JOINT SPATIAL PLAN (JSP) – E mail Bulletin July 2nd August 2019
We heard yesterday that the Inspectors confirm that, following the first round of hearings at Bath in July, the JSP authorities have failed to address the fundamental concerns raised by them over 12 months ago. Members will no doubt recall that BRA, Backwell Parish Council and Backwell Resistance were highly critical of the JSP proposals, and hundreds of households commented to this effect. Thankfully, the inspectors have reached a similar conclusion in terms of the technical aspects of the process. Whilst there could be scope to revisit the spatial strategy through the examination process, they are urging the authorities to withdraw the plan and start again.
The hearing sessions planned for September/October have been cancelled.
The link to the 3-page report from the Inspectors is below. Apparently, it is rare for such a document to be as critical of a planning process.
We will have to wait for the responses from the 4 Councils that created the JSP as to whether they accept the Inspectors’ recommendations, but this is exceptionally good news. The Inspectors concluded that the approach which included the selection of Backwell to take 700 houses (as one of the 10 Strategic Development Locations) is fundamentally flawed. It should be made clear that this does not mean that Backwell will not be allocated housing in the future, but the immediate threat is removed.
We are most grateful for the professional efforts of our consultants, particularly Lucy White in making our case so clearly, and the support provided for her by the Working Party, which included representatives from Backwell Parish Council, BRA, and Backwell Resistance. Also, many thanks to our residents for sending their comments on the JSP, and for being members of BRA, which enables us to give financial support to our Parish Council in funding our consultants and the technical responses.
Enjoy the summer!
JOINT SPATIAL PLAN (JSP) – E mail Bulletin July 17th 2019
The JSP process has taken a significant step forward, with the first section of hearings now completed at The Guildhall in Bath, having started on July 2nd.
Members may wish to refresh the main features of the JSP by looking at the BRA website under the JSP tab. The schematic below is a reminder of how the proposals would transform our village.
Three members of the BRA committee and the chairman of Backwell Parish Council attended the most relevant days for Backwell as observers.
The two Inspectors have reviewed hundreds of documents, and used the Hearings to listen to additional points submitted by participants, and to interrogate the Councils. At the beginning of the Hearings they said they have three options:
- to approve without modifications (highly unlikely)
- to approve with (potentially substantial) modifications
- to reject the Plan entirely
This first section (over two weeks) has mainly covered general principles, including the soundness and sustainability of the Plan, legal compliance, the overall number of new houses required, the spatial strategy and reliance upon Strategic Development Locations (SDL’s), and potential changes to the Green Belt. (Backwell has been chosen as one of the SDL’s)
The second section, which is due to take place in late September/early October will largely deal with assessing specific locations for development. The Backwell Hearing is provisionally down for 24 September (but this might change).
Those invited to speak at the Hearings include local councils, developers and pressure groups. Backwell (the Parish Council, BRA and Backwell Resistance have joined forces) has been represented by Lucy White (Planner) and Steve Holloway (ecologist). Lucy had a significant role in presenting our case and emphasised what we consider to be the significant flaws in the Plan, especially with regard to the potential Strategic Development Location (SDL) in Backwell. She made our case very powerfully. Our transport specialist will be called to speak at the September Hearing.
Specific issues that were discussed, and which we think have put serious questions into the minds of the Inspectors, include:
- The Plan has not considered all reasonable alternative options for growth.
- The SDL’s were selected first and the Spatial Strategy then built around them (the opposite of what should have happened!).
- It has not been made clear why the chosen SDL’s (12 sites) were selected out of the original long list of 40 sites. There appear to be inconsistencies in the assessment of sites.
- Employment growth and linking homes with employment was queried.
- North Somerset Council (NSC) made a policy decision (unlike the other three local authorities) not to touch Green Belt. This seems to be a political rather than a Planning decision. In addition, the strategic importance of Bristol Airport has not been recognized in the JSP.
- The JSP Habitat Regulation Assessment was not robust, risking harm to the protected habitat for bats.
- The public transport strategy was flawed, with unsubstantiated reliance on the proposed Backwell transport hub.
In summary, the Inspectors challenged the Councils on many aspects of the Plan, and will now write to the Councils setting out their initial conclusions and whether the Hearings in September/October can proceed as planned, or if an alternative course of action is required. The many objections from residents to the JSP were supported by the excellent planning arguments at the Hearings. The general feeling of the Backwell attendees is that we presented our case in the best way we could.
The funds input by Backwell Parish Council and BRA so far have been well spent.
Firstly, a big thank you to the hundreds of residents who made their views on the JSP known by commenting last winter. These will be seen by the Inspectors as part of their compulsory reading in their big pile of documents! There is little public participation during the Hearings, but the Inspectors will be impressed by what they read. However, Inspectors will also be influenced by external factors e.g. from the national government. The outcome is still very uncertain.
Secondly, a big thank you to our members for re-joining BRA this year. Your subscriptions and donations enable us to fund appropriate technical support for this crucial time in the future of Backwell.
JOINT SPATIAL PLAN (JSP) – E mail Bulletin June 20th 2019
The JSP was the subject of a BRA bulletin dated 25.4.19, which can be found on the BRA website. We are now updating this, along with a reminder of what has happened so far.
The JSP has been created by four councils (Bristol City, Bath and North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset (NSC) together known as “West of England”). It allocates housing across this area up to 2036. Unfortunately, Backwell is one of 4 villages in the NSC area allocated a “new community” on its doorstep, with a proposal for 700 houses. It has been chosen to be a “Strategic Development Location” (SDL) The land is around Grove Farm to the west of Backwell for which we have been expecting an outline planning application from Taylor Wimpey for some time. We encouraged BRA members in our Dec 2018 bulletin to comment. In the whole region 4,800 comments were received and we understand that Backwell was well represented in this number. The fact that there is huge public opposition to the JSP proposals for Backwell is very significant, with the creation of Backwell Resistance being one outcome. In a letter this month, the JSP administrators report “The number of requests to participate in many of the hearing sessions has been possibly unprecedented for a local plan examination”
The time for public comment has passed, and the focus of attention is now on the Examination of the JSP, which is a lengthy technical process. Public comments will be noted and will play a big part, but much of the discussion will be on such matters as “Is the JSP “sound”, “robust”, “justified” and “effective”? Planning terms such as these have technical definitions.
The first set of hearings have now been moved to the Guildhall in Bath. They will take place from July 2nd until July 12th. Proceedings will start at 9.30, with a break for lunch. Hearings will take place from Tues to Thurs, or possibly Fri if the need arises.
Members of the public may attend any of the proceedings but will not be allowed to speak. BRA suggests that only the following will be of most interest to Backwell residents:
July 11th – The Strategic Development Locations will be discussed in general terms. (Backwell is one of the 12 SDLs in the JSP).
Details for the Sept/Oct hearings, covering 4 weeks, were announced earlier this year, but are now subject to review and the dates will be announced in July, including the venue. (They originally included Sept 24th as a whole day devoted to the Backwell SDL. Also, Oct 1st as a whole day devoted to the Nailsea SDL, which is very relevant to Backwell, as the proposed road in the map below serving the 2,600 new houses for Nailsea will cross Backwell Common.)
The following extract from the JSP official notes shows its narrow focus:
We are examining the JSP as submitted by the Councils. Therefore, we will not, at this stage, be considering the merits for development of locations not included in the plan. Should we determine that there is a need for additional or different locations for development to be identified, we will, in the first instance, ask the Councils to consider how they would wish to proceed with the Examination.
It is clear that many residents in North Somerset are very unhappy about the way in which the NSC has decided to attempt to satisfy the housing demand from central government. It is interesting that several newly elected members of NSC share this view. The outcome of these hearings is very unclear. The whole JSP process may appear an administrative and academic exercise, but it needs to be taken very seriously as any agreed regional plan will be the basis for the North Somerset Local Plan and planning applications within Backwell. BPC, BRA and Backwell Resistance (BR) are funding specialists to represent us during this technical but important process. Representatives of BPC, BRA and BR, together with our appointed professionals, will be speaking and/or attending on those days relevant to Backwell.
As well as the houses for Backwell and Nailsea, the JSP also contains new “garden villages” for 2,800 homes near Churchill and 1,900 homes near Banwell. The inspectors could approve, amend or remove any of these.
At the very simplified level the hundreds of pages can be summarised into the schematic map, produced for our BRA AGM. This indicates very graphically how the current JSP proposals would transform our village.
BRA has been working closely with Backwell Parish Council, and Backwell Resistance on the JSP Working Party. BRA recently gave another financial instalment to BPC. Peter Soothill, chairman, wrote thanking “the whole of BRA for the contribution to the JSP fighting fund”, and said “it is an excellent example of our organisations working well together”.
There will be further calls on our funds over the summer. We thank everyone who has renewed their subscription, and we urge any members who have not paid their 2019 subscription to do so as soon as possible please.
West of England Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) – E mail Bulletin April 25th 2019
The JSP has been the subject of several BRA bulletins in the past, the latest of which was the January Newsletter which we delivered to 2,000 households in Backwell and adjacent areas. We explained that the JSP had been created by four councils (Bristol City, Bath and North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset (NSC) known as “West of England”). The JSP allocates housing across this area up to 2036. Unfortunately, Backwell is one of 4 villages in the NSC area allocated a “new community” on its doorstep, with a proposal for 700 houses, and building starting in 2028. The land is around Grove Farm to the west of Backwell. We encouraged BRA members to comment. In the whole region, 4,800 comments were received and we understand that Backwell was well represented in this number. The fact that there is huge public opposition to the JSP proposals for Backwell is very significant.
The time for public comment has passed, and the focus of attention is now on the Examination of the JSP, which is a lengthy technical process. Public comments will be noted and play a big part, but much of the discussion will be on such matters as “Is the JSP “sound”, “robust”, “justified” and “effective”? Planning terms such as these have technical definitions.
The examination details can be found on http://www.hwa.uk.com/projects/west-of-england-joint-spatial-plan/
The main features are:
- The examination will be chaired by 2 inspectors, Malcom Rivett and Steven Lee, supported by a programme officer, Helen Wilson.
- The Hearings will run from Tues July 2nd to Friday July 12th, followed by a summer break, and resume on Tues Sept 17th until Fri Oct 11th. Much of the discussion will be on general considerations e.g. habitat and transport. However, in Sept the focus will be on specific locations. On Tuesday 24th Sept, both am and pm slots will be devoted to Backwell. Hearings are confined to Tues -Thurs, with Fri reserved for any overrun items in the week. The hearings will take place at the Future Inn Bristol, Bond St South (opposite Cabot Circus, not far from the Bristol Evening Post building).
- The Inspectors will consider the technical aspects of the JSP. Backwell has the opportunity to make representations on these. BRA has combined with Backwell Parish Council (BPC), and Backwell Resistance (BR) in appointing Lucy White as our planning consultant. Lucy gave a presentation at the BRA AGM on Feb 12th 2019, is well qualified and a Backwell resident. These organisations are represented on the BPC Working Party thereby showing a united front. Consultancy costs are being shared. The Working party has also commissioned experts in roads and transport, and ecology.
Unlike the Farleigh Fields public inquiry, it is not likely that members of the public will be invited to speak, so our choice of consultants is crucial.
What should members do now?
- Please look at the JSP website www.jointplanningwofe.org.uk/ to refresh your memory of what the JSP says.
- You may like to have a look at the schematic map we sent out in the January Newsletter, reproduced below
- Many thanks to the over 350 households who have paid their £10 membership subscription for 2019. If you have not renewed your BRA membership, we will shortly be sending out reminders. It is a huge help if Backwell can afford to pay for the best advice and representations at the hearings, and for our speakers to be able to quote our large membership numbers. This was a significant feature in our success in defending Farleigh Fields
- Keep an eye open for future bulletins, which will appear between now and the start of the hearings.
Please see below BRA’s response to the technical evidence consultation in conjunction with Backwell Parish Council and Backwell Resistance
Please see below the BRA bulletin of the 4th December 2018
and the statement from Backwell Parish Council 28th November 2018
Please see below the BRA bulletin of the 23rd November 2018
Please see below the BRA bulletin of the 2nd November 2018
Please see the letter below from West of England Joint Planning 4th May 2018
Please see below the letter submitted on the 9th January 2018 behalf of Backwell Residents Association supported by Backwell resistance
Please see the Future of Backwell for the letter of the 5th December 2017 that has been sent to the whole village on behalf of Backwell Parish Council, BRA and Backwell Resistance
Also the BRA bulletin of the 19th December 2017 on Other Info
The Joint Spatial Plan is the long term plan for this area covering the “West of England”, an area formed by the following 4 councils – North Somerset, Bath and NE Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire.
BRA has commented on earlier drafts of these plans, which showed 800 houses around Grove Farm, and we suggested that land near the new link road off the Long Ashton Bypass would be a better option. Our response of December 2016 can be found here Joint Spatial Plan – BRA Letter of Comment December 2016
However, the latest draft still has major housing at Backwell.
These plans, up to 2036, have now been given a new urgency, with meetings and consultations planned for the next few months, and a target date for the end of consultation of 10th January 2018.
The draft plans for North Somerset have new “communities” in only 4 areas – Banwell, Churchill, Backwell and Nailsea. The North Somerset website says:
If the locations for these new communities are confirmed then the new North Somerset Local Plan will need to set out the proposals in more detail.
We would like to discuss with you how we plan for these now so that we can move quickly to the new local plan policies. The aim of the consultation will be to get views on how to shape the new community.
The above suggests that there is some momentum behind the plan and it may be difficult to change it.
It should be stressed that this is currently a long-term strategy, but that the clear intention is to convert it in due course into a detailed plan. So now is the time to understand the proposals, and to seek local views and opinions.
Where is the land? It is on a continuation of Moor Lane into the fields, bounded by the railway line, and Chelvey Road.
Where can we see the JSP? The draft JSP runs to some 400 pages (covering the whole region) and can be viewed on
Key pages relating to Backwell, are Policy 7.4, which is on pages 43 and 44 (Joint Spatial Plan Backwell pages 43 – 44), and the Strategic Development Location Backwell, which is from pages 23 to 30 in this section (Joint Spatial Plan – Backwell)
October 30th 2017 A formal meeting in the Guildhall, Bath, where the top people in the 4 councils approve the draft JSP.
November 9th 2017 Backwell Parish Hall 2.30pm – 7pm. Taylor Wimpey give more detail on their proposals (e.g. timescale and access points), shown in a static exhibition, with TW staff on hand and information on this can be found under Grove Farm Proposal
November30th 2017 Backwell Parish Hall 4pm to 8pm
This is a very important part of the consultation. Members of NSC were on hand to answer questions individually, on a drop-in basis, with display boards etc. around the room.
December 7th 2017 Nailsea Consultation at the Tithe Barn 2pm to 6.30pm
The “Nailsea Community” will have some 2,600 new houses to the SW of the existing town. It is much bigger than the Backwell community, and not very far from Backwell, so is of interest to us.
Other Key Points
- The infrastructure changes to go along with the new housing, such as schools, station improvements, roads etc. are given in very general terms. They include a new crossing of the railway line, and a new A370 junction, near Chelvey. Also, an improved connection to the M5.
- If the land is designated for housing, it will be difficult to have this designation reversed.
- The tentative dates for building at Grove Farm in the JSP is the period 2028-2036, with a peak building rate of 100 houses a year.
- We understand, however, that the developer, TW, has aspirations for a much earlier start to the work, by submitting an outline application in the very near future.
- We will advise members on how and when to comment on the JSP in early December, after the consultation days. We urge you to attend, because these proposals will have a major impact on our village, and we are likely to only have a short time to consider them.
Please see below the transcript of District Councillor Karen Barclay’s address to NSC Executive meeting 14:11:17 – Joint Spatial Plan Publication Version.
“I appreciate that to deliver this number of new homes within NS is a huge challenge. But we really do seem to be putting forward an unworkable and unpopular proposal.
A plan which will decimate large areas of greenfield land within rural towns and villages, and would have a profoundly damaging effect on both the character of the area and surrounding landscape – not forgetting the hundreds of millions of pounds worth of infrastructure improvements needed to deliver the proposals.
We urgently need to be looking to carry out a local greenbelt boundary review within the new local plan. Going forward this could give us more flexibility and choice and potentially enable other areas of land to come forward to be considered……….Like on the southern fringe of Bristol, land which has already been tested through the RSS, has multi-modal transport links in place – meaning additional infrastructure could be delivered more effectively and cheaply – and may ultimately be a much more palatable option to what is currently being proposed.”
District Cllr Karen Barclay