At its 7 June 2022 meeting, SPC resolved to write to Jacob Rees-Mogg MP concerning the decision made by B&NES Council’s Planning Committee on 4th May to give outline planning consent for 213 houses at Withies Green, Keynsham (application 20/02673/OUT) despite significant opposition from the local community, Keynsham Town Council, and Saltford Parish Council.
Saltford Parish Council is of the view that irrespective of that opposition, the planning decision contravened NPPF (2021) and the existing B&NES Local Plan whilst undermining the forthcoming Local Plan Partial Update (LPPU) Public Examination concerning the development of this otherwise safeguarded land.
SPC views that a premature decision was made by B&NES Council regarding application 20/02673/OUT, and that its decision that this development at Withies Green should proceed irrespective of the findings of the LPPU Public Examination Report will set a dangerous precedent unless the Secretary of State calls-in the decision before the Public Examination commences on 21st June.
As such Saltford Parish Council has sent a copy of its 7th June LPPU written statement (also resolved at SPC’s June meeting) to Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, and requested he intervenes by asking the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to call in for his determination this controversial planning decision and provide to the Secretary of State Saltford Parish Council’s LPPU Public Examination representation evidence that supports in detail the case for the call-in. Saltford Parish Council is aware of a similar request from Keynsham Town Council, who met to discuss this issue last month.
Saltford Parish Council’s detailed reasons for this action can be found in its submitted written representation to the Local Plan Partial Update (LPPU) Public Examination as agreed at SPC’s June meeting (the first meeting held by SPC following the B&NES Council decision to give planning consent for the houses at Withies Green). A copy can also be found below.
These comments are further to those submitted by SPC following its May 2022 meeting (Annex 1 – that Saltford Parish Council sent to the Public Examination making the case for not developing this parcel of safeguarded Green Belt land between Keynsham and Saltford; the development does not contribute to sustainable development and B&NES was well ahead of its housing delivery targets, targets that have not been lowered to take account of the Green Belt) and October 2021 meeting (Annex 2).
For reference, previous articles relating to this matter are at: SPC’s Consultation Response to shape B&NES planning policy (February 2021); SPC responds to Local Plan Partial Update (LPPU) consultation (October 2021); and SPC adds to its response to Local Plan Partial Update (LPPU) consultation (May 2022).
7th June 2022 – Supplementary representation from Saltford Parish Council to the Examination of the B&NES Local Plan Partial Update (LPPU)
This supplementary representation is new evidence that is additional to SPC’s representation of 3.5.2022 submitted to the Public Examination. As in that evidence, this supplementary evidence addresses the Inspector’s Question 57 under Matter 4: Area Policies and allocations: Keynsham. The Inspector’s question was “… Policy KE3B safeguards land at East of Keynsham for development beyond the end of the plan period. What is the justification for the proposed allocation of this land now, and is the allocation of the land consistent with national policy as expressed in paragraph 143 of the NPPF?”
Further to SPC’s representation dated 3rd May 2022 (attached as annex #1 and #2), B&NES Council’s Planning Committee made a significant and controversial premature planning decision on 4th May that was in direct contravention of the existing Local Plan (policy KE3B). That was to approve theoutline planning application 20/02673/OUT from Mactaggart and Mickel Homes Ltd for construction of 213 dwellings etc. at Withies Green, Keynsham (i.e. policy KE3C) before the LPPU Public Examination.That was despite nearly 600 objections including robust objections from Saltford Parish Council and Keynsham Town Council, representing the two most directly affected Town/Parish council areas.
That planning decision has undermined the Inspector’s Public Examination of the LPPU by pre-empting the Inspector’s Examination Report as if it has no bearing or influence on such a major and controversial planning decision. The outline planning permission also contravenes NPPF (2021) paragraph 140that requires such changes to be made through the preparation or updating of [local] plans.
The southernmost field of the expanded development area is outside of the safeguarded land designation and is within the Bristol and Bath Green Belt. Its change of use for recreational purposes, normally an acceptable use of Green Belt land, and its addition to a development so as to allow a development to proceed before and without a public consultation in a Local Plan’s Public Examination of its review (i.e. update), is unsafe and undemocratic. There has not, for example, been a test to determine if that “change of use”, either wholly or in part, near Manor Road Community Woodland and open fields in the Green Belt would be acceptable to the community, as represented by the Town Council and B&NES Council, in a stand-alone planning application. It is open to question whether such a change of use, either wholly or in part, would be permitted without the new housing development due to the detrimental effect on the openness of the remaining Green Belt at this location.
That outline planning application, 20/02673/OUT, was submitted in July 2020. A further few months’ wait for the Inspector’s Examination findings before B&NES Council reached a decision would be considered reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances. A successful challenge for that delay, that is necessary to enable compliance with national and local planning policies, would be unlikely. The democratic process that allows the community and its elected representatives to make representations to the B&NES LPPU Public Examination for KE3C itself has thus been denied.
The Local Plan and 3 NPPF policies contravened by the planning decision of 4th May are:-
B&NES Local Plan policy KE3B (“development of the safeguarded land will be granted only when it is proposed for development following a review of the Local Plan.”)*
*SPC contends that the updating of a Local Plan is not complete until the review including the Public Examination Report confirms soundness and legal compliance.
NPPF (2021) paragraph 16 (c) (plans should “be shaped by early, proportionate and effectiveengagement between plan-makers and communities, local organisations, businesses, infrastructure providers and operators and statutory consultees”).
NPPF (2021) paragraph 140 (once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered where exceptional circumstances are fully evidenced and justified, through the preparation or updating of plans. Strategic policies should establish the need for any changes to Green Belt boundaries, having regard to their intended permanence in the long term, so they can endure beyond the plan period… etc.).
NPPF (2021) paragraph 143(d) (“When defining Green Belt boundaries, plans should: … “make clear that the safeguarded land is not allocated for development at the present time. Planning permission for the permanent development of safeguarded land should only be granted following an update to a plan which proposes the development).
The contraventions detailed above are exacerbated by the strong opposition in the community, hence nearly 600 objections, and in the objections from the local Town and Parish Councils to the planning application for KE3C. That level of opposition should have informed B&NES Council of the need to fully test the development’s soundness and legal compliance through the Public Examination process prior to granting planning permission, especially as it had refused permission for this site’s development in 2018.
That similar planning application for 200 houses on this site (18/01509/OUT) was REFUSED by B&NES Council in December 2018. The reasons for refusal given then included that the release of the safeguarded land had not been allocated through a Local Plan Review(!) and that “the existing road network in the vicinity of the site has insufficient capacity to accommodate the increase in traffic likely to be generated by the proposed development”. Prolonged periods of traffic congestion in the Keynsham area have demonstrably worsened since 2018 hence the strong opposition to the new application 20/02673/OUT that B&NES Council has chosen to discount.
SPC is concerned that the Council has failed to allow the justification, sound evidence and very special circumstances for deleting policy KE3B to allow KE3C’s development to be properly tested and examined by the LPPU Public Examination. A genuine need to develop KE3C (now incorporating the change of use for a Green Belt land parcel) before 2029 remains unproven, as SPC’s 3rd May representation showed.
SPC contends that B&NES Council has undermined confidence and trust in its own Local Plan and to plan-led land use planning in the B&NES area. This sets a dangerous precedent that will be exploited by developers and others seeking to develop parcels of land including Green Belt land that are otherwise afforded protection by Local Plan and NPPF policies.
RECOMMENDATION FROM SALTFORD PARISH COUNCIL
B&NES Council’s action as detailed above creates a precedent that other Local Planning Authorities might wish to follow whilst this Public Examination’s decisions affecting KE3B, KE3C and KE3D are also undermined by its actions. Therefore, SPC recommends that the Inspector continues to seek a full and evidence-based answer from B&NES Council to Question 57 as it applies to KE3C and KE3D.
If the Inspector is not completely satisfied that the case for the deletion of policy KE3B this early in the Local Plan period and before 2029 is sound or legally compliant, and/or that B&NES should not pre-empt the Public Examination and contravene the NPPF or change the use of a parcel of non-safeguarded parcel of Green Belt land as part of an expanded KE3C, SPC strongly recommends that the Public Examination Report should either:
(a) recommend that B&NES Council submits its planning decision of 4.5.2022 concerning 20/02673/OUT to the Secretary of State for final determination on whether the outline planning permission it granted was sound and met the test of very special circumstances to justify the KE3C housing development, with or without KE3C’s expansion to include non-safeguarded Green Belt land, before 2029, or
(b) ask the Secretary of State to call in the decision as a matter of urgency, again for the Secretary of State to determine.
Recommendation (b) is SPC’s preferred option as urgency is now required to prevent the development from progressing. Such action should also help towards restoring the community’s trust and confidence in the B&NES Local Plan’s ability to prevent unsuitable developments from receiving planning permission.
ARTICLE UPDATE: 27 June 2022
On 27 June 2022, Saltford Parish Council received a letter from Jacob Rees-Mogg stating the following:
Thank you for your recent letter in respect of the outline planning consent given for a large development at Withies Green, Keynsham and for providing me with a copy of Saltford Parish Council’s representation to the Examination into the examination of the Bath and North East Somerset Local Plan Partial Update.
I have made representations on your behalf to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, in respect of your request that the planning decision be called in and will write to you again as soon as I have received a response