I am writing to make a submission of my views to the Council’s ‘Choices’ consultation that forms part of the new Local Plan. The revised proposals are better than the Council’s initial suggestions, but will need substantial further work before they are right.
The Council should drop any mention of the ‘garden village’ between Churchill and Congresbury in future versions of the Local Plan. New homes are needed, but ‘building up, not out’ in towns and city centres like Weston or Bristol – rather than concreting over important wildlife habitats and leisure spaces, or clogging already overloaded and narrow rural roads with even more rush hour car traffic – should be the Council’s focus.
To ensure ‘building up, not out’ creates beautiful, affordable, sustainable new homes, the Council should agree its own Local Development Code as soon as possible, so local people have a strong say in what our communities will look and feel like in future. Done right, it will mean Weston ends up with good-looking 4 or 5 story town houses (not tower blocks or skyscrapers) in a style that matches the best of what is here already. This will bring much-needed investment and jobs to places like central Weston, and create greener and more sustainable communities by cutting commuting because people could live closer to work. Equally important, it will create life and buzz so town centres are ‘alive after five’.
I would like to support calls for North Somerset to ask Bristol to absorb some of our housing target, reversing the assumptions of the last 40 years where we have taken their housing overspill instead. With Government policy now encouraging towns and cities to ‘build up, not out’ the number of good-looking, green and affordable homes which could be built within a short walk or cycle ride from work in Bristol is potentially huge; far bigger than anything that could be delivered in North Somerset. It is time for the commuter-creating approach of the last 40 years to be reversed.
I am concerned the revised proposals still ignore the serious problems on the M5 and J21. The Council rightly plans bigger and better options for public transport, but it won’t be enough to say the answer is ‘either public transport or road improvements’: we will need both if we’re going to stop the jams from getting worse as we build more houses. In addition, the Council proposes a new employment zone to the east of Junction 21 in all four of their options in the ‘Choices’ document, which will make an existing commuter bottleneck worse as more people will have to battle from Weston through the jams at J21 to get to work and back each day. It’s vital the Council stops ducking this issue and instead faces it squarely, coming up with an ambitious plan that will end commuter misery.
The Council should back up its declarations of climate and ecological emergencies by taking action to protect local countryside. We need a ‘3 in 1 out’ system where every acre of lost greenbelt has to be replaced by 3 new ones, plus an entirely new block of green belt to protect villages like Congresbury, Churchill, Langford and Sandford from urban sprawl forever.
I hope you will listen and include my views when you respond with your revised and improved new version of the plan.