South Gloucestershire Council granted permission on 23rd June 2011 for 374 homes – including elderly persons’ accommodation – to be built at on the site of the former Douglas motorcycle factory site on Hanham Road. Three years on, the developer still hasn’t begun work, and has despite repeatedly failed failing to meet deadlines.
Planning permission was granted on the basis of the developer signing a legal agreement with the Council called a Section 106 agreement which setting out the contributions they would make to the local community to offset the impact of the development. Permission can be removed if a Section 106 agreement is not signed within 6 months; but over three years later, with deadlines being set, missed and extended, the agreement has still not been signed. Even if permission was removed, the council has no powers to force the developer to sell the site.
This planning loophole risks putting extra pressure on surrounding greenbelt land as housing supply is not keeping up with demand. A Labour government would provide new powers to force developers to ‘use it or lose it’; requiring developers to sell their land or be charged for leaving it unused.
Jo McCarron, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Kingswood, said:
“It isn’t enough just to want to protect our green spaces. We need to understand the threat they are under and take meaningful action to deal with it. Under this Government’s new planning rules, if Councils cannot demonstrate that they have viable plans for enough new housing, there has the Government has said that there is to be a presumption in favour of any application to develop on surrounding land – including greenbelt.
“This saga at the Douglas factory site shows the importance of new powers to stop developers stalling – it also worryingly shows that the consequences are not just that houses don’t get built: but that efforts to protect the Green Belt could be undermined.”
One of the local councillors for the area, Andy Perkins (Labour, Woodstock) added:
“As local councillors for the area we have been chasing and chasing and chasing this issue. The longer it drags on, the more likely it is that a developer interested in building on the Green Belt is going to successfully argue that the council can no longer demonstrate there is enough land for housing in South Gloucestershire. And when that happens, the Tories’ planning rules mean that it will be open season for any speculative development on any piece of land.”