Thursday, 27 November 2008
What the Government giveth.......
We're lucky enough in Stockwood to border a big chunk of Bristol's 'Green Belt'. It's one of the things that encouraged us to move here.
Some of it, as the map shows, is within the city boundary, including the golf course, the Open Space, and even the sports ground beside Sturminster Road. But most is in neighbouring BaNES, giving us that pleasant rural edge.
Three or four years ago, the Regional Assembly - which yesterday ceased to be - together with its partners in GOSW drafted a regional plan - the Regional Spatial Strategy - saying that the Bristol region needed many thousands more houses to accommodate its growth in importance, turnover, and population. Most would be in 'urban extensions'. 6,000 of them should be on our south-east corner. It would mean significant loss of Green Belt land, but not to worry, they'd designate some more. Somewhere near Radstock Norton.
Then it all got into a long-winded planning process, in which Bristol Greens and various other lobby groups argued against this unsustainable expansion - while property developers argued enthusiastically for it. Last year saw many of us repeating the arguments in front of an 'Examination in Public' at Exeter. We finished up evens in this corner of Bristol, still with land to find for 6,000 homes, and a big gash in the Green Belt. The report went off to the government.
Next, the government put its own stamp on it - and upped the figures further(no-one quite knows why, and they haven't told us). Once again, lots of us challenged the numbers, which seem far higher than is needed.
But unless the Government has a change of heart (or a change of the growth agenda), the local councils are stuck with aligning the local plans - the BDF, or Bristol Development Framework - to the government's numbers, by allocating land for the housing they say is necessary. For the SE Bristol extension (Keynsham to Whitchurch), that's 10,500, including 1,500 within the Bristol boundary.
I've been to two meetings about this this week. At the first, in Long Ashton, many residents were (rightly) hopping mad at the prospect of their green valley being filled with housing, especially as there's no real case been made for it.
At the second, BCC planners were inviting reps of various 'stakeholder' groups to consider how the city could squeeze in all the extra homes demanded by the government. Most people felt that more intensive development would be much better than making new land grabs - but it would be hard to manage. No use building homes if they turn into social deserts. The 'buy-to-let' market has a lot to answer for.
But it looks like we can say goodbye to 'rural' Stockwood.