Written evidence submitted by Wrington Parish Council [POD 001]
At the outset, it is important to note that Wrington Parish is within the unitary authority of North Somerset who, when offered the opportunity to join the ‘West of England Combined Authority’ (WECA) declined to do so. The current members of WECA are City of Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset (BANES) and South Gloucestershire.
Within our parish is sited Bristol Airport and in December 2018 the airport chose to submit a planning application seeking to expand substantially the airport’s capacity and activities. As the ‘home’ parish, we were heavily involved in the opposition to these aspirations and there was a tremendous outpouring of resistance by residents across North Somerset and other bodies to the proposals. In the event, in February this year, the local authority (North Somerset Council (NSC)) refused the application. It was however ironic that support for the proposals was quickly forthcoming from City of Bristol’s mayor, BANES Council and also the West of England Mayor, notwithstanding that the airport was not in WECA’s area of jurisdiction. BANES later performed a volte face and came to register its opposition to the plans, which, in itself, indicates a degree of disunity or dysfunctionality within the WECA ranks. There was, to the best of our knowledge, no interaction between WECA and NSC and certainly no liaison with this parish.
Last year (2019) there was put to Planning Inspectors for signing off, a so-called ‘Joint Spatial Plan’ (JSP) and a linked ‘Joint Local Transport Plan’ (JLTP). The former was said to be a document setting out the sharing of perceived housing needs for WECA and NSC together and linked to that, a joint strategy for transport developments and improvements within the same area. The former was said to have been consulted upon by NSC, but those who were invited to attend the ‘presentations’ given by NSC to support their plans were wholly against the proposals. Minutes of those meetings had to be re-written in order to reflect what really took place at the meetings and those who attended left both angry and bewildered. In the event, when Inspectors began their review of the document, it was quickly evident that what had been presented was inadequate and unacceptable, with the result that the Inspectors threw it back to the authorities and told them to start again!
The Inspectors never got around to reviewing the linked JLTP as it was also rejected, and yet this has now been resurrected by NSC and put forward for approval by the District Councillors without any further consultation with parishes or other interested parties. This is undemocratic bearing in mind the strength of feelings which ran against it and the JSP referred to above. It is the local parishes which are best placed to respond and reflect the views of its parishioners to matters which are going to affect them, not the Local Authorities which cover a wider area and have a more generic brief. This Parish Council is therefore very much in support of its being consulted on all and any proposals which will have an effect upon its residents and to have an input into any such plans, be they generic or specific.
By way of example, and again related to Bristol Airport, this Council has just made a detailed submission to the Department for Transport on an application by the airport for year-round slot co-ordination. The Parish Council is not a statutory consultee, despite being home parish to the airport and despite the request’s potential to impact adversely upon residents’ living conditions, health and well-being. None of the other communities surrounding the airport were considered to be consultees either, which once again seems to be an abuse of the democratic process. This Council is of the opinion that it is the local and most affected communities who are best placed to respond to such a request and that consultation with them should be statutory. Closer involvement with all local related matters would be very much welcomed.