Council exploring housing options after market fails to deliver

Newly built homes in a residential estate in England.

The council is looking at a raft of sites it owns across North Somerset that could deliver thousands of new homes and jobs - Credit: Pixabay

Council bosses are looking at a raft of sites they own across North Somerset that could deliver thousands of new homes and jobs. 

Some are already being built on or allocated for development but others will be revealed for the first time in an 'open-minded' consultation this summer. 

Deputy leader Mike Bell said the decisions will not be universally popular but the council could not wait for the private sector alone to provide what North Somerset needs.

Councillor Mark Canniford told his executive colleagues on June 23: “Money from the programme and selling these sites will start to develop the sort of things we want to do as a council – affordable housing, bringing sites forward for school and the things our communities continually grumble about and tell us we’re not doing. 

“There are complications with some of the sites. We need to make sure we know what can and can’t be done. 
“This is the right and proper manner to go in terms of deciding how we deal with the assets the council have, and not simply blunder along and hope something might crop out at the end of it.” 

The 26 sites could provide up to 2,000 homes, at least 500 affordable homes, 30 acres of employment space, a financial return of £60million over a decade and more than 6,000 jobs. 
The council has committed to engage with the areas that are directly affected and conduct North Somerset-wide consultation. 

A report to the meeting said the council’s role is to deliver where the market fails and set higher standards to drive the market forward, providing homes and jobs that meet the needs of the community. 

Cllr Ash Cartman said: “This is exactly what we should be doing as local government.” 

Developments that already underway are: 

  • Selworthy Road in Weston-super-Mare’s Bournville Estate – sold to Alliance Homes for an affordable-led scheme, with a planning application expected later this year
  • Parklands in Weston – work is set to start in September on 425 low carbon prefabricated homes with development partner, Keepmoat

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Sites that have been formally allocated for development are: 

  • Uplands, Nailsea – 52 homes that will be built to Passivhaus standards, a flagship level of sustainability, 30 per cent of them affordable
  • Weston Business Quarter, Weston –  the council’s largest employment site in the strategic location of the Junction 21 Enterprise Area
  • Walliscote Place, Weston – council has applied for a £1million grant to remove a fuel tank from the former police station site to make development more viable
  • Former Weston College building next to Nailsea Library – officers are seeking to work with the developer, Nailsea Town Council, and the owner of the adjacent shopping precinct to agree suitable proposals
  • Churchill Avenue, Clevedon –  early discussions have been held with interested affordable housing partners
  • Field at Slade Road, Portishead – potential for up to 25 homes, possibly self-builds
  • Fryth Way playing fields, Nailsea – part of a wider allocation for 450 homes, with the  relocation of the playing pitches to be required if it gets developed
  • Parklands phase two – Outline planning consent is in place but proposals are not expected to come forward for several years until work on phase one is nearer to completion

The council is set to consult on as yet undisclosed small to medium sized sites in existing settlements that it thinks could be brought forward, subject to legal checks.  

It is also considering longer term opportunities that “would in most cases represent a significant extension to an existing settlement or the creation of a new community, and so are subject to the emerging Local Plan”.

These typically larger sites are not expected to be delivered before 2025. 
Cllr Bell said it should not be implied when sites are revealed that decisions had been made or the land was automatically going to be sold off or developed. 

He added: “We’re going through a consultation and we want our local communities to engage in that, provide their feedback and their views about development. 
“While there’s the potential to help us meet our housing target and provide homes for local people, and potential to generate a capital receipt we can use to invest in local services, that has to be taken in the round. 
“None of these are easy, simple and universally popular decisions and proposals. We are consulting with an open mind.”

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