SOMERSET: Station Road inquiry begins
Two Somerset companies have compared themselves to Britain’s Eurovision entries in a bid to persuade a planning inspector to approve new homes.
Wyke Farms and Hopkins Developments put forward outline plans to build up to 200 homes on the A371 Station Road in Castle Cary – one of the last undeveloped green spaces between the railway station and the town centre.
South Somerset District Council refused the plans in May 2020, arguing the homes would create “a highly conspicuous scar upon our countryside”.
The two companies appealed this decision, with a formal planning inquiry getting under way on Tuesday morning (November 9) to determine the final fate of the proposals.
Planning inspector Hayley Butcher chaired the hearing, which began an hour later than planned following a series of technical difficulties involving the council’s microphones.
Sasha White, representing the two applicants, said the proposals were necessary in order to tackle both local housing need and the wider UK housing crisis.
He said: “I do understand that a lot of what I say is not going to be greeted with enormous popularity – it’s like being the British party in the Eurovision Song Contest.
“The simple truth is we have a national crisis over the provision of housing, and this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
“The local authority needs to provide 725 houses a year. Objectively and subjectively, this is a very significant number which can only be achieved in part by building on greenfield land.
“Whatever side of the fence you sit in, there is a desperate need for new homes in South Somerset.
“Everyone in this room has probably tried one of the appellants’ products. They are not land speculators – they are in this community, they are local employers and they care about it.”
Numerous developments in South Somerset have been delayed as a result of the Dutch N court ruling, which is designed to prevent any increase in phosphate levels on the Somerset Levels and Moors RAMSAR site.
Mr White said the site’s location was “highly sustainable”, given its proximity to the railway station”, and the development would be “phosphate-neutral” in light of significant mitigation put forward by the two companies.
But Philip Robson, representing the council, said the harm which would be caused to the natural landscape on the northern edge of Castle Cary outweighed any of the benefits which the new homes could bring.
He said: “This site forms an integral part of the Brue Valley landscape. The landscape is well-settled and domesticated, with many small villages and hamlets.
“This development will cause a wide range of adverse effects. The landscape of the site and the surrounding area will be significantly harmed.
“This harm significantly and demonstrably outweighs the benefits of this development.”
Mr Robson also contended that other, more advanced sites could soon be unlocked in light of a new ‘phosphate credits’ system which would be implemented by the end of November.
He said: “There is a strong and credible case that our existing housing shortfall will be short-lived.
“The sale of these credits will unlock… land for 2,369 homes between November 2021 and April 2022. Many of these sites are at a more advanced stage than the appeal site.”
The inquiry is expected to continue until Friday (November 12), with Ms Butcher due to visit the site in person before the proceedings conclude.
The Planning Inspectorate is due to public her final report in early-2022.
Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter
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