Verbal Update on Chard Eastern Development Area Eastern Relief Road
The Committee was addressed by a representative of Chard Area Resilience Group, Residents for a Better Chard and Stop Flooding Chard. He commented that it would have been useful to receive a written report. He said that local residents were extremely concerned that the public impact of the relief road still blighted properties and threatened to devalue, not improve, residential amenity and have a large environmental impact. Tatworth and Forton Parish Council had raised concerns about the proposed layout, lack of independent traffic evaluation, insufficient health and education provision and community resources. Chard Town Council recommended a full evaluation of the traffic assessment be carried out and brought up to date. The Lead Local Flood Authority had stated that the layout towards the A358 was likely to be overwhelmed by stormwater. There was also evidence that recent planning approvals were exacerbating flooding in the area and the proposals were over green areas that currently flooded. The Police had also queried the design strategy at the A358 end and the Highway Authority had issues with the current form. He suggested that meetings be held with the public and local groups and said that Chard Area Resilience Group, Residents for a Better Chard and Stop Flooding Chard were willing to engage and be involved. He also questioned whether Chard still needed a relief road and felt traffic problems could be resolved in another way.
The Acting Director – Place and Recovery explained that the South Somerset Local Plan identified the need for an eastern relief road to relieve town centre traffic as more houses were built up to 2028 in Chard. The indicative route around the reservoir was shown to the south of the nature reserve in the Touches Lane vicinity. He acknowledged that the environment and community views were very important and was the reason further work was being undertaken. He said that before any construction could occur, the necessary planning applications and permissions were required including any necessary environmental works. There would also need to be specific public consultation on any planning applications. The Acting Director – Place and Recovery advised that the potential alignment options work being undertaken, which was work in progress at the current time would inform those future planning application decisions and the Local Plan Review which would both be carried forward to the new Somerset Council from April 2023. Some environmental assessment work had been commissioned and this would be carried out over the coming months to allow a better understanding of the potential environmental impacts and concerns around the alignment of the eastern relief road including sections around the reservoir.
The Acting Director – Place & Recovery responded to comments and questions made by members which included the following:
· It would be for the new Somerset Council to decide how to progress forward with a new Local Plan for Somerset within a timescale of five years. In the meantime, the existing Local Plans would still operate.
· South Somerset District Council had five months remaining until vesting day and this was not enough time to put a new Local Plan in place. The existing plan was still fit for purpose and in place and totally valid until 2028. The Local Plan was not the only planning consideration and there were other key material factors that a planning authority took into consideration in making a planning application decision such as environmental impact assessments and community public consultation.
· Any report on the options for a Chard Eastern Development Eastern Relief Road would be misleading and unhelpful at the current time. Further work was being undertaken which was in progress and not yet finished. When it was beneficial and would add value rather than causing confusion, a written update would be provided.
At the conclusion of the item, members noted the verbal update given by the Acting Director – Place and Recovery.