Agenda item

Development Update: Land to rear of 89 – 123 Englishcombe Lane, Southdown, Bath.

As part of the B&NES Homes development programme officers were tasked with investigating whether a smaller scheme could be developed that provides local community housing whilst being sympathetic and supportive to the existing site ecology.  Following concept design, option appraisal and initial business case the attached report proposes such a scheme for further detailed development work.


(Note: At this point Cllr Dine Romero left the meeting having declared a registerable pecuniary interest in this item).


Cllr Tom Davies introduced the report and made the following statement:


“I am pleased to be proposing this paper which provides an update on the development of the land off Englishcombe Lane - as, in my mind, this project exemplifies so much that this administration believes in.


Firstly - that we are a listening Council - like many of us here, a number of residents had grave concerns about the previous development which had been proposed for this land - whilst delivering 14 affordable homes, the 37-home scheme which had been previously approved by the planning committee had, in the minds of many of us, too much risk - not least of all to the sensitive ecology of the site.


This Lib Dem administration listened to these concerns and acted on them with Cllr Guy making the commitment to not pursue this previous application.


Instead, we looked again at the site - and put front and centre two of our core principles - that of Improving People’s Lives and Tackling the Climate & Ecological Emergency.


Be in no doubt - this proposed development has the potential to immeasurably improve people’s lives. As the paper makes clear, we have a significant under supply of supported living provision in our area - especially for some of our residents with learning difficulties and/or autism.


As a result, there is an increased risk that we as a local authority can only provide the support needed through residential care outside of the Bath and North East Somerset Area - thereby placing significant additional pressure on the individual, their families and of course increasing the costs to the Council.

And so, bringing forward this proposal to use the land off Englishcombe Lane to provide a smaller, bespoke development to support 16 residents with learning difficulties is something which I believe we should be proud of as we seek to directly improve the lives of residents in our area.


Indeed, it is just the latest example of how this LibDem administration is determined to play a leading role in the delivery of appropriate and affordable homes under our new B&NES Homes programme. It follows on from the delivery of other supported housing schemes delivered in recent months and, later this winter, the opening of our first general needs Council Houses for a generation.


Furthermore - rather than seeing the ecology of the area as a liability - one to be literally transplanted to another area - we have sought to use it as the asset that it is - an asset which, through this development, will be protected and enhanced for the benefit of us all - not least of all the new residents and thereby through this we stand firm to our commitment to the Climate & Ecological Emergency.


The paper details a number of ways in which we will seek to meet these commitments - from the commitment to energy efficient, low carbon housing to the enhancement and protection of the ecology - all underpinned by our commitment to seek to achieve the Building with Nature Accreditation.


I fully appreciate and recognise that this site remains a controversial one and that some residents, especially in the local area, have serious concerns about any development on it.


In this regard, I would make special reference to local ward Councillor Jess David, who has worked tirelessly to highlight and reflect these concerns to me, Cllr Guy and the Council Officers involved - concerns which she has tonight reiterated and highlighted in her public statement. I find it hard to think of a ward Councillor who has worked so hard to represent their residents on a single issue such as this and it is Cllr David who is responsible for seeing the commitment to the Building with Nature accreditation being made in this paper for any development which is progressed.


To these residents, Cllr Jess David and others who share concerns - I reiterate the commitment I have made in my meetings with residents - just as I, Cllr Guy and Officers have already met with residents to openly discuss our plans to date, I and the administration will continue to engage with you and share our thoughts, the findings of technical reports and our development plans in a manner of transparency and respect as the programme develops. I thank them for the time that they have already given me and for the time they will give in our on-going engagements.


And so, on that note, colleagues, I am delighted to move this paper and seek your approval for recommendations 2.1 to 2.3.”


Cllr Tim Ball seconded the motion and stated that the Cabinet had listened to concerns and brought forward a new proposal.


Cllr Richard Samuel also supported the proposal as he felt the original plan represented too high a density and would have negatively impacted on the local biodiversity.  The scheme put forward has less environmental impact and will fulfil a useful social purpose.


Cllr Alison Born noted that this is a much smaller development than the one previously approved and should be more suited to the site. It will safeguard the sensitive ecological features of the site and provide much needed accommodation for people with complex needs.  The adult social care transformation plan includes the goal of developing services to meet more people’s needs in the local area.  This will help to achieve that goal and to improve the life experience of some residents with the most complex needs.


RESOLVED (unanimously):


(1)To commission further development work to advance the preferred option to planning stage, that is a development of 9 bungalows and 7 apartments for residents with learning difficulties.

(2)To fully approve £320k capital funding from the Provisional Capital Programme for Affordable Housing to support this development work.

(3)To delegate any future decision to submit a planning application to the Cabinet Member for Adult Services and Council House Building in consultation with Cabinet colleagues.


Supporting documents: