20,985 new homes by 2026

PUBLISHED: 11:00 24 March 2015

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A GOVERNMENT planning inspector has ruled on how many new homes should be built in North Somerset by 2026 but community leaders are gearing up to fight the decision, fearing it will lead to ‘open season’ for developers.

The latest planning inspector’s report on North Somerset Council’s core strategy has said a minimum of 20,985 residential properties need to be built in the district from 2006-2026.

The council originally had a target of 14,000 but this was challenged by the University of Bristol and was deemed unlawful by the High Court in 2012. It then put forward a new target of 17,000 but this was also considered ‘insufficient’.

Now, a target of close to 21,000 homes has been set by the planning inspector – with any housing backlog to be completed in five years.

As a result, the council, along with MPs Dr Liam Fox and John Penrose, will ask Secretary of State Eric Pickles to call in the decision they believe is against the democratic will of local communities and rule on it himself - a power that has never been used before.

North Somerset’s deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees, said the new ‘unsustainable’ target puts ‘undue pressure’ on the authority.

Cllr Ap Rees said: “The best case scenario is he (the planning inspector) reduces the number which has been given to us and takes out the backlog.

“We believe the report puts undue pressure on the authority to increase the housing target to an unsustainable level, compounded by the requirement to address the housing backlog within the first five years.

“The reason there is a backlog is because developers were not able to meet previous targets.

“How the new inspector thinks that is going to dramatically change, I really don’t know.

“All (the report) does is practically provide developers with open season to pick off green field sites where they like, without caring about anything else.”

But the inspector’s report says it has considered evidence from the development industry which showed there was a ‘capacity and desire’ to build more dwellings in the district.

North Somerset MP Dr Fox said: “Yes we need more local housing but we need to build at a speed and in a way that doesn’t damage the environment, overload infrastructure or harm local communities.

“We also need to make sure residents are consulted on this by having our own, democratically-approved local plans which make it clear where houses can be built and where they cannot.”


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