Abbots Leigh, Ham Green, Pill and Easton-in-Gordano Neighbourhood Plan consultation on submitted Neighbourhood Plan

Abbots Leigh, Ham Green, Pill and Easton-in-Gordano Neighbourhood Plan

5 Housing

Primary Objective

Contribute to meeting local housing need through a mix of tenure, size and affordability.

5.1 Background
This section draws on the National Statistics Office 2011 Census and 2017 population estimates

In 2017 the population of the Neighbourhood Plan Area (NPA) was 5,698 of whom 88% lived in Pill & Easton-in-Gordano parish and 12% in Abbots Leigh parish. The population of Pill & Easton-in-Gordano had grown slightly since 2001 whilst that of Abbots Leigh had declined slightly. Abbots Leigh had a greater proportion of women and older people. There were similar proportions of male and female residents in each parish and similar age distributions. The whole area was predominantly ethnically white with a population largely born in the UK.

In 2011 there were 2,416 occupied dwellings, occupying 96.8% of the total dwelling stock. 80 dwellings were unoccupied (3.2%). 63 dwellings were over-occupied. In Abbots Leigh 93% of dwellings were in detached or semi-detached houses, by comparison with Pill & Easton-in-Gordano where 67.5% were in houses and 29.6% in flats or terraces. Ownership was the dominant tenure throughout (89% in Abbots Leigh, 76% in Pill & Easton-in-Gordano) with some private rented throughout the area. Social renting was at 7% in Pill & Easton-in-Gordano (and zero in Abbots Leigh).

5.2 Household Growth
The Neighbourhood Plan Area is dominated by the Green Belt. The whole of the parish of Abbots Leigh and the more recent St. Katherine’s Park estate at Ham Green lie within the Green Belt. The built areas of Pill & Easton-in-Gordano (the Pill Settlement – see Map 2) are surrounded by Green Belt, as is Royal Portbury Dock.
Pill & Easton-in-Gordano parish - 9 including 6 sq km of Royal Portbury - is geographically constrained and concentrated. 96.7% of the parish population (4,478 residents) and 92.4 of the households (1,947 households) lived within the Pill Settlement boundary. (see Map 2).

Map 2 Pill Settlement Area

Pill Settlement Boundary

Within the Green Belt itself growth has been heavily constrained. Abbots Leigh parish (9.13 lying entirely within the Green Belt, has no formal settlement boundary and is a much larger, more rural parish than Pill & Easton-in-Gordano with a number of outlying areas beyond the village – Home Farm Road, Ashgrove Avenue, Blackmoor Road, parts of the Pill Road and a few houses in Ham Green. The proportion of parish population living within the main body of the village is 55% (households 61%).

Between 2007 and 2017 completed development sites within the Settlement Area of Pill & Easton-in-Gordano produced 60 new dwellings (4). In Abbots Leigh the figure was 5 new dwellings within the village(5). Residential expansion outside, but adjacent to the Pill and Abbots Leigh settlements produced only a further five dwellings across the whole Neighbourhood Area - a reflection of the stringent application of Green Belt policy.

(4) North Somerset Council: Parish Profiles:2017 Pill and Easton-in-Gordano
(5) North Somerset Council: Parish Profiles:2017 Abbots Leigh houses in Ham Green. 

5.3 Housing Demand and Provision

There has been a recent tendency for existing owners to extend rather than sell property and many local planning applications seek improvements and extensions – sideways or upwards. Nevertheless there is strong housing demand throughout the Neighbourhood Plan Area. Developers believe that housing supply in North Somerset is insufficient to meet current housing targets and there have been speculative proposals both for major (1,000 dwellings) development projects at Chapel Pill, Martcombe, and St. George’s Hill (now sometimes referred to as Plummer’s Hill) and at other smaller sites where landowners/developers hold land with hope value.

Interviews with Portishead estate agents confirm there is an active housing market and the attractiveness of Pill, traditionally a less appealing location, has risen sharply in the last couple of years. Pill was described to us as ‘on the up’. Abbots Leigh has the strongest links to Bristol, and housing at Ham Green sells quickly. In part this level of housing market buoyancy in the NPA is because there is relatively little movement out – Pill has a strong sense of identity and community with many families keen to remain, even if not in the same property. There is nevertheless movement in from Bristol and Portishead. The proposed Portishead rail line, with a station at Pill, is moving ahead with a planning Development Consent Order submitted to Government in late 2019. Already this is thought to be giving impetus to the housing market.

5.4 Affordability and Housing Need
There have long been concerns about the availability of affordable housing for local people in Pill and Easton. There is some over-occupation as measured by both the number of rooms (63 rooms, amounting to 2.9% of all dwellings) and the number of bedrooms (945 dwellings, amounting to 2.1% of dwellings). There are significant numbers of households with dependent children and children under 4.

Pill West is the 35th most deprived LSOA (6) in North Somerset, being the only area in North Somerset outside Weston-super-Mare lying within the most deprived 40% in England. On more detailed deprivation indicators - low income, employment, education and skills, health and disability - Pill West scores relatively highly as it does on income deprivation focussing explicitly on children and on older people.

Alliance Homes are the main providers of affordable housing, providing mainly social rented accommodation (former local authority stock). They hold 297 properties, many in the neighbourhood around Victoria Park and the Creek in Pill. Curo, LiveWest (formerly Knightstone Housing) and Sovereign Housing are also registered providers who hold small developments in Pill.

In order to provide more evidence on housing need Pill and District Community Development Trust,(7) in conjunction with North Somerset Council, conducted a housing survey in autumn 2016. The aims of the survey were to give an indication of the affordable housing need in terms of tenure and house size for people with a local connection in the two parishes, to investigate the housing need and aspirations of older residents in the parishes, and to establish the general level of support for a small development of affordable housing for local people with housing needs.

2521 questionnaires were distributed to all households in both parishes. 724 were returned (28.4% response rate).
Key findings were:
• 29 respondents were unable to buy or rent in the open market
• 10 additional respondents could not afford to buy a shared ownership property
• 2 respondents over the age of 55 could not afford to buy/rent in the open market
• A further 10 households could afford to meet their need in the open market
• 50 of the above respondents met the local connection criteria
• 71% of all respondents were in favour of a small development of affordable housing for local people.

Of the 29 households identified as being in housing need 9 would have a need within twelve months, 12 within 2-3 years and 8 within 3-5 years. 15 homes would be needed for single people or couples. 9 two-bedroom homes were needed for families and 5 three-bedroom homes were needed also for families. The Survey Report is available in full on the Neighbourhood Plan website

6 Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs) are the smallest area for which deprivation information is calculated
7 The Pill and District Community Land Trust (PDCLT) was set up in 2017 under the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008

5.5 Neighbourhood Area Housing Strategy

The North Somerset Local Plan 2038 will provide a longer-term framework for development covering the years 2023-2038. The Plan may cover issues such as the introduction of a settlement boundary for Abbots Leigh, updating the Pill Settlement boundary to include the housing built on and around the former Ham Green Hospital site, and reconsideration of the Green Belt and its boundaries. There will certainly be a revision of the housing numbers required of North Somerset, expected to increase to around 1,700 dwellings a year.

In order to underpin their strategic thinking about the possible scale of future growth and provide a realistic context for their thinking the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group assessed a range of hypothetical longer-term housing scenarios. Three scenarios were tested:
• Minimal growth - retaining tight control of new development, maintaining the Green Belt and accepting only infill and/or ‘exceptional’ new projects.
• Medium growth - allowing limited growth in the order of 100-150 new dwellings – mainly in clusters around the edges of Pill and Abbots Leigh with minor adjustments to Green Belt boundaries.
• Major growth - development of up to 1000 dwellings making a major contribution to North Somerset housing supply. The proposed development known as ‘Pill Green’ was used to test this scenario.(8)

An analysis of these scenarios is provided in Background Paper 1. The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, in consultation with the two parish councils and the local community, considered that:
Scenario 1 made a minimal contribution to meeting North Somerset housing need and would rely exclusively on infill and/or ‘exceptional’ sites.
Scenario 2 - the development of 100-150 dwellings in small clusters of housing of around 20-30 dwellings adjacent to existing settlements would retain the bulk of the Green Belt, would offer a modest contribution to the housing needed in service villages and other settlements and would offer close linkage with existing local services in Pill.
Scenario 3 not only runs counter to Green Belt and Landscape Quality policies,(9) but would threaten biodiversity and the ecological framework of the Area, would exacerbate peak hour traffic congestion and overload on both the A369 and the Pill Loop, would threaten environment and biodiversity, would create further pollution and would hinder attempts to address climate change. In short this scenario is both damaging and unsustainable. Whilst the Joint Spatial Plan is now redundant it concluded that the Easton in Gordano/Pill corridor was ‘a very constrained location in terms of transport, Green Belt, heritage, landscape and ecology.(10) Expansion of this scale would increase the number of households in Pill & Easton-in-Gordano by 50% and would radically damage the social patterns of community life. 

Community opinion on the three scenarios was tested both at public exhibitions in autumn 2019 (11) and in Regulation 14 local consultation in April-September 2020.
At the Exhibitions 35% of the 210 local residents attending favoured Scenario 1 - minimal new development. 61% favoured Scenario 2 – medium growth. Only 4% welcomed Scenario 3 – major growth of 1000 dwellings.

(8) Consultation Comment 15796321/2 submitted to the West of England Joint Spatial Plan Examination by Barton Willmore on behalf of Gallagher Estates
(9) North Somerset Council. Landscape Sensitivity Assessment, 2018 pp 45-47
(10) Joint Spatial Plan: Towards an Emerging Spatial Strategy, October 2016, Table 2
(11) The Exhibitions are described in the separate Consultation Statement 

Local Consultation confirmed these preferences - retention of the bulk of the Green Belt, provision of affordable housing and small-scale local development. The possibilities of major development schemes of up to 1000 dwellings put forward by developers were universally unwelcome to residents.

Results from the 2016 Housing Survey provided both evidence of housing need and (71%) a preference for a small development of affordable housing. Whether the survey remains up to date was checked with North Somerset Council and the survey results were found to be still valid.

This evidence led the Steering Group to confirm that Scenario 2 was the best option because, in the light of the most recent estimates of the levels of dwellings likely to be required in North Somerset, the Steering Group considered that a slightly larger dwellings target was more realistic. Scenario 2 was adjusted, therefore, to suggest 150-200 dwellings by 2038 provided in clusters of up to 20-30 dwellings. The evidence also led the Steering Group to confirm that Scenarios 1 and 3 were unacceptable.

5.6 Proposals 2020-2026

Whilst the three scenarios were developed to assist strategic thinking and provide a long-term context, particularly relevant given that the North Somerset Local Plan 2038 is under way, the Abbots Leigh, Ham Green, Pill & Easton-in-Gordano Neighbourhood Plan covers only the years up to 2026. The housing targets established for this period in the Core Strategy 2017 required 2,100 dwellings for service villages (including Easton-in-Gordano/Pill) and 985 for other settlements and countryside (including Abbots Leigh). Specific targets for individual parishes were not specified but with the Neighbourhood Area being largely Green Belt little, if any, growth was built into the 2017 Strategy.

In the period to 2026 housing possibilities in the Neighbourhood Area are limited by the Green Belt (CS 6), and the status of Abbots Leigh as a ‘rural’ parish (CS,16, 32). Nevertheless, the Neighbourhood Plan offers a planned increase in the supply of housing units of fifty-five (55) by 2026 together with re-use of a largely derelict brownfield site.

Infill There is scope for some limited residential infill within the Pill Settlement boundary together with the possibility of residential gain in Abbots Leigh through the adaptation or conversion of agricultural buildings (12). Together with windfall sites across the Neighbourhood Area this might produce in the order of fifteen (15) new dwellings by 2026.

New Development The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, in collaboration with the Pill and District Community Land Trust, identified a number of potential sites that could meet the need for a cluster of affordable housing. Nine sites were considered (see Map 3 on page 14).

• The former Pill Baptist Church
• Land off the main road at Ham Green
These two sites lay within the Pill Settlement boundary but were severely constrained in terms of access, size, legal and construction obstacles, and feasible housing type. The remaining six sites lie in the Green Belt, just outside the Pill Settlement boundary.

• Land at the top of St. George’s Hill (sometimes referred to as Plummer’s Hill)
• Land off Marsh Lane (lower Plummer’s Hill)
• Land off Cross Lanes (beside the allotments)
• Land adjacent to St. Catherine’s Mead
• Land off the A369 beyond St Katherine’s School
• Land at Orchard View/Somerset Lodge
• Land off Chapel Pill Lane/Hayes Mays Lane

On the first four of these latter sites, all the landowners held strong ‘hope value’ views and were unwilling to consider a sale to the Land Trust. Land beyond St. Katherine’s School was thought to be both Green Belt and too far from existing services. The land at Orchard View, not in single ownership at the time, was too constricted to allow a viable development. A further site – Brookside – was also considered but, lying in the Green Belt and important for play and recreation (see Chapter 11), was rejected by the Steering Group. Two potential sites were identified in Abbots Leigh but the primary need for affordable housing is in Pill and the Land Trust recommended that Abbots Leigh was not a priority for its first development.

Chapel Pill Lane was well located and the only site where the landowner was willing to engage and sign terms of agreement. The whole of the brown field site at Orchard View/Somerset Lodge has since come into single ownership and offers the potential for mixed-use redevelopment within the plan period.

(12) NSC Development Management Policies DM 45

Map 3 Community Land Trust Search for sites
pill map 3

For the period to 2026, therefore, the Plan allocates two new development sites in Ham Green which would offering a further forty (40) new dwellings in the Plan Area by 2026 (see map 4):

 ORCHARD VIEW: a 3-acre brownfield site at Perrett Way in Ham Green for a mixed development of around thirty (30) mixed tenure housing comprising both market and affordable housing, together with a sixty-bed care home.
• AFFORDABLE HOUSING: A one-and-a-half-acre exception scheme of up to sixteen (16) affordable housing units to rent on Chapel Pill Lane in the Green Belt (proposed by the Pill and District Community Land Trust).

It should be noted that the provision of a 60 bed care home would release accommodation elsewhere in North Somerset and beyond and hence making a further contribution to meeting housing need.

Both these sites lie within Ham Green (see Map 4). The former Ham Green Hospital site has been redeveloped to become the Eden Business Park, the St Katherine’s Housing Estate and the Penny Brohn Centre. The majority of Ham Green remains outside the Pill Settlement boundary and within the Green Belt.

Map 4 Ham Green 

pill map 4

5.7 Improvement Area 1

Improvement Area 1 Orchard View
This proposal brings together what were formerly two separate care units owned by the North Bristol NHS Trust until Ham Green Hospital was closed in the 1950s. Sold to the Milestones Trust, Somerset Lodge became a 35-bed dementia and mental health care home, whilst Orchard View was until, 2010, an Intermediate respite care unit.

Located on Perrett Way, the site is bounded by Eden Business Park and the Pill Community Orchard and is the final undeveloped part of the former Ham Green Hospital complex (see Map 5). In addition to the two main buildings there are some outbuildings. The whole site is now in single ownership and the owner is keen to redevelop it into mixed-use – twenty-four market and rental housing dwellings (including an affordable housing element) plus a new and up to date care home with sixty beds and a staff of sixty. Up to sixty jobs would be created, many for local people. The intention would be to build smaller units, including some apartments, at a range of size and cost. New housing provision might be up to thirty (30) dwellings incorporating some affordable housing.

The site is in the Green Belt and outside the (now outdated) Pill Settlement boundary. It is within walking distance of Pill Precinct and there is a bus stop and pub at the end of Macrae Road. It has easy access to St. Katherine’s School. The site is unoccupied (other than as a temporary rental at Somerset Lodge) and the buildings are run-down and dilapidated (see below).

There could be a small café/shop for residents, visitors to the home, local residents and employees on Eden Business Park for whom there are no local facilities. There is a walk past the community orchard on Watchhouse Hill down to Pill centre (a section of the River Avon Walkway). The hill is a hugely popular leisure/recreation site and a small café would attract a number of walkers.

As yet there are no design plans, and only informal discussions have been held with the planning authority. This is an already developed, brown field site and the proposal is for a continued health and social care use. The proposal addresses housing need and demand, and might have additional value in so far as long-term care home residents moving to the care home might release other local dwellings into the housing market. The scheme would also offer significant local job opportunities.


Map 5 Orchard View

Orchard viewOrchard View aerial

Orchard View photoOrchard View photo 2

5.8 Improvement Area 2

Improvement Area 2 Affordable Housing
Recognising the need for affordable housing, the PDCLT Board has, between 2017-2019, been seeking sites for affordable housing and engaging in discussion with landowners about their willingness to collaborate with a PDCLT project. Subject to final agreement with the owner and planning approval, a site of one and a half acres has been identified lying between Chapel Pill Lane and Hayes Mayes Lane. (see Map 6 on p17).

The site is on sloping ground falling down towards Ham Green Lake (a Wildlife Site and a Site of Nature Conservation Interest) and offers an outlook over open ground and across to the Leigh Court Estate. The development would make joint use of a new MetroWest entrance adjacent to Hayes Mays Lane to be constructed to give access to the Portishead rail tunnel which runs beneath St. Katherine’s estate.

Although there is some existing housing on Chapel Pill Lane and Hart Close, the proposed development would be well screened by trees and could not be seen from nearby housing. Penny Brohn UK, a national cancer care centre, lies on the opposite side of Chapel Pill Lane and again would be screened by trees on both sides of the lane.

Map 6 Chapel Pill Lane

Ah Chapel Pill map AH aerial

Ah photo of site

The one and half acre development would consist of up to 16 dwellings offering a mix of one, two and three-bedroom units. The precise number would depend on final negotiations on land purchase, timing of the MetroWest access road, and available grant for housing and consequent affordable rents. The housing would be provided (built and managed) through a partnership of PDCLT and Alliance Homes and would offer affordable housing to households with a local connection. A local allocation process has been developed to ensure that the new development would meet these requirements.

There is a path past the community orchard on Watchhouse Hill down to Pill centre and there is a bus stop at the end of Macrae Road. Although formally not open to motor vehicles other than residents, traffic on Chapel Pill Lane below the proposed development site amounts to around 450 motor vehicles on a weekday (200 on weekend days) with the heaviest traffic at morning and evening peaks. Traffic serves Chapel Pill Farm and Rock Cottages on the lane as well as Penny Brohn where car parking for 80 cars is full throughout the day. The lane is also well used by cyclists and walkers but the proposed development site is privately owned with no public access. Ham Green Lake is a private fishing lake to which local walkers have access with the permission of the owner. Hayes Mays Lane is an old track which comes to a dead-end above the entrance to the rail tunnel which runs through to Pill. The proposed development site is within reach of local services at Pill Precinct and is close to St. Katherine’s School. Pedestrians would access services either through Chapel Pill Lane or a dedicated pathway from the bottom of the site and up Hart Close and thence via Watchhouse Hill to the Precinct.

Both development proposals (Section 5.5 above) are close to important heritage and environmentally important sites at Pill Community Orchard and Ham Green Lake. Any threat to landscape can be addressed sensitively to preserve heritage vistas through appropriate screening and tree-planting. Local  consultation, reported in the Consultation Statement, demonstrated considerable local opposition to the Chapel Pill Lane development, but on balance two thirds (65%) of the 130 respondents expressing a view were in favour of the scheme.

5.9 Housing Design

Whilst the volume and location of new development is important, so also is the quality of new housing in terms of energy efficiency, building design, safety and local environment. The National Planning Policy Framework stresses the importance of well-designed places and we endorse its recommendations.(13). North Somerset Council Core Strategy also emphasises both that ‘quality design should be accorded priority if places are to be shaped as sustainable, and socially, economically and environmentally responsive’.(14) ‘New development, both residential (including conversions) and non-residential, should demonstrate a commitment to sustainable design and construction. In relation to climate change, increasing energy efficiency through design, and prioritising the use of sustainable low or zero-carbon forms of renewable energy generation are all important objectives.(15)

The Core Strategy is reinforced in NSC Development Management Policies which highlight the importance of place making, accessibility, housing mix and density.(16) Design of the built environment should be sympathetic to local settings and landscapes. Where there is historic or heritage value in, for example, traditional buildings, conversion may be inappropriate. In the two proposals for development in this Plan emphasis should be given to environmental amenity - tree planting, water run-off, wildlife habitats. Planning applications for new development should be required to include proposals for management and maintenance of the immediate and surrounding environments.

There is a growing incidence both in the more rural parts of the area but also within Pill of the conversion to residential use, often without recourse to planning permission and often of poor design quality, of stables, outbuildings etc. Where this is ‘infill’ it may damage the character and appearance of neighbouring buildings. Where it takes the form of the conversion of an existing barn or other outbuilding it needs to be done in a manner that respects local character and avoids inappropriate design. Conversion of non traditional barns and utilitarian shelter structures to residential uses should be exempted from a Permitted Development status that currently exists in North Somerset

(13) National Planning Policy Framework. Section 12, paras 124-127
(14) North Somerset Council, Core Strategy CS 32
(15) North Somerset Council, Core Strategy CS 2
(16) North Somerset Council, Development Management Policies DM 32, 33,34, and 36 


Existing North Somerset Core Strategy and Development Management Policies already in place address the Green Belt (CS 60), High Quality Design and Place making (CS12), Affordable Housing (CS16), Rural Exception Schemes CS 17), Healthy Living (CS 26), Quality Design (DM 32) and Care homes (DM 41), Conversion of rural buildings to residential use (DM 45).

Planning Policies

HO 1
Site A (Orchard View as shown on Map 5) is allocated for a Care Home and thirty (30) houses.

HO 2
Site B (Chapel Pill Lane as shown on Map 6) is allocated as an exception site of up to sixteen (16) affordable housing units.

HO 3 (also CC 03)
New development should be conditional on an energy assessment which minimises carbon footprint and energy requirements.

HO 4
Infill development in keeping with local scale and character will be acceptable within the Pill Settlement boundary.

HO 5
Planning applications for new development should be required to include proposals for the sustainable management and maintenance of the immediate and surrounding environment.

HO 6 
Restrictions should be placed on the conversion for residential use without planning permission of outbuildings within the curtilage of a main dwelling.

Community Action Policy

CA/HO 1 The Parish Councils should encourage and stimulate improvement of the energy efficiency of the existing housing stock.