Plans 'could be a disaster for area'

April 04 2017

"We have previously fought off attempts to try to suggest that land in other areas of the constituency should be built on, and we now need to show once more that our community is united in ensuring that we protect the Hanham Hills and its unique characteristics.

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"We have previously fought off attempts to try to suggest that land in other areas of the constituency should be built on, and we now need to show once more that our community is united in ensuring that we protect the Hanham Hills and its unique characteristics.

"I have written to residents in Hanham to inform them of a petition I have created on my website www.chrisskidmore.com/campaigns/protect-hanham-greenbelt calling for Hanham green belt to stay protected and would urge residents to sign up to show the strength of feeling our community has against unwanted development in the area.”

Concerned residents recently crammed into a meeting hosted by Hanham Abbots Parish Council where the controversial proposals were outlined.

Tom Stanley, director of commercial property specialists Colliers International, told the meeting that his company had been instructed by the green belt site owner - named in a document as a Mr F Francis - to put forward a case to remove the land's protection.

If successful, this would pave the way for the landowner to find a developer to build housing to meet the shortfall of homes in the region.

Mr Stanley said any proposals would include relocating the cricket club to the bigger site which would mean improved sports facilities for local people.

"The development would support new facilities like a clubhouse and a new pitch," he said.

But councillors could barely hide their contempt for the scheme, with one saying the motivation behind it "is quite simply greed". 

Cllr Kate Bell said: "It would be such a shame if this last bit of land was taken away.

"We have had our fair share of new homes within the past three or four years. That's enough now."

Cllr Chrissie Cushing quizzed Mr Stanley about what would happen if the trustees of Hanham Community Centre, which owns the cricket club site, were not prepared to sell the land.

But Mr Stanley said he was unable to say if the proposals to develop the larger site would still go ahead.

Another councillor claimed the doctors' surgery and local schools would be saturated but Mr Stanley said these were issues that would be addressed once a planning application was submitted.

"There have been no formal proposals submitted to South Gloucestershire Council and it would be at least 2019 before a planning application is submitted," he told the meeting.

Mr Stanley told the Voice last week that the meeting with Hanham Abbots Parish Council had been "very constructive".

He said: "A number of concerns were raised including building on the green belt and drainage, but we were also able to discuss the potential benefits such as significantly improved sporting provision and securing full public use of the Hanham Hills, which is currently restricted to just the one public right of way through the land.

“The green belt review provides an important opportunity to look at what benefits can be achieved through development in sustainable locations and help to secure significant betterment for the local community. With early engagement and the support of landowners and the public, planning can be really effective in securing these benefits.” 

Hanham District Green Belt Conservation Society has informed its members of the potential development in a newsletter saying: "If this development is permitted, even in a much reduced scale, it would open the doors for the whole of the Hanham Hills to be developed. It would be a disaster."

Colliers made representations to the West of England Joint Spatial Plan in January stating reasons why both sites should be earmarked for development.

The Voice understands that Colliers is now in talks with the trustees of Hanham Community Centre, although no decision has been made as to whether they will sell the land.

The number of homes proposed has been reduced from 130 to 96 at the cricket club and from 390 to 105 on green belt land.

The West of England Joint Spatial Plan is an emerging document involving four local authorities - South Gloucestershire, Bristol City, Bath and North East Somerset and North Somerset councils - which sets out a blueprint for future development which will help meet housing demands for the next 20 years. Once adopted the Joint Spatial Plan will guide the councils in the development of their own Local Plans.

Members of the public can have their say on draft proposals during various rounds of consultation.