OPPOSING councillors in South Gloucestershire have clashed over plans to build 1,200 new homes in Charfield following a controversial decision to approve 121 new homes.

The call from Charfield Cllr John O’Neill to ‘return to the drawing board’ on the proposed growth of the village comes after the Planning Inspectorate approved for the houses and retail units on land north of Wotton Road.

The proposed 1,200-home strategic development location (SDL) has been supported by South Gloucestershire Council as part of the West of England Joint Strategic Plan (JSP), outlining housing targets across the West of England until 2036, and would more than double the size of the village if it goes ahead.

Originally turned down, the 121-home plans from Barratt Homes were taken to appeal, with the inspectorate finding in favour of the developer on July 23.

Cllr John O’Neill said: “We are very disappointed by the Planning Inspector’s decision to allow this speculative development of 121 and retail units in the heart of Charfield.

“This was the last central village site that could be preserved for community use and a possible site for a reopened station. Additionally, with Charfield Primary School already at capacity, this speculative development will just add to the pressure on local school places without helping to deliver the new school Charfield needs.”

He continued by saying that the decision ‘puts a coach and horses’ through Conservative plans for a 1,200 SDL, which the Lib Dems are in opposition to, and that the plans ‘should go back to the drawing board’.

“But with the heart of the village now due to become housing it must be obvious, even to the administration, that the SDL cannot possibly be delivered in a sustainable way. The SDL must now be scrapped, or at the very least dramatically reduced in scale.”

SGC and Conservative Group leader Cllr Toby Savage responded the Cllr O’Neill’s comments by stating the council ‘are absolutely clear that speculative applications are not welcome here in South Gloucestershire’ and that he was disappointed by the lack of any ‘constructive working’ from the Lib Dems.

“The independent inspector’s decision was extremely disappointing, especially as under our administration we are determined to be as robust as we possibly can in defending against speculative developments such as these,” he said.

“It is however disappointing to see that the Liberal Democrats, yet again, have arrived late to the fight to ensure that any future development in Charfield is sustainable, that it has the right infrastructure, and meets what our existing community expects of any future community.

“I have yet to see any constructive working from the Liberal Democrat Group, apart from shouting from the side-lines and calling for courses of action they are well aware are not possible – safe in the knowledge they do not have the responsibility, and determination to make sure we provide a Charfield station, provide junction improvements and importantly expand school places in the village.”

He added: “Until they Liberal Democrats get real, and get constructive - I won’t be taking lessons from them on the issue – but I will work with local groups such as Fighting for Charfield to get the best deal we can.”