MPs threaten over housing plans/ Joint Statement from Dr Liam Fox and John Penrose
North Somerset MPs, Liam Fox and John Penrose, are threatening to use legal options in the battle to prevent inappropriate house building around local villages. North Somerset Council is currently awaiting an inspectors report, following the challenge in court to the previous local plan by Bristol University which wants to build on land it owns in the green belt. The MPs are considering using powers under section Sections 21 and 27 of the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act. These powers, which have never been tested before, would result in the Inspector’s report being “called in” for determination by the Secretary of State. Developers are calling for up to 25,000 houses to be built in North Somerset by 2026 which the MPs and the Council believe to be impossible without over-stressing local infrastructure, damaging the local environment and undermining local communities. It is not only the numbers they object to but the timescale involved in potential building.
“We want to look at bringing the total number down, well below what the developers are asking for, and to build at a speed and in a way that doesn’t damage the environment, overload infrastructure or harm local communities. If we are allowed to build in line with our own, democratically-approved local plans we can absorb plenty of extra homes by building up rather than out as we regenerate places like central Weston, instead of putting green fields under pressure. But if we are asked to build too quickly, or in the wrong places, we will not hesitate to ask for the planning inspector’s report to be called in to be decided by Ministers. We do not object to more homes being built, especially so young people can live in the area where they grew up, but we need to understand the constraints on our infrastructure such as schools, GPs and roads.”
John Penrose MP added “We’ve had a rash of applications from speculative housing developers in villages like Congresbury and Churchill, all trying to cash in while we’re waiting for this inspector’s report. They’d overload local roads, make flooding more likely and destroy beautiful countryside for ever. Local people are understandably horrified, and so am I. If plans haven’t got democratic consent from local communities, then they shouldn’t go ahead”
Liam Fox MP said “ plans to develop around Long Ashton, Yatton, Claverham and Backwell fail to take into account the strain on the infrastructure we already have. We also don’t want to see the visual amenity of our beautiful countryside ruined. Decisions on where to build should be taken by our elected council, not unelected inspectors who will never have to live with the consequences of their decisions.”
Inspectors can ask for any additional numbers to be backdated, which means an increase in building requirements in the early years of the plan leading up to 2026.There are two recognised methodologies used for making up housing backlog. These are known respectively as the “Liverpool” and “Sedgefield” approaches after two different appeal cases. The Liverpool approach allows the backlog to be spread across the plan period whilst the Sedgefield approach requires it to be met in the next 5 years of the plan.