A PUBLIC inquiry into the decision taken by South Gloucestershire Council to refuse permission for the development of 106 homes in Charfield has begun.

The inquiry, which is expected to take eight days from its start on Tuesday, January 6, is a part of Gladman Developments’ appeal against the decision.

Dozens of members of the public attended the first day of the inquiry in which representatives of the developers and the council discussed the merits of the appeal.

The Charfield Green development was refused by the local authority which described the development as “unsustainable” because of its size, location and availability of facilities.

This was disputed by the developers at the inquiry who said that “Charfield does not currently exist in a vacuum” and that they believed the village was a suitable place to build.

Peter Goatley of Cheshire-based developers said that there were “no technical reasons not to develop the site” despite the land being outside of the village’s defined settlement boundary.

“There are not enough houses being built in the UK,” he said. “Canada has a population half the size of the UK yet they are building twice as many houses there.

“We believe that Charfield is not an unsustainable place for development, nearby Wotton-under-Edge, which is just a short bus ride away, has a number of services.

“Yate, which is half an hour away by bus, has healthcare and shopping facilities and the nearby market towns of Dursley and Thornbury also have facilities.”

Speaking on behalf of South Gloucestershire Council, Suzanne Hornsby QC argued that the developers were sidestepping the authority’s adopted plans.

She said: “The development is outside the settlement boundary of Charfield, in open countryside.

“The appellant’s entire case is predicated on the erroneous assumption that the council does not have a five year development plan, which it does.

"The Gladman document does not have consultation or expert advice which the council's Core Strategy does have.

The council and the developers also disagree about what community contributions should be paid as part of any development.

They have asked for a contribution of over £11,000 to be made towards stock for libraries – a sum which Gladman believes it should not have to pay because of a declining number of people using the service.

Planning inspector Lesley Coffey will decide, following the inquiry, whether or not to uphold the appeal.

Stephen Bomford of Willow Close in Charfield criticised the plans last year which he believed would add to the pressure on the village’s services.

He said: “Very limited consideration has been applied to the effect of possibly 500 plus inhabitants of Charfield and in particular the strain on the road network as well as local school and health provisions.”

“Overall, there would be a negative effect on many aspects of village life and an immediate negative effect on those people bordering on the new proposed development.”

Members of the public at the meeting who made it known that they wished to speak as part of the inquiry have been told that they will be given an opportunity tomorrow (January 9) morning.

Following several requests to the clerk of Charfield Parish Council, the feasibility of holding part of the inquiry during an evening session was also being explored.

The eight-day long inquiry is being held at Eastwood Park in Falfield.