HOUSING plans at Morton Way could be shelved for a second time after an inspector demanded the local authority justify its decision to erect 250 homes to the north of Thornbury.

Inspector Paul Crysell will consider the suitability of Morton Way as a housing estate at a special hearing to be held at Kingswood Civic Centre on Thursday, March 7.

In November, Mr Crysell, who examined the region’s core strategy at a public inquiry the previous summer, announced his intention to increase the pace of development in South Gloucestershire, forcing the authority to fit 850 extra homes on various sites across the district.

Planners proposed to build an extra 594 homes, the maximum they could find space for in the next five years, they said. However, they agreed, if the inspector insisted, to build the remaining 250 homes on Morton Way in Thornbury.

This decision was strongly opposed by members of Preserve Morton Way action group as well as the majority of town councillors in Thornbury.

At the meeting, the inspector will ask council planners to offer other site suggestions and to prove that Morton Way is in fact the best option available. In the core strategy they had deemed it unsuitable for development and rejected it in favour of land at Park Farm.

Mr Crysell said: "If I were to conclude that an additional site was necessary I would be unwilling to settle on the one to the east of Morton Way at Thornbury, suggested by the council, without considering other sites which were brought to my attention during the examination."

The inspector will also ensure at the special hearing that the sites earmarked for the extra 594 homes are suitable.

A Preserve Morton Way spokesman told the Gazette: "We are confident that when the inspector undertakes a comparative analysis of the different locations across the district he will conclude that Thornbury cannot sustain the extra houses and that building on Morton Way would have a serious detrimental impact on this historic market town and leave us at the mercy of predatory developers in the future."

Director of environment and community services at South Gloucestershire Council Steve Evans said: “The council has made it clear that it does not believe further increases in the housing supply between 2012 and 2017 are necessary or justified.

“However in order to avoid planning by appeal, in its response, the council set out how this could be done, including the identification of additional land at Thornbury, east of Morton Way."

Meanwhile developer Bloor Homes, which lodged an application for 300 homes and a local shop on the site in July, has submitted amendments to its original plans to the council. Changes include a height limit of two storeys for houses along the north and east of Morton Way and a wider "green buffer".

Anyone wanting to participate in the hearing session should contact programme officer Kath Thorne on 01454 863742 by February 22. The public can also send comments of no more than 1,500 words to PO Box 2081, South Gloucestershire BS35 9BP, by February 8.