AN IMPORTANT planning appeal for Taunton Deane Borough Council recommenced today - but might have to close again.

The planning appeal from Gladman Development over land at Bagley Road in Rockwell Green, Wellington, started again this morning (July 17) at the Albemarle Centre in Taunton.

Gladman Developments Ltd applied for permission to build 205 homes and 60 'apartments with care' on land near Bagley Road, Rockwell Green, but Taunton Deane planners refused the application in April 2017 as it fell outside of the allocated development area.

Gladman decided to appeal the decision, and the public enquiry which started on February 13 2018 was expected to last four days.

But the appeal was adjourned after a day to allow for more time to gather evidence after the two parties disagreed over the council's provision for homes for the elderly.

It started again on April 23, but was adjourned after one of TDBC's witnesses was unable to attend due to illness and residents were told the proceedings would begin again in July.

Planning inspector Phillip Ware reopened the proceedings this morning but raised concerns about proceeding due to impending legislation that would change important definitions used to argue and decide the appeal.

He said: "New planning regulation framework is expected to be published before Tuesday.

"The new framework will become material considerations to the decision."

Both parties agreed to continue on with the plan to go through the evidence as planned, and consider the 'pause' later in the week if necessary.

But trouble could come if Theresa May successfully moves forward the MP's summer recess, which would impact when the new guidelines are published.

The framework outlines definitions and expectations for local authorities, ie the definition of 'affordable housing' and the amount of housing that needs to be supplied by councils.

The appellant, Gladman Development, maintains TDBC cannot meet its five-year housing land supply, the extra-care units were needed, and that Rockwell Green was a ‘sustainable’ area for the development.

The council stated it maintains that the area is an unsustainable location, that the primary schools were already full or close to capacity, and that it can deliver its five-year supply of houses.

But new guidelines could change the outcomes of the arguments if the number of houses TDBC is required to build is reduced.

Inspector Ware explained how this could impact on the timings of when the 'closing statements' would be needed from each party involved.

Wellington town councillors John Thorne and Janet Lloyd have been following the proceedings. 

Cllr Thorne believes the new guidelines could end up in a win for Taunton Deane. 

He said: "Through pure circumstance it looks like Gladman may lose the appeal, which will be good news for Wellington. 

"If the appeal had been completed when it started in February then I feared Gladman would win because of the Deane's poor record on delivering housing over many years.

"But the Goverment is about to publish new national planning policies any day now and these are likely to strengthen the council's hand.

"If the policy changes are as forecast, it will make it easier for the council to achieve its housing targets and therefore undermines Gladman's case.

"The lesson to be learned in my opinion is that TDBC's planners need to toughen up and get smart to what companies like Gladman are up to. 

"And that comes down to the council's executive providing sufficient resources for the planning department to operate in today's pressurised housing environment.

"Up to now, it simply has not been good enough for a number of years and we have frequently been let down by poor quality decisions.

"In Wellington also, I am already pressing for the town council's neighbourhood plan working group to start up again because we would be able to offer a second line of defence in cases like this if the Deane was to lose."