Agenda item

Planning Application 18/01917/FUL** - Land Off Shiremoor Hill, Merriott


Application Proposal: Erection of 39 No. dwellings and associated works including access, open space, parking, landscaping and drainage infrastructure


The Specialist – Development Management updated members with the following information:


·         Further letters had been received raising concerns over the need for housing, loss of greenspace and ecological impact.

·         Parish Council comments had been received in response to amended plans raising concerns over plot 39, culverting the stream and issues with the right of way.

·         A letter had been received from Merriott Heritage Trust raising concerns over the impact of the scheme with regard to the right of way.

·         Discussions had been held with the Applicant over reducing pre-commencement conditions.

·         The final District Valuer report had been received which concluded that the Affordable Housing could be provided but it was not viable to provide education and off-site play and space facilities.

·         On the basis of there being no forthcoming education contributions a meeting was held with County Education.  In view of there being capacity issues in the local primary school, the Education Authority were formally objecting to the application.  The application would therefore need to be referred to the Regulation Committee for final determination.

·         The Specialist – Development Management would normally go back to the District Valuer to try and seek a reduction in Affordable Housing provision in order to secure the education contribution but this had not been possible due to time constraints.


The Specialist – Development Management presented the application and outlined the key considerations.  He advised that the principle of residential development on the site had been previously established and the current proposal was a standalone application from the outline proposal. 


In response to questions, the Specialist - Development Management confirmed the following:


·         Stonewater had not entered into pre-application discussions.

·         93 parking spaces would be provided which was below the optimum standard.

·         The District Valuer had confirmed that the scheme was not viable to provide contributions towards the provision of sport, play and strategic facilities and education provision.

·         Discussions could be held with the applicant to look at whether the Affordable Housing element of the scheme could be reduced to provide some of the other obligations.

·         The scheme would add to the 142 units already consented giving a total of 201.

·         In response to a comment over the design of the road, it was noted that the Highway Authority had raised no objections to the road or the access.

·         The application was CIL liable.  15% of the total received would go to the Parish Council.

·         County Education had requested a contribution after outline permission was granted following a review where new pupil yields and costs were introduced.

·         The Highway Authority were recommending a Travel Plan.

·         The applicant could apply for government grant funding to up the number of affordable dwellings above the policy requirement.

·         Adopted Village Plans formed part of the Local Plan.

·         The additional 9 dwellings were not considered to be so adverse to warrant refusal of the application.


The Committee was addressed by the Parish Council representative in objection to the application.  Some of the comments made included:  


·         Not supportive of the two dwellings to the North of the stream in particular the dwelling on plot 39 due to visual impact.

·         Not supportive of proposed road culverting of the stream.

·         Request for a road bridge over the stream allowing uninterrupted pedestrian access along the streamside right of way.


The Committee was addressed by four members of the public (including one representative on behalf of the RSPCA and one representative from Merriott Heritage Trust) in objection to the application.  Some of their comments included the following:


·         No local need for houses.

·         Loss of valuable green space in the middle of the village.

·         Rare grey long-eared bats found to be in the area.

·         Impact upon wildlife in the area.

·         The current position with regard to disputing ownership of Holwell Lane with the Land Registry.

·         Request for appropriate conditions on any approval to preserve Holwell Lane by the use of a box culvert.


The Committee was addressed by the Applicant and the Agent.  Some of their comments made included:

·         South Somerset was a key priority area for investment with many schemes in the pipeline throughout the district.

·         Stonewater would retain ownership of the affordable housing element and the open spaces in perpetuity.

·         37 of the proposed 39 dwellings would be affordable homes which was in excess of 35% requirement.

·         The footpath would provide good safe access and was supported by the County Rights of Way Officer.

·         The development provided a good mix of housing.

·         There were no statutory consultee objections from Highways, Archaeology, Tree Officer, Ecologist or Crime Officer.

·         The District Valuer agreed with the figures put forward.

·         The scheme was not profit making.

·         The applicant had amended the scheme in response to concerns from the local community and the parish council.


The Committee was addressed by Cllr. Adam Dance, the County Council Division Member in objection to the application.  Points mentioned included the following:

·         A large modern housing development would not enhance or improve the Conservation area.

·         A modern estate would not protect the surrounding Listed Buildings and their setting.

·         Landscape harm.

·         Lack of parking.

·         Loss of greenspace.

·         Unsustainable development – school is over capacity, no doctors surgery and lack of community transport.

·         Not in accordance with the recent housing survey in Merriott.


Ward Member, Councillor Paul Maxwell raised concerns with regard to the member liaison procedures and the democratic process followed under the Planning Scheme of Delegation with regard to this application.  He noted that given the fact that Somerset County Council Education Department had formally objected to the application, it may be appropriate to ask for the application to be deferred for further clarification from the District Valuer and others on the aspects of the proposals.  He commented that there were a number of matters of concern with the application such as the ongoing land ownership issue, impact on the landscape, ecology, wildlife and climate change in terms of carbon emissions, light, noise and air pollution, loss of greenspace, trees and the effect on the water course and the right of way.  He was also concerned about the mitigation proposals for protected species including slow worms and dormice and would wish to see an independent ecology assessment undertaken.  He also mentioned the impact on the listed buildings and the conservation area, lack of car parking spaces and the access being controversial.  He felt that there was no need for the proposed number of houses in Merriott which had been shown in the Housing Needs Survey.


The Senior Planning Advisor clarified that all Councillors were invited to engage at the beginning of the planning process and that the Council had the authority and power to ensure that a planning application that requires determination is placed on the agenda.


During discussion members made several comments including the following:


·         There was scope for discussions to be held between the Parish Council, the Applicant and the District Council to resolve some of the issues raised including the request for a box culvert.

·         There was sufficient time to try and get the education contribution issues resolved prior to the application being considered by the Regulation Committee.

·         The principle of development had previously been agreed.

·         Merriott was a sustainable location.

·         Members should be given sufficient time to complete the pro-forma issued under the Planning Scheme of Delegation.

·         Concerns over the design of the road structure.


The Ward Member further commented that:


·         The development could not meet the S106 requirements.

·         Merriott First School would be placed at over capacity.

·         Negative effect on climate change and carbon emissions due to increased light, noise and air pollution.

·         Loss of greenspace and trees.

·         Detrimental effect on the landscape character of Merriott, listed buildings and conservation area.

·         Falls short of SCC parking requirements.

·         Ongoing land ownership dispute.

·         Development not in accordance with policies SE1, SS1, SS2, TA5, TA6, HW1, EQ2 and EQ4.

·         He would support either refusing or deferring the application.


The Senior Planning Advisor confirmed that the scheme was a “major” application and if West Area Committee were minded to refuse the final decision on the application would be made by the Regulation Committee.  He advised members of the following:


  • The S106 and education contribution was a strong reason for refusal that could be defended.
  • Landscape and green issues were not considered strong reasons for refusal since there was an outline permission. But concern about biodiversity – the open stream and associated footpath could be a ground for objection
  • Parking and poor design of the spine road were considered strong reasons for refusing the application.
  • Landownership was not a planning issue.


The Specialist - Development Management confirmed that the Ecology Report covered mitigation measures for slow worms and bats.  The District Valuer Assessment was undertaken on 35% affordable housing and the rest of the dwellings being open market.  A further increase in affordable homes would make the scheme more unviable. 


During the debate, a proposal was made to defer the application however the proposal was subsequently withdrawn.


At the conclusion of the debate, it was proposed and seconded to recommend refusal of the application on the following grounds:


·         Inadequate community infrastructure by reason of a recent District Valuer assessment indicating that the current scheme could only proceed without important education and community infrastructure reducing the sustainability of the scheme.

·         Inadequate support for biodiversity on the site by not maintaining the open stream and associated footpath.

·         Inadequate parking and poor design of the spine road contrary to highway safety.


It was also proposed that the Leader of the Council, Chairman of the Area West Committee and the Ward Member would be kept informed prior to the application going forward to the Regulation Committee.


The proposal was carried by 11 votes in favour.



That Planning Application No. 18/01917/FUL be REFERRED to the Regulation Committee with a recommendation from Area West Committee that the application be refused for the following reasons:


1.    The proposed scheme will provide inadequate community infrastructure by reason of receipt of a District Valuer Assessment that indicates the current scheme could only proceed without make education and community funding contributions normally attached schemes of this size, and thereby reducing the sustainability of the proposal contrary to Policy EQ2 and HW1 of the SSDC Local Plan


2.    The proposal provides inadequate support for local biodiversity by reason of maintaining the open stream and associated footpath contrary to Policy EQ4 of the Local Plan

3.    The Scheme provides inadequate parking and the western end of the spine road is poorly designed, contrary to parking standards, optimal road design, highway safety, as set out in Policy TA5 of the Local Plan and SCC Parking Strategy and Standards.


(Voting: 11 in favour)


Supporting documents: