Plans to build hundreds of homes on the rural southern edge of Bath have been sent back to developers.

The plan to build almost 300 homes on green fields on the city’s edge had been recommended for approval by Bath and North East Somerset Council’s planning officers, despite over 1,200 locals objecting to the development. But when the plans were set to be decided by the council’s planning committee, councillors said they did not have enough information to make a decision and sent the plans back to the developers.

The Hignett Family Trust hoped to build 290 homes — of which 40% would have been affordable housing — on the fields by Odd Down as the third and fourth “phases” of the Sulis Down development. Phase one of the project was the new development of 171 homes of Combe Hay Lane, behind Odd Down Park and Ride, which was approved “with the utmost reluctance” by councillors on Bath and North East Somerset Council’s planning committee in 2018.

Sulis Manor and the land surrounding it is phase two of the development, but will be “developed by others.” The whole site sits within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Bath’s World Heritage Site, but the land is allocated as a strategic allocated site for 300 homes.

Together with the homes in phase one, the Sulis Down development will exceed this and come closer to 450. But the council’s planning officers, who recommended the scheme for approval, said: “Provided that the placemaking policies can be met, there should be no objection.”

But, at a packed committee meeting, people objecting to the development challenged whether it did meet the council’s policies, and whether it met the requirements for building in the area of outstanding natural beauty.

Malcolm Austwick of Combe Hay Parish Council — one of the seven parish councils who objected to the plan — said that planning officers were replying on a 2014 report without acknowledging that there were now other sites for homes. He also criticised the plans for the development as too focussed on housing.

He said: “The plans you are being asked to approve have no pub, no church, no community hall, no community library, no cafe, no shops, no medical facilities, and no school. […] Everything this community will need will need to be obtained off site.”

Joel Hirst, councillor for the neighbouring ward of Odd Down, warned: “To build here we need exceptional circumstances. Things have changed. They no longer exist.”

Concerns were also raised about the impact of traffic, which objectors had warned would cause “carmageddon.” An assessment of the traffic impact had been carried out which found there would not be a severe impact, but objectors argued that this had been carried out while nearby private schools were on their holidays.

Planning committee chair Duncan Hounsell said that councillors needed more information from the applicant on the impact on local traffic and whether the exceptional circumstances to allow the development still existed.

He added: “It just might give a brief period where the applicant could defer on what they have heard this morning.”

LDRS, John Wimperis