A DECISION on new homes described as the “meat in the sandwich” has been pushed back to allow the public more time to have their say.

Mendip District Council’s planning board voted in July 2022 to approve Waddeton Park Ltd’s plans for 270 homes on the A367 Green Park Road at the southern edge of Midsomer Norton.

Following a judicial review, which removed this site and four others from the council’s Local Plan Part II, the board met in Shepton Mallet on Wednesday evening (January 18) with the intention of approving the plans again.

However, a decision has now been deferred until March to allow local residents more time to respond to the proposals.

While Midsomer Norton lies within the Bath and North East Somerset Council (BANES) area, the Waddeton Park site (and two others nearby) are located in the Mendip district, and are therefore subject to the decisions of its councillors and planning officers.

The site lies between the existing homes to the north and a planned development of 75 homes on Beauchamps Drive to the south – which was granted outline permission on appeal in May 2022, with a reserved matters application (detailing the design and layout of the homes) currently being out for public consultation.

The Waddeton site was removed from the Local Plan Part II after the High Court ruled that the planning inspector had “misinterpreted” a previous commitment to providing 505 homes in the north-eastern part of Mendip by 2029.

As a result, the application essentially amounts to building in open countryside – something which both local and national planning law tries to discourage.

Somerset County Gazette:  A masterplan for the proposed development of 270 homes on the A367 Green Park Road. A masterplan for the proposed development of 270 homes on the A367 Green Park Road. (Image: Clifton Emery Design)

Councillor Shaun Hughes, who represents Midsomer Norton on BANES Council, told the planning board on Wednesday evening (January 18): “There is huge concern, resistance and anger in the local community.

“We should not burden our community for decades to come with inappropriate developments bulldozed through to meet government targets.

“As far as Midsomer Norton is concerned, our infrastructure and services are already completely overstretched.

“Our transport system is in crisis, our road network is full – I cannot get appointments at my doctor’s surgery or dental practice, and receive regular texts telling me only to contact them if it’s an emergency.

“The roads have been neglected for decades and are very dangerous both for pedestrians and for vehicles.

“This development will provide 81 social and affordable homes, from which I’m sure residents from areas such as Frome and Shepton Mallet will benefit.

“However, this development offers no benefit to our community housing needs in Midsomer Norton, and will just add more burden to our overstretched resources.

“Planning boards are here to protect us from poor planning decisions. As councillors, we are here for a relatively short period of time and should be driven by the desire to leave a legacy of a better environment for our generations to come.”

Malcolm Daniel, who sits on Stratton-on-the-Fosse Parish Council, added: “The behemoth of the development proposal will change the character of the parish entirely.

“Seventy-five per cent of neighbouring development out-commutes to Bristol, Bath and beyond as there is little local work. This site will be the same.

“This is being rushed through with undue haste – not what the judicial review intended.”

Simon Steele-Perkins, director of Waddeton Park Ltd, argued that his company had designed a scheme which complemented the existing homes and would provide new pedestrian and cycling routes to reduce car use.

He said: “We’ve been able to design a scheme which focuses on permeability and connectivity. It’s hard to imagine a more sustainable location for new development.”

Councillor Lucie Taylor-Hood, who represents numerous villages to the west of Wells, said she would not have backed the proposals if the site had not been previously identified for housing.

She said: “I remember when we debated this last year. I think we approved it on the basis that it was in the emerging Local Plan [Part II].

“I don’t think we would have approved it had it been open countryside – I feel uneasy about this.”

Councillor Francis Hayden added: “When we came here to make this decision last year, no reference was made to the fact that there was a judicial review pending – which puts the status of this site in doubt.

“Regarding ‘the meat in the sandwich’ – one of the reasons that the inspector granted the Beauchamps Drive appeal was that this site was allocated.

“That appeal hinged largely on that – but now it’s not allocated. We’re compounding error on error.”

Following a short debate, the board voted to defer a decision on the plans for up to two months to allow for further public consultation.