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A report on the 9th Sept open meeting about Barratt’s development plans

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The field off Brinsea Rd where Barratts want to build 80 houses.

The field off Brinsea Rd where Barratts want to build 80 houses.

Around 100 residents of Congresbury turned out on 9th Sept to hear the latest news on the appeal by Barratts into North Somerset’s decision to refuse permission to build 80 homes on land off Brinsea Road.

The meeting heard from representatives of the Parish Council, Congresbury Residents Action Group (CRAG) organisers of the meeting and from District Councillor Tom Leimdorfer.

Cllr Leimdorfer reported that local MPs John Penrose and Liam Fox, together with North Somerset Council chiefs had attended a meeting with senior civil servants who announced that they would not be setting a time limit on when North Somerset had to meet its housing quota.

And he foresaw one of the main arguments at the appeal scheduled for 6 October being on the question of timing. “In a nutshell North Somerset Council will say that we are on track to meet our housing commitments by 2026. That will be challenged by Barratts arguing it should be done quicker.”

He also reported that four West of England councils (including North Somerset) had applied for devolution, and would be producing a new spatial plan allowing for many more houses to be built.

Residents were welcomed by Nick Green, a member of CRAG who introduced Viv Tomkinson from CRAG and Liz Greaves, clerk to the Parish Council. Nick said the Barratts housing scheme had been turned down by North Somerset for three reasons – it was unsustainable being outside the village boundary; the form of development was out of keeping with the character and landscape of its surroundings; and the extra traffic generated by the development would overload the road network which was already near capacity.

On behalf of the Parish Council, Liz thanked villagers for attending and explained that the Parish would be putting forward witnesses to speak in favour of North Somerset’s rejection of the plan.

She added that residents had an important part to play because the inspector would want to hear from people who were concerned about the threat to the character of the village, the traffic hazards to children going to and from school.

“The PC is committed to support North Somerset and fighting the Barratts scheme,” said Liz, who also urged residents to support the parish in producing a Neighbourhood Plan.

Viv Tomkinson, on behalf of CRAG said she was proud of what the group had achieved in the past year. “The outcome of this inquiry is no doubt being monitored by other developers and if Barratts succeed, more urban development will follow.”

She said it was a defining moment in Congresbury’s history. “We must win this appeal,” said Viv. Although Barratts was the main focus of the group at present, CRAG was also keeping a watchful eye on two other schemes – the  plan for more than 50 houses at Cobthorn Way and the proposal for 14 houses on land behind Venus Street.

“We want to keep you informed and we will be collecting names of people who want to speak at the inquiry. We need to show the inspector that the scheme doesn’t work.”

She added that part of Barratts’ case rests on the distance from the proposed site to shops and schools. “If you refuse to walk along Brinsea Road because of the traffic hazards, the inspector needs to know.”

After the various bodies had finished their reports, the meeting was thrown open to questions – and residents showed their passionate opposition to the scheme in general, and to the proposed junction changes in particular. One resident who used the crossing every day said he had been hit by wing mirrors of passing cars and seen lorries mount the pavement. “If someone had been walking there at the time they could have been killed.”

From the floor of the meeting, Robin Lea said it was nonsense to suggest safety was not an issue, and Pete Wright warned there would be children killed if the scheme went ahead. Apart from the danger, he predicted traffic would regularly be piled up from the A370 to the A38 and Langford.

Dr Moya Wilson pointed out that up to 60 six-axle heavy goods vehicles used the B3133 every day, in addition to regular HGVs. Another resident counted 979 cars and lorries in one hour along the same road.

There were pointed questions about what North Somerset Council was doing to protect the conservation area, and in particular the 600 year-old market cross in Broad Street. And another resident said that if Barratts wanted to build houses, they should first pay for the building of a by-pass.

John Mills John Mills

Journalist and jazz saxophonist John Mills has lived in Congresbury for more than 25 years, moving to the village from West London with his wife Rocki and 10 month old son, Sam in 1979. After a few years in Clevedon, John and Rocki moved back to the village in 2006, renovating and extending a bungalow in Yew Tree Park. Sadly, Rocki died in 2013. John, 71 keeps busy musically, playing with Cadbury Wind Band, with his son in the Sam Mills Quintet, and with a newly formed duo, Sax in the City with fellow Congresbury saxophonist and vocalist, Louise Harris.

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