A GOVERNMENT plan to sell off 12 acres of land for housing in the centre of Yate could be scuppered after a family stepped in to claim ownership of part of the site.

The Highways Agency had conducted a public exhibition on plans for 250 houses on the abandoned Royal Navy Sea Stores site, off Kennedy Way, and had even chosen a preferred bidder for the scheme.

The proposals had been criticised by councillors and residents, who feared the effects of high-density development and a loss of town centre land.

But this week Richard Newman, son of well-known Yate engineer Hedley Newman, instructed solicitors to buy a third of the plot back.

It was bought from the family by the government using compulsory purchase orders during the Second World War.

But the government has a statutory duty to consult with any former owners of land it has taken over before it can be sold on again.

If Mr Newman succeeds the housing developers - who have not been identified - would be left with just two thirds of the site and could pull out of the deal.

Mr Newman, from London, said he was only made aware of the proposed government sale by two friends in Yate who spotted a small public notice in last week's Gazette.

He said: "It seems clear the agency planned to sell the land off for housing and did not expect and perhaps want me to know about it.

"My father's business, Newman Industries Ltd, was a huge employer in Yate for 3,000 people and its electoral products are still found today in the area.

"Sadly with the start of the European Community the company fell away and the family sold off its land in the area.

"I see this as a great chance to come back to Yate for our family. I am very excited about it."

Mr Newman said his father had reminded him to buy the land back from the government when the Royal Navy had stopped using it.

He added: "When I buy the land I will look forward to working with the local council to see what is appropriate for it."

The two other former owners of the land were an electrical company that has since folded and South Gloucestershire Council, who do not wish to buy their part of it back.

Yate Town Council had opposed the sale and hoped a family relative of Hedley Newman would come forward.

Cllr Ian Blair said: "I am surprised the agency went this far with planning for the land before even searching for former owners of the site."

Robin Miller, spokesman for the Highways Agency, said he did not know if the chosen housing developer would still buy the rest of the land.

He said: "Negotiations are still ongoing with Mr Newman for the land. If he buys a third of the land I do not know if the housing developer would still want to go ahead with the plan."