We are campaigning to save the precious and beautiful landscape on the Weston Lower Slopes on the north western edge of the City of Bath from development.
This unspoilt, rural area is protected by international, European, national, regional and local landscape, heritage and other designations. It is also an area of high ecological importance. Nevertheless, Green Belt land at Weston has been earmarked for the development of 150 homes as part of Bath and North East Somerset Council’s proposed changes to its Core Strategy.
Over 1,000 public comments were made to the Council on its proposed changes to the Core Strategy with around 20% specifically against development at Weston; these are now with the Government’s Inspector who is preparing for the public hearings which are expected to take place in March 2014.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that development must be prevented on such extraordinary areas of our countryside and therefore the Government has a legal and moral obligation to adhere to its own policy. The NPPF also recognises the need for conserving and enhancing the historic environment.
Our campaign is to emphasise to the Government that the Weston Lower Slopes are not suitable for development on account of:
• The area’s designation as a Conservation Area within the Green Belt; it is an AONB and a UNESCO World Heritage Site (to which the Weston Lower Slopes contribute in terms of setting)
• The topography and restrictions on access making new housing untenable. Weston has known significant flooding issues and the proposed development site contains a complex labyrinth of water courses which, if tampered with, could exacerbate the situation
• The area’s recreational value in terms of the use by local people for dog walking, walking and other activities (all of which have been well documented and presented to the Council)
• It being an important habitat for rare and endangered species (for example, skylark, yellowhammer, nightingale, pipistrelle bats and long-winged conehead) with several SNCIs, the area’s ecological value is significant
• The natural desire to maintain the uninterrupted long distance views for users of the Cotswold Way national trail that passes through the area
In addition, the Council’s plans will inevitably put unacceptable pressure on the local infrastructure, particularly local roads which already suffer congestion that can interfere with emergency services at the Royal United Hospital.
Bath is a beautiful city in a unique setting where, as noted in its Conservation Area Character Appraisal, the ‘fingers of green’, such as the land around Weston, ‘extend well into the city softening and contrasting with the built form … [with] many fine views to undeveloped hillsides’ are what make it distinctive in character and significance and of such appeal to our tourist industry that is key to our local economy.
Please support us by adding your signature to our petition.
We the undersigned, ask you to recognise the importance of the Weston Lower Slopes on the north western edge of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bath. This area is not suitable for development on account of its:
• Conservation Area designation to which the Council has not paid ‘special attention’
• AONB designation
• World Heritage Site designation
• Contribution to the setting of the World Heritage Site
• Green Belt designation
• Existing flooding issues
• Restrictions on access
• Ecological value, being an important habitat for rare and endangered species such as skylark, yellowhammer, nightingale, pipistrelle bats and long-winged conehead; the earmarked fields include several SNCIs
• Well-documented recreational value in terms of the use of the area by local people; and
• Unique uninterrupted long distance views for users of the Cotswold Way national trail that passes through the area.
We recognise the need for more affordable housing in our area but believe that the many alternatives, including brownfield sites within Bath and its environs, should first be fully exploited before Green Belt land is considered. For this, we do not believe ‘exceptional circumstances’ have been proven to exist and yet this unique and precious landscape is currently threatened with being destroyed forever.
Please use your powers to ensure that the beautiful landscape adjoining Weston that is so important to the unique setting of Bath is preserved. The proposed development will directly oppose what the NPPF sets out to achieve and put Bath’s World Heritage Site status at risk, which would adversely affect the tourist industry that is so valuable to the City.