'Hanham is a lovely place to live - let's keep it that way'
"Hanham is a lovely place to live with sites like Hanham Court dating back to the Domesday Book. The green belt helps separate our villages into their own intimate areas. If all that land was built on, where would Hanham end and Longwell Green start?
PEOPLE in Hanham and Longwell Green are being urged to join a campaign group to help fend off development on green space in the area.
About 116 households are members of Hanham District Green Belt Conservation Society, an active group fighting against plans to build on protected spaces.
They say they would like to increase their membership - which costs just £5 per household per year - in order to give them greater power to campaign and lobby against proposals which would see much of the green belt in the area obliterated.
The call comes as the society awaits news on controversial plans to build 96 homes on Hanham Cricket Club and another 105 houses on green belt land further along Abbots Road.
Chairman Alan Jones said the pressure to build so many new homes made this a challenging time for the organisation.
"These days everyone needs open space, even people who are just driving through. It's so important these days for people's well-being."
Mr Jones, who has been chairman for 15 months, described the possibility of homes on the green belt in Abbots Road as a very real prospect.
"It does appear a positive threat," he said.
"Despite all the housing that is going on at the moment, the greater Hanham and Longwell Green area still has to provide 1,300 homes in the next 20 years. There will always be pressure to build on the green belt."
Mr Jones said he appreciates the nation has to build more homes but says the society is pushing for brownfield sites.
"If they build homes on the cricket club and Abbots Road, it would completely change the character of the area. We would lose our open countryside - it would be decimated.
"As a society we've been pressing for the old Kleeneze site in Hanham to be designated as a brownfield developable site. It's now been taken over by Homes England which is the right organisation to deliver modern, innovative accommodation.
"Do people need three or four bedroomed detached or semi-detached homes in the green belt? No, they need affordable accommodation near shops, transport links and facilities. This is what the Kleeneze site offers."
Mr Jones said any move to allow homes in Abbots Road would have a "domino effect".
"If it happens, they would have to improve the road network as it's currently too narrow. Once that happens, it will enable a lot more housing, including behind Pearsall Road."
The call to boost membership was made by the society during their AGM where more than 50 people packed into Hanham Hall to find out the latest news on development threats.
It follows a move by green belt landowner - referred to in a document as a Mr F Francis - to remove the land's special protection.
Last year he hired commercial property specialists Colliers International to put forward his case, which, if successful, would pave the way for him to find a developer.
Colliers made representations to the West of England Joint Spatial Plan - which sets out a blueprint for future development which will help meet housing demands for the next 20 years - stating reasons why both sites in Abbots Road should be earmarked for development.
The society also put forward representations to the plan stating why the land should retain its green belt status.
As explained to the meeting, the outcome of the plan is as yet unknown, and will need to be examined by independent government planning inspectors at a series of public hearings, expected to start in May.
Once adopted the JSP will guide South Gloucestershire Council, as well as three neighbouring authorities, in the development of their own Local Plan and should indicate whether any move to build on Hanham green belt is likely to be approved.
The landowner has approached the trustees of Hanham Community Centre, which owns the cricket club, and offered to build new facilities further along Abbots Road if they sell their current site.
Trustees were invited to the society's AGM but were unable to attend and instead sent a letter from chairman Kevin Lawrence which was read out.
It said trustees were looking to redevelop the community centre to "provide first class facilities for the people of Hanham" and went on to say: "To achieve this goal the trustees have been engaged in a number of potential projects that could enable this; some of these involving changes to and/or relocation of our sports ground. However, I would stress, all such discussions are currently exploratory and without commitment."
Mr Jones said: "It's great the trustees want to improve facilities, and the community centre does need upgrading. But the question is how are they going to pay for that? They have a big asset in the cricket club."
Mr Jones said anyone who appreciates the open space surrounding Hanham should consider joining the society.
"We are a strongly united group and would welcome further membership including any expertise to help us push our case forward. We want like-minded people to come together to form the right resistance to this threat.
"We do a lot of work behind the scenes, analysing complex documents and putting forward our case to protect the green belt. These developers are pretty cute so we feel we've got to be on the ball. Greater numbers will give us more power, bigger clout and will make us a stronger force to be reckoned with."
You can find out more about joining Hanham District Green Belt Conservation Society by visiting the website www.hanhamgreenbelt.co.uk