Meeting: Dr Liam Fox MP

My personal takeaways from the meeting.

  • Julie Wakeford and I met Dr Fox for about 25 minutes at Clevedon Town Hall this evening (22 May)
  • Although no one is calling it as such, there is a de facto freeze on any decisions relating to new housing developments until Greg Clark, the Secretary of State makes a decision on the number of houses that need to be built in North Somerset over the next decade. This is aided, I think, by the Council giving new councillors time to ‘bed in’. “So nothing is happening.”
  • We are a test case and any decision is likely to set a precedent. All eyes are on North Somerset.
  • Dr Fox is certainly being proactive – having met the new Secretary of State within hours of his appointment. In his words, “the incoming Secretary of State is broadly more sympathetic than the out-going Secretary of State” [Mr Pickles].
  • The Secretary of State could decide to lower the number of new homes North Somerset needs. Maybe that is unlikely, but Dr Fox seemed to suggest that a good decision would be for North Somerset to be given more time (especially with regards any perceived ‘backlog’) to build the 14,000 homes ‘required’ (from now until 2026). Furthermore, we are entering a new planning ‘cycle’ – taking us not to 2026, but out to 2036.
  • With more time, North Somerset could accommodate that scale of housing growth – in part on land already earmarked around Junction 21… without the need to touch ‘green field’ sites and unsustainable developments in Service Villages. See this position statement on Dr Fox’s website.
  • Dr Fox is confident that the Council would be on strong ground refusing all applications that encroach into flood zones, SSSI’s, etc. – and that to do otherwise would be at odds with Government policy. But stranger things have happened; we need to be vigilant and vocal.
  • North Somerset has “done its bit” (towards the overall national housing need) and Yatton could not absorb anywhere near the disproportionate number of new homes proposed.
  • Dr Fox would be happy to speak to us all – so we should follow-up the call for an extraordinary meeting of the parish council – or organise such a meeting ourselves. Probably best to wait until Greg Clark makes his decision; but as soon as possible afterwards – when we know the lie of the land.
  • Even Bloor Homes only have ‘outline planning consent’ for their first phase. There is a long way to go.
  • Dr Fox will add some information about the context for all this on his website. Likewise, we’ll continue to do what we’re doing.

In a nutshell: we probably have more time than we thought we had… but, and it is a big but… that does not translate to taking our foot off the pedal.

We must continue to lodge our objections, write to Dr Fox, organise, and make some noise.

Postscript: in Dr Fox’s own words…

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