MANOR FARM: Fate of plans for new homes in a Somerset village
The fate of plans for new homes in a Somerset village will be decided by a four-day planning inquiry.
Gleeson Strategic Land Ltd originally applied to build 80 homes on the Manor Farm site at the southern end of Templecombe, just off the busy A357.
The plans were subsequently amended to 60 homes, with an increased amount of green space being provided within the site.
But South Somerset District Council still refused permission in August 2020, stating the development would still cause “unacceptable harm” to both existing residents and local heritage assets.
Following an appeal by the developer, the matter will now be decided by a four-day virtual hearing beginning on Tuesday (May 11), after which the Planning Inspectorate will publish its final decision on the proposals.
The proposals entail creating a new access on the A357 Combe Hill, with the majority of the homes being built at the southern end of the site and a community woodland being created to the north.
David Kenyon, the council’s planning officer, stated on August 14, 2020 that the site could accommodate a smaller number of homes, but the current plans would not meet local need.
He said: “There are other parts of the site, particularly on the eastern and southern outer slopes, where residential development is indicated on the master-plan and which we consider would cause an unacceptable level of harm to the rural character of that part of the site and the wider landscape.
“Development in these areas would also cause an unacceptable level of harm to the visual amenity of those adjacent to the site as well as those in the wider landscape.
“An overriding essential need [for these homes] has not been justified.”
Templecombe has seen significant interest from developers in recent years, with the Manor Farm site being one of several identified for future housing.
Plans to build 49 homes on West Street were approved by the council’s regulation committee in June 2020 after it had been turned down at two previous hearings – a decision which residents described as “an affront to common sense”.
Thales Group was granted outline permission for 70 homes on Slades Hill in December 2018, as part of the expansion of its existing facility.
Detailed plans (known as reserved matters) for the site have been put forward on the company’s behalf by Kier Living, concerning the design and layout of the new houses along with other fine details.
Former Blue Peter presenter Valerie Singleton – who lives in the village – said the cumulative increase in traffic from Manor Farm and the other two sites would be “a terrible problem”.
Speaking in late-2019 -when the Manor Farm plans were first put forward – she said: “The increase in car pollution (at a time when we are meant to be cutting back on this) and extra traffic is one of the things you hear most from people.
“We are used as a cut-through from the A303 to the A30 – and the lorries coming through are terrible.
“Of course new housing is important, and we all realise that – but it had to be done well and in a well thought-out way.”
Gleason Strategic Land Ltd said the scheme had been designed with “a thorough understanding of the physical characteristics of the site and its surroundings”, arguing it was the most viable scheme for this part of the village.
The spokesman added: “The proposed development delivers much-needed affordable housing and through an increased population, enhances community facilities by bringing back into use the netted-off classroom at Abbas and Templecombe Primary School.
“The proposed development enhances the sustainability of Templecombe.”
The virtual hearing will begin on Tuesday (May 11) at 10am, with all four days being live-streamed via the council’s YouTube channel.
The Planning Inspectorate is expected to publish its final decision in the summer.
Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter
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