Nunney Parish Council has voted to reject planning applications for around 82 houses at Green Pits Lane and to turn the SPAR shop in the Market Place into residential properties.
Nunney Parish Council met online on Monday 18 May to discuss two planning applications, with members of the public able to watch online and – by arrangement – make a three-minute statement.
The first application was for a change of use of the SPAR shop in the Market Place in Nunney from commercial space to residential units.
Another item on the agenda is a new planning application submitted by David and Sarah Bird (reference 2020/0838/FUL), for permission for change of use of the SPAR shop in the Market Place to residential property.
The Birds retired recently, ending a family tradition of running a grocery store in Nunney started in 1923.
A previous application was rejected by Mendip District Council, with the following explanation:
“If a planning application proposal would result in the loss of a community service or facility planning permission should only be granted if it can be demonstrated that the ongoing and future use of the premises would be unviable.
In this case no evidence has been submitted as to whether or not a community use could continue to be viable from the site.
In addition it has been demonstrated to the Local Planning Authority that there remains interest to retain the premises / site for the existing use and that the relevant community group has sought to acquire the premises at a value which is considered to reflect market conditions.
On this basis the planning application proposal would result in the unnecessary loss of a valued community facility and service, which would reduce the community’s ability to meet its day-to-day needs.
The proposed development therefore fails to accord with the Policy DP17 of the Mendip District Local Plan, Part 1, 2006-2029 and the objectives of the National Planning Policy Framework.
The proposal fails to make adequate provision on the site for the parking of vehicles in connection with the residential use as proposed. As such the proposal is contrary to Policies DP9 and DP10 of Mendip District Local Plan Part 1 Strategy and Policies (adopted December 2014), the Somerset County Council Parking Strategy, 2013, and advice contained within the National Planning Policy Framework and National Planning Practice Guidance.”
The shop is currently operated by tenants Phil and Martina Butler, who also run a SPAR shop in Bruton. It has been hailed by Nunney residents on social media as “a real lifesaver” during the current coronavirus lockdown.
The papers for the new planning application appear to be identical to the ones submitted for the unsuccessful first application in May 2019.
The application still refers to the owners’ plans to ‘retire shortly’, but does not mention that the shop is currently being run – successfully by all accounts – by a new tenant.
It also still says that parking will be provided 200 yards away, in front of the David and Sarah Bird’s bungalow at the top of Castle Hill.
The store is currently for sale on Rightmove at a reduced price of £475,000.
Nunney Parish Council considered the first application in their meeting in August 2019. They had three choices, object, support or refer back to Mendip District Council’s planning officer – and they decided to ‘refer back’.
The minutes of this meeting said:
“The Parish Council recommended that the decision be left to the planning officer following consultation responses. Consideration should be given to the lack of parking available in this location, and that the parking offered at the applicants house is welcome but would not be enough to service these flats in a rural location with no public transport, where most households have at least 2 cars. Should MDC be minded to approve this application then a 106 agreement should be put in place to secure the parking required.”
After discussion, the Parish Council decided to recommend refusal to Mendip District Council’s (MDC) Planning authority.
It concluded: “This application is the same as previously submitted last year (when MDC refused the application). Since then the shop has been taken over by a new tenant (September 2019). The design and assess statement has not been updated to reflect this. For example, it states there are no employee’s but there are now 7 staff members employed at the shop and the shop is now viable.”
“The hours of the shop have now been extended, (open 6 days a week and late opening), which allows more people access. With the possibility of a new housing development in Nunney and the current pandemic the shop is a vital community asset,” Nunney Parish Council said.
But if Mendip District Council were to approve the application, it recommended that an agreement should be put in place for the parking arrangements.
Housing at Green Pits Lane
The second application being discussed was by David Wilson Homes, a subsidiary of Barratt Homes, an application (reference 2020/0158/FUL) to build around 82 properties at Green Pits Lane.
A previous application by Barratt Homes for up to 100 homes was rejected at the very highest level in 2015, after a public inquiry. Key problems at the time included extra traffic through the village and drainage.
Nunney Parish Council has a right to be consulted on local planning applications, although Mendip District Council takes the decisions.
The Parish Council can decide to support, object or refer an application back to Mendip District Council.
The site at Green Pits Lane has recently been included as a proposed allocation for residential development in Mendip District Council’s emerging Local Plan Part II (Policy reference NN1).
All district councils are required to prepare a local plan but, by law, they must be scrutinised by a Government Inspector before they can come into force.
The Local Plan Party II does not reject new housing development in Nunney – without specifying a specific site -, but calculates the number of new properties required by 2029 at 55 – the construction of one of which has already been approved elsewhere in Nunney.
David Willson Homes has now submitted a planning application to Mendip District Council, which starts the formal consultation procedure.
Although the new application appears to have taken into account the reasons for failure of the previous one, there are clearly still unanswered questions.
The layout of the new plans includes access on the southwest side of the Green Pits Lane location, to the left of the lorry car park when approached from Nunney Catch roundabout.
But Inspector Schofield concluded in 2015 that Barratt Homes’ proposal would have contradicted local housing policy by being outside the development boundaries of Nunney under Mendip’s development plan.
The Inspector also noted that the sheer size of the development was “significantly over and above” the level of development recommended for Nunney in Mendip’s Local Plan. At 82 proposed homes, the curent proposal still is.
Mr Schofield made clear in this appeal decision that although 55 houses could be considered a minimum for Nunney, it did not automatically follow that just because a figure is minimum it must be exceeded – particularly when Mendip was able to demonstrate that it has sufficient building sites available elsewhere in the next 5 years.
The Inspector also questioned whether Nunney had sufficient access to public transport. “Thus, it cannot be considered that there is either a frequent bus service to the main centres or that the services are convenient for the majority of those who may seek to use them for work.”
Since he wrote his report in 2015, only a limited weekday service between Wells and Frome still serves our village.
Inspector Schofield also pointed out that many shops and other services were only available in Frome. Without access to public transport or a car, walking or cycling along the busy A361 would not be a viable option for residents of the new development.
“The alternative route proposed, along Frome Road, is along winding, hilly, unlit rural roads, which are narrow in places. Consequently, although it may be quieter, in my judgement it is not likely to prove a significantly more appealing option,” he concluded.
In total 61 members of the public wrote in to comment on the original outline planning application in 2014, all of whom were against it.
This time Nunney Parish Council recommended that the planning application be rejected. There were still concerns about flooding and the capacity of the sewage system and the parish council highlighted their previous comments on the application.
“There is a history of flooding currently from this site affecting houses with water run off from the field,” Nunney Parish Council said.
The parish council continued, “Various works to solve this have been undertaken over the years, but this has not worked. A soak away as proposed on heavy clay soil with bedrock does will not drain, just pool and over flow.”
Councillor also raised concerns over the proposed sewage system. “There is a 6in pipe that takes the sewage that is pumped up from Trudoxhill. The manhole in the field regularly lifts and leaks sewage onto the field. Again work has been under taken to try and solve this problem by concreting down the man hole, but again this has not worked.”
Planning applications are published on Mendip District Council’s planning website, where members of the public can add comments during published consultation periods.
Free and independent professional advice on town and planning issues to people and groups who cannot afford consultancy fees is available from Planning Aid:
Planning Aid England
41-42 Botolph Lane
London EC3R 8DL