Listen to concerns on planning changes
Some of your readers may say, on reading this letter, “Well, turkeys don’t vote for Christmas”, but I believe that Bath and North East Somerset Council’s planning committee, officers and lawyers do a good job, aided often by much useful information from both supporters and objectors of planning applications. The recent decisions you have covered with regard to the Englishcombe Lane housing estate and the “Min” hospital building, right, demonstrate the importance of planning to residents, but in future local residents would have no forum in which to voice their concerns.
Last week a letter received from Jacob Rees-mogg MP was straight out of Conservative central office lauding the attempt to increase the number of homes to be built, especially for first-time buyers. This is to miss the point, or ignore it completely, that delays in the system are caused by developers failing to submit necessary information and, when they get permission, “land banking”. It would be invidious to name names, but it even happens in Radstock and Westfield, and across his constituency there are more than 1,000 houses which should have been built, and have not. A similar situation applies in Bath.
When people ask me what a councillor does, as they frequently do, I say, “planning, potholes and parking”. Nowadays I could add “trees and transport”, given the problems trees are causing at present on the “Poets estate” and the Waterside, but it is planning which is the crunch matter. We (Westfield Parish Council and myself as a B&NES councillor) have got involved in opposing the estates planned across the border in Mendip, which will have an adverse effect on the A367, mar the beautiful views towards Downside, and over-burden our schools.
We could not even seek remedy with what is called Section 106 money because that will be abolished.
The Neighbourhood Plan consultation in Westfield 2016-18 revealed demand for affordable one- and two-bed properties for young people starting out in life, and older people to downsize into, but instead we will get “beautiful” three- and four-bed properties that will be too expensive for local people as “Covid-19 refugees” from the cities drive up the prices.
Don’t get me started on the “dodgy algorithm” being used to calculate how many houses should be built in this area. It is just as bad as the one used to calculate A-level results, but this time it inflates grades, and requires us to find double the number of houses we agreed to find by democratic process in the Placemaking Plan. Keynsham and Bath will be vulnerable despite all the assurances to protect the green belt around Bath.
There is a cross-party protest gathering steam. Please support it, whatever your politics (and support your parish councils and Bath and NE Somerset Council), and listen to Labour’s criticisms of the proposed new planning system. Eleanor M Jackson (Cllr) Lab, Westfield (in a personal capacity)