Home Somerset business Plans for new homes in the tiny Somerset village have been rejected following ‘woefully inadequate’ motorway advice

Plans for new homes in the tiny Somerset village have been rejected following ‘woefully inadequate’ motorway advice


Plans for new homes in a small Somerset village have been rejected following ‘woefully inadequate’ advice from motorway experts.

Persimmon Homes South West and Johnstone Land Company (Bristol) Ltd. jointly requested the construction of 26 houses at the western end of Chapelfield in the village of Oakhill, near Shepton Mallet. The Somerset County Council Highways Department advised that the development would not cause significant damage to the village.

But Mendip District Council’s planning board voted unanimously to refuse the plans at its meeting on Wednesday evening (June 15), citing concerns about overdevelopment, road safety and the impact on the character of the town. Rob Westell, who lives near the site, said he and more than 100 local residents were “fiercely opposed” to the development, arguing the village could no longer cope with new housing.

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He compared the plans to Gladman Developments’ proposals for 95 homes in the nearby village of Chilcompton – which were canceled by the Planning Inspectorate in February following a public inquiry. He told council: “As a secondary village, Oakhill is expected to be one of the last places to see new housing developments of this scale.

“Twenty-six new homes in Oakhill represents 9.4 per increase in the size of the village – the village which, according to Part II of the local plan, has already exceeded its fair share of new development.” Part II of the local plan – which was ratified by councilors in December 2021 – notes that Oakhill has already delivered 49 new homes since the initial local plan was approved in 2014, compared to a minimum of 40 properties until 2029.

Mr Westell continued that Somerset County Council‘s Highways Department had made no robust assessment of the existing road safety issues in the village, which could be exacerbated by the additional houses. He said: “The issues surrounding the narrow High Street with its lack of pavements, the dangerous junctions with the A37 and A367, or the existing blind 90 degree bend in Chapelfield have not been assessed, although these issues are repeatedly raised by residents.

“Between the center of the village and the application site, pedestrian access is downright dangerous. With no commerce, limited bus services and no employment opportunities, Oakhill residents are forced to use the car for almost all trips.

“The density is far higher than the surrounding existing development. The result is a development that will result in a permanent loss of privacy and loss of light for existing properties.”

Oakhill is in the ward of Ashwick, Chilcompton and Stratton – represented by Councilors Joshua Burr and Sam Phripp. In a joint statement, read aloud on their behalf, they said: “We stand with the vast majority of local residents in stressing how inappropriate this home construction would be.

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“Oakhill has a village which has grown in recent years and has contributed its fair share to the overall housing objectives of the district. The site and its access are at the end of a quiet and relatively narrow cul-de-sac, and is currently a lot – loved green spaces.

“Frankly, we shouldn’t add extra traffic on roads that can’t take it.” Councilor Tom Killen – who represents the neighboring wards of Chewton Mendip and Ston Easton – said the council and village had been “abandoned by Somerset County Council” and the inaction of its highway department.

He said: “Anyone who knows Oakhill will know you have bad junctions on the A37 where visibility is non-existent and then at the other end near the war memorial you have a pinch point where you have to clear a way in traffic, putting a big development in the middle of it just doesn’t seem realistic without some improvements or without these issues being addressed.

Councilor Tom Killen, Leader of the Conservative Group
Councilor Tom Killen, Leader of the Conservative Group

“It’s just not realistic to walk to the Gurney Slade store without putting yourself in danger.” These views were shared by Councilor Edric Hobbs, who was recently elected to represent the Mendip Hills division (including Oakhill) on county council.

He said: “The road network in the area is appalling. If you go up the main road I have blind junctions where we need to improve the mowing of the grass.

“Truck movements are going to go into this area – it’s horribly dangerous. If they’re coming the other way, I’d like to see them try to drive down the main street, with all the parking.

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“One of the first things I did after becoming county councilor was to visit the village, and a bit further down towards the junction near the school, raw sewage was in the road. The system sewer can’t take it.”

Councilor Alan Townsend – who represents the neighboring borough of Coleford and Holcombe – added: “I have been driving in Oakhill for over 45 years. When you arrive on the A37, you are blind on the right and semi-blind on the left. , so most of us do a dog leg and walk out through The Mendip Inn.

“How many accidents have there been in the past 20 years? County council safety records show that no one has died within 500 yards of the site in the last five years – so they don’t care.”

Councilor Damon Hooton (Liberal Democrat, Frome Park)
Councilor Damon Hooton (Liberal Democrat, Frome Park)

Councilor Damon Hooton, who chairs the planning board, said the county council’s advice on highways was “woefully inadequate”. He ranted: “I’ve been sitting around this table in one form or another for almost 19 years – and nothing’s changed. We’re still getting useless advice.

“So at some point, before I stop being an adviser, I want to put my foot down and challenge him – and I think I’ve reached that point.” Mr Hooton stood for the Liberal Democrats in the Frome West division in the recent local elections, but finished four of seven candidates.

After about an hour of debate, the board voted unanimously to decline the plans – a decision that was cheered by other members of the public.