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HARMFUL HOMES: Coleford planning inquiry

HARMFUL HOMES: Coleford planning inquiry

Image: LDRS

Somerset residents will find out whether “harmful” new homes will be built near Frome before Christmas.

Gladman Developments was originally refused outline planning permission for 63 new homes on Anchor Road in Coleford, between Frome and Radstock, in August 2020.

Mendip District Council’s planning board voted again to refuse permission in March 2021, shortly after the developer had lodged an appeal against the original refusal.

Both parties presented their opening arguments to planning inspector Steven Rennie at a start of a virtual inquiry to settle the matter on Wednesday morning (August 18).

Coleford is considered a “primary village” within the council’s Local Plan – meaning it can accommodate an appropriate level of new homes, but less than the five principle settlements of Frome, Glastonbury, Shepton Mallet, Street and Wells.

Under the Local Plan, Coleford is expected to deliver at least 70 new homes by 2029 – of which 65 have already been constructed and a further four have planning permission.

Christian Hawley, representing Gladman, argued that the council had accepted that some level of development was acceptable on Anchor Road, and that approving the plans would help its housing delivery issues.

He said: “The reason for refusal is focused solely on the quantum of development [i.e. number of houses]. No part of the refusal is directed towards the principle of developing the site.

“There is no disagreement between the parties in terms of the suitability of the proposals in terms of highways safety, environmental health, education and health.

“The council’s five-year housing land supply situation has deteriorated since the decision was made.”

Mr Hawley went on to promise that any reserved matters application (covering the design and layout of the homes) would “ensure the development will be attractive and sympathetic to the local character” of the village.

He concluded: “Any visual impact will be limited to those living right near the site. Replacement hedgerow planting will be secured at reserved matters stage to mitigate the visual impact.

“It is clear that the benefits significantly outweigh the very limited harm of the application.”

Richard Brigden, representing the council, admitted the lack of a five-year land supply meant the council’s existing policies carried “limited weight”.

However, he contended that a review of the Local Plan had identified a further site in the village for up to 21 homes – which he contended was more sustainable given Coleford’s character.

He said: “It is difficult to say what number of units would be acceptable on the Anchor Road site.

“We don’t have indicative details of a smaller scheme, so attempting to glean what might be acceptable isn’t easy. We consider 63 homes would be harmful to the local area.

“This does appear to be a dense and crowded development. The village peters out towards its northern end.

“We don’t really consider that it’s in keeping with the landscape character of this location.”

Mr Brigden also stressed that work was ongoing to speed up housing delivery despite the impact of the Dutch N court ruling, which has held up plans for nearly 11,000 homes across Somerset.

He said: “It’s a developing situation. We’re working closely with Natural England to find solutions and see how this challenge could be overcome.”

Mr Rennie will conduct a formal site visit to Anchor Road on Thursday (August 19), with his final ruling expected to be published before Christmas.


Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter

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