April 9, 2017
Brent Knoll protest as new homes prompt 100 objections from residents

Over 100 Brent Knoll residents have lodged objections against a controversial scheme to build 14 new homes at the junction of the A38 and Brent Street in the village.

It comes after the village's Parish Council has this week approved a proposal to build 14 new 'market priced' homes on a field outside the village’s development envelope, on land next to the A38, opposite the Fox and Goose pub, as first reported here.

David Sturgess, one of the objecting residents, told on Saturday: "The deadline for letters to Sedgemoor District Council on this planning application closed on Friday, but it has risen to well over 100 – including a lengthy objection from the Planning Adviser to the National Trust, the owners of the Knoll, and a letter from Cllr John Denbee (Somerset County Councillor for the Brent Ward), who has objected on Highways grounds and requested that the application be put before Sedgemoor District Council’s full Planning Committee."

This is the second version of the planning application by developers Coln Developments. The first version included a number of 'affordable homes' whereas this second version has abandoned those affordable homes in favour of a promise of £250,000 towards a traffic lights scheme at the junction of the A38 and Brent Street.

More than 80 residents have submitted letters of opposition to the scheme, but the plans were this week approved by a casting vote from the Chairman at the latest meeting of Brent Knoll Parish Council. Just four residents had submitted letters in support of the plans, including those from the land owner and his relatives.

Mr Sturgess, one of the objecting residents, said: "We are all bemused by how this was approved by our Parish Council."

"The Parish Council had already discounted this site in an earlier consideration of future development, and their vote was only carried because the councilor who is also Chairman of the Sedgemoor District Council’s Planning Committee chose to ignore his long-established habit of withdrawing from any planning matter to speak and vote in favour of this scheme."

"We are in no way being NIMBYs, because we all acknowledge the need for our village to accommodate new ‘affordable homes’ four our young people and key-workers, like teachers, policemen, nurses, and fire-fighters."

He added: "The Parish Council has worked hard to find suitable sites for those new homes, which we all support: but those councilors have now fallen prey to the ‘bribe’ of a half-way house traffic-lights scheme to approve this commercial development that will do nothing but damage for the village."

David continued: "Our biggest fear is that, having been approved by a casting vote on the Parish Council, Sedgemoor District Council will view this matter as something that can now be handled under 'delegated powers', rather than being considered by the full Planning Committee."

"The fact is that the village wants a solution to the A38/Brent Street junction – but this proposal for 14 new market-priced homes does not deliver the full solution."

"We can understand why some of our Parish Councillors supported this commercial development, as they have been hunting for an improvement to that road junction for many years. But this half-way-house proposal is no reason for approving this scheme for market-priced homes at a time when the village needs more affordable housing."

Brent Knoll Parish Council defends its decision:

Owen Cullwick, Clerk and financial Officer of Brent Knoll Parish Council, told "The Fox & Goose Junction has been notorious for a number of years, with a long history of accidents. The current layout was introduced about 20 years ago as a temporary measure until something more permanent could be done. Various options have been looked at over the years, but either due to finance or workability, all have failed to materialise and the junction has not been a priority for the Highways Authority as they have other 'problem' junctions with worse accident records. It has been the hope locally that we could address the safety issues, before, rather than after a fatality at the junction."

"To explain Cllr Filmer’s position regarding speaking and voting at the Parish Council meeting, he is an elected member of Brent Knoll Parish Council and also a member of Sedgemoor’s Development Committee. To avoid any issues with 'predetermining' planning applications at the Sedgemoor committee, there are 'standing orders' that require members to confirm that they have 'not taken part in discussions about an application at the Parish or Town Council level', if they are to remain and vote on an application at the District level."

"In this case, and another site in Brent Knoll, the sites are outside but adjacent to the village development boundary and are being promoted by the land owners as 'Exception Sites', where planning policy could allow development if it provides a community benefit. This is often in the form of Affordable housing, but not exclusively. The Parish Council have had several discussions and presentations relating to these sites, on a without prejudice basis, over several months, before any planning applications were drawn up or submitted, Cllr Filmer as a member of the parish council, was party to those discussions. He had explained to the Parish Council that, if and when, a planning application was submitted, because of his involvement at the Parish level, that he would be precluded from getting involved at the Sedgemoor level and would not be able to be present for any subsequent debate at the Sedgemoor Development committee. Cllr Filmer was therefore able to remain, speak and vote at the Parish level, fully in accordance with both Standing Orders and the Code of Conduct."

"At the Parish Council meeting, where the Council resolved to support the planning application, the meeting was attended by a number of residents, some of whom addressed the Council raising a number of legitimate planning issues. The members of the council debated the application and the close result showed the fact that the application was balanced with a number of positive and negative issues that were highlighted. The application was supported, subject to the developers delivering a traffic light scheme to improve the safety at the junction, provided that this was supported by the Highways Authority to ensure that the scheme did not have negative impacts on the highway network; something that only the Highways Authority would be in a position to fully assess."

"The decision as to the suitability and deliverability of the traffic light scheme will be decided by the Highways Authority and, only if it is supported by them would the planning authority be able to fully consider the application taking into account all the views submitted to them. Obviously, because of Cllr Filmer’s involvement with the decision at the Parish Council, he would not be involved in that process or indeed present, should it go before the Development Committee."

"It is absolutely right that there is a need for 'Affordable Housing' in Brent Knoll and that the Parish Council has been actively working to see such a development come forward, including working with Sedgemoor District Council to carry out Housing needs surveys, the latest of which showed a need for 14 affordable homes. At the time of writing a further consideration is being discussed which may well conclude shortly with a formal application to support the local need for affordable homes in line with current demand."

A final decision on whether the scheme - planning application 07/17/00004 - gets the go-ahead now rests with Sedgemoor District Council.


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