Disappointment at housing decision

North Somerset Council has expressed its “extreme disappointment” at the Government’s decision not to back it on the number of new houses needed in the district.

Council Leader Cllr Nigel Ashton said the council was now facing the consequences of having to provide nearly 21,000 houses, rather than the 14,000 it had originally proposed.

Cllr Ashton said: “I will continue to ensure we do all we can to protect North Somerset from inappropriate development. Nevertheless, I am extremely disappointed with the Government’s decision and the time it has taken them to come to that decision which has caused a lot of unnecessary uncertainty in our local communities.

“Despite all the efforts of the council and our local MPs over the last six months we have got absolutely nothing. Even the letter we have received from the minister makes no mention of any weight of our case.

“We have been doing our utmost to strike the right balance between providing the housing needed and protecting our Green Belt and beautiful countryside. We want to accelerate housing delivery in the right locations. However, this decision flies in the face of all that we have been trying to achieve and does nothing to protect our communities from speculative planning applications.

“We are now left with having to provide just under 21,000 new homes and dealing with the consequences of that and the extra pressures that number of houses will put on the district’s infrastructure.

“We had planned for 14,000, but an extra 7,000 has a tremendous knock-on effect for roads, public transport, jobs, schools and community facilities. We will, of course, continue to do all we can to mitigate the impact of speculative applications.”

The council adopted the Core Strategy in 2012 with a housing policy to plan for 14,000 more houses in the district up to 2026. Following a legal challenge, the policy was found to be unlawful on the grounds that the independent planning inspector had failed to give adequate and intelligible reasons for his support of the council’s housing requirement.

The plan was referred back to the Planning Inspectorate and, despite the council agreeing in the meantime to increase the number to 17,000, a further examination resulted in a formal report from the Planning Inspectorate in which a new inspector concluded that 17,000 houses was still insufficient to meet the area’s needs. Instead, the inspector imposed a housing figure of 20,985 – 50 per cent more than the council’s original proposal of 14,000 dwellings.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government agreed to review North Somerset’s housing requirement after the council asked him to intervene. However, the council has now received the response from Brandon Lewis MP, Minister for Housing and Planning, saying there should be no change in the inspector’s figure of 20,985.

The council will now look at whether any adjustments are needed to other planning policies in order to accommodate that number of houses. Those policies will then have to be re-submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for approval.

The letter from the minister can be viewed on our Core Strategy page.​