Developers slapped down over change to plans for Railway Inn site

COUNCILLORS have blocked plans to move a proposed bike store from inside a new block of flats to the back garden after hearing the developer’s reason – fire safety – was bogus.

The change would have seen 80 bike racks relocate to two sheds behind a complex of 40 apartments on the site of the former Railway Inn pub in Yate.

But South Gloucestershire Council’s transport officer told a planning committee that the applicants were “disingenuous” by claiming the move out of the main building was needed because of the danger of e-bike and e-scooter lithium batteries bursting into flames.

Myles Kidd said the developers never mentioned these concerns when they submitted the original plans, which received permission in 2021 and included the internal storage.

Applicants The Railway Building Company’s planning agent Kit Stokes told the development control committee on May 9 that the National Fire Chiefs Council advised keeping e-bikes and e-scooters externally and not indoors, near a staircase leading to homes.

He said the site in Station Road was due to be bought by housing provider Places For People, which intended to make all 40 flats available as “affordable housing” and whose preference was to have the bike store outside.

Planning officers advised councillors to give the go-ahead, saying the number of bike racks remained unchanged at 80 and that this was twice that required by the authority’s policy.

They said that although the scheme had shortfalls, these would not justify a refusal.

Design changed for ‘spurious reasons’

But in an unusual public display of disagreement among council officers, Mr Kidd said: “The reason I wanted to speak is I do not agree with the recommendation in the officer report.”

He said it would be much less convenient for residents to get their bicycles from the garden and then wheel them through the property than if they were inside, which was why the council “generally fails to encourage people to cycle”.

Mr Kidd said: “The original proposal was an excellent example of good design, and what has been changed here, for very spurious reasons which I fully disagree with, is on the basis of fire safety.

“While there have been news reports on lithium batteries overheating and exploding into flames, my understanding is that the cause is generally poor quality batteries, as in fakes, or damaged batteries.

“The fire risk is not constrained to electric bicycles, it could be the case for any lithium battery, from your mobile phone to the enormous battery in an electric car, and yet integral car parking under your house is considered safe.

“In all likelihood, if you have an electric bicycle, you will take the battery off and charge it in your flat.

“There are no charging points in the new bike sheds, so the implication is that the batteries will be charged in the dwellings.”

Mr Kidd told members there was also 30% less car parking on site than the council’s policy required.

In a report to the committee he added that the developers raised concerns over e-bike and e-scooter fire hazards as a reason for the relocation.

He said: “I am not aware of these concerns being raised in the consented application and I find this reasoning to be disingenuous.”

Fire safety argument a ‘total, utter red herring’

Ward councillor Chris Willmore (Lib Dem, Yate North) told the meeting: “The arguments about fire safety of batteries is a total, utter red herring. 

“If you have an e-bike with a battery which you need to charge, if you can’t store it in a secure fire-proof store in the building, you will take the battery out and take it to your flat and we will then have batteries in as many of the flats that have e-bikes.

“If anything, that increases the fire risk.”

The indoor bike racks would have become a general storage area under the plans.


Committee member Cllr Jayne Stansfield (Lib Dem, Thornbury) said: “I’m also finding this application disingenuous.

“If you needed a plant room and storage, that would have been designed-in in the first place.”

A report to the committee heard the application was “part retrospective as the external alterations have already been carried out”.

Councillors voted to refuse permission by 8-1 votes.

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service