Council scraps planning blueprint

February 28 2020

SOUTH Gloucestershire Council is abandoning a blueprint for 105,000 homes across the West of England.

Council leader Toby Savage says the authority will formally withdraw from the Joint Spatial Plan at its full council meeting in February.

It follows years of costly cross-border collaboration between the four neighbouring unitary authorities, including Bristol and Bath & North East Somerset, which ended in disarray when planning inspectors rejected it last summer.

The inspectors highlighted “fundamental concerns” with the joint spatial plan – a document setting out where 105,000 homes would be built by 2036 – and demanded “radical” changes.

They admonished the four councils for trying to make the evidence fit into their housing, jobs and infrastructure strategy, rather than being led by it, and ordered them to go back to the drawing board.

The JSP included plans for five new major developments in South Gloucestershire, all of them north of the M4.

North Somerset Council became the first to officially pull the plug on the JSP and instead push ahead with its own local plan. Bath & North East Somerset Council has since also pulled out. Bristol City Council has yet to announce a decision.

Conservative Mr Savage told fellow South Gloucestershire cabinet members at a meeting on January 13: “We will be considering a similar report to North Somerset at the February full council meeting and, it would seem, make that formal decision to withdraw from the JSP process.

“We will need to continue working jointly with our neighbouring authorities, not least because of the legal duty to cooperate but also, in the case of Bristol and B&NES, we work together through the West of England Combined Authority.

“In terms of the split between what will sit in any new strategic-level document and what will sit within our own local plan, that is still to be discussed and decided.”

A council spokesman said the JSP was “not viable in its current form” and the authority is already drawing up its own local plan.

A spokesman said: “We remain committed to working with our three neighbouring West of England councils and the West of England Combined Authority on the best way forward for the region, to positively address its strategic planning needs.

“We do know that we need to find space to build homes for the growing number of people of all ages who want to live and work in South Gloucestershire.

“That demand hasn’t gone away and we have a legal duty to work to meet it.

“We want our entire community to be involved in the development of the new Local Plan and we remain committed to plan-led development designed to meet local needs and we will continue to resist speculative applications from developers who do not share our vision to keep South Gloucestershire a great place to live and work.”

A Weca spokesperson said: “Weca remains committed to working with the four West of England councils on the best way forward for the region to positively address its strategic planning needs.

“Weca and the councils will be jointly commissioning a refresh of the strategic evidence base.”

By Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporting Service