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SOMERSET: Castle Cary planning inquiry delay

SOMERSET: Castle Cary planning inquiry delay

CREDIT: Google Maps

An inquiry into 200 new homes in a Somerset market town won’t conclude for several months due to persistent technical difficulties.

Wyke Farms and Andrew Hopkins put forward outline plans to build up to 200 homes on the A371 Station Road in Castle Cary.

Following South Somerset District Council’s refusal of the plans in July 2020, the developers appeal the decision, with a planning inquiry beginning on November 9, 2021 to finally settle the issue.

But due to technical difficulties experienced on the opening day, the remainder of the inquiry has now been adjourned until late-March 2022 – meaning a final decision will not be known until the summer.

Planning inspector Hayley Butcher chaired the first day’s proceedings at Caryford Community Hall on Maggs Lane near Castle Cary, with the hearing also being streamed via the council’s official YouTube channel.

The hearing started an hour later than planned following a series of technical difficulties involving the council’s microphones, with large numbers of residents being advised to “go home and get online”, watching the live-stream rather than remaining at the hearing in person.

Following these technical issues, both the developer and the council made their opening remarks – with the former light-heartedly comparing their popularity to the UK’s entries in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Ms Butcher was able to conclude the day’s proceedings and undertook a site visit the following day (November 10).

But the council confirmed on Thursday afternoon (November 18) that the remainder of the inquiry would be adjourned until late-March – and would be held entirely online.

A spokesman said: “The Planning Inspectorate has confirmed that the inquiry is expected to reopen as a fully online hearing on Tuesday, March 29, 2022 and conclude on Friday, April 1, 2022.

“The inquiry that opened on November 9, 2021 at Caryford Community Hall as a blended event (an event where members of the public are able to attend both in person and watch online) has been adjourned by the inspector for a number of reasons – including capacity of the venue, sound and streaming issues.

“It will resume as a virtual inquiry (online only and streamed on our YouTube channel). The dates of the reconvened inquiry will be confirmed in due course with letters of notification being sent to all interested parties.

“The decision of the Inspectorate to adjourn the inquiry and reconvene as a virtual inquiry was wholeheartedly supported by both the appellant and the council.”

Due to this delay, Ms Butcher’s report is not expected to be published until the early-summer – around two years after the plans were first refused.

A separate inquiry into 81 homes on the A371 Cumnock Road in the same town will begin on December 7.

Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter


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