1. Introduction

1. Introduction

The Neighbourhood Development Plan process, as set out in the Localism Act 2011, enables communities to better shape the place where they live and work, to inform how developments take place and help influence the type, quality and location of those developments, ensuring that change brings local benefit.

The Congresbury Neighbourhood Development Plan (the Plan) is based on extensive research and influenced by robust engagement with the local community.  Once the Plan is adopted, it will have significant weight in the determination of planning applications and provide details on how to prioritise the spending of any s106 or Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to ensure maximum benefit for the community.

1.1 Aims of the Plan

The Plan aims to ensure Congresbury remains a thriving and safe community in which to live now and for the future.  It covers the period 2018 to 2036.

Congresbury parish has been subject to opportunistic developers and the Plan aims to ensure that the community has an influence over local decisions and to address challenges for its future.

1.2 Legal Status of Neighbourhood Development Plans

Neighbourhood Development Plans were established under the Localism Act.  The Act, which became law in 2011, aims to give local people more say in the future of their community.  To be granted legal status a Neighbourhood Plan has to be approved by a local referendum and formally adopted by the Local Authority.  It then forms part of the Statutory Development Plan with the same legal status as the Local Plan and will be used to determine planning applications in the Neighbourhood Area.

The Congresbury Neighbourhood Development Plan will support local development needs set out in the emerging North Somerset Local Plan up to the year 2036 and become part of the Statutory Development Plan for North Somerset.

The Plan is in conformity with the strategic direction of the North Somerset Core Strategy and emerging Joint Spatial Plan.  It allows the village to develop through steady but moderate growth, meeting the housing needs of the community while at the same time preserving the importance of the Green Belt, rural landscape and the conservation area and heritage assets.  It also considers the infrastructure needed to support such growth.

A Neighbourhood Development Plan must have appropriate regard to the National Planning Policy Framework, related Planning Practice Guidance and North Somerset Council and Congresbury Parish Council planning policies as they currently stand.  The Plan demonstrates how the sustainability objectives of the Government are implemented through local policies.

1.3 Congresbury

Congresbury is located approximately 11 miles to the south west of Bristol and approximately 8 miles to the north east of Weston-super-Mare.  The village is split by the River Yeo.  To the west the countryside is characterised by a network of rhynes and ditches across the low lying land.  To the east the land is drier with a pattern of smaller fields and meadows.  Congresbury benefits from Cadbury Hill, King’s Wood and Urchin Wood to the North.  King's Wood and Urchin Wood are in a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) - they are nationally important as a North Somerset and Mendip Bats Special Area of Conservation.  The woodland is renowned for its botanical interest and supports a particularly high diversity of vascular plants.  Congresbury Moor has six fields – 10 Acre, New Croft, Meaker, Phippen, Norton and Footmead, which are now part of Biddle Street SSSI which was designated by English Nature in 1994.  Cadbury Hill is a nationally important site for archaeology (the hillfort is a Scheduled Monument) and it is also a Local Nature Reserve.

The village itself is named after a Welsh missionary, St Congar, who is believed to have settled in the village in the 6th Century and is credited with performing a number of miracles in the area.  He is believed to have built a church in the village and with others preached and ministered to the local population.  Legend says that he planted his walking stick into the ground which took root and flourished into a tree providing shade in the churchyard.

1.4 History of the Parish

The first evidence of occupation is from the Neolithic period based on artefacts found on Cadbury Hill.  Later during the Iron Age, a hillfort was constructed on the hill.  There is also evidence of Roman activities within the area including temples on Cadbury Hill.  When the Romans left the area in the 4th century AD the hillfort was reoccupied and again became a focal point of activity and commerce within the area.  Evidence of early medieval and Saxon occupation is recorded at St Andrew’s Church, Honey Hall, Iwood and Brinsea.

The remains of a Roman villa have been found along the river at Wemberham plus a number of Romano-British kiln sites have been located in and around the village.  The number of kilns indicates a thriving pottery industry from circa 250 to, possibly, the middle of the 4th century.  The pottery, known now as Congresbury Grey Ware, was traded over a wide area.  One of these pottery kilns was found close to Venus Street in 2017, and was the first to be excavated in around 50 years.

Congresbury is mentioned in the Domesday Survey under the name of ‘Congresberie’ and was part of the lands held by William I.  In 1086 it is listed as having two mills and a population of about 500 people, almost all of whom were involved in mixed farming, with grain production taking priority.  Congresbury Manor, which included Wick St Lawrence, paid £28 15s [£28.75] annually in silver, a huge sum, to the King.

The present church, dedicated to St Andrew, was consecrated in 1215.  It was originally a small simple building consisting primarily of a nave.  A priest’s house was built in 1446, now known as the Refectory.  During the middle ages the church was a destination for pilgrims seeking a cure for various illnesses.  Both buildings are Grade I listed.

In the 13th Century Broad Street became the commercial centre of the village and the site for regular markets and fairs.  In the 1500s a market cross was erected at the top of Broad Street.  It is a scheduled monument with Grade II* listing and one of a small number of medieval crosses still in their original position.

Congresbury has long suffered from poor drainage and floods.  In 1607 a great part of Congresbury was hidden by the sea and in 1656 a surveyor complained of “the muddy moist unhealthiness of the air and poverty or idleness or both of residents in improving drainage”.  The moors were often covered by water for several months each year and not until the 1820s was anything major done to address the problem.  In 1968, a combination of heavy rains and a high tide caused the River Yeo to burst its banks and flood much of the village to the south of the river.  As a result of this the river banks were raised and reinforced to prevent this happening again.

From medieval times until the mid-1900’s Congresbury had a number of water mills along the River Yeo which served the local farming community and also provided employment for local people.  Congresbury was renowned for its extensive orchards, with buyers travelling all the way from Bristol to purchase fresh apples from the growers.  Up until the 1950’s agriculture and its support services provided the majority of employment in the village.

There were huge changes in the village between 1961 and 1971 when the population more than doubled.  A new shopping precinct was built to provide facilities for the new housing estates south of the river.  Also two new schools were built to replace the original one which was now too small.  Direct employment within the village decreased as local businesses closed and the majority of residents now worked outside the village in Bristol or Weston-super-Mare.  In the 1960’s Congresbury lost its rail link to Bristol with the closure of the Strawberry Line, which is now an important cycling and walking route.

To celebrate the Millennium, seven acres of land was acquired for the establishment of a Millennium Green on either side of the River Yeo.  To the south of the river a nature reserve was established with a community orchard planted with native fruit trees, including the Congresbury Beauty apple.  To the north of the river an open space bordered by rhynes with dipping pools, copses of native trees planted by parishioners and play equipment for children was established.  The footbridge over the river provided a safe route to schools and shops and physically linked the two parts of the village.

1.5 Area Covered by the Plan

The area covered by the Plan is the Parish of Congresbury, as shown in the following map:

Map 1: Area covered by the Plan:

 Congresbury Neighbourhood Development Plan Area

© Crown copyright and database rights 2018 Ordnance Survey 100023397, You are not permitted to copy, sub-license, distribute or sell any of this data to third parties in any form

The application dated 6 July 2015 stated:

”The Parish Council considers that this is an appropriate area as the area is wholly administered by Congresbury Parish Council.  Congresbury faces a number of challenges over the next 20 years from risk of flooding, pressures on infrastructure (such as congestion on the A370 and B3133 and an aging sewer system) as well as needing to carefully consider how it grows and develops sustainably to meet the needs and desire of current and future generations.  The Neighbourhood Development Plan will further develop and build on the current Parish Plan that was produced in 2007 looking to further strengthen the local community.”

1.6 Consultation

Details of the consultation carried out up to July 2018 and how the results have been incorporated into the Plan are given in the Consultation Report (Appendix A). A full Consultation Statement has been submitted with the plan.

Following consultation with the community, Congresbury produced a Character Statement, which was adopted by North Somerset Council in 1998.  The Character Statement outlined a series of recommendations and proposals on:

  • Protecting the character of the village
  • The landscape and countryside
  • Built environment and
  • Traffic and transport

Whilst much of the recommendations and proposals have been achieved including the development of the Millennium Green, redevelopment of the former library site for community use, provision of a community transport vehicle and a new footbridge over the river to link the northern and southern parts of the village, many of the issues and concerns raised then still remain.

Congresbury Parish Plan Steering Group produced a Community Report in September 2007 which aimed to review the 1998 Village Character Statement and to identify areas of concern for the future of Congresbury.  A questionnaire was sent to all adult residents of the village with a response rate of over 50%.  Other groups including local clubs and societies, local businesses and young persons were also surveyed.  The findings of the questionnaires agreed on the weaknesses and threats to the village which included:

  • traffic, making it difficult to move about the village safely;
  • the vast majority wanted growth in housing to be community led, the ‘settlement boundary’ was seen as an important control measure; and
  • many thought public services, transport, rubbish collection etc. could be better coordinated. 

The Community Report was not formally adopted and is reproduced at Appendix B.

1.7 Duration of the Plan

The duration of the Neighbourhood Development Plan is up to 2036.  It aligns with the emerging North Somerset Local Plan which covers the plan period 2018-2036.  The strategic planning context is provided by the adopted North Somerset Core Strategy (2017) and the emerging Joint Spatial Plan.  The Congresbury Neighbourhood Development Plan will be in general conformity with the adopted and emerging policies contained within these plans to meet the basic conditions.  Revisions will be carried out as and when these are necessary to respond to changing circumstances.  A review will be carried out after 5 years.

1.8 Topics

The topics listed below were identified by the Steering Group following the ‘postcard survey’ carried out in 2016 when all residents were invited to share their views on Congresbury (Appendix C).  Policies have been developed from those issues that were considered to be relevant and evidenced to the plan.  The topics are:

  • Housing
  • Transport and Highways
  • Facilities and services
  • Environment/Heritage
  • Employment

Details of the issues raised and resulting policies are given in the following sections.