Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have branded plans to redevelop Filton Airfield and adjacent Green Belt land as a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to government housing targets.
The councillors, responding to the consultation on the revisions to the council’s Core Strategy planning blueprint for the area for the next 15 years, have said that Filton Airfield, and an area of Green Belt nearby at Haw Wood, have been treated as nothing more than windfall sites that are being used to plug a hole in the district’s housing numbers.
Leader of the Labour councillors, Andy Perkins said:
“The original Core Strategy approved in December 2010 had much to commend in it and commanded our support. However, since then the government has been sending messages that it expects our area to take more than the previously agreed 21,500 houses and when British Aerospace announced it intends to close Filton Airfield, we believe it has been seen as a convenient dumping ground to keep the government happy.”
The Council published a revised Core Strategy in December 2011 and it has been out for consultation for the past 7 weeks. It is expected to being examined in public in the Spring by a government-appointed Inspector who will assess whether it is sound.
Councillor Perkins added:
“A lot of the original Core Strategy remains in the revised version and contains elements that we support such as closing loopholes that developers were exploiting to avoid affordable housing and bringing-in policies which will stop relentless flat conversions without enough parking provision. However, we cannot support the knee-jerk reaction to the closure of the airfield and its identification for redevelopment particularly since only a year ago the Council was saying that the long term operation of the airfield was crucial to the prosperity of the area and should be protected.”
The councillors have also raised concerns regarding the content of emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Save Filton Airfield campaign group. The councillors say they believe that the emails show a very close relationship between council officers, British Aerospace and a company called Terence O’Rouke and suggest that Council officers helped BAe to present their care for closure of the airport and were proactively passing-on information about what councillors were saying and doing.
Note - The Labour Group’s response to the consultation can be found HERE
20th February 2012