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SOMERSET: 70 Frome homes refused

SOMERSET: 70 Frome homes refused

CREDIT: Pegasus Planning Group.

Plans for 70 new homes on the southern edge of Frome have been refused – but the decision could be overturned in a matter of months.

Wainhomes applied to build the homes on Little Keyford Lane, opposite the existing Marston Trading Estate which includes the town’s recycling centre.

Mendip District Council’s planning board voted unanimously to refuse the plans when it met in Shepton Mallet on Wednesday evening (October 13), arguing the homes would destroy the character of the local area.

But the developer has now lodged an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate – meaning the council’s decision could end up being reversed in early-2022.

The site lies between Little Keyford Lane and the B3092 The Mount, with access being proposed from the former near the pedestrian link to Manor Furlong.

The plans were considered in July in conjunction with two proposals on neighbouring sites put forward by David Wilson Homes for homes either side of the B3092.

The three sites – which are identified for housing growth within the council’s Local Plan – would deliver a combined total of 318 new homes, with the developers producing a joint masterplan.

The council voted to delay a decision on all three sites for up to six months, branding the masterplan “inadequate” and calling on both companies to further engage with its officers.

Planning officer Anna Penn told the board on Wednesday (October 13) that Wainhomes had “not engaged to make any changes” since the July meeting, and had lodged an appeal on the grounds of non-determination (claiming the council had taken too long to reach a decision).

However, since the Planning Inspectorate has not yet validated this appeal, the board was still in a position to make a legally binding decision on the plans.

Dr Patricia Smith of Frome Civic Society urged the board to reject the plans in light of the applicant’s unwillingness to engage with council officers.

She said: “The applicant has simply not engaged in the process – their proposal is largely insular in terms of access, facilities, layout and design.

“Access from Little Keyford Lane remains illogical as well as harmful to the environment. This proposal would create a separate entity within the wider site.

“The proposals for design are completely alien to Frome’s typical housing forms and its native materials.”

Councillor Helen Kay, whose Frome Keyford ward includes the site, spoke ardently against the plans via video link – telling the committee she was unable to attend in person after testing positive for coronavirus.

She said: “Little Keyford Lane is a very major route taking people out into the countryside, and it has its character which starts before the end of the existing bungalows – there’s big hedgerows on both sides.

“We want to keep Little Keyford Lane for pedestrians and cyclists – it does create a rural feel.

“If we are going to have Sandys Hill Lane being developed and all the other sites being developed, this will mean people can come into town that way [Little Keyford Lane] and then dive down through The Dippy and go to the station or into town.”

Outline plans for 235 homes either side of Sandys Hill Lane (near the town’s McDonald’s restaurant) were approved by the board in July 2020.

The Curo housing association has since put forward revised plans for 198 homes on the site, with a separate application for the commercial elements expected in the near-future.

Councillor John Clarke – who represents the neighbouring Frome Market ward – said: “This doesn’t in any way adjust the proposed access and the resulting loss of hedgerow and habitat.

“That would have significant, irreversible, harmful effects on the character and usage of Lower Keyford Lane.

“We need pathways out of town which have a rural character to them. and that will be lost if this is approved.”

Councillor Damon Hooton, who chairs the planning board, added: “This development smacks of ‘any town, any place, anywhere’ – you could close your eyes, drive for hours, open them up and you’d be in the same place. It’s nothing special at all – and it could be.”

After around 45 minutes’ debate, the board voted unanimously to refuse the plans.

The Planning Inspectorate is expected to confirm details about the appeal in the coming weeks, including the date of any virtual public inquiry.

Amended plans for the two David Wilson Homes applications are expected to come back before the planning board by late-January 2022.

Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter


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