Council designates Woodlands Golf Course “preferred site” for 1,750 homes

Entrance to Woodland Golf & Country Club, Trench Lane, Winterbourne, Bristol – identified as a potential site for new homes in South Gloucestershire Council’s Emerging Local Plan (Phase 3, 2023).

The likelihood that thousands of new homes will be built on Woodlands Golf Course near Bradley Stoke has increased after the location was identified as a ‘preferred site’ in the latest draft of South Gloucestershire Council’s emerging Local Plan.

South West Strategic Developments Ltd (SWSD) put forward the Trench Lane site as a candidate for large-scale housing development when the first draft of the West of England’s Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) was being prepared in 2015, but it failed to make the final version of the document.

However, work on the regional JSP was halted in April 2020 after government inspectors declared the methodology used for selecting the proposed set of major housing sites to be “unsound”.

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Kitchen & Laundry Appliance Care, Bradley Stoke, Bristol.

A second attempt at producing a regional strategic masterplan, the West of England Combined Authority’s (Weca’s) Spatial Development Strategy (SDS), also ended in failure leaving South Gloucestershire Council to go it alone and produce its own strategic masterplan for the period 2025 to 2040.

At the May 2023 local elections, Conservative candidates for the two Bradley Stoke wards campaigned against a “massive” housing development being allowed on the Woodlands site.

Image from an election leaflet.
Opposing the “massive Woodlands development”. Extract from a Conservative election leaflet from May 2023.

However, the elections saw the Conservatives lose control of South Gloucestershire Council, which is now run by a Liberal Democrat / Labour partnership (or coalition).

In the latest ‘Phase 3 Draft’ of the emerging Local Plan, the new administration has taken a different approach to the selection of strategic housing sites which “reflect the shared objectives of the new partnership”.

A preference for preserving the existing Green Belt, which would have necessitated the creation of large housing developments many miles from centres of employment, has now been abandoned in favour of extending the Bristol urban fringe to the north and east.

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The council argues that this will avoid people having to make long commutes to places of work and allow some use of facilities and services that already exist within the existing urban fringe.

This means, for example, that the proposed 3,000-home garden village at Buckover, near Thornbury, has been taken out of the list of ‘preferred sites’, while the Woodlands Golf Course site, where 1,750 homes are proposed, has been added.

The plan’s authors, however, express scepticism that the full quota of 1,750 homes at Woodlands could be built before 2040 and have only reckoned with 800 being built by that date, with the remainder to follow after the end of the Local Plan period.

Conservative reaction

Local Conservative councillors, who still hold two of the four Bradley Stoke seats on South Gloucestershire Council, have reacted angrily to the inclusion of the golf course site in the latest draft of the Local Plan.

Photo of four people standing in front of a sign promoting a golf course.
Conservative councillors opposed to plans for housing on the Woodlands Golf Course site near Bradley Stoke (l-r): Matthew Riddle, Franklin Owusu-Antwi, Terri Cullen and Ben Randles.

Cllr Terri Cullen, Conservative councillor for Bradley Stoke North, said:

“It’s important to ensure that new houses are built in the right locations but the proposal for almost 2,000 homes on the Woodlands Golf Course site looks to me like the wrong development in the wrong location.”

“These proposals could be enormously damaging for Bradley Stoke and the surrounding area, and we remain committed to ensuring residents’ voices are heard loud and clear.”

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Cllr Matthew Riddle, Conservative councillor for Severn Vale, said:

“Local residents are worried that a development of such enormous scale on this site could result in traffic chaos on the roads and could make everyday life increasingly difficult for people who live nearby.”

“While we recognise the need for more housing, it’s equally important to ensure that developments that come forward are the right ones in the right areas.”

Developer’s reaction

As might be expected, SWSD has welcomed the site’s inclusion in the latest draft of the Local Plan. As previously reported, the developer recently announced its intention to put forward a speculative planning application on the grounds that South Gloucestershire Council’s current Local Plan is technically “out of date”. The latest news could smooth the passage of any such application as, when assessing a planning application, a local authority is required to give weight to the content of any emerging new Local Plan.

Masterplan,
Woodlands Garden Community (WGC): The Concept Masterplan.

Matthew Kendrick, Director at Grassroots Planning (representing SWSD), said:

“We are glad to see that, as part of its emerging South Gloucestershire Plan, the new administration is looking positively to address the housing crisis that effects the greater Bristol area and now focuses on a much more suitable and sustainable development strategy adjacent to the city, rather than large scale standalone development in the areas rural hinterland. The proposed allocation of the Woodlands Garden Community (WGC) will form a central part in this more suitable and sustainable vision.”

“The WGC proposals are the result of many years of hard work and detailed analysis of the various issues that effect the site and wider area. We will shortly be further engaging with the Council and an independent Design Review Panel to refine the proposals and provide further evidence to answer the Council’s remaining queries about the site.  We look forward to bringing detailed proposals forward as part of a planning application in parallel with the work the council will be undertaking in finalising their much needed Local Plan to ensure that it delivers the jobs, houses and infrastructure the area clearly needs to ensure it remains a vibrant and successful place to live and work.”

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Local MP’s view

In contrast to his Conservative councillor colleagues, Jack Lopresti, MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke, has expressed some level of support for the Woodlands Golf Course proposal, describing it as “exciting”.

In a tweet posted on 17th November 2023, the MP wrote:

“Delighted to meet with Coral Curtis and Matthew Kendrick from Grass Roots Planning today to discuss the exciting plans for at least 1,750 new homes on the Woodlands Golf Course site. Our country needs many more homes. Building new homes is the only way of solving the housing crisis and increasing equality of opportunity, especially for our young people.”

Mr Lopresti later told the Journal:

“Building new homes is the only way real way to solve the housing crisis. The exciting Woodlands development will provide 1,750 homes for people. Obviously, I understand some residents concerns with respect to transport infrastructure and community facilities, but I have been assured by the developers that the Woodlands development will include this.”

Consultation closing soon

Public consultation on the ‘Phase 3 Draft’ of the new Local Plan opened on 6th December 2023 and closes at midnight on Friday 16th February 2024.

Front cover of a 'Local Plan' document.
Front cover of South Gloucestershire Council’s ‘New Local Plan (Phase 3)’.

South Gloucestershire Council Cabinet member with responsibility for the new Local Plan, Cllr Chris Willmore, said:

“A new Local Plan for South Gloucestershire will aim to tackle several challenges: Where and how will we and the next generations live, and how will we prepare ourselves for that, while preserving the wonderful environment that is why many people choose to live here in the first place.”

“The ideas we are putting forward in this consultation are our emerging preferred strategy. That means the council hasn’t made any decisions yet, but we want to talk with our communities about these ideas and to hear theirs.”

“When we say it is ‘preferred’, that simply means that we think the approach we’re presenting is a positive way of meeting our collective needs in response to the challenges we are all facing together. Those include the cost of living crisis, the risk of dramatic changes to our climate and environment, and the need for more homes that people can afford to live in.”

“It is a strategy because we have taken a look at the different issues in the rural and urban areas of South Gloucestershire and the areas in between. We have factored in what we know is happening in the wider region and we think these approaches will work for us together.”

“But we are still open to hearing more ideas. We want to know where people think this draft plan is right and where it can be improved.”

More information and related links

Bradley Stoke latest news.

Extracts from the draft Local Plan

UPDATE added 16th February 2024.

The following extracts from the Phase 3 Draft Local Plan contain references to the Woodlands Golf Course site, designated EPS-FC14 in Section 5 and L2-FC2 in Section 6.

Section 5: Towards an emerging preferred strategy

Urban Edge of the Bristol North Fringe and Severnside

5.51 The emerging preferred strategy includes the delivery of homes and jobs adjacent to the Bristol North Fringe at Woodlands (EPS-FC14, EPS-SV7, EPSSV5) and Almondsbury (EPS-SV1, EPS-SV9, EPS-SV8).

5.52 A larger site promotion at Woodlands (EPS-FC14) in combination with two smaller promotions (EPS-SV7, EPS-SV5) would deliver homes, a new local centre, recreation and green infrastructure assets and a proposed primary school, in proximity to the Bristol North Fringe. The Bristol North Fringe is a key service centre that supports both the communities of the North fringe and wider district giving access to services and facilities not available elsewhere as well as being home to a substantial employment sector including Cribbs Causeway Shopping Mall, The University of the West of England, a large engineering base as well as many other successful businesses. Locating homes in proximity to this key area will support our objectives to ensure new communities have local access to jobs, services and facilities and are not encouraged or required to travel long distances to access these. There are already good public transport and active travel routes in the North Fringe. However further work will be required from the site promoters to demonstrate how development here could deliver, enhance and achieve connectivity for active travel modes, public transport and vehicles and minimise further pressure on the transport network. Our current understanding is that there is little extra capacity available particularly along the A38 at the M5 Motorway Junction 16 and therefore a solution would be required to accommodate the proposed number of new homes here.

Bradley Stoke job vacancies.

Section 6b: Strategy Lens 2: Urban edge

Severnside and the North Fringe large extensions

6b.25 These potential sites are located adjacent to the North Fringe of Bristol and the employment area at Severnside. They include strategic scale sites at Woodlands (L2-FC2) north of Easter Compton (L2-PSB9) with some smaller potential sites adjacent to these. They could deliver a large number of homes and at L2-PSB9 north of Easter Compton and (L2-PSB4) Severnside a moderate increase in employment land and jobs over the plan period. These places also support decarbonisation of travel across the district by locating homes close to the existing areas of employment, reducing the distance new residents will likely need to travel to jobs. Sites adjacent the Bristol North Fringe and around Severnside would need to provide new and enhanced public transport, walking and cycling routes to realise opportunities for sustainable and active travel, between the existing employment area at Severnside and North Fringe. Currently there are no large scale infrastructure connections or services from the proposed sites in this area. Below are the opportunities and challenges we identified when we explored this part of the lens and explains how we determined which places should feature in our emerging preferred strategy.

Opportunities

  • The delivery of homes and jobs in proximity to the Bristol North Fringe and Severnside employment area including affordable housing close to main services centres and employment which would reduce the need for long travel journeys and decarbonise travel.
  • Potential to better connect the Bristol North Fringe with Severnside with potential site locations in Easter Compton and north of Easter Compton (L2-PSB9) which could relieve pressure on the local network.

Challenges

  • L2-FC2 (Woodlands Golf Course) would require strategic scale interventions to provide safe access onto the strategic and local road network, including a significant crossing of the M4 for people, public transport and cars, and it is currently unclear from the information provided how this will be achieved and funded in the plan period.
  • L2-FC2 (Woodlands Golf Course) has been identified as having a large area of onsite contamination due to past land uses and this is likely to incur further costs on development raising questions as to whether the site would provide all necessary supporting infrastructure, such as transport, primary school and local centre provision and maximise affordable housing provision.
  • It is likely a solution will be required for the entrance to L2-FC2 Woodlands due to targeted higher flood zones at Trench Lane and Hortham Lane.
  • A solution will be required for enhanced capacity at M5 motorway junctions 16 and 17 if all sites in this area were progressed as part of the preferred strategy.
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