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Planning application submitted for 157 homes at Novers Hill – despite opposition

Western Slopes. Image by Danica Priest.

Lovell Partnerships has submitted its planning application to build 157 new homes on Novers Hill – despite local opposition and a vote by full council to protect the city’s green spaces.

The site is on the nature-rich Western Slopes which stretch from Novers Hill down to Hartcliffe Way – an area of meadow and woodland.

The proposed housing will be on part of the land allocated by Bristol City Council for development in its Local Development Plan. This is next to the industrial estate and is privately owned. 

The other part of the Novers Hill land allocated for development is owned by the council with an area of woodland in between.

View of the site where Lovell plans to build 157 homes. Image Lovell Partnerships.

But campaign group Friends of the Western Slopes has criticised the proposals and is calling for the whole allocated site to be removed from the local plan – and retained as green space.

The application also comes shortly after Bristol City Council voted to protect green spaces at a full council meeting on 7 September and to ‘look again’ at housing plans which would destroy the Western Slopes wildlife corridor.

And before the council vote – naturalist and television presenter Chris Packham gave his support to the cause through his social media – saying it “should be taken off the local plan”.

In August Avon Wildlife Trust also came down on the side of the campaigners calling for the Slopes – which are a Site of Nature Conservation Interest – to be protected as a “vital wildlife corridor”.

But Lovell says as well as the new homes, of which 30 per cent are affordable, the application includes 1.92 hectares (19,200 square metres) of green space – the size of over two and a half football pitches. 

The developers say this will include “a large area set aside to protect and enhance biodiversity” as well as a new children’s play area and woodland walk.

The natural play area proposed by Lovell as part of the scheme. Image Lovell Partnerships.

A spokesperson for Friends of the Western Slopes said: “We are surprised that Lovell have submitted a planning application for part of the Western Slopes, considering full council voted on 7 September to protect the entire site from any development and remove it from the local plan…

“The developer is not opening up any land or protecting it as may suggest – they are simply not allowed to build on it, as it is part of the Site of Nature Conservation status that the site encompasses.

“Neither will people be allowed to walk through much of the green space, due to needing to protect the rare wildlife habitats, which will be detrimentally affected by the development in the first place, particularly from the loss of rare and important lowland meadow. 

“This rare and established wildlife ecosystem of the Western Slopes could now be destroyed for what is essentially just 47 shared ownership/social rent homes, still owned by a housing association. The rest of the 110 homes will be at market rate and genuinely unaffordable to local people. We do not believe this is acceptable, given the level of destruction to the locality and wildlife network that this development will cause…”

Banners along Hartcliffe Way show strong local opposition to the development

Friends of the Western Slopes members – with the support of the community – want the site “to become a nature reserve, with community and education facilities” and are asking the landowner to work with them.

The spokesperson added: “We urge the council too, to hear the voices of local people whom have never wanted Novers Hill built on and are seeing their green spaces taken from them at an alarming rate.

“We ask the council to work with us to provide the local community with something they do want – a precious nature reserve for Filwood and its surrounding communities of South Bristol, that local people can be proud of.”

Members of Friends of the Western Slopes at Filwood Community Market

But Lovell says, according to HomeChoice Bristol – which registers people waiting for social housing – there are 15,000 people on the housing waiting list in Bristol, with only 2,000 homes becoming available each year. 

Regional managing director for Lovell Partnerships James Duffett – who grew up in South Bristol – said: “Green, open spaces are important. We are proposing a scheme that includes nearly three football pitches-worth of green space, most of which will be open to everyone on land that is currently privately-owned with no public access.

“More than half those who responded to our public consultation welcomed this land being opened up for public access.

“But there’s another question that cannot be dismissed – the city’s housing crisis. Both the council and developers – including the council’s own house builder – are working hard to deliver more homes. Brownfield sites can provide part of the solution, but green field sites are absolutely needed too. The council’s local plan committed to building 8,000 homes in South Bristol by 2026. 

“There are 15,000 people on the housing waiting list – that is an enormous number of people who have to live with the stress and uncertainty of not knowing when – or if – they will ever have a safe and secure home. Many of those are families with young children – and, in my opinion – that’s simply unacceptable…”

Lovell is proposing to build mainly two-storey houses with two, three and four bedrooms. There would also be four, three-storey apartment buildings in the scheme with one and two bedrooms.

The developer held an online consultation in July for people to view the plans – with most attendees strongly against the development.

A Bristol City Council Spokesperson said: “A planning application has been submitted for proposals for development on land at Novers Hill. Once validated, this will be available to view and comment on at Bristol’s Planning Portal. This is a scheme submitted on privately owned land and as such will be considered as usual by the council through the planning process. 

“The Local Plan, which identifies this site for development, was passed by Full Council in 2014 and is currently under review. A new, draft plan will be made available for consultation soon. The Full Council motion that expressed a view on sites such as this forms part of the information considered when drafting the draft plan. This plan will be considered by a working group of councillors and the final recommendation will be brought to Full Council.” 

To view the submission on the Bristol City Council planning portal visit https://pa.bristol.gov.uk/online-applications/search.do?action=simple and search for ‘Novers Hill’.