COUNCILLORS have voted unanimously to reject plans for 180 homes in Wickwar – but the decision is no longer in their hands.

South Gloucestershire Council’s strategic sites delivery committee refused permission for the development west of Sodbury Road on Thursday, August 3, after more than 600 residents, the town and parish councils and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust objected.

However, because this went against a recommendation to approve by officers who concluded that the benefits of the new estate, including 35 per cent affordable housing and a shop, outweighed the harms, the application now goes to a higher planning committee tomorrow, Tuesday, August 8. 

And even if members uphold the decision, there will be an eight-day public inquiry from October 31, after the developers Bloor Homes appealed to the Planning Inspectorate because the council failed to meet a deadline to say yes or no.

Committee member and ward Cllr Adrian Rush (Lib Dem, Chipping Sodbury & Cotswold Edge) said that the scheme was “far bigger” than two other recent applications for homes that received consent and made the village larger.

He told the meeting: “Wickwar has already had enough extra housing and this is a step too far that says we are changing the character of Wickwar.

“This development will harm the village of Wickwar, and because it moves the centre of Wickwar to the south towards Yate it harms the conservation area.

“In order to remain a viable conservation area it has to be the centre of the village and you’re moving the centre of the village southwards because you’re putting the shop there.”

Cllr Rush said it was pointless having a conservation area that was not used by the public.

“What’s going to happen is that the conservation area is going to die even more than when it was the centre of the village,” he said.

“The report gives all sorts of reasons why this development should be turned down.

“Everyone accepts this is going to be a car-led development yet we’re trying to move on from car use, and we’re putting affordable housing in a place where we accept that they have to have a car.

“There are very few facilities in the village.

“The shop is an advantage but it has been proved already that a shop is not viable in the village – it closed a few years ago.”

Gazette Series: Aerial image showing the land for the development at Sodbury Road, Wickwar, would look - photo by Bloor Homes/TurleyAerial image showing the land for the development at Sodbury Road, Wickwar, would look - photo by Bloor Homes/Turley

Cllr Mike Bell (Labour, Staple Hill & Mangotsfield) said: “It will make a big change to Wickwar, which was a small sleepy village.

“With the previous applications and this application it’s like building a new town on top of the village.

“I support the affordable homes but the increased car use and lack of facilities mean I will put forward a motion to refuse it.”

Ward Cllr Becky Romaine (Conservative, Chipping Sodbury & Cotswold Edge) said the plans would create traffic congestion and that local schools were already oversubscribed.

Cllr Mike Drew (Lib Dem, Yate North) said he opposed the previous two housing applications because they expanded Wickwar without suitable infrastructure, which was also the case now.

He said the council recently saved the under-threat 84/85 bus until the end of March 2024 but that there was no indication it would continue beyond then and that the homes would be completed long after this date.

Cllr Drew said: “Until any buses are secured, Wickwar is isolated unless you have access to a car.”

Gazette Series: An artist's impression of how the development at Sodbury Road, Wickwar, would look - image by Bloor HomesAn artist's impression of how the development at Sodbury Road, Wickwar, would look - image by Bloor Homes

Cllr Liz Brennan (Conservative, Frenchay & Downend) said: “These houses are going to be there for a long time, however, we can’t guarantee public services and buses are going to be there.

“We have short-term funding for them but we could be left with a community that has buses for a few years but then they won’t and then we’re stuck.”

A planning officer said Bloor Homes had agreed to help pay for the bus service, which would be a condition of granting permission.

Cllr Rush said after the meeting: “We stand united in our commitment to preserve the rural character of Wickwar and protect the open countryside.

“We firmly believe that the proposed development would not only cause clear harm to the landscape but also have a significant adverse impact on the rural character we cherish.”

If the spatial planning committee overturns Thursday’s decision, the local authority will offer no evidence to the public inquiry.