Bath and North East Somerset Council has been warned that the area’s Greenbelt could be under threat once again if the Lib Dem-run Council does not set out plans to improve local transport infrastructure as part of its Core Strategy development blueprint.
The warning comes after a Government Inspector raised a number of concerns over the Council’s economic and transport policies, raising alarm bells over the possibility of new housing being built on local Greenbelt land instead of Brownfield sites.
The Council’s draft Core Strategy envisages up to 11,000 new homes being built in the area by 2026 and aims to encourage development on disused industrial sites in order to protect the area’s Greenbelt from unwanted new housing.
However, in an interim report on the draft Strategy, the Inspector questions whether there is ‘a contingency plan’ for new housing if the Bath Transport Package does not go ahead ‘bearing in mind that the implementation of the BRT package [sic] is clearly seen as critical to the strategy’.
Conservative Councillors, who have campaigned with residents to protect the area’s Greenbelt, have said they are concerned that if the Council does not now produce a more robust transport and economic policy it will prove more difficult to encourage developers to build on Brownfield sites instead of Greenbelt.
Councillor Les Kew, the Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Homes and Planning, explained:
“Conservative Councillors have consistently opposed plans to build thousands of new homes on our area’s valued Greenbelt. We believe that it is far better for new development to take place on disused Brownfield sites instead. However, this depends upon infrastructure improvements being in place to enable Brownfield regeneration, including improved transport links.
“The questions raised by the Government inspector are extremely worrying for those of us campaigning to protect our area’s Greenbelt. It raises serious concerns that the Lib Dems’ lack of proper transport or economic policy is putting at risk not just our Greenbelt but also the Council’s ability to deliver the new affordable homes our area needs. The Council needs to take this seriously and look at how to ensure its Core Strategy is sufficiently robust to deliver new homes and jobs whilst protecting our countryside.”