Damage limitation campaign launched to offset impact of Westgate development in Pilning
CONCERNED villagers and their parish councillors have embarked on a 'damage limitation' campaign after a developer used a 56-year-old planning agreement to, they said, to bypass locals and build two warehouses in Pilning.
Last year, Harrow Estates came under fire from Pilning, Severn Beach and Easter Compton residents when they received permission to erect the buildings, covering 411,000 sq ft behind Tesco at the Westgate Centre off Marsh Common Road.
They claimed the scheme was utterly unacceptable in a small rural area.
As the proposed site falls under the controversial ‘1957 agreement’ developers are exempt from consulting the public and from the conventional planning application process.
The document, which relaxes legal construction requirements on land at Ellinghurst Farm, was key in allowing the large Tesco distribution centre to be built on the same site back in 2010.
The access, which the firm plans to create off the B4055, a country road that runs through Easter Compton, was a major issue for residents who feared the ‘rat-run’ would become unmanageable, with trucks travelling in and out of the centre gridlocking the parish.
Almondsbury and Severn Beach Parish Council rallied together and invited voters to speak openly about their safety fears at a meeting at Easter Compton Village Hall on Thursday, September 19 before deciding how to proceed.
Among the assembly were members of Protect and Conserve out Environment, a group initially formed to oppose the plans in Marsh Common Road.
Speaking on behalf of the more than 70 PACE campaigners, Sally Garbett, from Easter Compton said the entrance to the site simply needed to be moved to the relatively quieter A403.
“We feel totally besieged," she said. "Traffic on the B4055 is unacceptable. When it is developed the situation will become worse. There have been two fatalities on this road over the years."
Another villager who asked not to be named urged councillors to take action.
She said: “It’s ludicrous to send traffic down a small country lane. You need to stop the access. That’s what is going to give peace and quiet to residents. It’s about damage limitation."
Those present voiced concerns that the warehouses could be turned into factories as both residents and parishioners have had no update regarding the company's firm plans in Pilning.
Although the 1957 Consent prevented South Gloucestershire Council or parish representatives from opposing the scheme, which has already been rubber stamped, Almondsbury councillors and their colleagues in Severn Beach and Pilning agreed they should strive not only to deal with traffic safety issues, urging the local authority to deal take immediate action, but to ‘squeeze as much as possible’ from the developers to offset the impact on villagers across the board.
Cllr Kevin Weeks, of Pilning and Severn Beach Parish Council said: “We need to squeeze as much as we can from them.”
Almondsbury Parish Cllr Phil Hall, who represents Easter Compton, added: “We can’t stop it but we need to make them reduce the visual impact of it, whether it is planting trees or hedges."
Almondsbury Council decided to investigate the cost of hiring a planning expert to determine what could realistically be asked of Harrow Estates and to arrange to meet with the developer.
Harrow Estates was not available for comment.
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