Planning chiefs come under fire over plans to build 250 homes at Morton Way North in Thornbury
PLANNING chiefs came under fire from outraged residents at a public examination over plans to build up to 250 homes at Morton Way in Thornbury.
Activists, town councillors and developers accused South Gloucestershire Council of wilfully "omitting" more appropriate sites and having a hidden agenda for choosing Morton Way North, a location it had previously deemed unsuitable.
But bosses defended their decision to build to the north of Thornbury as they were grilled by a government inspector at Kingswood Civic Centre last Thursday and asked to justify their apparent U-turn.
Andrew Lane, principal planning officer at South Gloucestershire Council, stood his ground telling Paul Crysell, the inspector charged with scrutinising the local authority's 15-year planning blueprint, that the site was picked over many others including Engine Common, and Woodlands Farm in Frampton Cotterell, to help "direct growth to Thornbury".
"The town has employment opportunities and has a traditional high street, a supermarket and lots of facilities," he said.
"The surplus places in the local schools have increased since last summer. It is capable of addressing the housing shortfall."
Ecology was also an important factor in the decision process, he said.
Following a three-week public examination last summer, Mr Crysell approved the council’s decision to build 500 homes at Park Farm in Thornbury instead of Morton Way.
But he then instructed planning bosses to increase the pace of development in the region over the next five years, forcing them to find new sites to erect an extra 800 homes before 2017.
The council strongly opposed the move but agreed reluctantly to build around 250 houses at Morton Way North, if the inspector persisted with his demands.
Their defence did not sway townspeople at the hearing, who felt the choice of Morton Way was unjustified.
Town Cllr Clive Parkinson said: "The town council is adamantly opposed to development the other side of Morton Way. It will produce real problems for people getting from Thornbury into work in the North Bristol fringe."
Thornbury and Yate MP Steve Webb said building at Morton Way would have a "domino effect" on future development.
"As far as residents are concerned it would breach Morton Way," he said. "It would have a domino effect. What seems like a marginal increment would have a massive impact on these communities."
Mr Crysell will now have to decide whether Morton Way is the best site in the region to build around 250 homes.
His final report will be published in June. Morton Way will also be the subject of another public inquiry next month launched by developers Bloor Homes after the local authority failed, it said, to consider its application to build 300 homes on the site in good time.
This means another inspector will examine the plans and could very well throw out Mr Crysell's decision, resulting in what town councillors fear may be "an absolute farce".