Don’t local residents get a say in this?
The number of 100 and 34 potential new houses on the two sites was included in Mendip District Council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), a document that has been on available on the Mendip District Council website for the last 6 years.
The assessment looked purely at how many houses could fit on a field, given its size. It didn’t ask whether the village needs or wants this many houses. That was outside the scope of the assessment. Only once anyone is actually prepared to build on any of the land are local residents asked for their opinion.
This is exactly where we are at the moment. Barratt Homes has successfully negotiated with the owner of the land (the diocese) for the right to build new houses on the land.
As soon as the diocese took this decision, Barratt’s asked for a meeting with Nunney Parish Council to tell them about the plans. It also organised an exhibition in the church a week later, on Wednesday 22 January, to show local people the rough plans and discuss any concerns with them and a team of technical experts.
This is only the start. It is called ‘the pre-planning stage’. We’re a long way off Barratt Homes actually submitting a planning application with detailed designs.
Even if the developers do go ahead with a planning application, local residents will be invited by Mendip District Council’s planning officers to raise any concerns about the development. The plans will also be discussed in Nunney Parish Council, in a meeting that is open to the public.
How do I get the parish council to discuss my concerns?
Anyone is free to attend meetings of the parish council, although the law says that the council cannot discuss anything that isn’t on the agenda. You can’t simply show up at a meeting and raise your concerns.
If you want to get a topic on the agenda of the parish council, you should contact any parish council member or the parish clerk. Their contact details are on our website.
What’s the difference between Nunney Parish Council and Mendip District Council?
They are very different in scale and function. The parish council is small (11 members and a parish clerk) and deals with day-to-day issues in the village, such as making sure that the village looks tidy.
Mendip District Council is responsible for ‘shared’ services in the whole of the Mendips, such as roads, education and fire services.
Who tells Mendip District Council about my concerns?
It depends on the issue. Sometimes the parish council tells Mendip District Council how it feels about something, based on what local people tell them. You can also write to the district council yourself to tell them about any concerns you have.
Nunney also has its own representative on Mendip District Council, Councillor Gloria Cawood.
She looks after the interests of people in Nunney (as well as Cranmore and Doulting) during meetings of the district council and many of its committees.
Gloria regularly writes updates on her activities, which you can find on the Visit Nunney website.
The councils and planning procedures
When it comes to planning applications, the parish council is not a planning authority – it can’t decide whether a plan can go ahead or not. The district council can.
When someone submits a planning application, the local community and direct neighbours are asked for their opinion as part of a consultation. The parish council can only make a recommendation – to object, support or to leave the decision to the planning officer.
You can find out more about planning procedures by reading Mendip District Council’s information leaflet on the subject.
Surely only people who live directly next to new houses should get a say?
People who live directly next to the proposed building site will receive letters from Mendip District Council’s planning officers asking them how they feel about the plans.
But the plans will have an effect on everyone in the village, and therefore everyone should have a say. If the plans do go ahead, Barratt will have to pay millions to Mendip District Council for the right to build on the land.
Some of this money is used by Mendip, to improve roads in the area for example. But Nunney will also get a lot of money. How much this will be is decided by law, but depends on how many houses are actually built.
The parish council’s budget is around £16,000. This is used to make improvements around the village and keep the village generally looking attractive. If Barratt’s build 50 houses, the parish council could get around £100,000 as a one-off payment. If they build 100 homes, this amount could double. That’s a lot of money.
On top of that, the amount of money Nunney gets from Mendip District Council every year (paid out your council tax) will also increase if more people live in the village. That money can be used to make improvements everywhere in the village for years to come.
Barratt Homes will separately also have to pay for improvements in the village, to make sure that existing facilities can cope with lots more people using them. This includes improvements to flood prevention and drainage, sewage works, roads and internet access.
The developers would pay for improvements to Nunney First School and Pre-School too. The school was built in 1896. Some of the existing buildings are temporary or falling apart and badly need replacing. New classrooms could also be added to accommodate more children.
How many teachers the school has depends on the number of children, so more children in the school means more teachers. The school is always at risk of losing its third teacher, so more children in the village is potentially good news.
If it’s all about the money, it sounds like a done deal
It is inevitable that some new housing development will happen in Nunney. And why not? The village needs social and affordable housing, for a start.
The question is how we can influence what the scale and character of the new development will be. As discussed, if fewer houses are built there will be less money to fix other problems in the village – for example, flooding on Pookfield Close; the centre of Nunney floods pretty badly too during heavy rain, by the way.
As for the money, there are no guarantees at the moment. Section 106 – the amount Barratt’s have to pay to Mendip – is set in stone by law. There’s a formula, depending on the number of houses that are built.
How much Mendip passes on to Nunney is up to Mendip. They are likely to argue that they already spend money in the village on roads, street lighting etc.
Everything else is up to Nunney Parish Council to negotiate with Barratt – with no guarantees. Barratt’s does expect us to come up with a list, but quite frankly they don’t have to take that much notice. Under the Localism Act the parish council does have some – limited – influence, but there are no penalties if Barratt’s ignore them.
Under the National Plan (and especially because the Local Plan was never adopted) planning permission must be given without delay if a suitable site has been identified, unless the negatives outweigh the benefits.
So the reality is that Barratt’s will continue to wave carrots in front of us, but we need guarantees in writing. What they give us is unfortunately at their discretion.
Will the existing village shop, pub and café be able to cope?
Who knows? Clearly there are limits to what the existing infrastructure can support. The school badly needs more kids. The sewage system is struggling to provide enough capacity (it’s also used by Trudoxhill and Witham Friary).
Several roads may need widening, although that won’t be possible in the centre of the village – a conservation area with houses on both sides.
It’s up to First Group, who run the route 161 bus through Nunney, whether there will be more frequent bus services to Wells and Frome. Barratt Homes could sponsor, but only up to a point. The existing buses are often almost empty, not commercially viable for long. If more people use the bus – which is possible, if new houses are built – First Group could increase the number of buses at certain times of the day – but it’s unlikely.
The SPAR shop can always do with more customers, but Dave Bird may decide to retire and go fishing at some point.
The pub is full most of the time already and not many people from the Flowerfield estate frequent it. Perhaps someone will decide it’s time to reopen the Theobald Arms at Nunney Catch. The former pub is in private hands though, and the owner has turned down countless offers to buy it.
It’s likely that new services will open at the top of the hill, at Nunney Catch. The Chinese restaurant is empty at present, although said to reopen shortly as a fish and chip shop.
Esso is rumoured to have plans to sell off the petrol station later this year. Someone else could well see the potential to expand the shop, if new houses are built nearby. Pure speculation at present.
But we’re only at the start of the public consultation and no planning application has been submitted. New housing will be built in the village at some point. As residents of Nunney, we stand more of a chance to influence any future development if we can agree on how many new houses – including social and affordable – we feel comfortable with. Where do we draw the line?
Barratt Homes’ presentation and consultation meeting on Wednesday is a start, as are the open meetings held at Castle Kitchen. Join the debate, make your views count. Together, we can make a difference.