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SOMERSET: Midsomer Norton inquiry date

SOMERSET: Midsomer Norton inquiry date

CREDIT: Google Maps.

The fate of planned new homes at the southern edge of Midsomer Norton will be decided at a public inquiry in the new year.

Gleeson Strategic Land Ltd. put forward plans in late-January to build 75 homes on Beauchamps Drive, in the neighbouring parish of Stratton-on-the-Fosse.

Mendip District Council refused the plans in late-May, arguing it represented “an urban encroachment of housing into the open countryside” which could undermine the area’s natural beauty.

The developer appealed this decision, with the Planning Inspectorate now confirming the matter will be settled via a virtual public inquiry, scheduled to begin on February 22, 2022.

The site lies on the northern side of Beauchamps Drive, a short distance from both Norton Down Methodist Church and the White Post Inn.

Access to the site would be from Beauchamps Drive, with a large amount of green space being retained at the eastern edge, near the White Post roundabout.

The developer indicated that 23 of the new homes would be affordable – just over the council’s 30 per cent target for any new development of ten homes or more.

A spokesman for Origin3 (representing the applicant) said: “Mendip District Council is failing to deliver homes, as is demonstrated by its inability to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply.

“Midsomer Norton is an identified growth area in the emerging Local Plan Part II, and the location of two emerging housing allocations in proximity to the site at Beauchamps Drive provide the opportunity for this site to be developed, extending housing development further southwards to the natural boundaries of Beauchamps Drive, Wells Road and the A367, and round off the settlement of Midsomer Norton.

“This scheme offers the opportunity to contribute to the housing shortfall in Mendip, whilst delivering 23 much-needed affordable homes.”

The land to the north of the site is being considered for 270 homes under a separate application, submitted by Waddeton Park Ltd. in August.

This latter site is included in the council’s Local Plan Part II, which is expected to be formally adopted by Christmas – but the Beauchamps Drive site is not included.

Julie Reader-Sullivan, the council’s head of service for planning and growth, stated in late-May that the benefits the development would bring (including local employment during construction) did not outweigh the harm to the local landscape.

She said: “The  proposal will result in an urban encroachment of housing into the open countryside in a location where development of this nature is strictly controlled.

“This will create a harmful urbanising impact which does not preserve the intrinsic character of the countryside for its own intrinsic value and beauty, failing to respect the distinctive rural character of the wider area and landscape setting.

“The benefits of bringing forward housing supply (including affordable housing) and the limited economic and social benefits do not in this case significantly and demonstrably outweigh the adverse impacts on the natural environment, landscape character and visual amenities of the area that would arise from the development.”

Ms Reader-Sullivan added that the developer had provided “insufficient  information” about how the new homes would impact on road safety, given the narrow nature of Beauchamps Drive and the close junction with the B3139 Wells Road.

The virtual planning inquiry to decide the fate of the plans will begin on February 22, 2022 and is expected to last up to four days, including a formal site visit.

To make a formal statement to the Planning Inspectorate on this matter, visit www.acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk, quoting appeal reference 3285335, by December 13.

A separate inquiry into 95 new homes in the neighbouring village of Chilcompton is due to begin on December 7.

Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter


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