Over three-hundred people packed a public meeting at Whitchurch Community Centre on Sunday the 19th of April to learn about Government plans to allow thousands of new homes to be built in the area. The Government is currently proposing that 21,300 new homes be built in Bath and North East Somerset between now and 2026, with 8,000 of them in and around the Whitchurch area.
The meeting, organised by the Protect Whitchurch Greenbelt Alliance, included a video presentation produced by a local resident highlighting the importance of protecting the area’s countryside and creating sustainable development. The event was organised in response to growing anger over the Government’s house-building targets, which local residents fear would see vast swathes of Greenbelt land disappear around Bristol and throughout the Bath and North East Somerset region.
Conservative Councillors in B&NES have been calling on the Government to completely re-think its proposals in the light of the mass of public feeling against the plans. The Government is now due to make its final decision on how many, and where, new homes must be built over the next eighteen years at the end of June.
Councillor Peter Edwards (Con, Publow & Whitchurch), who attended the meeting with B&NES Council Leader Francine Haeberling (Con, Saltford) said:
“Local residents have made it absolutely clear to the Government; the area simply cannot sustain such a large amount of new housing development.
“I would like to thank the organisers of this event for highlighting what an important issue this is to local people and for demonstrating how vital it is that new development must be sustainable and sensitive to the local area. Those who attended the meeting clearly stated that Brownfield and disused industrial sites should be used before Greenbelt is considered.
“I hope the Government now listens to the legitimate concerns of local people.”
Conservative Leader of B&NES Council, Cllr Francine Haeberling, added:
“Conservatives in Bath and North East Somerset have sent firm rejection of these proposals back to Government. Some new house-building will of course be necessary, but these plans detail no infrastructure improvements to go alongside all the new homes and they are simply too many for our area to cope with. We now await the Government’s final decision on the plans.”
In addition to the 35,000 comments received by the Government Office for the South West over the plans, over 300 signatures were collected at the meeting for a petition to be sent to Communities Secretary Hazel Blears MP objecting to the plans.
Despite being invited, no representatives from the Labour party attended the event.