'Don't take land out of green belt'

CONCERNED villagers are hoping councillors will have a last minute change of heart on proposals to allow a piece of green belt land in Easton-in-Gordano to be used for dock expansion.

People living in the village have been campaigning against a decision by North Somerset Council to take a 200-acre site at Court House Farm out of the greenbelt and safeguard it for future development at Royal Portbury Dock.

Originally plans to take the land either side the A369 and at Courthouse Farm were not included in the local plan, but in a last minute change of heart, the authority said it should be allowed to be used for dock expansion should there be a proven need.

At an inquiry into the plan in 2005, a Government Inspector upheld the decision to allow the swathes of countryside to be used for dock growth and agreed both sites should be taken out of the green belt.

The move caused a massive outcry from villagers and a campaign ensued which saw thousands of people object to the change.

As a result, North Somerset Council agreed, at its meeting to finalise the local plan in November, that the land either side of the A369 at Portbury should remain in the green belt, but that the Courthouse Farm site could be used for future expansion.

And despite mass protests from residents, North Somerset Council executive has now rubber stamped the decision to allow the dock to encroach on the countryside.

A final decision was due to be taken at a full meeting of North Somerset Council last night (Tues).

The news has come as a bitter pill for campaigners, residents and local councillors to swallow.

Easton-in-Gordano Parish Council chairman Gerry Hunt said: "We have written to all the district councillors informing them of the reasons this piece of land should stay in the green belt.

"People feel that the village has been singled out as it is the only area where it is proposed to take land out of the green belt.

"Many residents remember an assurance given by one of the owners of the Bristol Port Company some years ago that once the coal yard was established, there would be no further encroachment into the parish.

"This now has a hollow ring to it.

thewestonmercury.co.uk, 21.02.2007

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