A Government Inspector has given a clean bill of health to Mendip District Council’s Local Plan and formally pronounced it as ‘sound’, in a development significant for Nunney too.
The Local Plan is an important planning document which will guide the location of future housing, commercial and other types of development in the district up to 2029.
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 Government inspection assesses the plan’s overall ‘soundness’ by examining whether it accords with government policies such as boosting house building and checking if it has been based on up-to-date evidence and public consultation.
Without the framework of a Local Plan in place in Mendip, housing developers have found little to stop them building wherever they felt like it in the last few years.
In Nunney too, developer Barratt Homes sprung a surprise on the local Parish Council and Mendip planners by pushing for outline planning permission to build up to 100 houses at Green Pits Lane – almost double the number required according to Mendip and more than four times more than Nunney Parish Council wants.
Mendip’s Planning Board rejected the planning application, but Barratt Homes has appealed directly to the Department for Communities and Local Government against the decision. A Public Inquiry hearing will be held at a yet to be confirmed date later this year during which a government-appointed Inspector will consider the Planning Board’s decison.
As part of the examination of Mendip’s Local Plan, a set of public hearings was held in April when experts, residents, developers and council officers were quizzed by the Inspector on a range of issues. As a result, a number of changes to the plan were recommended by the Inspector including to increase the number of houses proposed, which were the subject of further public consultation over the summer.
Cllr Nigel Woollcombe-Adams, Portfolio Holder for Built Environment at Mendip District Council, paid tribute to local communities who had been involved in the plan, saying: “Work on drawing up the Local Plan has been a long process and has involved vital input from residents and parish councils as well as service providers and the development industry.
“Inspectors’ examinations are extremely rigorous and I am delighted the Government has passed our plan at the first attempt, when so many others around the country have faltered. Some people had questioned whether our draft plan was sound but we have always believed that we had a robust plan that would stand up to scrutiny and this has been confirmed by the Inspector.
“Having an up-to-date Local Plan will mean the council will now be very much in the driving seat in shaping the development that the district so badly needs.”
- Sets out a strategy for the delivery of around 9,635 new homes and 9,500 jobs by 2029, prioritising brownfield sites within towns
- Allocates ‘strategic’ development sites in Frome, Street, Shepton Mallet and Wells
- Promotes a vision for Frome, Glastonbury, Shepton Mallet, Street and Wells and for a network of ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ villages
- Provides support for business growth and sustaining rural communities
- Protects Mendip’s special environment, heritage, landscapes, biodiversity and local distinctiveness
- Promotes a mix of housing types including affordable housing
- Protects open spaces and promotes recreation
- Supports the district’s five town centres
- Safeguards against flood risk
The plan, as modified, will now form the basis for deciding individual planning applications, such as plans to build up to 100 houses in Nunney.
The modified plan 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.
Tracy Aarons, Corporate Manager for Built Environment, said: “This is excellent news and we can now progress work on preparing a more detailed plan looking at the smaller development sites which will be needed to meet the overall agreed development needs.
“We look forward to talking to communities early next year on the details of how future development will be accommodated in our towns and villages.”
The plan can be viewed on the council’s website at www.mendip.gov.uk/inspectorsreport.