July 10, 2017
Brent Knoll call for referendum over controversial housing plans

A group of villagers in Brent Knoll are calling for a referendum over a controversial scheme to build 14 new homes at the junction of the A38 and Brent Street in the village.

It comes after a packed July meeting of the Brent Knoll Parish Council where there were more parishioners than councillors.

Villagers say the key issue is a revised planning application from Coln Developments to build 14 commercial homes on a site beside the A38 that had already been rejected by the Parish Council.

However, the March meeting of the Parish Council had backed Coln’s planning application for homes on that site – albeit by the casting vote of the Chairman and the decision of Sedgemoor District Council’s planning committee chairman to 'abandon his normal practice' of absenting himself from planning matters.

The key issue that encouraged a split-vote at the Parish Council was the offer by the developers of a traffic-lights investment for the junction of the A38 and Brent Street.

At the latest Parish Council meeting, some councillors voiced their belief that this offer was worth the acceptance of a commercial development of market-priced homes outside the village’s development zone.

But parishioners who attended that meeting pointed out that the developers were offering no 'affordable homes', that the village needs, and that the traffic lights plan could result in dangerous back-ups on the M5.

"The original proposal from this developer included eight 'affordable homes'," said David Sturgess, one of the parishioners who attended Wednesday’s meeting.

"The latest proposal has ditched any affordable homes – that we need – in favour of a 'bribe' to provide a traffic lights solution to our road junction, that could create a fatal back-up of traffic on the M5."

"Our Parish Council – by a split vote – decided to grab the 'bribe' of that traffic-lights proposal," he added.

Faced by the overwhelming opposition of parishioners, the latest meeting of the Brent Knoll Parish Council resulted in a decision of councillors making no comment on the latest amendments to the developer's planning application.

"This will be taken by Sedgemoor District Council as yet another approval of this misguided proposal," added David Sturgess.

That action will be the trigger for the parishioners’ demand for a referendum.

"This planning application is under a formula called a P4 – an application to develop outside the agreed development zone, but offering a benefit that the community wants," said Mr Sturgess.

"The referendum – a Parish Poll – will determine whether Brent Knoll residents agree that developing 14 high-cost homes at a dangerous road-junction is fair exchange for getting a traffic lights system."

"Most of us fear that this traffic lights system will add to the frequent congestion that creates dangerous back-ups at Juntction 22 of the M5."

"The Highways authority has always said that they cannot deliver a bigger solution to our Brent Street junction with the A38 until we get more deaths – which are not happening: the parish council seems to support a scheme that could create those deaths on the M5," he added.

Brent Knoll residents will now pursue the option of a Parish Poll – enabling them to demonstrate to the Parish Council and the planning authorities whether the community supports the idea of allowing a commercial development in return for a traffic lights formula.


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