Plan for 89 new homes near Yate now set to go ahead after refusal overturned
CONTROVERSIAL plans for 89 homes near Yate now seem set to go ahead after councillors overturned a decision to oppose them.
But it took four attempts to break a deadlocked vote at the end of a tense two-and-a-half-hour debate on the proposals for open countryside at North Road, Engine Common.
South Gloucestershire Council’s spatial planning committee eventually resolved by 4-3 votes on Wednesday that the new houses should be allowed, along with the demolition of a historic stone cottage to make way for a junction for the access road to the new estate.
It reversed a decision by a different set of councillors, on the development management committee, a week previously.
Committee member Roger Avenin abstained during three votes on the application – to approve, to reject and to attach additional conditions – with the others tied at 3-3.
He said he could not decide either way because the pros and cons were evenly balanced, and was adamant that the cottage at 276 North Road (pictured above) should not be bulldozed, despite the fact it could be knocked down anyway because it was not a listed building.
The meeting heard that if the stalemate was not broken and members failed to make a decision for or against, it would expose the council to an application for hundreds of thousands of pounds in costs at a planning appeal, for “acting unreasonably”.
Cllr Avenin was finally persuaded to vote in favour after applicant Newland Homes' planning director Tom Sheppard told members that the cottage’s residents were happy to move, and an additional condition was agreed for natural stone to be prominent at the new road’s entrance.
At a previous committee meeting on Friday, January 8, objectors said demolishing the cottage would be an “act of vandalism”.
Councillors heard the field earmarked for the homes, of which 31 would be affordable, had lost its ecological value as a site of nature conservation interest because it was ploughed in 2019, which did “not show good faith” but consent had not been required and there was no wrongdoing.
Last week members of the development management committee were told the plans (above) would exacerbate traffic problems and destroy the village’s identity, turning it into a suburb of Yate. Officers recommended supporting them, saying the plan's benefits outweighed the harms.
However, councillors voted to go along with 85 residents and two parish councils in opposing the proposals on that occasion.
Because that decision went against officers’ advice, council rules say it had to be reconsidered by the more senior spatial planning committee where, with members deadlocked, Cllr Avenin asked whether the cottage’s residents were happy to move or were being forced out.
He said: “What it comes down to is if I was living in that property and someone was going to pull it down, I wouldn’t be at all happy, in fact I’d be livid.”
Council planning manager Marie Bath told him it was not a material consideration.
Committee chairman Colin Hunt said: “Mr Sheppard wants to come in.
“I know this is very, very unusual, but help us get out of this situation.
“What are you suggesting?”
Mr Sheppard said: “The occupant is actually part of the parties who are selling the land to us.
“They have been involved heavily in the contractual negotiations and working with us to promote the wider site, so they are very much in tune with the proposals and have plans in place for their relocation.”
Cllr Avenin said: “That changes my view entirely, so I will now vote in favour.”
After the vote, Ms Bath said a second, identical planning application would now be taken back to the development management committee next month, where members would be invited to agree with the more senior committee's vote.
The final say was already heading out of members’ hands, because Newland Homes had already appealed to the Planning Inspectorate against non-determination.
The spatial planning committee’s decision was required to form the local authority’s statement of case to the seven-day public inquiry set for April.
Ms Bath said that because this was now in favour of granting permission, the appeal would “most likely be withdrawn” and the scheme approved if development management committee members agreed.
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service