NEARLY 50 new homes will be built in a small village near the A303 in Somerset after revised plans were approved – by a single vote.

Glastonbury-based developer Galion submitted plans in April 2021 to build 50 new homes on Broadway Hill in Horton, near Ilminster – with the number being subsequently lowered to 49 following discussions with council planning officers.

Somerset Council’s planning committee south – which makes decisions on major applications in the former South Somerset area – voted to refuse the plans in late-May 2023, claiming the new homes would amount of “over-development” and put a strain on local services.

The developer put forward amended plans for the same number of homes in October 2023 – and at the same time launched a formal appeal to the Planning Inspectorate in a bid to get the original decision overturned.

The committee has now narrowly given the amended plans the green light, with chairman Peter Seib having to use his casting vote for the second time in a month.

The site lies at the western edge of the village between Horton Village Hall and the existing homes on Broadway Hill, just over a quarter of a mile from the A303 between the Southfields roundabout and the Blackdown Hills national landscape (formerly area of outstanding natural beauty or AONB).

Access will be from Broadway Hill, with an additional pedestrian access being provided onto Pound Road.

Somerset County Gazette: The revised plans for 49 homes.The revised plans for 49 homes. (Image: Weinerberger Ltd)

Of the 49 homes proposed for the site, 17 will be affordable, with 161 car parking spaces and 49 electric vehicle charging points being provided across the whole development.

The site falls within the Somerset Levels and Moors catchment area, meaning that additional mitigation has to be secured to prevent any net increase in phosphates in areas protected by international environmental law.

To address this, the developer will ensure the delivery of “a quality and compliant woodland” between Keinton Mandeville and Lydford-on-Fosse, which will remove phosphates from the soil downstream of the site.

The original plans were refused for three reasons – namely:

The lack of local services to “meet day-to-day needs”, leaving new residents reliant on the private car

A lack of contributions to “social and community infrastructure”, such as new places at Neroche Primary School

The design of the planned dwellings at the entrance to the site

Despite changes being made to the layout of the planned homes, councillors were divided when the planning committee south met in Yeovil to deliberate the plans on Tuesday afternoon (March 26).

Councillor Sue Osborne (whose Ilminster division includes the site) said: “If there is an appeal ongoing, should we really not have waited until the outcome of the appeal is known before looking at this application?

“If this was approved today, where would that leave the ongoing appeal? Would they choose to withdraw it?

“People deserve to know – this does seem to be a rather murky way of going about it.”

Since the revised plans were submitted, Lloyds Bank announced it would be shutting its Ilminster branch in August – leaving the town and residents of the planned new homes without a local bank.

Ms Osborne added: “You have to think about people’s ability to travel. There is no public bus route, for heaven’s sake, and there will soon be no bank in Ilminster.

“This site is boarded by two very busy roads – it will become much more of a dormitory town.”

Councillor Martin Wale (who represents the neighbouring Chard North division) concurred: “It strikes me of the developers trying to get around the system, getting us to change our opinion from last time to stop the appeal. It doesn’t seem right to me.

“There has been movement of the two-storey buildings, but I haven’t heard anything to change my mind from last time.”

Broadway and Horton have seen significant interest from housing developers in recent years, with plans for 35 homes on Broadway Road being approved in late-July and a decision expected shortly on a further 28 homes on the Ding Meadow site.

Plans for a further 47 homes on Pound Road, put forward by Harrison Brown in November 2023, were officially withdrawn just days before the committee meeting.

While the Galion development will provide no additional funding towards either the Church View Medical Centre (in the neighbouring village of Broadway) or new places at Neroche Primary School, the developer will contribute nearly £206,000 towards additional secondary school places in the local area.

Councillor Mike Best (Crewkerne) said: “There is a shortfall of secondary places, and this will require an expansion of Holyrood Academy.

“I don’t think the capacity of Wadham School has been looked at.”

Other councillors spoke in support of the plans, arguing there were no legally binding reasons to refuse permission.

Councillor Kevin Messenger (Castle Cary) said: “We can all find reasons to keep turning stuff down, but we haven’t fulfilled our local housing requirement. I suggest we get on with it.”

Councillor Evie Potts-Jones (Yeovil West) added: “I’m torn on this. I’m glad that some things from last time have been changed.

“I think this is going to change the whole area. We are elected as councillors for our local knowledge on the trust of the people who live here.

“However, we do need housing and I cannot see a reason on planning grounds to refuse this.”

After more than an hour’s debate, the plans were approved using the casting vote of committee chairman Peter Seib.

This is the second time he has used his casting vote to approve a sizeable housing development in the same month, having previously used it to approve 40 new homes on Silver Street in South Petherton.

Galion has not confirmed whether it intends to withdraw its original appeal following the council’s decision.

If the appeal is successful, it will mean the developer can choose which layout it can implement once construction officially gets under way.

Galion is currently delivering 36 homes at the St. Dunstan’s Mede site in Baltonsborough, and was granted permission in early-March to build 37 new homes and a co-working hub on Baltonsborough Road at the eastern edge of Butleigh.

The company is seeking consent for two further developments in Somerset – namely 32 homes on Sub Road in Butleigh, and a further 30 homes on Church Street in Keinton Mandeville.