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SOMERSET: Greencore redevelopment refused

SOMERSET: Greencore redevelopment refused

CREDIT: POD Newcastle

Plans to redevelop a former Somerset factory into 120 new homes have been thrown out by the district council.

West Estates Development Ltd. submitted outline plans to build the houses on the former Greencore factory site on the B3081 Prestleigh Road in Evercreech, which closed in October 2018 at a cost of around 400 jobs.

The Bristol-based firm originally wished to build up to 129 homes on the site, before downgrading this to ensure the former Kemps Mill within the site could be  retained for either employment or communal purposes,

But Mendip District Council has now refused the plans outright, arguing the loss of employment land would result in an “unsustainable development” that would not meet local needs.

The council refused the plans through the delegated powers of its planning officers, rather than a decision being made by councillors on the planning board.

Julie Reader-Sullivan, the council’s head of service for planning and growth, said that seven reasons for refusal had been identified:

  1. The development would lead to a loss of employment land for the village, meaning it cannot “help ensure the vitality and sustainability of the village and wider district”
  2. The layout and design of the housing scheme does not reflect the character of the village, failing to “appreciate  the built and natural context of the locality and to contribute positively to the maintenance and enhancement of local identity and the distinctiveness of the area”
  3. The “poor design” of the proposed houses, and planned demolition of heritage assets, would result in “harm to the settings of nearby grade two listed buildings” and the village’s conservation area
  4. The developer provided “insufficient information” about how surface water will drain away from the site
  5. The plans have “failed to demonstrate” how it would mitigate phosphate pollution following the Dutch N court ruling regarding the Somerset Levels and Moors RAMSAR site
  6. The proposed access onto Prestleigh Road would “result in potential vehicle conflict and would not provide a safe and suitable access”, especially for emergency vehicles
  7. The development “fails to provide sufficient infrastructure” for the village, particularly contributions towards affordable housing and school places

The site is identified within the council’s Local Plan for employment use, with alternative uses (e.g. housing)  “will only be considered acceptable once its re-use for employment has been fully explored to the satisfaction of the council.”

Councillor Barry O’Leary, whose Creech ward includes the site, said the initial proposals for the site would create “a stranded urban island in a rural village” – though he welcomed the later retention of Kemps Mill.

On top of the council’s reasons for refusing the plans, the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) warned the development would put unnecessary pressure in health services in and around the village.

Malcolm Dicken, the CCG’s head of local planning authority engagement, said any developer would need to contribute at least £69,000 towards expanding the facilities offered from Evercreech Surgery, opposite the Greencore site.

He said: “This development is in the catchment of Evercreech Surgery, which has a total capacity for 1,768 patients.

“The current patient list is 1,878 patients, which is already over-capacity by 110 patients (at 106 per cent of capacity).

“With the increase in population from this development of 271 people, the new GP list size will be 2,149, which is over-capacity by 382.”

West Estates Development Ltd. has not yet indicated whether it intends to appeal the council’s decision.

Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter


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