Have your say on where new housing goes

Ian Bell
Executive Director of Bath Chamber of Commerce and Initiative | Business West
19th March 2024

The number one issue being regularly raised by our members in virtually all sectors, is the difficulty of recruitment and retention of staff. And when you investigate more closely, more often than not, you find that the lack of suitable and affordable housing is a prime reason behind the problem.

That’s why the preparation of the local plan for Bath and North East Somerset is so important to the business community because it will set out where something like 14,000 new houses will be built over the next 20 years.

I can almost hear the groans when I suggest that people get involved in consultation processes involving long and detailed documents. “Not another one !” as Brenda from Bristol memorably said when faced with what seemed like a series of General Elections.

But this is a crucial piece of work, which will allow sensible planning and the delivery of a housing supply which will enable our businesses to thrive and create sustainable economic development, to the benefit of the whole community. I’ve prepared a briefing for our members and we’ve had a session with Councillor Matt McCabe, who is doing his bit to engage with a wide range of people and the Council have arranged a series of public meetings to generate interest, but it’s still an uphill task.

Space has already been allocated for about half the total number of new houses but more land has to be identified for the rest. And that’s where the trouble will start. There is general agreement we need lots of new houses, ideally affordable, but no one wants them to be built near them.

One of the central elements when it comes to choosing a suitable site is that it should be close to existing infrastructure – public transport, local amenities, schools and the like. The A4 corridor between Bath and Bristol seems to fit the bill, but people in Saltford will doubtless have something to say about that.

If you go in the opposite direction and suggest something away from existing residential areas, such as a site being mooted near Burnett, you dodge complaints from the neighbours because there aren’t many, but then create other problems in terms of providing services and getting people around without the need for cars. 

There are no easy solutions and it’s a complex issue, but it merits spending a bit of time thinking about it and having your say on where the houses go. Oh, and we also need to consider where employment space should be – but that’s a topic for another day!

If you’d like to find out more about the Bath Chamber of Commerce or the Initiative in B&NES please contact us on 01225 460 655 or info@bathchamber.co.uk.

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