Planners throw out homes scheme that was 'too car-dependent'

March 01 2019
Council-backed plan for 1,500 Hengrove homes rejected

A ROW over plans affecting a prominent open space in South Bristol has ended in a victory for residents.

By Amanda Cameron

Local Democracy Reporter*

A ROW over plans affecting a prominent park in south Bristol has ended in a victory for residents.

A planning committee rejected the council’s own plans for 1,500 homes in Hengrove and Whitchurch Park yesterday because they did not comply with a soon-to-be-adopted neighbourhood plan.
The development plan for the neighbourhood, drawn up by residents themselves, will be formally adopted by Bristol City Council after 85 per cent of residents voted for it in a local referendum two weeks ago.
The neighbourhood plan calls for higher density housing to keep more of the park than the council plan, and for enough facilities and employment opportunities to meet community needs.
Resident Phil Smith said city planners had shown “complete disdain” for the neighbourhood plan by proposing one that was “significantly and obviously different”.
“It is difficult to appreciate the mindset of a city planning department that can promote a planning proposal that does not follow the lead of a referendum-approved plan,” Mr Smith told the planning committee. “This is in breach of the Localism Act of 2011.”
The committee rejected the outline plans submitted by the council by eight votes to three.
Resident Ruth Andrews broke down in tears when the result was announced.
Mrs Andrews, who is a member of the Hengrove and Whitchurch Park Neighbourhood Planning Forum, said: “I’m just so pleased that they’ve turned down the proposal because it is a lovely area. We can do so much with it.
“We’re happy to have houses there – of course we need houses – but we need all the other infrastructure that goes with it.”
The planning committee agreed with residents that the council proposal did not comply with the neighbourhood plan because housing density was too low, the park was not big enough, category A trees would be lost, no employment space was provided and there were not enough community services or facilities.
The proposed housing development was also considered too car-dependent and so not sustainable in the long term.
Labour councillor for Horfield Olly Mead said: “We keep building huge estates on the edges of cities that are car dependent.
“Everyone has to travel by car to go to a doctor, by car to go to a school, by car to go to a shop, by car to go to work, and by car to go to the cinema.
“We’re just building up an extra big problem that will worsen air quality down there and make people sick as well as stuck in traffic trying to do anything.”
Challenged by committee chair Donald Alexander, Labour councillor for Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston, on where people were “supposed to live”, Cllr Mead said the development should ensure a “decent lifestyle” for the people in the area.
“I don’t think that’s an unreasonable ask for new development,” he said.
Andrew Gamlin, co-chair of the Hengrove and Whitchurch Park Neighbourhood Planning Forum, called the decision a “really, really great result for the community”.
“This victory is a fantastic advert for local planning and just goes to show that it’s worth putting a neighbourhood plan in place and it’s worth two and a half years’ work.”
Tim Kent, Liberal Democrat councillor for Hengrove and Whitchurch Park, said he said was “delighted” the council’s plan was rejected following the February 14 referendum.
“It’s shameful really, that 13 days after residents vote, they tried to sort of force through a plan that did not meet requirements,” he said.
“Our door is open now. We want to meet with the mayor’s team. We want a new application to come forward which meets the neighbourhood plan and meets the desires of the residents.”
Paul Smith, cabinet member for housing, said he was “disappointed with the decision” but the authority would be “looking again at the proposal”.
“Hengrove Park is being developed over 20 years and the housing was the last piece in the jigsaw,” he added.

* The Local Democracy Reporter scheme is funded by the BBC out of the TV licence. It pays for 150 reporters around the country to cover some of the issues that newspapers often do not have the staff for any  more – mainly council issues but also involving other public bodies including the police and schools. South Bristol Voice is a member of the scheme, which means we have the right to use the stories produced by the three Local Democracy Reporters in Bristol. We aren’t able to influence which stories are chosen or how they are written. The  Local Democracy Reporters work at the offices of Bristol Live (publisher of the Bristol Post) and are managed by Bristol Live.