Timeline to May 2022
This is the background and timeline to the Sulis Down development at South Stoke Plateau, as at May 2022.
For information on the period 1950-2000 see the chapter 'South Stoke To Be or Not To Be' as in The Book of South Stoke by Bob Parfitt published in 2001 and extracted and available on the SSPC website.
A Public Enquiry Held at Guildhall. The Inspector's decision was to allow removal of part of the Hignett Family Trust (HFT) owned land from the greenbelt in order that that around 300 homes could be built together with Allotments. The number of homes was not a cap but conditions had to be met if increased. A comprehensive Masterplan was a prerequisite for any development. The only "Masterplan" that has been produced was a broad-brush Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3 'sketch' which contained no clear detail.
In July the B&NES Core Strategy Local plan was adopted which defined development around Bath for the foreseeable future. This included the provision to remove land from the Green Belt between South Stoke and Odd Down (now called Sulis Down), on Land owned by HFT, to allow the development of "around 300 dwellings". B&NES policy B3a set out a number of precise conditions that would have to be met to allow this and specifically ruled out any possibility of any access from the East at the Cross Keys/Southstoke Road junction and any development on Great Broad Close, next to the Wansdyke.
On 6th June the landowners/developers (HFT/Bloor) were granted permission to build 171 units in Phase 1 on the Western side of the development to be known as Sulis Down. This was
subject to agreement of Schedule 106 conditions, by Banes Development Control Committee (based on a vote of 6 Conservative Councillors in favour and 4 Councillors opposed – 3 Lib Dem 1 Labour), and despite failing to satisfy all the conditions set out in Local Plan Policy B3a,
During the latter part of 2018 and early 2019 there were public consultations about proposals for a "West of England Joint Spatial Plan" and for a review and update of Banes Core Strategy. The JSP was intended to provide overarching policies, which would feed down into the Core Strategy review.
Late in the consultation period HFT/Bloor submitted detailed proposals to increase the scope of the "Sulis Down" development dramatically. They claim that the site should become a
"strategic development location" (SDL) of 800 or more dwellings and that there should be a new roundabout at the Cross Keys junction to provide access from the East.
The Parish Councils of South Stoke and Combe Hay and others in the community have vigorously opposed these proposals pointing out profound damage that would be created to these important conservation villages, to the Green Belt, the AONB , the setting of the World Heritage city of Bath, and the Wansdyke scheduled ancient monument, which forms the northern boundary of the site.
The WoEJSP was subject to public enquiry by Government Inspectors in the Spring and in August the Inspectors rejected the Plan, concluding that fundamental aspects of it were unsound and they were not persuaded 'that there is evidence to demonstrate that the Strategic Development Locations, and thus the overall spatial strategy, have been selected for inclusion in the plan, against reasonable alternatives, on a robust, consistent and objective basis.'
The Parish Council have been advised that while this now 'opens the door' for new sites to come forward as a Strategic Development Location within the JSP, note the following:
The process will result in a significant delay (at least a few years) in the JSP being ready to be re-examined
SDLs are only assessed/accepted at first stage if the site can provide over 500 dwellings.
The South Stoke Plateau site will not be able to include Phase 1, and is still not large enough to be considered as an SDL
The only way the remainder of the site/additional land will come forward for development is through a local plan process and a further release of Green Belt land.
The fully revised Local Plan is expected to come forward immediately after the JSP is re-examined and subsequently adopted and to be informed by it. [Now to be superseded by WECA's SDS. See 2021/22 below]
B&NES' local plan partial update [LPPU] is now in preparation and is expected to be published in the Winter of 2021, with an Examination in Public by Inspectors in Spring 2022.
In August HFT put the Phase 1 land with attendant planning permission up for sale via Savills, with an opportunity for any purchaser to participate in the extended development of Sulis Down into the Eastern phases yet to be agreed with Banes.
In April the development company Countryside PLC purchased the land for Phase1 and declared no interest in extending their acquisition beyond this phase and have proceeded to finalise agreement with B&NES on all Schedule 106 conditions for Phase 1.
Local Plan Partial Update:
To avoid any Planning hiatus B&NES have now started the LPPU process. It was available for public consultation from 27th August to 8th October 2021. As part of the consultation, three SPDs are being reviewed and updated, and will also be available for public consultation alongside the Local Plan:
Transport, specifically parking standards, ultra-low emissions vehicles, walking and cycling infrastructure design and design for new development.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO), increasing the scope of existing policy to refer new build HMOs and change of use to HMO.
Energy Efficiency Retrofitting and Sustainable Construction (which combines two existing SPDs to better align and help deliver the council's core aims), which will set out measures for homeowners and occupiers on adapting their dwellings to reduce energy use.
8th October: The South Stoke Parish Council sent an email to B&NES outlining their 'serious concerns about several aspects of the published draft. The Parish Council have therefore decided to Object, because without significant revision the LPPU would be unsound.'
11th October B&NES advised that 'There has been significant public interest in the consultation and therefore, the Council is extending the deadline for the submission of comments on the three Supplementary Planning Documents. Residents and other stakeholders will have another week to submit their comments. As such comments should now be submitted by 5.00 p.m. on Monday 18th October.'
12th October the West of England Combined Authority issued this statement:
'The Spatial Development Strategy (SDS) is a high-level plan for the West of England, to make sure future development provides the right kind of jobs, homes and transport links, in the right places. The key objective of the SDS is for clean, inclusive recovery and growth for the region which will help us deliver our commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and beyond. It will influence where the homes and jobs in each local area will go and will be important in shaping future decisions on sustainable development. The strategy will cover the area of the West of England Combined Authority, which includes Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire councils…'
'We are planning to publish the draft SDS in Spring 2022 and it will be subject to a 12-week consultation, when residents and businesses across the region will be invited to share their views.'
17th December 'B&NES reported that the Local Plan Partial Update (LPPU) was submitted to the Secretary of State. The LPPU will now be examined for its compliance with statutory requirements and on its soundness by an independent Inspector appointed by the Planning Inspectorate. In undertaking this task the Inspector will have particular regard to the representations made on the Draft LPPU consultation document.
7th January: Planning Inspector, Mr Philip Lewis BA(Hons) MA MRTPI appointed to review the LPPU.
8th February: A letter and a copy of the leaflet that was delivered by Framptons Planning on behalf of HFT to local residents setting out the arrangements for the on-line Public Consultation for Phases 3 and 4 and access, of the residential development known as Sulis Down.
16th February: Richard Daone Deputy Head of Planning (Policy) at B&NES briefed elected representatives (i.e. Ward Councillors and Parish Councillors) on current Sulis Down planning matters and issued a summary clarifying statement on 4th March
25th February: South Stoke Parish Council submit comments to the HFT 'Public Consultation' on behalf of the Parish – see comments on the SSPC website.
April: The EIP Dates were published.
Initial Session at BRSLI from June 21st, followed by a further session at the Guildhall starting on July 5th. The Inspector has also published his 'Matters, Issues and Questions' and a 'Draft Programme for Hearings'.
All details are on B&NES Planning Portal which includes the full Examination timeline:
6th May 2022: Representors to inform Programme Officer if they wish to appear at the Hearings
24th May 2022: Deadline for any remaining Statements of Common Ground.
6th June 2022: Deadline for Written Statements.
21st June 2022: Week 1 Hearings commence (Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institute).
5th July 2022: Week 2 Hearings commence (The Guildhall).
April: Countryside submit a planning application to build allotments on 'Derrymans' field, between the new housing estate and Combe Hay Lane. B&NES extended date for comments to the 24th May.
May: Work on the Spatial Development Strategy (SDS) is halted and is not being progressed by the West of England Combined Authority. Metro Mayor Dan Norris has written to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to explain that he has asked officers to stop work as unanimous agreement on the plan by the councils has not been reached.
Council elections in April.