The future of University-owned land at Long Ashton - questions and answers


General issues

  1. Where exactly is the potential development site?

    The western border of the potential development site is Wildcountry Lane; the northern boundary is the railway line from Bristol to the southwest; and the southern border is the A370. The edge of Bristol lies about 1.5km to the east.

  2. How much land is involved?

    The site concerned is about 69 hectares (170 acres) in total. In point of fact, only about half of this (35 hectares / 85 acres) will comprise built development.

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Role of the University

  1. Why is the University proposing to develop this site, especially as it is in the Green Belt. Isn’t it just about making money?

    The site lies within the area of search shown in the draft South West Regional Spatial Strategy (SWRSS) as having the potential to accommodate part of the proposed extension of Bristol to the southwest. While publication of the SWRSS has been delayed, the possibility remains that the planning context for this land will change. The University cannot ignore this. It must seek to protect its interests by coming forward with well-thought-through development proposals rather than risk losing an opportunity to realise the value of its asset. The proposed urban extension would include some 10,500 new homes, and the University’s land could be the location for about 1,000 of those.

    This is not about making money per se. The University would hope to make a substantial capital sum from any development, but the money would be invested in the institution’s charitable purposes of research and teaching. It would help to ensure that the University maintained its competitive position nationally and internationally and that it remained an academic leader with a positive impact on the economy, culture and reputation of Bristol and the southwest.

  2. How will the University act as ‘developer' - will it just sell on the site if planning consent is granted?

    While the University is not a housing developer in its own right, it has learned from the disposal of the former Long Ashton Research Station (LARS) – see the answer to Question 4 below. The University will retain an involvement to ensure that development is built in accordance with its proposals.

  3. Why is the University still pressing ahead with the proposals/planning application given that the draft SWRSS has been delayed?

    The delay in the draft SWRSS does not mean that the issue of the urban expansion of Bristol has gone away. Important planning issues and proposals remain or are emerging and will have to be resolved one way or another. The University has to be part of the debate if it is to avoid losing any potential opportunity to achieve appropriate development and thereby secure resources that could be of major importance to its education and research mission.

  4. What guarantees are there that any promised community benefits and safeguards will happen given previous experience on the LARS site?

    These will be specified in a legally binding document (known as a Section 106 Agreement) as part of the planning application process. On the LARS site, the University sold the land to another housing developer who subsequently re-negotiated the agreement the University had reached with the local authority. This will not happen again.

  5. How will the University stop any developer renegotiating the terms of the Section 106?

    The University will retain an involvement until the last of the properties has been constructed, probably as landowner.

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Development generally

  1. Long Ashton currently has a population of just under 5,000. These proposals are for over 1,000 new homes. How many people would actually live on this site and what impact would this have on village life/services/health/schools, etc.?

    It is likely to increase the population by about half as much again (2,500), but the increase is likely to take place over a period of 10-15 years. The development will provide the opportunity for a new primary school, as well as improved open space and play provision, local shops and health, social and community facilities.

  2. What guarantee is there that the remaining part of the site won’t be developed/sold off at a later date?

    We have carried out a lot of background work to establish which parts of the site are most suitable for development. These are all located to the north of the site, nearest the village. The remainder of the site (the Ashton Brook woodland corridor/lake and the ridge to the south) is important for landscape and ecological reasons and is inappropriate for development. We want to see the ridge to the south retained as part of a green barrier between the expanded village and the planned development on the other side of the A370.

  3. What density and scale of development is being proposed, and is it really appropriate for this site?

    Our proposals aim to mirror the scale, density and character of development elsewhere in the village. As such, buildings will be mainly two or three storeys, at an average density of 35dph, and will take design references from the existing house types elsewhere in the village. This density is relatively low by modern standards and equivalent to much of the existing density in Long Ashton. The proposals being put forward elsewhere in the Area of Search by LandTrust Developments (the Ashton Park site) average 50dph, and rise to 115dph in places.

  4. What mix/type of housing will this be and will this include ‘affordable/social housing’?

    There is likely to be a large proportion of family housing and a smaller number of flats and apartments. There will be a requirement to provide up to 40% affordable housing.

  5. Will there be any new shops or offices/employment uses?

    Yes. There will certainly be new employment. We propose the inclusion of three hectares of land for employment floorspace (including offices and light industry). From early discussions with Parish Council representatives, we think it likely they might prefer that money be spent on refurbishing existing shops in the village centre rather than on providing new ones. What do you (the residents) think?

  6. What improvements to community facilities/recreation will the village get out of this and what new facilities are proposed which local residents can use?

    This will be up to you (the residents) and the Parish Council to decide. Please let us know what you think you are most in need of. We cannot give an open-ended commitment, but certainly some new facilities will be possible through development contributions.

  7. How will wildlife on the existing farmland be protected especially during construction?

    Ecology surveys have been undertaken:

    • Hedgerows defined as 'important' under the 1997 Hedgerow Regulations will be retained.
    • Badger setts would be retained in situ with a 30m minimum buffer around them protected from construction with badger fencing, or artificial badger setts would be provided. Mitigation will comply with the law and DEFRA licence.
    • Breeding birds will be protected by removing existing vegetation between October and February outside the bird-nesting season in compliance with the law.
      Grass snakes and slow worms will be translocated to suitable donor areas within the site prior to construction. Fencing maintained during construction will prevent reptiles moving back onto the construction site.
    • Bat surveys are ongoing. Any trees to be felled will be checked beforehand for bat roosts. Any significant existing bat roosts within buildings may need to be replaced by new artificial roosts. All bat mitigation must comply with the law and a DEFRA licence.
    • A landscape buffer will be provided alongside the woodland bordering Ashton Brook.
    • Woodland and hedgerows to be retained would be fenced off during construction.

  8. Will the public have access to the remaining open space/farmland that would not be developed?

    The existing public footpaths on the site will remain and will provide enhanced access to the lake and surrounding areas.

    The University cannot give undertakings about access to remaining farmland as it may be retained by the University for operational purposes.

  9. Life will be a misery for local residents for years during construction of all these sites. What will be done to mitigate noise, intrusion, construction traffic, etc.?

    There will inevitably be some disturbance from construction, but every effort will be made to keep this to a minimum. A separate access for construction traffic will be provided, probably (though not necessarily) from Wildcountry Lane.

    It is normal for large construction projects to be required to prepare, agree and implement a construction traffic management plan to ensure that disturbance to local residents during construction is minimised. We would expect initial access to the site to come from Wildcountry Lane but for the approach to this road to be made from the A370 Long Ashton Bypass via the Barrow Gurney junction, approaching Long Ashton on the Weston Road from the west and turning into Wildcountry Lane. In this way the bulk of Long Ashton will not receive any heavy traffic associated with the construction works. Once the junction with the A370 is developed, it should be possible for the site to be accessed directly off the A370 with no construction traffic using Weston Road or Wildcountry Lane.

    Construction south of the railway will be less intrusive than on most sites because the main development area will be separated from the nearest housing by at least 75 metres owing to the width of the railway cutting and the set-back from the embankment on either side. Existing landscaping on the southern railway embankment will be reinforced and will act as a partial barrier to noise and visual intrusion.

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Transport / infrastructure

  1. What guarantees are there that the proposed railway station will happen?

    None at this stage. The University alone cannot guarantee the development of the station. This has to be a transport solution for the urban extension. The University recognises the importance of this transport link and will ensure that the site of the station is protected from development.

    We have held discussions with Network Rail, First Great Western and the West of England Strategic Partnership, among others. To date, no reasons have been identified as to why a station could not be provided in this location; indeed, there is some positive support for the idea. As is customary in these situations, the main issue will be where the funding comes from. There are grants available for the provision of transport infrastructure on this scale, but to stand the best chance of success we would need the support of the District Council. Developer contributions would also be sought to help fund the station.

  2. Would the proposed new road link to A370 still happen if the Ashton Park site didn’t go ahead?

    In all probability, yes, but with access from the northern side of the A370. The precise form of a junction would be discussed in detail with North Somerset and Bristol Councils, and the Highways Agency.

  3. Can local roads, especially Wildcountry Lane and in the village, cope with the extra demand from over 1,100 new homes?

    In short, no. The development requires the resources of the wider urban extension and the direct link to the A370. Some initial development of the site may be able to take place in advance of this junction. The amount would have to be agreed with the planning authority. It is unlikely that such a phase would exceed 15% - 20% of the total development.

    The potential rail halt will offer a sustainable mode of transport, but the private car will continue to be the main mode of travel. The vast majority of trips in the peak periods will be the commute to work and Bristol will be the main destination for these. A direct link from the development onto the A370 and into the city will keep the amount of additional traffic in the village to a minimum.

  4. How would construction traffic get to the site – wouldn’t this go through the village?

    Every effort will be made to route construction traffic away from the village. Please see the answer to question 9 under ‘Development Generally’.

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Timescale

  1. In reality, how soon could work start on site?

    This would depend on a number of factors including progress on the SWRSS and North Somerset’s Local Development Framework, the pressure for new housing development (which is already intense), the state of the market and the availability of mortgages. In real terms, it is likely to be about three years (minimum) before development could start.

  2. Will the site be developed in one go or in phases? If the latter, over what time period? I.e., when would the whole development be finished?

    The site would be developed in phases. Development would probably be spread over a 10-15-year period.

  3. If/when the application goes to a Public Inquiry, how long would this take to reach a decision?

    Any planning inquiry will need to examine all the development proposals being positively promoted in the Area of Search. We would expect the inquiry to take place in the spring/early summer of next year, with a decision following about four months after the inquiry has ended. A decision would not be likely before November/December 2010.

  4. What is the University’s relationship with the adjacent Ashton Park site/development and other development sites in the area? Is the University’s scheme dependent on these other site going ahead/gaining planning consent?

    The University has no relationship with the Ashton Park developers (LandTrust Developments), Barrow Hospital (Del Piero) or any other developer at present. Its proposals are entirely independent from any other proposal. This does not mean that it would not be prepared to work with those developers in the future once the extent of appropriate development has been approved, although it would want to retain the Green Belt separation of Long Ashton from the urban extension to Bristol.

    The University considers that there is an opportunity to build a sustainable urban extension to Long Ashton that will provide benefits to the village, including a new school, a direct link to the A370 that will offset any traffic increase on Long Ashton Road, and improved recreational, health, social and community facilities (funded through developer contributions).

    It is likely, given the need identified in the draft SWRSS for 10,500 new homes, that the main provider will be LandTrust Developments (the Ashton Park site). Assuming this is the case, any development at Long Ashton would need to be compatible with that development and to tie in with the public transport and highway proposals being proposed as part of that development. A new station could provide a facility for all of the urban extension, linked by a shuttle bus service.

    The LandTrust development proposes a very high density of development, and North Somerset’s masterplanners (Broadway Malyan) have said publicly that they believe more land is necessary to build to an acceptable density, including provision of family homes and affordable housing, together with the required levels of employment uses, recreational open space, schools and social and community facilities. For this reason, they have proposed that the University’s land at Long Ashton is included as a development site.

    If, for any reason, the southwest urban extension does not go ahead, development at Long Ashton could still proceed independently.

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