Skip to main content

Residents ‘furious at road closure plan’

Residents of Congresbury are up in arms about a decision to close a road for up to five months to accommodate work on a controversial housing scheme.

More than 200 householders will be affected by the temporary closure of Wrington Lane, due to be imposed next week by North Somerset Council.

Members of Congresbury Residents Action Group (CRAG) reported that homeowners in the lane and surrounding roads are “incandescent” with rage over the notice issued under provisions of section 14 of the Road Traffic Act 1984.

Work is scheduled in three phases. The first phase, due to start on 3rd October includes the section down to Cobthorn Way. Phase Two covers the section from Cobthorn Way to Wrington Mead with Phase Three from Wrington Mead to the junction with the A370.

Residents have individually expressed their anger to MP John Penrose, district councillor Phil Neve, North Somerset Council and contractor Vistry Homes.

CRAG chair Mary Short said the action by North Somerset Council was totally unreasonable. “There are people with limited mobility, elderly folk and parents with young children who will become virtual prisoners in their homes if they cannot use their cars. Many residents in the area rely on their cars to get to work, to go for appointments and shopping etc. and have no idea what access they will have.”

The planned road closures would operate from 8am to 5pm weekdays with “occasional Saturdays from 8am to 1pm.”

Apart from Wrington Lane itself, the closure would directly affect access for residents of Cobthorn Way, Weetwood Road, Wrington Mead, Ward’s Hill, Verlands and Furnace Way.

The Council responded to one resident: “I am sorry that you are concerned about the works that are proposed to take place in Wrington Lane. Please be reassured that access is maintained for residents and emergency vehicles. The works are programmed in a phased manner so access can be maintained.”

The background to this case, which has blighted residents for more that six years, involves a dispute over land ownership. The housing project was only granted on condition that the developer provided a footway in the Lane before building work began.

The Council claim that that the footway can be built on public highway land. Residents dispute this, and have evidence that the footway will need land which is part of their property and has never been adopted as public highway land. 

John Mills

Building consultants’ claims ‘laughable’, says CRAG

Congresbury residents are angry at the “dismissive and bullying” tone adopted by consultants working for a firm of developers.

Following more than 800 objections to the plan for a new housing estate behind Park Road, consultants employed by developers M7, claim to have answered all the objections. 

They now want North Somerset Council to give outline planning permission to the scheme for up to 100 houses on fields leading down to the River Yeo.

Congresbury Residents Action Group (CRAG) disputes the claim by consultants Lichfields and has written to the council’s planning office pointing out the anomalies in their case.

Said CRAG chair Mary Short: “This plan has attracted more objections in this village than any other. Apart from challenging their assumptions on specifics such as environmental and wildlife damage, transport and highways, we contend that this site itself is just not suitable for new housing.

“There was a scheme for building a quarter of the number houses on this site 20 years ago and a public inquiry turned it down on the grounds that it would destroy the traditional landscape of a pastoral scene leading down to the river. 

“If 25 houses were though to damage a view of rural tranquillity, how much worse would four times that number be.?”

“Such a scheme would be viewed by future generations as nothing less than architectural vandalism. We cannot allow this to happen when there are other more suitable sites for development.”

Some of the claims by the consultants are almost laughable – they mention transport links like a “ghost” bus service along Brinsea Road and include reference to a village GP surgery which has been closed for nearly two years. 

This is another example of a firm of land agents trying to make money by putting housing schemes where they are not wanted, are completely unsustainable in terms of employment opportunities and which if built would lead to more car use, more pollution and even greater traffic jams, said CRAG.

CRAG calls for action on Mulberry Road plans

So the battle lines are drawn. An application to build up to 90 houses on land behind Park and Mulberry Roads has been submitted to North Somerset Council.

The application has been made by consultants Lichfields on behalf of developer M7 Planning Ltd and M7SW LLP with a planning fee of £12,536.

CRAG will be supporting residents who wish to object to the plan on the grounds that the village and surrounding areas have had too many new houses in the past eight years. Apart from the obvious extra traffic generated (which ludicrously is not regarded as a planning matter) North Somerset is losing countryside at an alarming rate.

Accompanying the application are reports covering ecology, transport, flood risk, community involvement, heritage and a tree survey, so there will be many aspects for CRAG to evaluate over the coming weeks.

In the meantime, residents who wish to comment on the notion of another 90 houses, plus at least another 180 cars on our roads, can visit the North Somerset Council website, find planning applications and key in the reference 22/P/0459/OUT.

John Mills

Vistry visionaries?

CRAG’s John Mills sends us the action group’s latest thoughts:

“More signs of peripheral activity at the Wrington Lane site, recently transferred from Bovis Homes to Vistry Group.

“A CRAG informant spotted two Bovis men on the field with a clip board and when asked what they were doing replied: “Just having a look.”

“As Bovis has had several years in which the whole company could have visited the site, it is reasonable to think that they were doing more than just having a look. In the absence of concrete information, we are free to speculate.

“Maybe it was a couple of managers saying a fond farewell to the site that had now passed to Vistry? Much more likely, the new owners had discovered The Mound.

“Some objectors had already indicated that to squeeze 50 houses onto the site, developers would have to build on Mansbury Mound, a limestone outcrop that dominates the centre of the site.

“The historical significance of the Mound was referenced on this page several weeks ago, along with a question of how they might remove the outcrop whilst maintaining Vistry Group values of ‘integrity, caring and quality.’

“And in their latest Design Compliance Statement, Vistry states that one of the opportunities of the development is “to retain and enhance existing landscape features……within the site, where possible.“

“With those reassuring words, the good citizens of Congresbury should be able to look forward to Mansbury Mound surviving for another few hundred years . . .”

Call to oppose new homes plan

Many villagers will know of the years of frustration suffered by residents of Wrington Lane with seemingly endless schemes by land agents Gladman and construction firm Bovis Homes to build on a field off the lane.

Plans to build 50 houses have been  thwarted by the foresight of North Somerset councillors – and Tom Leimdorfer in particular – when outline planning permission was granted subject to a continuous footway being provided along the lane before construction could begin.

Over the years, Gladman have tried several wheezes to get round this perfectly reasonable condition but have failed because the lane in several places is just too narrow to allow a proper pavement alongside the carriageway.

Now there is a new effort following a merger between builder Bovis and Linden Homes. Enter the Vistry Group with new pretty drawings of houses and trees and hedgerows, and details of wild flowers and play areas. 

Their tactic is to ignore the question of access. It is as if the site exists in splendid isolation where real-life problems do not happen. In their fantasy world, practicalities like access to and from the site for construction, service and emergency vehicles, along with the safety of pedestrians and cyclists are banished.

But the firm is not stupid – it must be assuming that the rest of us are so busy worrying about Covid that we would not notice that it has included the application under Reserved Matters in a previous application made two years ago.

Says CRAG’s Mary Short: “This is clearly an attempt to get approval before residents have time to object by the deadline of 15th March – please don’t let them get away with it.”

To register objections to this cunning plan, go to North Somerset Council’s website and under Planning Applications, go to 19/P/1657/RM. When you’ve found the application, scroll down to find “make a comment.”

If you do want to comment we would suggest that you look at a document called the Design and Access Statement – DAS Rev A published on the web site on 17th February.

We suggest that any comments are focussed on issues or concerns about the latest drawings and the site layout.

There is no need to comment about access from Wrington Lane because as you will recall  this is a separate issue. In 2017 when Gladman secured outline planning consent North Somerset Council stipulated that no residential development would be allowed until the works detailed in an agreed roadways scheme to improve the footway and carriageway along Wrington Lane had been completed. 

John Mills

Developer wants feedback on 90-home Park Road plan

M7 Planning Limited and Stonewater Housing Association have teamed up to progress a planning application for land at Pineapple Farm for up to 90 dwellings (including 30% housing), public open space and the retention of an ecological buffer along the boundary of the site.

The land is situated behind Park Road and would be accessed from Mulberry Road. The developer has asked Congresbury Parish Council to direct residents to their website which is www.your-feedback.uk/pineapple-farm where residents can view the plans and provide feedback.

The Parish Council has not responded to the developer and was made aware of the plans during the public participation section of the Full Council meeting on 12th October 2020.

The Parish Council will consider the application and respond in the usual manner to North Somerset council when the application has been submitted. However, this does provide an opportunity to provide initial feedback to the developer in this consultation stage.

CRAG’s report from Parish Council meeting

CRAG was well-represented at Monday’s meeting (19 August) of Congresbury Parish Council’s planning committee. The agenda item which attracted CRAG members was the appeal by Gladman to the Planning Inspectorate against North Somerset Council’s rejection of the scheme for changes to Wrington Lane.

Committee chair Michael Greaves summarised the council’s objection to the scheme, stating that Wrington Lane was totally inadequate for more traffic, a situation that would be exacerbated by the development at Cobthorn Way. Read more

Residents protest over change to housing plans

Angry villagers from Cobthorn Way, Wrington Lane and Verlands besieged Congresbury Parish Council meeting on Monday to raise their strong objections to the tactics adopted by Strongvox, who have taken over the development at the bottom of Cobthorn Way from Sunley Homes, the original developer.

Strongvox have applied to the planning authority to replace the original mix of 38 properties with 21 four-bedroomed houses, instead of a mix of 1, 2 and 3 bedroomed units, and the original four bungalows reduced to one.  The 11 affordable units cannot be changed.

Read More

CRAG team ‘quietly optimistic’

After three and a half days of close argument, CRAG’s team at the Wrington Lane public inquiry, ably led by Peter Walton, are quietly hopeful of a positive outcome.

Praise for CRAG’s efforts came from District Councillor Tom Leimdorfer who said he was immensely proud of the village. “We knew that we were up against land agents with very deep pockets using top experts and an aggressive business model,” he said.

Friday’s session ended with evidence from two important witnesses for Gladman.
The first, a landscape architect tried to argue that 50 new houses in a field would not alter the character of the surrounding area. The second, Gladman’s town planner, tried to convince the inspector that because North Somerset could not prove a five year supply of land for development, their appeal should be allowed.

Read More

CRAG takes on developers at public inquiry

Congresbury Residents Action Committee (CRAG) has decided take on a development company at a public inquiry due to take place later this month. CRAG made the decision to fight Gladman Homes after North Somerset council’s U-turn to approve a decision to allow building.

In August 2016, North Somerset planners cited four good reasons for opposing an appeal lodged by Gladman Homes for their application to build 50 dwellings on land off Wrington Lane.

Now six months later, following advice from planning officers, the council has done a 180 degree turn and approved the plan – even though they had already approved a scheme by Sunley Homes for 38 houses in a nearby field.

Read More