A FORMER Somerset factory site could be turned into houses despite two attempts to throw out plans for its redevelopment.

West Estates Development Ltd. submitted outline plans to build 120 houses on the former Greencore factory site on the B3081 Prestleigh Road in Evercreech, which closed in October 2018 at a cost of around 400 jobs.

Mendip District Council initially refused the plans in November 2021, prompting the Bristol-based developer to submit alternative proposals for the same number of homes in April 2022.

This second application was refused in July 2022, with the local ward councillor branding the plans “unsustainable” and urging the developer to come up with better ideas for the site.

The developer has now lodged an appeal in a bid to overturn this second refusal, with the Planning Inspectorate intending to stage a public inquiry into the matter in the late-spring.

Somerset County Gazette: Outline plans have been submitted to build 120 homes on the former factory site.Outline plans have been submitted to build 120 homes on the former factory site. (Image: POD Newcastle Ltd.)

The decision to refuse the plans was made by the council’s planning officers through their delegated powers, rather than at a public meeting of the planning board.

Julie Reader-Sullivan, the council’s head of service for planning and growth, identified the following eight reasons for refusing permission:

  • The development would result in the loss of employment for the village, failing to “meet the aspirations of the Local Plan and the local community”
  • The proposals would lead to the “loss of designated heritage assets” and would not contribute positively to “the maintenance and enhancement of local identity and distinctiveness of the area”
  • The development would result in harm to nearby grade two listed buildings and the Evercreech conservation area
  • The development’s “cramped layout” would result in overlooking between properties, creating an “unacceptable living environment for future residents”
  • The developer has provided “insufficient information” over how surface water would drain away from the site, meaning the development could increase the risk of localised flooding
  • The proposals does not include “an appropriate mitigation strategy” to prevent an increase in phosphate levels on the Somerset Levels and Moors
  • The proposed access points onto the B3081 and Neale’s Way would “prejudice highway safety” due to a lack of visibility, while concerns also remain about the internal road layout
  • The developer has not guaranteed the development will provide contributions to local schools and other community facilities

Councillor Barry O’Leary, whose Creech ward includes the site, has pushed for the site to be regenerated as a commercial base as part of a future bid to the government’s levelling up fund.

 Read more: Police investigate fire at disused factory in Evercreech

Speaking in July 2022, he said: “We simply cannot go from employment-only to residential-only. [Our] planners recognise it would be unsustainable in terms of the traffic and services impacted.

“In these days of extremes of weather we have seen the problems that our infrastructure faces. As I have said all along, the owner needs to realise what the site is suited to, but more importantly is not suited to.”

The Planning Inspectorate has confirmed that the appeal would be decided through a public inquiry, rather than through written representations.

A public inquiry into the plans is due to begin on May 16 – after the vesting day of the new unitary Somerset Council – and is expected to last at least four days, including an official site visit. The outcome of the inquiry will be published on the Planning Inspectorate’s website in the early-summer.

To make a formal representation ahead of the inquiry, visit www.acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk and quote reference number 3314693 by March 7.

A separate decision on plans for 56 homes and a convenience store at the northern end of Prestleigh Road is expected to be made by the late-spring.