Glastonbury housing referenced as Somerset council and housing association defend plans for new homes near Street Cemetery

By Tim Lethaby

22nd Jan 2022 | Local News

Plans For 33 Homes On Portland Road In Street. CREDIT: Thrive Architects. Free to use for all BBC wire partners.
Plans For 33 Homes On Portland Road In Street. CREDIT: Thrive Architects. Free to use for all BBC wire partners.

A Somerset council and housing association have defended proposals to build new low-cost homes near Street Cemetery.

The Aster Group has submitted plans to build 33 new homes on Portland Road as part of its partnership with Mendip District Council.

Street resident Nigel Lane has branded the plans "a scandal", claiming residents were not properly consulted and the cemetery would soon need to expand.

Both the council and Aster have strongly rebuffed the claims, pointing to "extensive" consultation before the formal plans were submitted and claiming the cemetery has twice as much capacity as Mr Lane alleged.

Mr Lane, who lives on Woods Road near the development site, alleged that the site had been re-designated for housing without either Street Parish Council or local residents being involved.

He went on to make a string of allegations against either the district council or Aster – namely:

The council sold the land to Aster without admitting the cemetery only had enough space for five more years

The land was sold for "a peppercorn sum" (i.e. a very small amount) rather than being put to commercial tender and using the proceeds to fund local amenities, such as the Greenbank Pool

The public were largely excluded from the decision-making process due to coronavirus restrictions

Mr Lane said it was "a scandal" that the council could consider building on the site when it had rejected plans for a new scout hut on the same land in 2006. He added: "It is a scandal that, given the government's strong opposition to green field sites being used for housing and its support for environmental habitats to be encouraged, that this application should ever have seen the light of day." The Aster Group said it had closely consulted with residents before the plans had been submitted and would ensure that the development had a minimal impact on local wildlife. A spokesman said: "We believe everyone should have a home and Street has a real shortage of affordable homes for local people. "Our planning application to build 33 new affordable homes near Cemetery Lane will go a small way towards helping address this need. "We wrote to local residents in December 2020 to let them know about our plans for the scheme and we set up a website with further details for the public to access. "We also provided an extended period of time in which residents could respond as agreed with Street Parish Council. Additional consultation measures have also been conducted by the parish and district councils. "Once construction starts the development will be accessed via Portland Road and following ecological surveys, we'll be maintaining much of the mature hedgerows as well as planting new bat friendly tree species to enhance the area as a bat corridor. "To date there have been no conversations with regard to using the field opposite Cemetery Lane during construction, and we have not been offered alternative land in place of Cemetery Lane." The site was allocated for housing under the council's Local Plan Part II, which was formally adopted by the full council before Christmas. The council said this decision was taken after significant public consultation and the cemetery has sufficient space for the next decade. A spokesman said: "The allocation process involved extensive public consultation over several years, much of which pre-dated our decision to propose affordable housing on the land at public meetings in November 2020. "Regarding the point about capacity of the existing cemetery, it is currently estimated to be around ten years. "If planning consent is granted, this site will deliver 100 per cent affordable housing and a significant capital receipt for the council. The sale price is commercially sensitive, but exceeds an independent professional valuation of the land." The council added that no attempt to exclude the public from the decision-making process had been made, and that each application for a given site would be decided on its own merits. The spokesman said: "Some decisions were taken at meetings that were necessarily conducted on-line due to coronavirus restrictions. However, these meetings were advertised and were attended by members of the public. "Any planning decision taken in 2006 would have been taken strictly on the merits of the application measured against planning policy pertaining at that time. The current application will similarly be determined by applying current planning policy." The Portman Road site forms part of the council's new programme of delivering social housing on land within its ownership. Proposals for six new homes on the Norbins Road car park in Glastonbury were backed in principal by the council in the summer of 2020, with formal plans now submitted and contracts exchanged. Plans will also shortly be submitted by the Stonewater housing association to build 18 homes on the North Parade car park in Frome. Going forward, the council is also looking for sites in and around Shepton Mallet, including the land between the B3136 West Shepton and the town's football club. Councillor Richard Pinnock, portfolio holder for housing services and governance, said: "These developments are complex, and necessary. If social housing provision was easy, every council in the land would be providing them, but we are pushing on. "The numbers of households registered for social rent is increasing across Mendip, as it is elsewhere. The need was already there, but has increased due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. "Detailed proposals of specific sites are coming forward as our housing Association partners submit their planning applications and consultations with our communities are well under way. "This is positive progress, and much-needed, because in Mendip we believe everyone deserves a home."

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