Landscape protection at 'Saltford South': Response to B&NES Council & SPC seeks support from Jacob Rees-Mogg MP - Saltford Parish Council

Saltford Parish Council has responded to B&NES Council following its rejection of the Parish Council’s bid for landscape protection at ‘Saltford South’, requesting that B&NES Council reconsiders the basis of its views and decision. Saltford Parish Council has also questioned the process taken by B&NES Council following its requests for landscape designation.

For context, in January 2023, Saltford Parish Council requested B&NES Council designate landscape protection (AGLV or LGS) at ‘Saltford South’. Please find information in Saltford PC’s news article ‘SPC agrees to seek designated landscape protection for ‘Saltford South” (including case paper, map and photo tour).

In January 2024, Saltford PC sent B&NES Council a reaffirmation paper with its request for designated landscape protection at ‘Saltford South’, following B&NES Council rejecting Saltford PC’s bid. This included a copy of the reaffirmation paper, available in Saltford PC’s news article ‘SPC reaffirms to B&NES Council request for ‘Saltford South’ designated landscape protection‘. 

In response to Saltford PC’s reaffirmation paper request, Saltford PC received an email dated 25 January 2024 from Cllr Matthew McCabe, B&NES Council Cabinet Member for Built Environment and Sustainable Development. This outlined B&NES Council’s reasons for declining Saltford PC’s bid for landscape designation.

Saltford PC resolved its response to Cllr McCabe’s email at its February 2024 meeting. A copy of SPC’s response is below in bold, as sent to Cllr McCabe as well as B&NES Council Cabinet Members, and copied to B&NES Council’s Saltford Ward Councillors, Keynsham Town Council, and B&NES Planning Policy officers.

Further, it was resolved at Saltford PC’s February meeting to seek the support of Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg MP regarding the Parish Council’s request for landscape designation at ‘Saltford South’. Saltford PC has since requested a meeting with Sir Jacob and members of its Local Plan Working Group – comprising of Cllr Jon Godfrey (SPC Chair), Cllr David Halton (Vice Chair), Cllr Phil Harding (Planning Chair) and Cllr Gary Graveling. 

Any further updates on this matter will be shared on SPC’s ‘News‘ page, and also included where relevant in SPC’s meeting minutes at ‘Meetings – Agendas and Minutes‘ (draft minutes published c. 1 week following a meeting).

Response to B&NES Cabinet Member Matt McCabe from Saltford PC, 7 February 2024:

01 Thank you for your email of 25th January. Saltford Parish Council resolved at its full meeting of the Council on 6th February that I should reply with the following response.

02 On behalf of the local community that we represent, Saltford Parish Council (SPC) is disappointed that the bid has seemingly been rejected by B&NES Council at this early stage in the Local Plan drafting stage. It appears that no formal criteria and decision-making process within B&NES Council for reaching that decision has been used, which SPC considers to be a matter of great concern.

03 It is evident that B&NES Council does not have a formal process for Parish Councils to apply for a landscape designation in the Local Plan process where a community places great value on the natural, historic and environmental attributes of a local landscape, despite the requirements of the NPPF (version December 2023, paragraph 180) that planning policies and decisions should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment including protecting and enhancing valued landscapes.

04 In the absence of that formal application process, SPC would have appreciated greater consideration of its detailed application, submitted in January 2023 and reaffirmed in January 2024, and the opportunity to discuss it properly. Instead, it was dismissed, almost as an aside, at a meeting with your planning officers in November 2023 and then confirmed by your email of 25th January after SPC submitted a reaffirmation of its request. No opportunity has been given for SPC to receive a fair hearing by B&NES Council. SPC appreciates that B&NES Council has a significant administrative task in delivering a new Local Plan, but that is not a reason to dismiss serious and locally important applications for landscape designations, such as that submitted by SPC.

05 Each application that may arise should be examined on its merit if B&NES Council genuinely wants to protect nature, the local environment and the individual character of the settlements within its area. Perhaps if B&NES Council did have a formal application process, it would be less nervous about allowing Parish Councils to have the temerity to ask it to protect landscapes that contain natural habitats and green open spaces that are greatly valued by the local community.

06 To inform SPC that the B&NES Council decision to reject its landscape designation request is based on the 2017 Placemaking Plan, when landscape designations were last assessed, is an inappropriate means of determining landscape value in 2024.

07 The 2017 Placemaking Plan, in itself, does not have the force of law. It is an ‘intentions document’ and, as such, recognises that many of the data upon which such plans might be made will become quickly redundant. What the 2017 Placemaking Plan did not change, however, is the Housing Development Boundary surrounding Saltford. The plan stated, “Saltford Village meets the criteria of a Policy RA1 settlement. Housing development can come forward within the Housing Development Boundary (HDB). However, opportunities outside the HDB are limited and will be considered in the context of Green Belt Policy. There are currently no exceptional circumstances to change the Green Belt boundary to enable housing to come forward” (Vol. 5, paragraph 133, page 39). Nowhere in the Placemaking Plan does it state that AGLV (or similar) proposals would not be allowed to be considered by council members. There is therefore no basis for its rejection.

08 Since 2017, the loss of parcels of open landscape to new or forthcoming developments between Keynsham and Saltford, for example the Hygge Park, Withies Green, and Pixash Lane Recycling Centre expansion developments, means that the remaining green open landscape and in particular the Green Belt surrounding Saltford is now of even greater value to the local community and to wildlife. Its value has been amplified greatly since 2017, not diminished, yet our Local Planning Authority is unwilling to recognise that its own planning policy decisions that have led to so much loss of green open spaces has had such an effect.

09 That increase in value since 2017 means that all of the remaining Green Belt surrounding Saltford’s housing area, i.e. Saltford South and Saltford North which contains important wildlife habit and green open spaces with PROW footpaths, should be granted “NE2A Landscape Setting of Settlements” status, or similar, to reflect that reality.

10 Saltford North was not included in SPC’s landscape designation request as it already has several protections (e.g. River Avon SNCI, flood plain, Conservation Area setting, SSSI, Anglo Saxon Burial Ground, CAA regulations re. safeguarding Saltford Airfield, Cotswolds National Landscape proximity).

11 However, in view of B&NES Council’s disappointing attitude towards protecting important landscapes, SPC will now consider whether to expand the original request whilst considering other means of achieving protection in the absence of support from our Local Planning Authority. SPC obviously reserves the right to appeal to the Secretary of State.

12 Furthermore, as SPC made clear in its reaffirmation paper, the Environment Act 2021 and its Environmental Principles Policy Statement (EPPS) from 1st November 2023 puts an even greater emphasis on the natural environment in the NPPF. In announcing the latest update of the NPPF on 19th December 2023, Secretary of State Michael Gove said: “England’s cities are already less dense than those of most of our European neighbours. That is environmentally wasteful and economically inefficient. We seek to support the gentle densification of urban areas in preference to the erosion of Green Belt land. That is why the Government is ensuring it is clear there is generally no requirement on local authorities to review or alter Green Belt boundaries if this would be the only way to meet housing need.” SPC is asking and imploring B&NES Council to comply with the spirit and intent of national planning and environmental policies.

13 Despite this disagreement with our Local Planning Authority on such an important matter for the community that we represent, SPC will, of course, continue to engage with the Local Plan options and drafting consultation process.

14 The draft Local Plan stage, when B&NES Council will confirm its position in respect of the landscape around Saltford, seems too late in the process, irreversible decisions may have been made, so it is important that dialogue between B&NES Council Planners and SPC Councillors continues before then.

15 Indeed, we note your comment that for “the landscape setting defined for Saltford, the question will be posed in the Options Document as to whether stakeholders agree with the current designation, or whether they consider that the designation should be changed.” SPC hopes you will listen to the real stakeholders in local landscapes, the local community, and not vested interests who merely see an opportunity for short-term financial gain, then leave the community to live with the consequences of inappropriate development. Our landscapes are an intrinsic part of our heritage and the reason why people live where they do.

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