New village scout hut in greenbelt approved
- Credit: Long Ashton Scout Group
Harm to the greenbelt is a price worth paying to build a “desperately needed” new scout hut in Long Ashton, councillors have said.
The long-awaited and “truly inclusive” HQ is a step closer to being built to address a surge in interest in the movement that has led to a 100-strong waiting list in the village.
Because North Somerset Council planners went against officer advice and backed the proposals this week, the decision will be ratified at a future meeting.
In a statement to the planning and regulatory committee on July 22, Long Ashton Scout Group HQ committee chair Dominic Anderson said: “After several years of searching, this proposal offers the best and most realistic chance for a future for scouting in Long Ashton.
“Our proposal is about meeting the needs of young people – giving kids wonderful opportunities as alternatives to staring at screens or hanging out on streets.
“There’s huge demand for the experiences scouting offers and the unique way in which it prepares young people for their adult lives: leadership, team working and upholding virtues, such as respect and equality.
“We recognise the proposal has shortcomings and would like to work with the council’s officers to find solutions to mitigate them – establishing safe access for pedestrians, cyclists and cars and mitigating any ecological impact.”
The scouts said the building would embrace sustainability features including solar panels, a ‘wildlife wall’, rainwater harvesting and an air source heat pump.
Council officers were not convinced the group had looked far enough for alternative sites and said the inappropriate development in the green belt had not been justified.
Proposing approval of the plans, Long Ashton ward member Councillor Ash Cartman said the impact on the greenbelt was a “price worth paying”.
“This has been a long time coming,” he said. “There’s a severe shortage of provision for space in the community.
“It’s amazing the level of support it’s got – 182 comments and only one objection.
“It’s an amazing community facility, it’s got very high environmental credentials, it’s universally popular in the community.
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“The real power of this committee is not to refuse, it is to give and to grant permission where the community need and desire is more important than the national planning law to give back something to our communities.”
Head of planning Richard Kent reminded members: “The role of the committee is to make sound planning decisions based on planning law policy procedure – it’s not a referendum.
“It’s the planning merits that matter, not the volume of objection or support in their own right.”
Cllr Richard Payne said the council risked using greenbelt policies to thwart what would be a positive community facility and would not cause urban sprawl.
The application was unanimously supported, subject to concerns about highways safety being addressed and the scouts securing the site from the landowner.