Housing for local needs
In line with most of the country, housing affordability has significantly worsened in North Somerset. On average – in 2022 – full-time workers could expect to pay ten times their annual salary to purchase a home*. The figure for 2012 was 6.8 and in 2000, 4.5. I also believe that people should have access to housing that is located and designed to ensure that residents do not need cars to live a full life.
- We need a transformative investment in social housing. I will work to ensure the Council uses its planning powers to secure more social and truly affordable homes.
- I welcome low cost housing of high quality and designed to meet the local need.
Participation not consultation
There is an urgent need to rebuild trust between our communities and the planning process. Residents often feel excluded from decisions that affect them most and perceive planning to be complex, technical and designed to find reasons to approve inappropriate development. Developers also need to generate a sense of local ‘ownership’ with schemes. If they don’t meaningfully engage with the community, they will only create tension, slowing down the planning process. We need to shape planning policy so that it works for local people and the countryside, rather than simply profit the volume house-builders.
- I believe that more of the huge uplift in land value should be captured to provide benefits to the community. I was an original signatory to this letter to the Secretary of State in November 2018.
- I will continue to campaign against encroachment on green field land outside settlement boundaries. New housing needs to be proportionate, sustainable, and avoid car-dependency. Developments without easy access to direct and frequent public transport will never be sustainable.
- I will not support any housing development where the roads are not built to adoptable standards. With that in mind, I will closely monitor the development recently granted approval on the former Titan Ladders site on Mendip Road.
- More effort should be made to identify small sites for development, and more support to small and medium-sized house-builders.
- I will encourage the Council to be more resourceful in view of the often cynical way in which some developers conduct themselves in the consultation process. The Council itself must also consult at a time when plans are still at a formative stage.
- I want the Council to ensure planning applications are properly advertised to all those potentially affected – and call developers to account when this does not happen.
- I will push for an early vote on lifting the veil on developer viability assessments to put them in the public domain.
- I have asked for a summary of Section 106 commitments for each of the large developments in Yatton to be published in an accessible format. This has not happened so – if elected – I will monitor the maintenance of a proper audit trail in respect of the collection of developer contributions received through Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) legal agreements and lobby to give our communities a bigger say in how that money is spent. I will also ask for the minutes of meetings of the North End Developments Steering Group (which oversees the spending of the Section 106 money) to be shared with the public – with redactions only if absolutely necessary.
- I will also call for more transparency and accountability on how and where New Homes Bonus money is spent.
The new Local Plan
- I will support the development of a new Local Plan that follows principles set out in A Better Way.
- I will need to be persuaded of the sustainability of the planned “Mendip Spring” garden village of 2,500+ homes proposed in the West of England Joint Spatial Plan (JSP). The location is relatively isolated from employment opportunities and will only increase car dependency.
- I will encourage the Council and house-builders to work more meaningfully with communities. Community engagement is meaningless if the Council then totally disregard it. People justly feel that the consultation process is a piece of window-dressing. I want to see an emphasis on participation not consultation.
- I believe that plan-making and development management should be considered by the same Council committee to ensure there is no disconnect between strategy, policy… and current issues and pressures. Not seeing how planning decisions follow the development plan policy de-values plan-making in the public mind.
* ONS, 22 March 2023