Back to the drawing board on house numbers for council
NORTH Somerset Council is to go back to the drawing board on the way the county will develop in the next two decades after losing a legal battle.
The council is to reopen the consultation on its Core Strategy following a challenge in the High Court by Bristol University which wants to build hundreds of new homes on a piece of land in the green belt between Long Ashton and the A370.
The university owns a 70-hectare parcel of land to the south-west of the city, near Long Ashton, and has been pushing planners for an "outreach" from the city which would encompass its land, and allow it to sell it to developers as the site of 1,000 homes.
However the land lies within North Somerset Council's Bristol-Bath greenbelt and, under a core strategy adopted in April last year, the council rejected the proposed urban extension, limiting the amount of new houses to be built within the belt in the next 13 years to 14,000.
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Lawyers for the university objected, arguing that plans for 26,750 new homes ought to be approved, which would pave the way for the urban extension.
Those objections were rejected by a government planning inspector, but the university brought a challenge to the council's adoption of the policy at London's High Court.
Although the High Court said there was no need for a greenbelt review as part of the legal challenge, it said that the inspector had failed to give "adequate or intelligible reasons" for his conclusion that the housing requirement made sufficient allowance for the demand for new homes.
Following the challenge the council's policy on housing numbers will now go before the planning inspectorate for re-examination.
Fresh comments on the housing numbers will be sought as part of the new consultation on the matter.
If the inspector rules changes are needed to the number of homes proposed in the blueprint, it could impact on other parts of the strategy.
A North Somerset Council spokesman said: "The judge concluded that the inspector who undertook the independent examination had been right in his view that there was no need to review land in the green belt.
"However, the judge did find that the inspector had failed to give adequate or intelligible reasons in his report for his conclusion that the core strategy housing requirement of 14,000 dwellings made sufficient allowance for latent demand, which is a demand for housing unrelated to the creation of new jobs."
The judge has supported the council's recommendation that those parts of the plan which need to be revisited as a result of flaws in the planning inspector's report should simply be reconsidered by reopening the Core Strategy examination.
The inspector undertaking the examination will only focus on the very specific issue of the latent demand for housing which the judge had identified as not being adequately explained. If this process results in a change to the overall housing requirement then this may have implications for other planning policies depending on where any additional growth needs to be accommodated.
The council is also currently consulting on its sites and policies development plan document which sets out land across the district for new housing and employment opportunities.
North Somerset Council deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees said: "We are continuing with the rest of our planning work including the current consultation on our Sites and Policies Development Plan Document to ensure that we bring employment and economic growth to North Somerset and ensure that any development that takes place is sensitive to both the environmental constraints and community aspirations."