Claims decision to build homes on Nailsea field does not stand up to scrutiny
- Credit: Mikhail Riches
Plans for 52 eco homes on greenfield land in Nailsea have been thrown into doubt after a challenge.
Residents claimed North Somerset Council had used “misleading information or guesswork” when it assessed public open space south of the Uplands as surplus to requirements.
The authority approved its own “exemplar” proposals in February but was this week forced to reconsider its decision to appropriate the land for the development.
Leading the call-in, Councillor Mark Crosby said the value of a site used by the community for more than 40 years needed proper scrutiny.
Addressing scrutiny panel members on August 7, Uplands resident Angela Love claimed the decision had been based on “flawed process, misleading information or guesswork”, adding: “The council has not presented any credible evidence that the land is no longer required.
“An amazing amount of time, effort and resources, including the quite intimidating reference to legal advice, has been spent dismissing simply expressed but genuine concerns.
“It is clear that the motivation to develop the land south of the Uplands is financial and that every process leading up to and including the appropriation decision has been made to fit this predetermined aim.”
The council has the power to appropriate land it owns that is “no longer required for the purpose for which it is held”.
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It is entitled to balance the loss against the impact on the community. Officers judged that there is enough open space nearby.
Cllr Steve Bridger, the executive member who signed off the decision, said: “I absolutely reject the notion that this is a financially motivated decision.
“It was not a decision I took lightly. I read every single comment.
“The council is the sole judge of whether or not the land is still required for the purpose of which it is held.”
Planning committee members were told in February that the Uplands land was owned by the council and its allocation for housing would help meet the shortfall in North Somerset.
The application was hailed for its green credentials but opponents said it was “simply the wrong location”. More than 190 people objected.
Engine Lane resident Antony Evans said this week: “The council states that it understands the unhappiness of those who have objected so strongly to the proposed development and is sympathetic to the reasons given for the retention of this land as open space.
“Yet, far from presenting truly compelling evidence for the case, the council seems to have to stretch a great number of points to suggest that it is surplus to requirements with an almost apologetic air of embarrassment and discomfort.
“Who says that it is no longer required as such anyway? Certainly not the 192 of 193 comments objecting strongly and in many cases very cogently, and the many more who signed a petition, and more still who use the area daily.”
Cllr Crosby said he was yet to be convinced that the proposed housing outweighed the site’s value as public open space.
He said: “Clearly this is not the only site within the district that we may have to consider appropriating in response to Government demands.
“When we do, we will need to be able to demonstrate to our communities that the evidence we put before them is assured and compelling and that the decisions we make are truly tested and balanced in their conclusions.”
Nailsea Yeo’s Cllr Mike Bird said the decision had been justified by statements that are “truly unclear, untested and unsubstantiated”, and the council had not considered that 460 homes would be built next to the site.
He added: “North Somerset Council is the landowner, the developer, planning authority, and has the right to appropriate public open space.
“Without due process and proper scrutiny this could be seen as a real conflict of interest.
“This decision does not hold up to scrutiny.”
The panel upheld the call-in and said the social value of the site needs further consideration.