Homes to be built on village fields — after 40-year battle against developers

Farleigh Fields in Backwell -Credit:Neil James Brain
Farleigh Fields in Backwell -Credit:Neil James Brain

Developers have been given the green light to build 90 homes on beloved fields in a North Somerset village which locals fought to protect for 40 years.

Persimmon has got full planning permission to build on Farleigh Fields in Backwell after planning officers at North Somerset Council approved its “reserved matters” planning application. It comes after the planning inspectorate ruled in 2022 that development of the fields should go ahead.

The council had originally turned down Persimmon’s plans to build up to 125 homes on the fields, but this was overruled on appeal to the planning inspectorate. The developers then submitted a “reserved matters” application — seeking planning permission for the final details once the principle of development has already been granted — for 119 homes on the site.

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But this was then pulled a month later, with the developers saying they had noted people’s concerns about flooding and other issues. A slightly-scaled back “reserved matters” application for 90 homes plus six self-build plots was submitted at the end of 2023.

A design and access statement submitted with the application added: “The scheme has been laid out to allow a view from the entrance to the site to the south towards the Church of St. Andrew. Further views to the Church will be possible from the areas of green space on the southern parts of the site.”

Despite warnings from locals that the flood risks have not been addressed, planning officers have now granted the reserved matters planning permission, meaning that developers have full planning permission necessary to build on Farleigh Fields for the first time.

Various developers have been trying to build on the green fields since the 1980s but, until now, locals had always managed to see them off.

CH Beezer Homes wanted to build 250 homes on the fields in 1984 but Woodspring District Council refused, stating it would have an adverse effect on the village. Developers appealed to the Secretary of State but they sided with the council, ruling the agricultural potential of the site should be protected.

In 2000, plans to build 150 homes on the fields were also thrown out. Persimmons first bid to build 200 on the fields in was also turned down, with an appeal going before the planning inspector in 2018 who, on that occasion, sided with the council and turned the plans down.

The 90-home development will be fully electric, using air source heat pumps to heat the new homes and infrastructure for EV charging at each home. The edges of the development will also have an enhanced “ecological buffer” around the site and investment to improve the nature of a neighbouring field.

27 of the homes (30%) will be affordable housing.