Sir Liam Fox MP defends green belt in Yatton

Letter from Sir Liam Fox MP to Lee Rowley MP (Minister of State for Housing) - response from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities below:

I thought I should bring to your attention a planning application in the village of Yatton in my constituency, which seems to show how local authorities, which are keen to apply the government’s restrictions on building on floodplain, are being unduly pressurised by housing developers.

North Somerset Council has been diligent in following the development of the current Conservative government’s approach to planning, resulting in the new NPPF of December 19, 2023, especially on the issue of flood risk. As you know 30% of the land contained within the boundary of my North Somerset constituency is floodplain and 40% is greenbelt.

Persimmon homes plan to build up to 190 homes on the land known locally as the Batch in Yatton. I believe this should be opposed for three main reasons.

 Firstly, I believe that such a development is against the adopted core strategy, which in service villages such as Yatton, allows for “around 25 dwellings” adjacent to settlement boundaries. The council would, I believe, be justified in turning down a development of this size on these grounds alone.

Secondly, there is the issue of flood risk. Anyone who is familiar with this land is aware of the frequency with which it experiences surface flooding on top of the tidal flood risk which is implied by being “floodplain”. The whole of the site is in Flood Zone 3, and surely fails both the sequential test, that there are other sites available which will be at less risk of flooding and the exceptions test which require the applicant both to manage flood risk on the site and show that it would not increase flood risk elsewhere. The latest technical notes supplied by persimmon suggests that ground raising and banking of the rhyne network would “provide additional groundwater storage” give no reassurance whatsoever on the level of flood risk. I understand that the instinct of the council is to refuse this development on the grounds of flood risk, and I would fully support such a decision.

Thirdly, there is the nature and approach of the application itself. The outline application was registered on 27 March 2023, since which time there have been multiple extensions of determination time, most recently by persimmon to consider the High Court’s ruling on Mead’s application for a judicial review of the decision of a planning inspector to uphold NSC’s refusal, mainly on grounds of flood risk, at Lynch Mead farm. I believe that this puts North Somerset Council in a strong position. I understand that persimmon have recently submitted a number of documents for consideration by the council but have already included a notification of intention to submit an appeal which seems a clear attempt to bully North Somerset Council in a way which seems to represent the very worst behaviour of certain housing developers and an attempt to get round the stringent rules being put in place by the government to ensure that residents are not at risk of the flooding of their homes. I understand that North Somerset Council have informed the applicant that in the event of an Inquiry, it would seek costs if the appeal was dismissed on the grounds that the applicant had acted “unreasonably”. It is exactly the sort of behaviour that I believe, has brought housing developers into disrepute, and I wanted to bring it to ministerial notice, as I believe that such behaviour is contrary to the increased protections that the government wanted to see implemented through both the regeneration and levelling up act and the latest version of the NPPF.

My strong feeling is that the council should stand firm on any inclination to reject this application.

I appreciate that you cannot comment on specific planning applications, but I am sure that we are North Somerset are not alone in facing issues and behaviour of this nature.


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