Chapter 5: SW Bristol Urban Extension

No development is proposed at South West Bristol, and no change to the Green Belt. Notwithstanding the council's objection to the principle of development, given the Regional Spatial Strategy's proposed urban extension, comments are invited on options and choices related to different forms and scales of potential development.

North Somerset Council is opposed to the principle of development in the Green Belt at SW Bristol. However the council acknowledges that the Core Strategy must reflect the emerging RSS and that eventually the Submitted version must be consistent with any approved RSS.

The draft RSS generated a substantial level of objection from across the region and final approval has been delayed pending an assessment of the implications of challenges to RSS elsewhere in the country. In addition, the Conservative Party has indicated that should they be successful in the forthcoming general election, than they will scrap the current RSS structure and remove any potential Green Belt development of this nature. Given the uncertainty over both the current RSS and the direction of future regional policy, it is inappropriate at this stage to prejudge future development choices of this scale and significance.

This Consultation Draft makes no provision for any development at SW Bristol. However, it is important that policy issues continue to be assessed and this chapter therefore invites comment on the options and choices for locating additional development in this area. In effect, the council's preferred approach is for no urban extension, but it is recognised that there are alternative options and this consultation process will help explore the implications.

Should the urban extension eventually be confirmed through an adopted RSS, then further consultation will be required on the proposed policy wording and form of any strategic allocation for SW Bristol before proceeding to the next stage of the Core Strategy.

Background

The Draft Revised Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West incorporating the Secretary of State's Proposed Changes July 2008 proposes an urban extension to the South West of Bristol. This should be a 'sustainable community, within a revised Green Belt, fully integrated into the existing urban area'. Policy HMA1 proposes that 10,500 homes should be provided, 9,000 in the North Somerset area, 1,500 in Bristol in the period to 2026. It recognises that this 'can support and complement the regeneration of South Bristol'.

The council has undertaken a significant amount of consultation and engagement in relation to the SW Bristol proposal. The Core Strategy Issues and Options document and Topic Paper - Sustainable Urban Extensions at South West Bristol, October 2007, opened the debate. This was followed by a series of Planning Together Workshops (2008) which brought together developers, community representatives and other stakeholders to debate and assess the implications of the RSS proposal and to identify the key elements which would contribute to creating a sustainable development in detail.

As part of the assessment process North Somerset Council appointed consultants, Broadway Malyan, to advise on the preparation of a master plan, design codes and delivery plan for a 10,500 dwelling urban extension to the south west of Bristol.

In trying to accommodate the total RSS housing requirement and respect the environmental and other constraints within the area of search, the consultants acknowledged that their emerging master plan contained significant compromises. The amount of land required for a development of this scale at an appropriate density, taking account of the land use requirements of other uses (such as employment) and supporting services (such as shops, schools, community services and open space) was considerable. This had to be delivered within a high quality natural landscape which needed to be respected and retained. The area also has numerous constraints including floodplain, areas of high ecological value, landfill and is crossed by major transport routes which create severance issues.

Broadway Malyan recognised that their master plan resulted in three physically separated development areas which could create relatively isolated communities, and that development did not relate particularly well to the adjacent urban area. In addition, the council had significant concerns about the need to respect local environmental constraints and communities, and the need to create places which were more appropriate and locally distinct for the North Somerset context. The delivery plan also highlighted the difficulty in delivering such a large amount of development within the RSS timescale. The consultants were therefore asked to explore a number of alternative spatial growth options for the area. The instruction was to base these options on a bottom-up assessment of local constraints, aspirations and alternative spatial options, not on the top-down RSS requirement. This involved different scales of possible development.

The Broadway Malyan work does not represent the views of North Somerset council. Their role was to advise on the options and choices, which would allow the council to assess alternative developer proposals, and should the RSS allocation be confirmed, to inform the plan making process.

The Council has now received a planning application from Land Trust (Ashton Park) for the development of a 9,500 dwelling urban extension and is aware of other developer aspirations in the area. Any urban extension proposal must also be considered in the context of other development proposals in the area, such as Bristol International Airport, and proposals within Bristol City.

Alternative options

Broadway Malyan identified four broad spatial options:

  • Main masterplan (full RSS requirement)
  • Option 1: Linked new settlement
  • Option 2: Urban extension with a green wedge/buffer
  • Option 3: Integrated urban extension

These are used as the basis for this consultation to illustrate the issues related to the delivery of development at SW Bristol. Full details are contained in the supporting documentation.

Main Master Plan (Full RSS Requirement)

This demonstrates the extent of land required to support the RSS proposal, and its potential impact on the area.

  • The main masterplan includes:
  • 9,500 homes (at 40 dph) 9,000 in North Somerset, 500 in Bristol
  • 37 ha of employment
  • A town centre and four local centres
  • Six primary schools and one secondary school.

BM Main masterplan

BM key

Option 1: Linked New Settlement

This is the smallest scale of development which the consultants suggest could be sustainable in terms of the range of facilities which would be provided. Development of this scale enables the retention of significant Green Belt/landscape buffer.

  • This option includes:
  • 3,440 homes (at 40 dph)
  • 12.2 ha of employment
  • Large local centre
  • Two primary schools and one small secondary school

BM Option 1 map

BM key

Option 2: Urban Extension with a Green Wedge/Buffer

This represents a larger form of development, roughly equating to the size of development which the consultants suggest could be delivered by 2026.

  • The urban extension with a green wedge/ buffer includes:
  • 5,320 homes (at 40 dph)
  • 18 ha of employment
  • Two large local centres
  • Three primary schools and one large secondary school.

BM Option 2 map

BM key

Option 3: Integrated Urban Extension

This is the largest form of development which the consultant's felt could perhaps be accommodated without completely compromising key environmental constraints, while enabling the creation of a distinctive and sustainable community.

The integrated urban extension includes:

  • 7,360 homes (at 40 dph)
  • 26 ha of employment
  • One district centre or three large local centres
  • Four primary schools and one large secondary school.

BM option 3 map

BM key

The development of the main masterplan and three options enables the exploration of the critical issues arising from different scales of development in the area. The pros and cons of the alternative growth options are set out in the Broadway Malyan work. If the RSS eventually requires development at SW Bristol, then North Somerset will need to assess the relative merits of different proposals and set out its preferred approach, this will be the subject of a separate consultation process.

Emerging Guidelines for Development

From the work already undertaken however it is clear that any emerging policy for the development, at whatever scale, would need to:

1. Set clear boundaries for the limit to the development and the consequent change to the Green Belt. This will need to ensure the resultant Green Belt fulfils the purposes of Green Belt as effectively as possible. The individual identity of the North Somerset settlements is highly valued and Green Belt policy will be used to ensure that Long Ashton does not merge with either the existing Bristol area or any proposed extension.

2. Ensure the delivery of critical transport infrastructure. All levels of development will need to include provision for both the South Bristol Link and the Bus Rapid Transit and ensure that these are phased in conjunction with the housing development. Within the development a clear hierarchy of roads will integrate neighbourhoods and link to existing areas.

3. Respect the local landscape, topography, ecology and heritage. This will include the protection from development of the higher slopes of Dundry Hill, and ensure that existing woodland and parkland is conserved and enhanced particularly at Barrow Hospital and Hanging Hill Wood.

4. Ensure that green space and green infrastructure provision is central to the design of the development. An accessible major strategic green infrastructure corridor stretching from the open countryside along Yanley ridge incorporating a restored Yanley landfill site into the city at Bedminster Down and Ashton Park will be required. This will be linked with a network of green infrastructure across the whole development area which will also include playing fields, allotments, play areas, pocket and community parks, green corridors linking through development allowing wildlife movement and access to open space, wetlands and water corridors.

5. Minimise the impact on climate change though the promotion of sustainable resources and efficient buildings including energy and waste provision.

6. Ensure that the place created has a clear and distinct identity. The character will be defined by its unique setting and the quality of the built form. High quality local vernacular and current best practice design will ensure local heritage and tradition is combined with modern energy efficiency and design. Landmark buildings, high quality public spaces and links, and public art will all be required in order to ensure distinct identity.

7. Provide homes, jobs, schools, services and facilities in a modern sustainable community that includes a vibrant mixed use centre as a focus for activity and identity. Additional local centres will also be required dependent on the size of the development.

8. Provide a mix of employment space and provision. This will allow residents the choice of working without the need to commute into the city centre or beyond. A dormitory settlement or suburb will not be acceptable.

9. Include a mix of housing types, tenures, sizes and styles and including affordable housing. Provision of a site(s) for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation. An average density of at least 40dph should be achieved across the area.

10. Reduce the need to travel and car dependency and make it easier for people to make more sustainable travel choices though careful design, layout and location of the development and facilities. High quality public transport, walkways and cycle paths will permeate the development and link with the surrounding settlements and urban area. Parking provision will need to be carefully designed and managed so as not to encourage car use but at the same time ensure sufficient space is provided to ensure parking is consistent with good urban design, highway safety and residential amenity. The potential for an extension to or an additional Park and Ride facility will also need to be considered.

11. Include comprehensive flood management and flood mitigation measures as well as any necessary measures arising from the proximity of the Barrow reservoirs.

12. Ensure proper provision is made for local governance and community involvement in the development and management of the community.

Critical Issues Still to be Resolved

Even if the draft RSS were to be approved there are still critical issues to be resolved regarding the scale of development which could be accommodated in this area. The Broadway Malyan main master plan demonstrates that the amount of land take required has implications particularly with regard to maintaining the separate identity of Long Ashton and in delivering an integrated urban extension. The smaller scale options of development raise other issues regarding sustainability, infrastructure and service provision.

Phasing of any development will be critical and it is still uncertain as to how this could be best achieved. Priority provision should be made for delivering development on brown field land at Weston-super-Mare and in South Bristol.

The delivery of the key infrastructure needs to be phased with the development. This needs to be assured and adequate funding arrangements made. Broadway Malyan work on deliverability gives a strong indication that the level on development envisaged in the RSS could not be achieved within the RSS timescale. Phasing beyond the plan period may therefore need to be considered.

Issues around the scale of development impact very much on the type of place that would be created. Recent suburban developments are often criticised by the general public as soulless housing estates with few services and little character and it is clear from the public consultation work undertaken that this scenario must be avoided. It is, however, less clear as to the type of place to be created and its function. Should it be a suburb of Bristol, or a more self-contained locally distinctive place? How much provision should be made for employment and how can employers be attracted to this new location? How should the development relate to existing communities both within Bristol and North Somerset? How can severance within the community be avoided?

What is an appropriate overall density for housing? The proposed RSS (Policy H2) states that local authorities should promote net densities of 50dph or more in planned urban extensions. Higher density results in less land being required but has implications for the form and character of the development. Is this area suitable for city centre densities? Should it have a more North Somerset market town feel?