Council Leader supports saving the orchard

The following are snippets from the debate on the revised Site Allocation Plan held during the Executive Committee meeting on Tuesday 18 October 2016. 

Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, Deputy Leader: There are a couple of sites that are controversial

Cllr Elfan Ap Rees: while we could reduce the [Moor Road] housing allocation to 60 dwellings so that there is no actual housing development in the orchard… at this stage there is no alternative access to the main site [the former training pitches] except through Moor Lane [sic]… and we cannot guess whether the adjoining [rugby] field on the other side would come forward in time. So at this stage the developer is looking at access through the orchard. So while I could recommend an amendment to reduce the allocation to 60 dwellings with no development in the orchard other than access… other than that I would need to stand by the main recommendation.

Cllr Nigel Ashton, Leader of the Council: I said earlier on that I agreed with the comments made by Mr Bridger. There will be comments coming in [during the consultation] about that site, and I will be supporting it, because there are alternatives. I think it’s about time we looked at Yatton ‘in the whole’, and stop looking at it site by site by site, so they lose every time and don’t get anything for it. That’s got to stop. You mention the rugby club site – I’ve been involved in talks on that; we can progress that. If the people involved are also the same people involved in other sites, we put it altogether and work it out logically, we could actually make progress. When I’ve attended meetings and they’ve said, ‘well, we can’t do this until we do that’, and that’s a different group of people… that’s nonsense. That’s just got to stop. We’ve got to look at it properly. We’ve had two housing allocations come out that weren’t expected in the last couple of weeks, so that can more than replace that, and also the site of the rugby ground who are looking to put the housing on that at some stage. That hasn’t been in the Plan either, so there is more compensation around… and actually makes more sense because the access could go through onto the High Street, rather than onto a totally inadequate and inappropriate Moor Lane [sic]. But I won’t talk about that site ;)


Cllr Jill Iles, Yatton Ward: I am requesting that the orchard is removed from the SAP. The main reason for the objection to this site is that it lies at the entrance into the village.

Cllr Nigel Ashton: We are not rubber-stamping anything. I haven’t agreed to anything in here [the SAP]. It is going out for consultation. I will ask that all the comments you’ve raised so far will be included in the report, and any that are going to be coming back in over time; the public statements at the beginning of the meeting will be included, and I’m sure the statements from me will be included. Then it will come back and go to Scrutiny and even more comments will be put in. This is not rubber-stamping anything… it’s just that at some stage things have got to go out for consultation. We don’t like everything in there? That’s true… but as well as taking some things out, there are some things which we can also be putting in now… and we’d never get a document in any fit state to go out…

Cllr Porter re settlement hierarchy: He [the inspector] basically said that because Sandford was near to Winscombe it was sustainable.

Cllr Nigel Ashton: They can use almost any excuse until we can prove we’ve got the 5-year supply.

Cllr Pasley, Executive Member: I would just like to say that I completely support what fellow councillors have been saying about the areas we’ve been talking about in Yatton and Portishead.

Cllr Elfan Ap Rees: Clearly we’re keen to make sure that infrastructure matches any development that takes place. I think Members need to realise that one of the ways in which you get infrastructure is to take Section 106 and other money away from those people who want to develop it. In order to fund some of that infrastructure, and hopefully also get some funding in from government, which we’re very successful at… in terms of providing the amenities and so on that people need. I think I really need to issue a major warning to Members: [The] Sandford [Appeal decision] is an absolute disaster for this authority, and if we don’t meet our 5 year land bank in the sustainable ways that have been put forward in this document, every village in the district – infill villages and so on – is going to be subject to developers appealing. We’ve already got outstanding appeals on some of the other villages around North Somerset where we really don’t want to see development. We have to keep control of our development agenda. […] In terms of Moor Lane [sic] I’ve made the offer to reduce the number of dwellings in that area, but again at the present time the developer who has the main piece of land… their only access is across the orchard. If we throw this out completely you can be sure that they will go to appeal and you could lose the whole lot… because we can’t pre-judge what might happen with the rugby club land. I absolutely sympathise with everybody; I’ve been fighting King Canute with the government and housing development for more years than I care to remember, but we have this target to reach in this Plan… and if we don’t meet that requirement we’re in deep trouble.

David Carter, NSC: This is our final Plan which we intend to submit to the Secretary of State for examination. At the end of the consultation process, all of the comments are sent off to the inspector. However, there is an opportunity for us as a Council to consider the [consultation] responses, make further changes… and these would also go to the inspector to take into account.

Cllr Nigel Ashton: Let me put it another way: we’ll make a decision as councillors what actually good forward. I think it’s much more powerful if we put the comments that have arisen today… we will put those at the beginning with the recommendation. I think that’s much more powerful than deleting something from somewhere in the Plan, which makes it look as though it is secure. […] You have the recommendation. I’m going to slightly amend it: that this goes out for consultation and all our comments raised today will be put in a report at the front of the document.

Richard Kent, NSC: Chairman, it might be cleaner if the recommendation was ‘subject to any amended wording being agreed with the Chairman and Executive Member’ before it is submitted… rather than just bolting on something to something that has already been pre-written.

Cllr Nigel Ashton: Well no, I think we should have a piece of paper showing that the Executive decision was that this goes out for consultation, but that the following comments were made during the meeting.

Richard Kent: We can certainly do that.

No Moor Development made the following statement at the start of the meeting. 

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to make a brief statement with reference to item 11 on your agenda – the Site Allocations Plan report, and specifically the revised allocated sites.

Before the SAP goes out for further consultation, I wanted to make the case for the exclusion of the Grange orchard – part of the Moor Road site in Yatton – located on the edge of the village. If you cycle or drive into Yatton from across the moors, you will appreciate that this is by far the most special, and most valued of the village gateways.

Mr Chairman, we all want a planning system in which communities can have confidence. I absolutely understand that the resources of the planning dept are stretched to the limit, but for one reason or another, the Council has failed to act rationally in selecting this very sensitive site for inclusion in the SAP, and failed to consistently assess the alternative sites that came forward in the call for sites against the ‘sustainability’ criteria.

For example, while ‘proximity’ to an SSSI or to ‘a wildlife site’ are given as reasons not to allocate some greenfield sites – this is not even mentioned in the case of Moor Road, despite the location of the Kenn Moor SSSI literally the other side of a narrow road.

The justification for why the Grange orchard is preferred to alternatives is simply not supported by the available evidence. Some of the stakeholders with whom the Council is obliged to consult are at best very uncomfortable about the prospect of development on the orchard, and others are opposed altogether.

Earlier this month Yatton Parish Council wrote to officers to reiterate their own request that the orchard be removed from the SAP. I do not have time today to go into all the reasons why the orchard is a particularly sensitive site – but understand that Executive Members have received messages in recent days from other Yatton residents, detailing the material constraints – and there are many.

As officers will know, the situation in Yatton is fluid, with other more suitable unallocated sites emerging: the adjacent rugby club land – as noted in the Consultation Statement (Appendix 4); the soon-to-be-vacated UTC site in Claverham, identified in the draft Neighbourhood Plan as a brownfield site with the capacity for around 80 houses. Not to mention the 32 houses in Tickenham, which the P & R Committee approved last week.

This afternoon, after you consider the SAP, the West of England Joint Spatial Plan is the next item on your agenda. It provides all the evidence you need to take this site out of the SAP.

It’s not always easy to articulate what inspires us about the everyday landscapes and buildings around us, and why this matters. It is easy to take them for granted, and consequently view them – rather dispassionately – as simply a jigsaw puzzle of numbered site allocations.

Mr Chairman, Executive Members… this orchard is special to us and I hope you appreciate the strength of feeling in the community. Removing it from the SAP would support the NPPF objectives of protecting the intrinsic beauty and character of the countryside.

You can’t take the magic out of the orchard; but you can take the orchard out of the SAP . At the end of the day, it is your decision.

Thank you for listening.

Steve Bridger

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