‘Come up with more answers’, Bovis told
A DECISION on whether to approve plans for more than 200 new homes at the Priory Fields site on Woookey Hole Road has been deferred.
Councillors on Mendip District Council’s planning board unanimously decided that they need more information before determining the Bovis scheme.
Issues raised at the meeting included the travel plan, the amount of affordable housing, the landscaping arrangements and infrastructure provision.
Outline planning permission was granted for 160 homes at the site in 2014. Bovis Homes now want to build 203 homes.
Nichola Amos, secretary of the Wookey Hole Residents’ Association, told the board that residents had raised 15 points about the revised plan. In the time allocated at the meeting, the two objections she raised were parking on Priory Fields – she said that there was not enough parking provision for residents and visitors – and the effect on wildlife.
Wookey Hole resident Roger Hancock said that Wookey Hole Road was already very busy without the extra traffic that the development would generate. He said that the travel plan associated with the development was out of date, and said: “It’s a very, very busy thoroughfare. It is single lane due to parked vehicles in two places. Accidents happen, near misses are frequent and cars are written off.”
Councillor Jim Reeves, vice-chairman of St Cuthbert Out Parish Council, also said that the travel plan was out of date. He said that the 67 bus service was now restricted and its long-term future uncertain, and that without such a bus service there would be more car journeys instead.
For Bovis Homes, David Russell said that of the 203 homes, 51 would be affordable homes. He also pointed out that householders would receive travel vouchers, there would be cycle storage, and there would be electric car charging points.
But councillors decided that they were not ready to come to a decision.
Councillor Damon Hooton said that the travel plan should be looked at again if there had been changes to the bus service, and he also expressed concerns about visitor parking.
“My biggest bugbear is that there is no social housing,” he added. “We have a moral and legal duty to provide housing for people in need. We need social housing.”
Councillor Nigel Woollcombe-Adams said that the level of affordable housing in Wells is set at 40 per cent, so suggested that 40 per cent of the additional 43 homes should be affordable. “As a community we’ve got to come away with something from this,” he said.
Councillor Tom Killen said: “I think we all accept the principle of the site being developed. People say where are these people going to work? The issue we have is businesses saying where are we going to get staff? We’ve got to provide housing.
“Infrastructure is a massive issue on new developments. We must make sure infrastructure is provided and we must go back to health care providers and so on and make sure we’re getting that right.
“I’m really disappointed that the traffic report assumes that all traffic will go into Wells. Wookey Hole has been ignored completely as has Deer Leap leading up to Priddy. A lot of these people could be working in Bristol and going the other way.
“We’ve got to get it right. I urge us to defer this and ask the developer to come up with more answers.”
Councillor Ros Wyke said she wanted to understand how children would get to school. “This is a town site. We should have pedestrian access into town.”
She also shared concerns about infrastructure. “There does need to be new housing but I think sometimes we need to stand back and look at the bigger picture. Wells is getting all this new housing. Has it got the infrastructure? We look at these things piecemeal. We need to understand as a council the impact all this housing is having on the infrastructure.”
Councillor Danny Unwin said: “We need development but we need to get it right. I would want to go along with deferment. Let’s get it right.”
Councillor Mike Pullin agreed, and made this plea to Bovis Homes: “If we defer this, please come and talk to us.”
Housebuilder disappointed but ‘will continue to engage’
BOVIS Homes say that the Priory Fields development will help to address a housing need in the area and bring a variety of other benefits, and that they are disappointed by the deferral.
A spokeswoman for the company said: “The detailed planning application delivers 11 more homes designated as affordable housing for local people currently unable to access the housing market. There are also 32 more private market homes included in the detailed plans.
“These properties help to address the identified shortfall of smaller family properties in the area and boosts the local market, providing more opportunities for local people to get on or move up the housing ladder, while not significantly impacting on traffic or taking up any more space. This delivery of smaller family homes is consistent with the Mendip District Council’s Local Plan and housing need.
“Other benefits include a fully serviced site for a primary school, three play areas, landscaped public open spaces, which will involve the planting of 280 trees, and communal areas of which the long-term maintenance will be secured by a management company. It will also contribute towards the sustainability of the local bus service.
“The plans have been carefully designed to create an attractive location, with a network of cycle ways and footpaths to ensure the school remains well connected and encouraging sustainable travel.
“Delivery of the 152 private homes, 51 affordable properties and school site together with all of this associated infrastructure will also bring an economic boost and jobs to the area, and we will continue to engage with all parties to ensure a successful outcome for the community.
“Outline planning for the development was granted in 2014 and we are committed to working with the local authority and members of the community to deliver these much-needed homes, infrastructure and facilities.
“Our detailed planning application has been under consideration for more than a year by the council and has been recommended for approval by the council’s planning officer, so we were naturally disappointed by the recent deferral.”