News & Hot Topics

E mail Bulletin 30th November 2019

Dear Member


Background During 2018 there was much activity on the planning application made by Bristol Airport to North Somerset Council (NSC) to expand its operations from the current level of 8m passengers a year to 12m a year, which it expects to achieve in the mid 2020’s. (The present permission allows Bristol Airport to expand to 10m.) The closing date for comments was Jan 26th 2019. We encouraged members to comment, and many did. BRA submitted a letter to NSC, which is attached to this email, on 18th Jan 2019, with the following conclusion:

The airport is seriously constrained by its location, local topography, and very poor road infrastructure. Increased use of air travel cannot be allowed to continue un-checked. The time has come to call a halt to further expansion. BRA therefore feels that it cannot support this application.

Currently the BRA committee is reconsidering this conclusion.

It was expected that NSC would make its planning decision in early 2019. This crucial meeting has not yet taken place, and is now expected in early 2020. There is still the opportunity for comments to be made on the NSC website, by clicking on “Make a Comment”, and we encourage you to do so.

or by post to: Planning Dept, North Somerset Council, Town Hall, Walliscote Grove Road, Weston-super-Mare, BS23 1UJ, making sure you quote the reference 18/P/5118/OUT

What has changed during 2019

  • Local elections, in May 2019, produced a major change in the composition of NSC.
  • There has been much publicity at national and international level of an urgency to tackle climate change, and the negative impact of air travel – emissions, noise etc.
  • Weston Town Council has changed its views and is now objecting, along with Bath & North East Somerset Council, whilst Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council have supported the application.
  • Several authorities have declared Climate Emergencies, including NSC and Nailsea Town Council.
  • The Parish Council Airport Association (PCAA) has registered a strong objection on behalf of its membership of 27 councils, and has developed into a very articulate and powerful group. There is also an organisation called “Stop Bristol Airport Expansion” with a website:


Bristol Airport

Bristol Airport continues to be heavily criticised for not meeting a number of conditions set in previous Planning Permissions, including: using more green belt car parking rather than building a second multi-storey car park; failing to meet noise limits and not penalising airlines; and issues with current night flights. There is also the prospect of changes to flight paths to help accommodate more flights, which could be detrimental to Backwell and residents of other villages.


What has BRA been doing?

We recognise that both the advantages and drawbacks from further expansion are complex and important matters. BRA committee members have tried to gain a better understanding of the issues. On the NSC website there are 650 documents relating to the application, and 5849 public comments, with objections outnumbering those in support by 2:1.

We have attended two public meetings: one in Nailsea hosted by Climate Emergency Nailsea and one in Congresbury hosted by Congresbury Parish Council. We have also attended (as an observer) a meeting of the Bristol Airport Consultative Committee (BACC), at which Backwell Parish Council is represented, and will attend (as an observer) the next meeting of the PCAA. We have also taken an active interest in Bristol Airport’s Noise Action Plan.


Should BRA Object?

The BRA Committee discussed the issues at its meeting on 26 Nov and is now reviewing its position. It resolved to seek views from the BRA membership before submitting a further comment to NSC, by early Jan 2020. Please let us know by Dec 31st (email address below) if you would like us now to Object, or retain our previous, slightly ambiguous stance of ‘cannot support’. The committee thinks this is one of the most important topics it has had to deal with. We are not experts, but are trying to consider the best interests of the community and the environment. If we have any experts on airport operations, noise, pollution, please come and help us! We realise that there is a wide cross section of views in Backwell, from whole hearted support to passionate objection.

Following this consultation, we may send a revised letter in Jan 2020.

One key point to bear in mind is that Bristol Airport has permission to expand from the current 8m passengers a year to 10m, a 25% increase. The current application is for Bristol Airport to go up to 12m, with aspirations up to 20m a year. The organisations seeking to halt further expansion are NOT seeking a decrease in passenger numbers from the current level, or to prevent the already agreed expansion.

The letter from BRA to NSC dated 18.1.2019 can be found here Comments on Bristol Airport Planning Application 18th January 2019



E mail Bulletin 23rd October 2019

Dear Member


The land in question can be seen on the link below (coloured red) 

Map – Scout Hut land

You may remember that in our bulletin of 15.9.19 we mentioned that surveyors, using poles and theodolites, had been seen on the field beside the Scout Hut.

It has now been confirmed by Taylor Wimpey (TW) that it is considering a development of up to 60 houses on this land, with access from Rodney Road.

We encourage all interested residents to attend a consultation with TW to be held on Thursday 21st November in Backwell Parish Hall from 3pm and into the evening.

No planning application has yet been made and one will not be submitted before the consultation. TW has said that this proposal is quite separate from its previous proposed development at Grove Farm.

TW is currently building 65 houses off Moor Lane. As well as the field near the Scout Hut it is in control of all the fields around Grove Farm These fields are NOT in the Green Belt, but they are outside the Backwell Settlement Boundary

We urge residents to go to the consultation meeting to find out more from TW. More details will emerge when the outline planning application is made, and this will the time for you to make your views formally known. We will keep members informed of dates etc.


E mail Bulletin 15th September 2019

We hope everyone has had a good summer. The recess has come to a sudden end! This bulletin covers 4 topics

  • Joint Spatial Plan (JSP)
  • Land between the Scout Hut and West Leigh Infants School
  • Proposals for major development at the Cumberland Basin
  • A370 road night closures later this month

Joint Spatial Plan (JSP)

You will recall that this is a Regional Plan which included 700 houses on land around Grove Farm in Backwell. Government Inspectors examined this at hearings in Bath, and produced a brief letter which was highly critical of the proposals. A further, more detailed, letter has now been received which strongly recommends the withdrawal of this JSP. North Somerset Council (NSC) has yet to respond. However, it is inevitable that a Plan will need to be prepared for North Somerset and this could still include significant housing at Backwell and Nailsea. We will keep members informed.


Western Harbour and Cumberland Basin

Bristol City Council has produced a consultation document on a range of possible developments for this area. The 8-page document can be viewed on or can be download here BRA letter 13.9.19 Cumberland basin.

The document concentrates on the impact to that local area, and has invited comments by 15.9.19. We did not think it necessary to ask Backwell residents to make individual comments given this is so early in the process. The BRA committee however considers that the major transport requirements of North Somerset have not been given sufficient weight. We have submitted a letter to this effect on behalf of members, which is also attached to this email.

A Complex Problem

  • The current infrastructure, created in the 1960’s is ageing and expensive to maintain.
  • The Maritime Act ensures that vessels are allowed to pass through the locks.
  • The Avon Gorge and Suspension Bridge are major landmarks. Historic England has expressed concern over some of the proposals.
  • Flooding risk needs to be managed.
  • The proposals have attempted to maximise the likely use of walking, cycling and public transport. The capacity for other vehicles will be reduced.
  • The area, including the Riverside Garden Centre, will provide 2,500 new homes.
  • Bristol has problems with achieving air quality targets already.

Impact on Backwell

The Cumberland Basin is a key part of many journeys made by Backwell residents, whether for work, access to the city centre, en route to the M5 North or the M4. It is currently often very congested, and the cause of much frustration.

Next Steps

We encourage members to read the proposals, and the accompanying BRA letter. Any future proposals for North Somerset will be affected by decisions on the Cumberland Basin area. We do not think there is a need for immediate action from Backwell residents, but will communicate future developments as they occur.


Land between the Scout Hut and West Leigh Infants School

There is a public footpath between the Scout Hut and West Leigh Infants School which runs close to a hedge with fields on the left. These fields are not in the Green Belt, but are outside the settlement boundary. In the last few days there has been significant activity here with surveyors using poles and theodolites, which suggests that proposals for development could be being prepared. We understand that the field next to the Scout Hut (which adjoins Grove Farm) is in the control of Taylor Wimpey.

Until an application emerges, there is not much point in speculation, apart from noting that any access onto Rodney Road would be adding to a very difficult traffic situation.


A370 Night Closures Mon 23rd Sept to Mon 30th Sept from 8pm to 6am

This will affect the A370 from its junction with Church Lane below The George Pub, up to the junction with the quarry entrance at Stancombe Lane. It will be closed for 6 nights in both directions. Marshals will be present to help with local access requirements. The main task will be carriageway surfacing, along with road markings, signage and drainage improvements. The plans may change as work proceeds. No work will be carried out on Sat and Sun nights.


Village Show – Parish and WI Halls 2pm – 4.30pm Saturday 21st Sept

BRA will have a stall in the WI Hall at this popular event where we will be delighted to meet anyone.



Western Harbour and Cumberland Basin Consultation

Bristol City Council are consulting on changes to Cumberland Basin and the link below gives details of the proposed schemes.

WST102 WestHarbour_A0_V21_Print

The consultations closes on the 15th September and BRA are preparing a response to Bristol City Council.


E mail Bulletin 4th August 2019

Unusually this bulletin closely follows our previous one of just a couple of days ago. It gives information on a photo event tomorrow to publicise the lack of disabled access at our station, and also two highways matters in Backwell.

Disabled access at Nailsea/Backwell Station

Members will be aware that our railway station has ramps to reach the platform for trains to Bristol, but in the other direction there are only steps making it totally inaccessible for some, e.g. wheelchair users, and very difficult for those with a push chair or a bicycle or older passengers travelling with suitcases. The Parish Council, BRA and a small group of committed residents have been trying for years to persuade Network Rail and/or Great Western Railway (GWR) to address this serious issue.

Despite various investigations, surveys and promises, and confirmation from Network Rail that this station is one of the 10 most inaccessible in the country, nothing has materialized. The final straw has been a recent letter from GWR advising that the cost of installing a lift (the latest proposal) is estimated at £4.9m, with potentially a further £5m needed for further upgrades and safety installations – and that, therefore, the proposal is financially unsustainable.

We feel this level of costs seems extraordinary and requires further analysis. To support the case, a gathering has been arranged at the station, to be attended by a North Somerset Times photographer at 10.30a.m. tomorrow on Monday 5 August. A photo shoot of a large crowd at the station will be used to publicise the level of support.

Please try to spend a few minutes on Monday to be present. The organiser is Alison Morgan who has spent years trying to improve our station’s accessibility.


The information for the highways can be seen on the North Somerset Council website, which is our source (by clicking on the link below)

Station Road Closure Fri 23rd August 9am to 4pm.

Station Rd will be closed from 9am to 4pm on Friday 23rd August for “Remedial works to the carriageway.”

Moor Lane – Temporary Parking Restrictions 15th Aug 2019 to 15th Feb 2021

There will be a restriction on parking in Moor Lane, The Briars, and a small part of Long Thorn to facilitate plant deliveries to the new construction site for 65 dwellings required by Taylor Wimpey. It will be operative from 7.30 to 17.30 Mon to Fri, and on Saturdays from 7.30 to 13.00. The details of the “Notice of Intent” for the parking  can be found here Moor Lane Parking August 2019

Please note that the timing of works is subject to change, so anyone seriously affected should check the website nearer the date.

We thought members would like advance warning, particularly the closure of Station Rd on the Friday before the Bank Holiday.


E mail Bulletin 2nd August 2019


Good News!!

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.

Post Hearings Letter Final August 19

Next Steps

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.

Thank You

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!



E mail Bulletin 17th July 2019


Dear Member

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. 

Thank you

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.


E mail Bulletin 20th June 2019

Dear Member


This bulletin gives the outcome of the Coles Quarry application following the meeting yesterday at North Somerset Council, and updates on the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) and Bristol Airport. These 3 developments each has a dedicated tab on the BRA website where further information can be found, including links to key documents.


Planning Application No. 16/P/0674/F for 3800 sq.m of industrial buildings:

Regrettably, despite over 200 local objections, and a strong statement from a local resident at the Planning meeting yesterday, this application was approved by North Somerset Council. The Committee was not sufficiently persuaded by our major concerns about increased traffic and pollution etc, and was swayed by the Planning Officer’s strong recommendation, and the opportunity for the Council to get, free of cost to them, “improvements” to the recycling centre. The request by our District Councillor, Bridget Petty, to refuse the application was lost by 12 votes to 10.

We do have an opportunity to influence the detail of the conditions to be applied to the consent before it is formally issued, and work will be done on this over the next few days


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.



The above application by Bristol Airport, to expand from 10 million passengers a year up to 12 million, has been sitting in the NSC in-tray since Dec 2018.

It contains 2626 comments from members of the public and 426 documents!

NSC officers will clearly be studying these, but as yet no date has been set for a meeting of the Planning committee of councillors to discuss it. BRA has made comments on the application, and also on the Noise Action Plan which covers many of the concerns of residents – night flights, mitigation proposals and monitoring of pollution and noise.

The Bristol Airport tab on the BRA website has the BRA bulletin of 9.1.2019 which was dedicated to the airport.

So far, we have had no indication of when the application will be considered.

Best wishes to all our members, and we hope you enjoy the summer.