Plan for 89 homes would make village 'a mere suburb of Yate'
COUNCILLORS have joined 85 residents and two parish councils in opposing plans for 89 new homes in open countryside near Yate.
Members voted against an officer's recommendation to back the proposals at North Road in Engine Common, which would involve demolishing a stone cottage to make way for the new estate’s access.
But the final decision on the development lies with a government planning inspector, after applicants Newland Homes appealed against South Gloucestershire Council’s failure to make a decision within the legal time limit.
Development management committee members voted by 6-3 today that, if they still had the say on the homes – 31 of which would be affordable – then they would refuse permission.
The proposals will next go to the local authority’s more senior spatial planning committee for reconsideration on Wednesday of next week, because the decision went against officers’ advice.
A seven-day public inquiry is due to be held by the Planning Inspectorate in April.
Councillors heard at the remote meeting that the field’s ecological value as a site of nature conservation interest had been “lost”, because it was ploughed in 2019.
The committee was told this did “not show good faith” and may have been done to improve the application’s chances, but the council’s senior planning manager, Marie Bath, said consent had not been required and there was no wrongdoing.
She said the public rights of way officer objected to the development because it would require a diversion of a route that cuts across the land diagonally.
Ms Bath said that, although the scheme was against development plan policies, the benefits outweighed the harms.
Denise Smith, speaking on behalf of Iron Acton Parish Council, told members that demolishing the stone cottage at 276 North Road (above) would be an “act of vandalism that significantly damages the heritage of Engine Common”.
She said the village’s locally cherished identity would be compromised and that traffic problems would only get worse.
Yate Town Council also objected, saying it would set an unacceptable precedent for nearby open fields and that wildlife habitat would disappear.
South Gloucestershire councillor Tristan Clark, who represents Frampton Cotterell, said the recommendation in favour of the houses would “come back to haunt” the authority, because it could be used as justification for speculative development.
He said: “The 89 houses proposed are obscenely disproportionate.
“The residents of Engine Common do not want to become a mere suburb of Yate.”
Eighty-five letters of objection were received opposing the development for reasons including loss of green fields, lack of local facilities, pressure on school places, concerns about wildlife and road safety, loss of the area’s character and the fact it would double the population of Engine Common.
Ms Bath said there were 13 primary schools and three secondaries within walking and cycling distance of the site, along with shops, health services and pubs.
She said the main road was being reduced to 20mph anyway and speed tables introduced and that the developers would be required to pay for some of that.
Councillor Sarah Pomfret (Con, Bradley Stoke North) said she loved the fact the homes had “green credentials”, heated by solar or air source, but that it was a shame to lose the history of the cottage, a non-designated heritage asset.
But Councillor Brian Hopkinson (Con, Bradley Stoke Central) said: “This is a complete intrusion into that rural area.
“It’s an absolutely crazy situation.
“I find this utterly reprehensible.”
He said residents looking out of their windows onto the former field would be like a prisoner who wakes to discover, with horror, that they are behind bars.
“The scheme would change the character of the rural landscape to an urban environment outside the settlement boundary,” Cllr Hopkinson said.
“The proposal would blur the distinction between Yate and Engine Common and result in this village being subsumed into part of this neighbouring town.
“The separate identity of the village would be lost forever and the setting of Engine Common would be seriously harmed.”
Members voted in favour of his proposal to resolve to refuse the plans.
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service