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Last updated: Mon 24 Mar 2014

Parish Council unanimously against new homes

Nunney Parish Council has voted unanimously to recommend rejection of an outline planning application to build up to 100 new houses in the village.

Last updated: 11 March 2014 9.45am

Barratt Homes masterplanBarratt Homes’ application for outline planning permission to build up to 100 new homes in Nunney was received by Mendip District Council on 8 February. The exact number of homes as well as the S106 financial contribution to community facilities will be determined later, at the so-called Reserved Matters stage.

Nunney Parish Council held a well-attended extraordinary meeting completely dedicated to the construction plans, at Dallimore Mead Hall on Monday 10 March.

The purpose of the meeting was for the parish council to decide its response to the plans, as part of the formal consultation process.

After much discussion, the parish council voted unanimously to make a recommendation to Mendip District Council’s planning officers to reject Barratt Homes’ scheme.

Much of the debate concentrated on the fact that Barratt Homes had made clear that it intended to build the full 100 houses, if given outline planning permission.

The parish council had earlier said that the village needed no more than 23 new homes, including 7 social housing units.

Mendip District Council came up with a figure of 55 new homes. Nunney Parish Council is not a planning authority, but can make a recommendation to the planning officers.

Barratt Homes’ application for outline planning permission has reference 2014/0198/OTS and consists of 25 documents that weigh 4.5kg or 9.9lbs in total. All documents are available online on Mendip District Council’s planning portal. Free registration is required to access the documents and submit comments online.

To make it even easier to access the documents, we have downloaded them for you. Click on the links below to read the documents without having to register. Please check the planning portal as well, however, to ensure that you have read the latest information on the application.

  1. APPLICATION FORM
  2. ABORICULTURAL CONSTRAINTS
  3. AFFORDABLE HOUSING STATEMENT
  4. ARCHAELOGICAL ASSESSMENT PART 1
  5. ARCHAELOGICAL ASSESSMENT PART 2
  6. COVER LETTER
  7. DRAFT HEADS OF TERMS
  8. DESIGN AND ACCESS STATEMENT PART 1
  9. DESIGN AND ACCESS STATEMENT PART 2
  10. ECOLOGICAL REPORT
  11. GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY REPORT
  12. GEOTECHNICAL INVESTIGATION AND CONTAMINATION ASSESSMENT
  13. LANDSCAPE AND VISUAL APPRAISAL
  14. NOISE ASSESSMENT REPORT
  15. OPEN SPACE SKETCH
  16. PLANNING STATEMENT
  17. STATEMENT OF COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
  18. FLOOD RISK ASSESSMENT AND DRAINAGE STRATEGY
  19. TRANSPORT ASSESSMENT (T.A.)
  20. TRANSPORT ASSESSMENT APPENDICES A-H
  21. TRANSPORT ASSESSMENT APPENDIX I – TRAVEL PLAN
  22. SITE LOCATION PLAN
  23. DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT
  24. CONCEPT MASTER PLAN
  25. PROPOSED SITE ACCESS JUNCTION PLAN (T.A. – FIG 5.2)

If you prefer to see paper copies of the documents, these can be seen at one of the following places:

Between 8.30 am and 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday at

Mendip District Council Offices
Cannards Grave Road,
Shepton Mallet
BA4 5BT

On request with a minimum 2 working days notice at Council Access Points (for example, Frome Library). Please contact the Mendip Customer Services on 0300 303 8588 quoting the reference number of the application (2014/0198/OTS).

If you have any concerns about the proposed new development and prefer to write in, you must write in by Thursday 14 March 2014.

Email consultationresponses@mendip.gov.uk or leave your response on the relevant page on Mendip’s planning portal.

Letters must quote the application reference 2014/0198/OTS – Green Pits Lane Nunney Somerset BA11.

Planning concerns
Planning Board
Attn.: Matthew Williams, Case Officer
Mendip District Council
Cannards Grave Road
Shepton Mallet
BA4 5BT

Telephone 0300 303 8588

Traffic / Road safety concerns
Mendip Area Highways Office
Wells Road
Glastonbury
BA6 9AS

Telephone 0845 345 9155

The application will be discussed in Nunney Parish Council’s meeting at Dallimore Mead Hall on Monday 3 March at 7.30pm. The meeting is public and everyone is welcome, although it is likely only councillors will be allowed to speak.

An informal get-together for local residents to discuss the proposals will take place on Saturday 1 March 3-7pm in Nunney village hall. This open meeting is not part of the formal consultation process.

Invites distributed around the village do not contain any information on who is behind the open meeting, but it is likely to be linked to two informal meetings that were held earlier this year at Castle Café.

Concerns have previously been raised about drainage / flood risk on the site and access / traffic flow.

Barratt Homes presented the plans initially in a well-attended extraordinary meeting of Nunney Parish Council on Tuesday 14 January.

This was followed by a public exhibition in Nunney Church on Wednesday 22 January. The outline plans will now be discussed in the next meeting of Nunney Parish Council, on Monday 3 March from 7.30pm.

Since then, Barratt Homes and its representatives have spent considerable time responding to concerns from local residents – including face-to-face meetings.

The proposed site for the new housing is between Glebelands on the Flowerfield Estate, Green Pits Lane and Nunney Catch Transport Café. The plans include 30% new social rented and part-buy homes with priority for people with a local connection.

The current owner of the land, the Diocese of Bath of Wells (Church of England), has agreed to sell the land to Barratt Homes subject to planning permission.

The application for up to 100 new homes is based on Mendip District Council’s standard density of 30 houses per hectare for rural village developments, the lowest housing density used by Mendip.

The site in Nunney is 3.52 hectares, which is how Mendip calculated that it is suitable for up to 100 new homes. This does not mean, however, that 100 new homes will actually be built.

The main purpose of the current outline planning application is to get Mendip’s approval for a change of use for the land, from agricultural to housing. Once this is obtained, a second application will be submitted with detailed proposals for the actual design and number of houses planned.

Any additional financial contributions will be negotiated between Barratt Homes and Nunney Parish Council at a later stage,

The 25 documents range from obligatory reports on the potential impact on trees and hedges, local archaeology, flood risk and transport to forms and cover letters.

Here are some of the points we and others (thank you in particular, Lisa Ramsay and Keith Harison-Broninski) noticed in reading through the application documents (we’re all still reading, so this is very much work in progress):

Size of the development

Nunney resident Lisa Ramsay pointed out that in the planning statement section 5.40 it states the land is developable and capable of delivering 100 dwellings, but in section 5.29 the council initially determined that each primary village could sustainably accommodate 80 new dwellings; however, this was later reduced to 15% of existing housing stock. At 2011 Nunney had 365 dwellings therefore 15% would equate to 55 new dwellings.

Keith Harison-Broninski found out that According to “SD93 Housing Land Supply – November 2013 (Correction to Table 5 and 6-13th Feb 2013)”, the housing requirement in Mendip is now estimated at 415 homes per year, a significantly lower figure than the 450 homes estimated in the previous Structure Plan (p.3).

Further, Mendip has consistently over-provided housing by 9% for the 7 years 2006 to 2013, resulting in a current excess of 286 homes over target (p.4-5).

Keith commented, “It seems clear that a general slow down in house building is in order. In this light, there can be little justification for adding 100 new houses to a small village such as Nunney where the population has been stable at 800-1000 people since the Domesday Book.”

Impact on historic village

Lisa also noted section 7.16 planning statement: “The historic core of the village lies within the Nunney Conservation Area, around 400 metres north of the application site. Between the Conservation Area and the application site lies more recent housing development, including the Glebelands estate where the houses are more suburban in character. Development of the application site will therefore have no adverse impact upon the historic core of the village.” Really?

Public transport

The Travel Plan commissioned by Barratt Homes says that the existing bus route 161 “provides a reasonable level of service operating at regular intervals that can be utilised by the proposed development. The timings are well suited to employment based trips, with service 662 providing early morning travel options and service 161 accommodating return journeys into the evening period.” It shows (but totally fails to address) that there are is no public transport whatsoever on Sundays and Bank Holidays. However, elsewhere it is claimed that Barratt Homes and its representatives are already in talks with First Group – the company that runs bus services through Nunney (wrongly identified as First Group’s railway subsidiary First Great Western in the documents) – “to establish an appropriate financial contribution to support local bus services.” In the Travel Plan this is elaborated as, “Discussions with First Group are ongoing regarding the improvement of the service 161 Wells to Frome to increase the frequency and allow for a journey to Frome before 09:00.” No mention of services on a Sunday or Bank Holiday.

Traffic

Many concerns have been raised about the proposed single access to the new development using Glebelands as the main access road. The development itself will take the form of a number of cul-de-sacs from the main access road. Barratt Homes’ response in the Statement of Community Involvement says, “We will fully investigate the options for an alternative access point. There are some limitations and restrictions on all choices and there are very good reasons for the entrance being on Glebelands. The final proposal will have to meet the stringent requirements of the highways officers. While there are some merits for a possible entrance from Nunney Catch, there are also some considerable issues, as highlighted by one response. But we will assess all options and propose the one which meets officers’ requirements and which is also deliverable.” If you have any concerns, you should contact the Mendip Area Highways Office (details are above).

Lisa Ramsay has highlighted section 7.24 of the planning statement: “It is proposed that the width of Green Pits Lane to the west of the site and Glebelands to the north of the site Will be widened to a constant 6m. This will encourage residents of the new development, as well as existing residents in the south of Nunney to access the A361 via Green Pits Lane, as opposed to passing through the village centre to access Catch Road. The improvements to Green Pits Lane are therefore considered to be a significant benefit of the development, which would not be delivered if access into the site was provided from the south.” As Lisa added, “Why would we go through the centre of the village to access the A361? Have they even visited the site?”

Section 5.9 of the Transport Assessment says that Green Pits Lane to the west of the site will be widened to a 6m width to match the width of Green Pits Lane as it passes the southern frontage of the site. Currently the lane has varying width with opposing traffic being unable to pass along the section to the west of the site. To encourage the traffic to use the main A361 for the majority of journeys, Green Pits Lane will therefore be widened such that two vehicles can safely pass. But according to section 5.10, “The exception to this will be on approaching Nunney from the south, at the junction of Green Pits Lane with Glebelands a ‘Gateway’ carriageway narrowing will be introduced which will give priority to southbound vehicles.”

Secton 5.11 adds, “The priority narrowing will take the widened 6m carriageway back to the existing 3.5m width. This measure will be located where the speed limit on Green Pits Lane changes from unrestricted to a 30mph zone and will therefore assist in ensuring appropriate speeds at the entry to the built up area.” Lisa Ramsay pointed out that this will still leave the Green Pits Lane / Glebelands junction blind, as they are not changing this junction. “In the winter the slight slope of this junction is also very dangerous,” she added. “I have almost gone through the hedge and I know of others who have experienced the same.”

Section 6.5 Table 6.1 of the Transport Assessment also demonstrates that a proposed 100 unit residential development would generate 90 two-way person trips during the morning peak hour, 79 two-way person trips during the evening peak hour and a two-way trip generation of 733 over the course of a 12-hour day. “That is a lot of movement and it can go in many different directions througout our village!” Lisa said.

Interestingly, 6.10 Table 6.3 of the Transport Assessment gives different estimates – but still high. It shows that the proposed residential development of 100 units would generate a total of 72 two-way vehicle trips during the morning peak hour, 62 two-way vehicle trips during the evening peak hour and total daily two-way vehicle trips of 580 over the course of a 12-hour day.

The Travel Plan drawn up for Barratt Homes also says that a permanent Automatic Traffic Counter will be installed at the site accesses.

The Highways Office plays a crucial part in the decision-making process. According to Barratt Homes, “We understand there is a Parish Council-led plan in place (without funding) to slow traffic through the village. We will look into this further, to see how this relates to our proposals. It is difficult to make any firm commitments to what improvements might be made outside of the site itself until highways officers tell us what they require. Any decisions to change the direction of traffic along Green Pits Lane/Westover Road would be made by highways officers: this simply wouldn’t be our decision to make.” So contact the Highways Office to raise any concerns or improvements to which you think Barratt Homes should make a financial contribution under Section 106 – including paving and parking near Nunney First School and traffic calming throughout the village.

Pedestrians

The Transport Assessment glances over the difficulty many have reported in getting to the village centre on foot, in a wheelchair or using a mobility scooter. It says, “There is pedestrian footway on both sides of Sunny Hill for approximately 100m until the junction with Dallimore Mead after which point it continues on the eastern side of the carriageway for a further 60m. Although the remainder of the route is downhill and not on footway the vehicle speed on the High Street is restricted due to the on street parking taking place.”

Many local residents will feel this falls well short of the actual situation, with traffic coming down Berry Hill as well as up and down High Street – with little or no space for pedestrians, wheelchairs or mobility scooters. Elsewhere Barratt Homes appear to acknowledge the problem when they say, “The new play area [ ] will mean local children will no longer need to walk down a road with no pavement to reach the only existing play area.”

Cycling

The Travel Plan commissioned by Barratt Homes says that cycling to Sainsbury’s and Frome Town Centre is a realistic option for any reasonably fit person living on the new development in the future. It reads, “The IHT state that three quarters of journeys by all modes are less than five miles (8km) and half are less than two miles (3.2km). These are distances that can be cycled comfortably by a reasonably fit person. The outskirts of Frome (including the Sainsbury supermarket) is 4.5km east of the development site, whilst Frome town centre is 6.1km east making cycling to and from the development a viable option.” Most Nunney residents would consider both the A361 Ridgeway and in particular Frome Road seriously dangerous for cyclists. So there are serious questions to ask about statements like: “The compact nature of the village combined with the lightly trafficked nature of the roads make cycling a viable travel option for residents of the village to travel short distances.”

Sewage

Wessex Water has confirmed to Barratt Homes that there is sufficient capacity. While there has been doubt expressed about this report, Barratt Homes are entirely reliant on the accuracy of this information. If capacity had been insufficient, Barratt Homes would have had to contribute to improvement works. Maintenance works were carried out last November after problems caused by a build up of fats in the pipes. Since those works Wessex Water says no further incidents have been reported. If people have concerns they should contact Wessex Water (0845 600 4 600 (Mon-Fri, 8am to 6pm, emergency service at other times) or email operational.enquiries@wessexwater.co.uk).

Education

Barratt Homes does not plan to make a financial contribution to local schools at the moment. According to the Draft Heads of Terms document: “Somerset County Council has confirmed that the local first school in Nunney has a capacity of 90. Its roll in the 2013 December pupil count was 68. A development of 100 no. dwellings would generate a requirement of around 14 first school places, therefore Nunney First School will have sufficient capacity to accommodate the proposed development. There will also be a sufficient number of Middle School places in Frome and at the College. No financial contributions towards education are therefore required by the development.”

It’s worth noting also that when the chair of governors of Nunney First School wrote on a feedback form, “I welcome the scheme, strengthening the school by increasing numbers and funding. We want to work with Barratt on the replacement of our temporary classroom,” Barratt’s response was guarded: “Certainly the new homes will see more children move into the area, which will keep the school closer to capacity than it currently is. We look forward to working closely with the school and would be happy to meet to discuss further down the line.” In other words, any financial contribution needs to be negotiated as part of the Section 106 discussions at a later stage.

Community facilities

The proposals include reference to a “requirement to provide funding for the Church roof in Nunney”, but there’s no mention of a financial contribution to the village hall or other facilities. This may be a condition set by the Diocese, the owner of the land, in which case it is nothing more than something included in the price of the land.

Barratt Homes says, “As well as contributions for affordable homes, the new play area, improvements to roads etc, it is also possible that a contribution could be made (through the formal legal agreement with the district council, the Section 106) that other local needs could be met (that might include improvements at the cemetery and quarry gardens, for example), though on this we will have to be led by Council officers in this regard.”

Broadband

Concerns were raised over any new development impacting on the speed of broadband services in the village. According to Barratt Homes, “The provision of these services is not something we have significant influence over. If the development is approved, we would have to contribute a significant amount towards anything where the officers believe we will make an impact that relates to planning law. That would cover paying for affordable homes, road and infrastructure improvements, the play area etc. It is unlikely to include broadband or telephone services. This is something worth discussing with the companies providing those services – something out technical team would do further down the line.”

It is interesting also that the Travel Plan explicitly includes targets to reduce the number of single occupancy car trips to and from work, but foresees absolutely no change in the number of future occupants working from home. No wonder, if you don’t put the infrastructure in place to begin with.

Green space and play area

Based on Mendip District Council’s standard for open space (2.4 hectares per 1,000 population) the illustrative masterplan includes 0.27ha of formal public open space, including a children’s play area, and 0.41ha of strategic informal open space. However, this is based on a development of 100 houses with an average family size of 2.2 people per household; if the actual number and type of houses eventually built means fewer than 220 people, the amount of open space – including the children’s play area – may also be reduced.

Flood risk and drainage

The documents state that “Environment Agency maps show that the site falls entirely within Flood Zone 1 and therefore is at low risk of flooding.” However, the Environment Agency map deals with the risk of flooding from the Nunney Brook (over half a mile away), not run-off flood water. Most of the proposed building site consists of about a foot of clay on top of solid rock; nearby Pookfield Close has regular problems with floodwater after heavy rain.

Section 7.35 of the planning statement says, “Ground investigation undertaken on the site shows that there is no risk of groundwater flooding.” Section 7.38 adds, “Existing residents on Glebelands have reported localised surface water run-off coming from the proposed development site during heavy rainfall. This is due to rainfall being unable to infiltrate to the ground due to the makeup of the top level of soils in this area.”

According to the flood risk assessment and drainage strategy, section 2.3.4. Policy EN17, “Surface Water Run-off Development will not be permitted which would increase the risk of flooding or pollution of watercourses through its impact on surface water run-off unless effective safeguards are provided to prevent this occurring.”

Barratt Homes’ Statement of Community Involvement says, “We are aware of the existing surface water problems at Pookfield Close and the neighbouring properties, including the previous works to alleviate the problem. Our drainage strategy will include measures to reduce these existing issues: this could include moving proposed new homes further away from Pookfield Close to allow sufficient space for drainage works. It is highly likely those existing residents will see significant improvements to the current situation as a direct result of our development.”

It continues, “We have been told by Wessex Water there is capacity within the drainage system. We are very aware of current flooding issues in the village, some of which we understand related to maintenance. Officers will need to be assured from Wessex Water that the existing water and sewage capacity is sufficient to cope with any increases. If it is not, the development would have to contribute towards improvements. It is, though, down to Wessex Water to ensure the existing system is well maintained – and something that is out of our hands.” If people have concerns they should contact Wessex Water (0845 600 4 600 (Mon-Fri, 8am to 6pm, emergency service at other times) or email operational.enquiries@wessexwater.co.uk).

Lisa Ramsay pointed out that in the geotechnical report section 7.6 Soakaways it says that the area directly behind Pookfield and on the opposite side of the field known as the paddock area are not suitable for soakaway drainage but, that is all they are proposing for surface water.

Design

Nothing Barratt Homes has shown so far has even intended to give an accurate impression of what any future development may look like. The total number of houses, design and layout will all be part of a second planning application later this year, if the outline planning permission is granted. At this stage, it is all about getting permission in principle to build houses – with no particular number – on the Green Pits Lane site. Barratt Homes does say that the design will “fit in with the existing environment” and that “most of the proposed properties will be family homes with gardens” and that these will “mainly be 2,3 and 4 bed houses”.

As we have explained in previous articles about the proposals, Mendip District Council is under pressure from the national government to build more houses. Nunney Parish Council would like to see no more than 24 new homes, Mendip wants 54 houses and as a commercial developer Barratt Homes seems confident any number of new houses in Nunney will prove very popular; how many we end up with will be down to Mendip District Council.

Archeology

The desk-based archeological assessment of the site mentions Roman pottery found at Westdown Farm (at the far end of Horn Street) as a possible indication of a Roman villa, but makes no mention of the Roman villa found at Whatley in 1830 (now within the Nunney parish boundaries), a Roman army camp, the hoard of Roman coins found at Westdown Farm in 1860 and subsequent finds of Roman coins found in Nunney as recently as 2010 (according to the Portable Antiquities Scheme database). Although the clay and soil at the Green Pits Lane site are only about a foot deep before you hit solid rock, the small urn with 200 Roman coins found at Eleven Acres (part of Westdown Farm) in 1860 were also found in soil only six inches to a foot deep.

The archeological assessment also dismisses pre-Roman and Roman roads as having been located at least 7km away (the Bath to Frome Roman road), when Nunney Catch and particularly the nearby Ridgeway were already significant in pre-Roman times. The report omits the Roman road that is still used by many Nunney residents, from nearby Chantry to Wells. The absence of cropmarks as a result of prehistoric activity on the site is a poor indicator; prehistoric, Roman and medieval cropmarks are found all over Nunney (and particularly at Nunney Catch and Ridgeway), but only where they have not been ploughed over in later years – which could clearly be the case on the Green Pits Lane site).

The report notes that a number of undated burials were discovered during the construction of the Fromefield and Glebelands housing estates situated immediately to the north of the site. The discovery was made during the 1950’s and 1960’s and the skeletons are recorded as being ‘immediately replaced’ and that no report was made – i.e. the skeletons are still under someone’s patio. There is a (slight) possibility that more human remains are in the ground at the Green Pits Lane site.

The geophysical survey report is based on field-research. It did find some evidence of possible archeological origin on the north-side of the field, including one site of around 9 metres in diameter that was “perhaps consistent with a small barrow or roundhouse”.

Geology

A rare, possibly endangered species of plant or animal can stop an entire building project. Green Pits Lane doesn’t have unique bats or orchids, but it did have rare fossils. For what it’s worth (which is not much), until the 19th century Green Pits Lane was home to several quarries that supplied Inferior Oolite stone. The Rev. John Ireland was the local vicar and lord of the manor during the first half of the 19th century and lived at Rockfield House. During the excavation of stone used for the alterations and improvements of the road between Nunney and Frome, he discovered a distinctive species of fossilised seashell – terebratula reticulate ? Smith found almost exclusively at Green Pits Lane. Other distinctive species of seashell found at Green Pits Lane and Whatley are terebratula globata, Sow. and terebratula bullata, Sow.. The quarries closed in the second half of the 19th century, but some of the fossils were thought to have been in the collections of the British Museum (now possibly the Natural History Museum).

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