Councillors raise concerns over developer’s plan for 2,000 homes at Woodlands Golf Course

Map showing the site of the proposed Woodlands Garden Village.

Local Conservative councillors John Ashe and Roger Avenin are raising awareness of a land development company’s continued efforts to have the Woodlands Golf Course site included in a crucial strategic planning document, potentially opening the way for 2,000 new homes to be built at this location.

One of the purposes of the West of England Councils’ Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) is to identify so-called strategic development locations (SDLs) which have the potential to deliver a significant contribution to the number of new homes assessed to be required across the region in the period up to 2036.

Formulation of the JSP began in 2015 and it went through three rounds of public consultation prior to being submitted to the secretary of state for housing,communities and local government on 13th April 2018. The next stage in the process will be for the government to review the plan through an ‘Examination in Public’, which is expected to take place in autumn 2018.

The Woodlands Golf Course site appeared as a potential ‘urban extension’ SDL in the first draft of the JSP published in November 2015 (under the generic title of ‘land north of M4/M5’). However, by the time the second draft was published in November 2016 it had been removed from the maps and was mentioned only in a section headed ‘Locations considered and not put forward for inclusion in the emerging spatial strategy’. There is then no mention of the site in the final ‘publication document’ version of the JSP recently submitted to the secretary of state.

A briefing note sent to local councillors in November 2017 by the promoter of the Woodlands site, South West Strategic Developments Ltd (SWSD), describes it as being “in an extremely sustainable location adjacent to key infrastructure and, crucially, within walking and cycling distance of thousands of jobs”. The note goes on to claim that there is a “compelling case” for the site to be selected ahead of other proposed SDLs in South Gloucestershire, such as Buckover Garden Village and Charfield, which it is claimed would require “extensive, as yet unfunded, infrastructure”.

A further statement provided by SWSD to the Journal ahead of the publication of this article is shown in full below.

Asked if there are any circumstances in which the Woodlands development might still be brought forward, despite its absence from the JSP, a South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) spokesperson said:

“The inspectors overseeing the JSP Examination in Public could request that additional SDLs are identified. If that occurred, then all promoted sites would need to be re-considered and further consultation undertaken, before the inspectors could propose a modification to the JSP.”

Asked if any pre-application discussions have already taken place in relation to the Woodlands site, the spokesperson said:

“Pre-application discussions are undertaken on a confidential basis. A pre-application request was received for this proposal in August 2017, but is not currently active. There have been no recent planning applications submitted or screening opinions sought for a major housing development at this site.”

More information and related links:

Statement issued on behalf of South West Strategic Developments Ltd on a potential ‘garden village’ development on the Woodlands Golf Club site

The West of England Combined Authority is currently progressing a Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) which will be subject to an Examination in Public led by a government inspector, likely to commence in the autumn. The JSP will determine where large scale development will be delivered over the next 20 years. We consider that Woodlands Golf Club is a suitable location for such development as it is in a highly accessible and sustainable location adjacent to the M4/M5 junction in South Gloucestershire. It is close to thousands of jobs in the nearby business parks as well as everyday facilities that lie within walking distance; existing public transport links to Bristol city centre are also readily available.

South West Strategic Developments Ltd (SWSD) are proposing the Woodlands Golf Club site as an ideal opportunity to deliver a ‘garden village’ style development that would provide much needed open market and affordable housing, as well as new community and employment facilities and extensive parkland within the development itself. Large scale cycle infrastructure would be provided linking to existing nearby employment hubs including Aztec West, while the development would utilise the public transport infrastructure improvements already being implemented.

Woodlands Golf Club therefore, in our view, represents a more sustainable location for the necessary new homes than other sites currently proposed in the draft JSP. For instance, proposals for new homes by expansion of more distant and peripheral locations, such as at Buckover and Charfield, will change the characters of those settlements completely, be primarily reliant on private car travel and require high levels of additional infrastructure links. They will therefore generate significantly higher CO2 emissions compared to the Woodlands Golf Club Site which can readily utilise existing transport links and provides much greater possibilities for non-car transport. The Woodlands Golf Club site would therefore be entirely compliant with the Climate Change Act whilst other large housing sites may not.

At the current time, Woodlands Golf Club is put forward as an option for the government-appointed JSP inspector to consider during the examination process as an alternative, or in addition, to those sites currently proposed. Should matters progress further in the future and the site be selected as a potential location for growth, SWSD would seek to work with the local community and South Gloucestershire Council to evolve a ‘garden village’ masterplan, through comprehensive public consultation.

Tories start petition against development

A news article on the website of the Bristol and South Gloucestershire Conservatives states:

“A developer has proposed building 2,000 new houses on the existing Woodlands Golf Course. This is protected Green Belt land and this proposed new development could not only lead to the destruction of natural wildlife habitats, but also traffic chaos on our already congested roads. Local councillors from across Bradley Stoke and South Gloucestershire’ alongside Jack Lopresti MP, have launched a petition calling for the housing developers to think again.”

Local Conservative councillors John Ashe and Roger Avenin have also recorded a video titled “Woodlands Golf Course – Save Our Green Belt” in which they urge people to join their campaign to “Save Woodlands Golf Course from being concreted over”.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on pages 14 & 15). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

POSTSCRIPT (26th August 2018)

The news article and petition mentioned above appear to have been removed from the Conservative’s website since our magazine article was published. Enquiries are being made to find out why (or if they have been moved to a different location).

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