Last month, the Inspector issued their decision regarding the Public Inquiry held earlier this year regarding Outline Planning for up to 106 houses at Charfield Green. The inspector allowed the appeal thus allowing outline planning to be granted. Charfield Parish Council has now been informed that, after taking legal advice, South Gloucestershire Council WILL NOT be challenging the decision.

This was discussed at last night’s (14th July 2015) meeting of full council and it was agreed that a statement be put on the website accordingly. Please note that the other pending appeal for Day House Leaze is still pending.

Hannah Saunders, Clerk and RFO

Statement below from Chairman Councillor Mark Rosher.

When you’ve done all you could, proved your case over and again, and the decision still goes against you… when you lose because somebody else dropped their ball even as you juggled all of yours and a couple of theirs… when the future promises the very outcomes you were working to prevent. What to do? It’s fair to say your Parish Council feels a little deflated right now. Although it’s not the only role it has, one of the most important things your Council does is guide the planning process; commenting on all sorts of things from home extensions to new housing estates.

With the threat of predatory development in sight, the Council facilitated a Village Plan steering group that produced an excellent vision of the village, identifying targeted improvements and detailing a small increase in homes. Taking this further, a Housing Needs Survey confirmed the small number of needful homes – affordable homes, for a gently expanding local population. With this small and sustainable increase agreed by both the Council and the residents of the Parish, this became a part of the South Gloucestershire Core Strategy Local Plan, through the Policies, Sites and Places Development Plan Document (PSP DPD). The Local Plan sits at the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework. It is the long term vision document of the local authority, in which the authority asserts its ability to manage the years ahead, including in housing need.

Although the South Gloucestershire Local Plan was deemed to be robust and resilient, as soon as it was tested by an aggressive predatory developer, in the courts and by the Planning Inspectorate, it fell apart in tatters (inadequate provision of housing land being central to this death knell). The failure of South Gloucestershire Council to create a good Local Plan has meant that Charfield will increase by at least 15% in the next few years. That’s 15% in terms of new homes, additional traffic and service demand, but without any planned increase in service infrastructure or road capacity.

Worse, the failure of the Plan leaves Charfield unprotected from any other developer, who may see our pleasant and easily accessed non-Green Belt location as perfect for even more homes – unless we can Defend Charfield by making best use of the only weapon we have left; the Neighbourhood Plan.

Unlike our previous Village Plan, the Neighbourhood Plan is a legal document that emerged from the Localism Act of 2011 with statutory effect on the local council’s planning process. Although it is primarily designed to support development and not halt it, following some checks and balances it becomes part of the statutory development plan. It holds the same legal status as the Local Plan. Applications for development must be weighed against it, and so it can constrain development to that which the local population feels is acceptable and sustainable.

Your Parish Council is now seeking to establish a Neighbourhood Plan for Charfield. Some of the work done by the Village Plan steering group will prove very useful, and some of the work on-going and already done by adjacent parishes is also highly pertinent. There is however much to be done. And once the Neighbourhood Plan is crafted, it must be inspected and a local referendum held to ensure it speaks for the wishes and needs of the Parish.

Your Parish Council cannot do this alone and nor should it. We seek volunteers, therefore, to become working members of the Charfield Neighbourhood Plan development group. Shortly, we will be holding meetings with South Gloucestershire Council to understand their position in regard to the ill-fated Local Plan, to ensure any work we carry out is built upon on a solid new foundation. Thereafter, we will hold local meetings with the Parish.

I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of at least attending the local meeting(s). It is easily said that any attempt to manage development is NIMBY-ism, and that we just don’t want to accept more new homes into Charfield. That is not the case and never has been the case. We need new homes, in appropriate quantities and of a design that keep our village vibrant and alive. Developers just want to build more and more houses, and that’s what we need to address.

Please do keep watching the Parish and Community web sites. Information will start to appear there very soon.

Cllr Mark Rosher – Chairman, down but not at all out
Charfield Parish Council