A date has been set for the battle of Brislington Meadows between Bristol City Council and Homes England. Councillors rejected plans by the government’s land and property agency for up to 260 homes at the South Bristol wildlife haven at a meeting on Wednesday (December 7) – but the decision has already been taken out of their hands.
Homes England lodged an appeal in September with the Planning Inspectorate, which will now have the final say after the local authority missed the deadline on whether to grant or refuse permission. An 11-day public inquiry will begin on January 31, and Wednesday’s decision by the council’s development control committee to formally reject the controversial outline proposals means the authority will fight the scheme, which has received 575 objections, at the hearing.
The city council had asked Homes England to buy the land in Brislington in 2020 to accelerate house-building there after the project stalled, and the government body spent about £15million of taxpayer’s money obtaining it from three different parties. But within a year Marvin Rees announced a U-turn despite the site being allocated for housing in the local plan and the principle of development accepted.
Just 20 days before last year’s local elections, Bristol’s mayor posed for a photocall with the two Labour candidates for the ward to say he had decided no homes should be built there after all because of the council’s declared ecological emergency. Planning committee members were this week asked to vote on what their decision would have been had they still had the power to make one, which will form the basis of the authority’s case at the inquiry, and they agreed with officers’ advice that they would have refused consent.
Head of development control Gary Collins said: “It is important that the council has a very focused and robust case we can defend at public inquiry with appropriate evidence.” Members unanimously agreed the reasons for refusal were significant harm to biodiversity, failure to retain important hedgerows and trees, loss of irreplaceable habitat, excessive damage to existing features and a lack of agreement over developer contributions.
Lib Dem Cllr Andrew Brown told the meeting: “It’s regrettable when we are in this situation where a decision has been taken out of the control of the council and moved to the Planning Inspectorate.” In a previous statement, Homes England said the plans were drawn up in response to the city’s housing crisis and in line with the longstanding local plan.
It said: “The site is considered to be in a highly sustainable location, close to local shops, community facilities, employment areas and public transport infrastructure.” The agency said 30 per cent of the homes would be affordable and the scheme would deliver a 10 per cent biodiversity gain.
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