openness and permanence of this section of green belt land and lead to urban sprawl, as such it should not be allowed.
Point 136 in chapter 13 states: “Once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered where exceptional circumstances are fully evidenced and justified, through the preparation or updating of plans.” (p.40).
The Local plan in Bristol has not been updated to remove this area of green belt land. Proposed revisions were rejected and the whole Bristol Local Plan is still under review. Until any Local plan review is completed, no development on green belt land should be permitted.
Chapter 13 of the National Planning Policy Framework notes repeatedly the “exceptional circumstances” that need to be met in order for green belt land to be built on. We discuss on the grounds for objection page what the landowners think are exceptional circumstances. They are not exceptional. And so this application should not be allowed.
Point 144 notes: “When considering any planning application, local planning authorities should ensure that substantial weight is given to any harm to the Green Belt. ‘Very special circumstances’ will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm resulting from the proposal, is clearly outweighed by other considerations”. The harm to the green belt caused by this proposed development is not outweighed by any other considerations and so it should not be allowed.
Bristol’s Local Plan
The current core strategy for Bristol dates from 2011 (Bristol Development Framework – Core Strategy). Echoing the National Planning Policy Framework regarding the green belt, Policy BCS6 states: “Countryside and other open land around the existing built-up areas of the city will be safeguarded by maintaining the current extent of the Green Belt. Land within the Green Belt will be protected from inappropriate development as set out in national planning policy.” (p.60). The proposed development would no longer maintain the current extent of the green belt nor protect it from inappropriate development.
Like national policy, the local policy states “that the general extent and boundaries of the Green Belt should be altered only exceptionally” (4.6.5, p.61). As noted, exceptional grounds have not been met.
It should be noted, that no details proposing this development were proposed in the Bristol Site Allocations and Development Management Policies Local Plan 2014. This is unlike the nearby recent development of “Ashton Rise” (previously Aldermans Moore’s former allotments). This was listed in the Local plan 2014 (BSA1001) and is not situated on green belt land. As such any comparison between the “Ashton Rise” development and this proposed one is not relevant.
Nor was this development even listed in the 2019 Consultation “Bristol Local Plan Review – Annex Draft Development Allocations” (Consultation – March 2019). However proposed changes to the green belt status of this land were noted in the draft consultation document Bristol Local Plan Review: Draft Policies and Development Allocations (March 2019), under Section 17, DS10 – “Changes to the Green Belt in South Bristol”. Four points need to be noted regarding this:
- This draft local plan was not adopted. Bristol is still operating from earlier versions.
- The proposed DS10 noted that: “On each site 40% of the new homes should be in the form of affordable housing and 5% of the new homes should be in the form of community-led / self-build homes.” Neither of these criteria is met by the proposed development.
- The proposed DS10 also noted that: “Detailed development considerations for these sites will be included in a future version of this Local Plan, which will be informed by responses to this consultation”. This has not happened, as the draft of the Local Plan was not adopted.
- Section 17 of the responses to the consultation noted above (Bristol Local Plan Review consultation – March 2019. Summary of consultation responses – published September 2019) highlights just 3 comments in support of this proposal and 55 comments in objection to the principle of green belt release (p.59-61).
Reasons for objection include: lack of exceptional circumstances; land performing its purpose as green belt; preference for brownfield development; cumulative impact of green belt release; failure to demonstrate sustainable development; pressures on infrastructures and services.
All of which remain relevant and provide further reason to turn down this proposed development.
The owner’s discussions with the council about this proposal
Moreover, even in the documents available in the planning portal, Peter Westbury, Team Manager for Major Developments at the council noted on the 6th March 2019: “At the present time, there would be an in principle objection to any application for planning permission for this combined development. The land at Silbury Road remains in the Green Belt”.
The land still remains in the green belt. This in principle objection remains.
In short, if determining this proposal in accordance with current National and Local plans or even the councils own advice to the owners of the land in 2019, this and any future proposals should be turned down due to the areas continued status as green belt land.