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Joint Spatial Plan for Avon and Bristol area rejected by Inspectors

15th May 2020

We have been long been critical of the way the West of England Joint Spatial Plan process has gone about making plans for what gets built and where in the Bristol and Bath region.

We were delighted when Government Inspectors echoed our concerns this summer, calling for the proposed ‘Joint Spatial Plan’ to go back to the drawing board. The choice of locations for new development would destroy much of what is special about this area, and appear to have been made without a clear strategy or priorities. Each of our four local Councils have now withdrawn from the Joint Spatial Plan process, and are currently reviewing their own Local Plans. CPRE Avon and Bristol volunteers are using their expertise and experience to comment on each stage of the process.

Spatial planning is about how we protect what’s special about our area, while ensuring that we have the houses and infrastructure we need, where we need them

Plans to build new homes and roads on countryside that is loved and valued by so many people, has angered local communities. There is no guarantee that the affordable homes that are urgently needed will be provided, in locations where people actually need then. Provision of rural affordable homes, for example, appears to have been completely ignored. There are huge implications for transport, including congestion and air quality, because of a lack of available public transport. We have also been highly critical of the area’s Transport Plan, which is not only inadequate, but is being developed separately from the plans to build new homes, which seems nonsensical.

CPRE Avon and Bristol volunteers spoke and attended for several full days at the Examination in Public, held in Bath in July, to put the case for the countryside and rural communities. We were relieved when Inspectors wrote to Councils recommending that the Inquiry be halted due to the inadequacy of the plans. However, the design of our planning system is such that we are still at constant risk from inappropriate ‘speculative’ applications from developers, which are generally profit motivated, and not based on any planned process, and the agreement or wishes of local communities.

We continue to be closely involved in plans for the future of our area. Our local groups of volunteers in North Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire work with and advise local community groups and other partners, as well as respond to applications in their Districts. CPRE Avon and Bristol, with our expertise and experience in this area, is ideally placed to assist councils in their efforts to produce a plan that is worthy of this popular area, with its beautiful countryside, Green Belt, and two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Our two cities, which so distinctively juxtapose the transition between city and countryside, all contribute to what makes this area such as special place to live. We want to make sure that we meet local needs and responsibilities – to provide adequate affordable housing, services and transport in our urban and rural areas – but do so in a way that protects our countryside, our landscapes, and our resilience in the face of increasing pollution and ultimately in our ability to tackle climate change.