Objections to plans for more housing
PROPOSALS for more than 100 new houses on land between Wells and Wookey Hole were criticised by local residents at a planning meeting on December 18.
Many of those packed in to Wookey Hole Community Hall broke into applause when members of St Cuthbert Out Parish Council’s planning committee unanimously voted to recommend refusal of the scheme.
Land Allocations Ltd is seeking outline permission for up to 104 residential dwellings – with another 44 affordable homes – on land north of Wookey Hole Road, next to Underwood Business Park and opposite the Bovis Homes housing development.
It was pointed out several times at the meeting that the site, known locally as Armchair Field, has been designated a Special Landscape Feature, giving it the same status as places such as Palace Fields, Tor Woods and Glastonbury Tor; it is also next to the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and should be rejected for those reasons alone, said Ivor Tetley.
Doug Robinson told the meeting that 800 houses were already being built in the Wookey Hole Road and Haybridge area, and said he felt that Wookey Hole was in the jaws of a vice that was closing very rapidly.
He said of the potential new development: “If it is full of bland houses like the Bovis site it will be an utter travesty.”
Jenny Lewis said she was concerned about the road network, and that the infrastructure of Wells was not able to increase its capacity to cope with the growing population: it already takes several weeks to get a routine appointment with a GP, she said, schools have full classes, and parking in Wells is inadequate.
Her points were echoed by Roger Hancock, who said there had already been six large developments, not one of which had seen improvements in the infrastructure. He told councillors: “You’re not doing anything about the infrastructure. Doctors’ surgeries are overworked, schools are overcrowded. No one’s doing anything and I don’t know why no one’s doing something.”
Planning committee chair Marcel Hayden pointed out that the parish council was only a consultee, and that in the background it was petitioning about all these things.
“We’ve fought Bovis, we’ve fought David Wilson, we’re fighting Elm Close. We’re doing our utmost,” he said.
Another resident, the Rev Hugh Talbot, said: “We’re in danger of losing our character as a quiet, unpretentious little village. It’s a humble village and a friendly village and all these things are being jeopardised by relentless commercial development.”
Members of the planning committee expressed their own misgivings about the scheme.
Councillor Ian Humphreys said that it was important to preserve sensitive landscapes, and Councillor Jim Reeves said that the site was not adjacent to the development limits of Wells, as the applicant claims, and that regarding the Local Plan, they were looking at it in relation to Wells rather than St Cuthbert Out.
“There’s no justification for granting this application,” he said.
The six councillors present all voted to recommend refusal “for a multitude of reasons” that include over-development, impact on the landscape and wildlife, and the increased strain on infrastructure.