GREEN SPACES: Call to save green belt
An opposition councillor is calling on Bristol’s mayor to save the city’s green spaces from being obliterated by new housing.
Conservative representative Richard Eddy wants Labour’s Marvin Rees to give a “cast iron” commitment that Bristol’s green belt, parks and farmland will be preserved.
The proposal, which city councillors will vote on next week, comes as the city’s last working farm, Yew Tree Farm, continues to come under threat from a developer’s plans to build 200 new homes there.
It also follows a reversal by the city’s ruling Labour administration over plans to build housing on Brislington Meadows and a commitment by Mr Rees that he will ‘look again’ at whether to redevelop the Western Slopes, an important wildlife corridor in south Bristol.
Cllr Eddy said Bristol City Council ought to be building housing on so-called ‘brownfield’ sites – which have been developed before – before using greenbelt land or other green spaces.
“No-one denies that a city such as Bristol needs appropriate new residential development for its population to be housed,” the Bishopsworth representative said.
“Unfortunately, I am far from convinced that the current Labour mayoral administration has achieved sufficient progress in regenerating under-used ‘brownfield’ sites. The council ought to be prioritising ‘brownfield’ re-use before considering destroying our precious ‘green belt’ and ‘green-lung’ open spaces.
“Unless the mayor signals a radical change here, unique environmental assets such as Yew Tree Farm – Bristol’s last working farm – and the beautiful Western Slopes could disappear forever under the bulldozer.”
The mayor’s office did not respond to a request from the Local Democracy Reporting Service for comment.
Yew Tree Farm is a small family enterprise in south Bristol that produces a range of organic pork, beef, eggs, fruit and vegetables, and seasonal jams and chutneys.
It added honey to its produce list last week, winning the backing of the West of England metro mayor, Labour’s Dan Norris, who has put promoting and enhancing the environment for bees in the region as a top priority.
But farmer Catherine Withers, whose family owns 28 acres outright at Bristol’s last self-sufficient farm and rents a further 15 acres adjoining it, has been warning the farm’s future is under threat because the city council has plans to allow homes to be built there.
The council’s emerging Local Plan is set to strip Green Belt status from the 15 acres Catherine rents close to Bridgwater Road, and already developers Redrow have plans for 200 new homes to be built there.
Redrow Homes has this month submitted another pre-application planning enquiry to Bristol City Council for the homes.
Unlike full and outline planning applications, pre-application enquiries by developers only require the response of the planning authority and do not invite the comments of residents.
Cllr Eddy’s ‘golden motion’ is set to be debated at a full council meeting on Tuesday, September 7.
It says green spaces such as Yew Tree Farm are just as important as Brislington Meadows and the Western Slopes, a prominent green space between Knowle West and Hartcliffe Way.
Mr Rees announced that no homes would be built on Brislington Meadows in April, less than a year after the land was sold to Homes England for up to 300 homes to be built there. The city mayor said the change of heart, just before May’s local elections, was due to the ecological emergency.
In August, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said Mr Rees and council chiefs would “take a renewed look” at the question of whether hundreds of homes should be built on the Western Slopes. The wildlife corridor is the subject of two separate plans for a potential total of almost 600 new homes.
Cllr Eddy’s motion says: “The family [at Yew Tree Farm] has been recognised by the Avon Wildlife Trust and RSPB for the huge strides made in achieving sustainable, low-intensity, organic local food production, whilst maintaining abundant and attractive biodiversity.
“Considering the mayor’s pledges around combatting food poverty and encouraging communities to grow more of their own food, council calls for a halt to the proposed redevelopment of or incursion into any remaining productive wildlife rich agricultural land.
“Furthermore, the mayor is asked to give a cast-iron commitment that he will look instead to increase the emphasis placed in the authority’s site allocations and development management policies on re-using or re-purposing existing and emerging ‘brownfield’, previously developed or urban centres rather than continuing to erode our surrounding fields and countryside.”
Words: Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter
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