RESIDENTS of a small Somerset town will find out in the summer whether hundreds of new homes will be built on their doorstep.

C. G. Fry put forward outline plans back in July 2018 to build up to 620 homes, a primary school, employment units and a care home on the A371 Cannard’s Grave Road at the southern edge of Shepton Mallet.

A decision on the plans has been delayed for nearly six years following viability issues surrounding the site and the need to agree additional phosphates mitigation to prevent unwanted pollution of the Somerset Levels and Moors.

Somerset Council has now indicated that a decision on the outline proposals could be taken by councillors in the summer – with more detailed proposals for the first 200 homes to follow on in early-2025.

The land south of the A371 is allocated within the Mendip Local Plan Part I, which was approved in December 2014, to deliver “about 500 new homes” along with other facilities – with land being set aside to allow the annual Mid Somerset Show to continue being held in the town every August.

Under the latest proposals, much of the land at the south of the site (near Ridge Lane) will be retained as green space, with the bulk of the new homes being built at the northern end near the existing homes on Compton Road.

Access to the new homes will be from a new roundabout on the A371, which will replace the existing T-junction with Little Brooks Lane.

The new primary school and commercial units will be delivered near this new roundabout, with the proposed care home being further to the south near the land allocated for the Mid Somerset Show.

Dark Lane (which connects Ridge Lane to the A371) will be retained as a pedestrian and cycle route, with new attenuation ponds and public open spaces being included along a spine through the middle of the site.

New walking and cycling infrastructure will be delivered through the site and along the A371, linking up to the Strawberry Line active travel route and providing easy access to both Collett Park and the town centre.

A spokesman for C. G. Fry has stated that the original delays surrounding a decision on the plans stemmed from viability concerns, with the Dorset-based developer arguing it could not deliver the required amount of affordable homes on top of contributing to other facilities within the location.

Under the Mendip Local Plan Part I, any development of ten homes or more is expected to provide 30 per cent affordable housing – the equivalent of 186 properties at the Cannard’s Grave site.

A spokesman said: “Initially it was scheme viability and we took the view that the scheme could not provide a policy-compliant amount of affordable housing and remain viable; Mendip District Council disagreed.

“We went through a viability appraisal process and, rather than go to appeal and have a public inquiry, we agreed with the council that we would go to mediation.

“We spent a year negotiating the terms of reference for, and appointing, a mediator and we got as far as a draft statement of common ground.

“However, for reasons only it knows, the council pulled out at the last minute and so that was a completely wasted year.”

During this mediation period, Natural England published its now-infamous legal advice to Somerset’s five local authorities following the Dutch N court ruling.

In a nutshell, the ruling and subsequent advice states that any new development within the catchment area of the Somerset Levels and Moors Ramsar site (which is protected by international law) must provide additional mitigation to prevent any net increase of phosphates (which could cause eutrophication and other environmental damage).

More than 18,000 new homes across Somerset have been held up by this ruling and the resulting negotiations between developers and planning officers to secure mitigation – including the C. G. Fry site, which is within the River Sheppey catchment area.

A spokesman for C. G. Fry said: “The remaining time delay has been spent optioneering and also revising the master-plan to improve the value of the scheme.

“We remain in dialogue with Somerset Council and our ecologists about the most effective way to mitigate our phosphates impact.”

A separate C. G. Fry development, at Jurston Fields on the southern edge of Wellington, is currently the subject of lengthy legal proceedings regarding the extent of phosphate mitigation, with the High Court expected to hear arguments on Tuesday (March 19) and publish its ruling by late-April.

Somerset Council received £9.6m of government funding in December 2023 to expand its existing phosphate mitigation efforts and trial new methods, which will allow thousands of new homes to be delivered within the coming years.

A spokesman said: “It is currently anticipated that a decision on these plans will be taken in the summer, but this is subject to change particularly for such a large and complex application.

“Now that a number of nutrient credit schemes have been established, the applicant intends to purchase credits to mitigate impact.

“As the council cannot currently demonstrate a five-year housing land supply, the ‘tilted balance’ is engaged in Somerset East (formerly Mendip).

“This means that some residential proposals can only be refused planning permission if the harms associated with them would be significant and demonstrable.”

Phosphate credits are purchased by developers from the council and its partners to fund off-site mitigation elsewhere in the relevant catchment area, such as the fallowing of agricultural land, planting new trees or creating new wetlands.

Despite the ongoing viability concerns, C. G. Fry has pledged to contribute funding to deliver the new primary school and improvements to local health services in the town.

The NHS Somerset Integrated Care Board has formally requested £275,709 be set aside as part of the development, either to expand the neighbouring Park Medical Practice or deliver other similar enhancements.

A spokesman for C. G. Fry said: “620 dwellings is not enough critical mass on it sown to justify a new school nor new standalone medical facilities. However, we will make our reasonable and proportionate contributions to provision.

“Regarding the school, our previous discussions with Somerset County Council suggested there was an appetite to work with us to build the school early in the process, and we will shortly reignite these discussions with the local education authority.

“We would love to deliver a school as it makes a place more attractive and vibrant and also creates certainty. When and how it happens remains the preserve of Somerset Council.”

The council confirmed it would be securing land on site for a new school, but declined to give an indication for how soon it would seek to build it.

While most new schools are funded by developers using the community infrastructure levy (CIL), the funding for this school will be secured using a more site-specific Section 106 agreement.

A spokesman said: “The Somerset East area does not operate a CIL standard charge; instead, planning obligations are agreed on a case-by-case basis and set out in a Section 106 agreement in accordance with policy and legislation.

“The policy requires a primary school on the site, which is part of the proposal. Other contributions will be considered and discussed with the applicant, including NHS contributions.”

Due to the size and scale of the development, a decision on the plans will most likely be taken in public by the council’s planning committee east, which makes rulings on major developments in the former Mendip area – and which meets at the council offices immediately opposite the development site.

If approval is granted, C. G. Fry has said it would submit a reserved matters application (concerning the design and layout of the new homes) in early-2025, with a view to construction work starting as soon as possible after this date.

A spokesman said: “It would normally take us about six to eight months to submit a ‘phase one’ reserved matters application and then the timetable depends on how long it would take the council to determine.

“We will allow another six months [after the outline planning decision] for a large (roughly 200 dwelling) phase one reserved matters application to go through the application process.

“After that, we will allow a further six months for detailed engineering design, discharge of planning conditions and letting of contracts before we make a site start.

“If we do not get an outline decision within six months, it is highly unlikely we would go to appeal on the grounds of non-determination, as we much prefer to work with a local authority to secure a permission.”

To have your say on the Cannard’s Grave proposals, visit and search for application number 2018/1843/OTS.