We might be living in a digital-first era these days, but Mactaggart & Mickel Head of Strategic Land Ken Hopkins rolled back the years to identify land with strategic value between Bath and Bristol.
On his first trip to the South West when the strategic land division was set up, the first thing that Ken did when he teamed up with a local planning consultant was to unfurl a huge map.
When they sat down they also unfolded a copy of the local plan so they could look at where development could emerge in the future.
We didn’t look at what had already been allocated but instead focused on forward planning to recognise development potential, with a view to securing the appropriate policy or support for development to occur.
After poring over the two maps, it became apparent to us that there was a huge tranche of land between Saltford and Keynsham that we thought looked ripe for new homes.
Although it looked like a long shot, we zoomed in on Withies Farm . It was green belt and we were advised that nothing would get built there.
We thought nothing of it until two years later we were approached by an agent who asked us if we’d be interested in a bit of ground his client was keen to develop.
Yes, you’ve guessed it, the land in question was Withies Farm and in April 2013 we agreed a deal for a 45-acre site and another 120-plus acres adjoining at Glenavon farm.
Timing was everything in this case. Bath and North East Somerset Council were in the process of reviewing their local plan through examination.
But the planning inspector intervened and halted the examination.
At that point, we were in the process of promoting about 800 units on land at the two farms, at Saltford and Keynsham.
In between them was a major gas pipeline which meant there was a cordon sanitaire that no one would be able to build on that would preserve green belt gap between the two settlements.
We fed that into the local plan review process and because the council was short of sites to meet their housing targets they allocated an initial phase of land for 250 units with a second of phase of 200 units released from the green belt and reserved for residential development.
We submitted a planning application in February 2016 and won planning permission for phase one in December 2016.
As part of the process, we would also have a significant and very positive impact on the community infrastructure.
That phase included provision of a new primary school, so we provided the land and made a contribution to the cost before it was taken to the market in 2018 and sold to a major house-building company.
As for the 200 houses reserved for residential development, we submitted a planning application that was initially refused before being approved in April 2018.
We are hopeful that planning permission will be granted for the second phase during 2021 and we continue to promote the balance of our land interest there to the local authority.