New homes in Walton refused as council shelves bypass plans
By Daniel Mumby - Local Democracy Reporter
24th Jan 2023 | Local News
Plans for new homes in Walton have been refused – days after a planned bypass was pushed back.
Walton LVA LLP applied in December 2019 for permission to build 37 new homes on South Street in Walton, on the outskirts of Street and a short distance from the busy A39.
Mendip District Council's planning board threw the plans out on Wednesday evening (January 18), arguing that the homes would worsen existing road safety issues on the main road.
This decision comes as a county councillor revealed that a new bypass which would ease traffic between Street and Bridgwater has been postponed for at least 12 months as the new unitary Somerset Council seeks to save money.
The site lies on the eastern side of South Street, being bordered by Veal Lane at the south-eastern edge of the village.
The site is outside of the settlement boundary of Walton and less than a mile from the Street Future Growth Area (FGA), where 400 homes and a new primary school have been allocated within the council's Local Plan Part II, which was adopted in December 2021.
Under the proposals, a new access would be created almost directly opposite the existing junction with Long Lane, with the land nearest Veal Lane being allocated for attenuation ponds and a play area.
Of the 37 homes proposed for the site, 11 will be affordable, meeting the council's target of 30 per cent affordable homes for any new development of ten homes or more.
Dean Titchener, who lives near the site, laid out his concerns about the development when the council's planning board met in Shepton Mallet on Wednesday evening (January 18).
He said: "The development will generate about 200 extra car trips a day, most of which will go through the junction with the A39. Anyone who has used the junction will be familiar with its difficulties. When emerging from South Street, there is almost no visibility to the left – it is only possible to see out by pulling far onto the carriageway to look for gaps.
"The road is only likely to get busier given the recent uncertainty about the future of the Walton bypass."
John Harvey, chairman of Walton Parish Council, added: "We are a small village, and we've exceeded our Local Plan housing allocation by about 20 per cent.
"There isn't really a shortage of potential dwelling sites within Walton. This is outside the development limit, and I would find it hard to think of a more inappropriate place to put a series of houses in the village."
Councillor Matt Martin, whose Moor ward includes the site, said the plans were "not good enough" and described the access to the A39 as "a nonsense".
He said: "There is already a guy in Walton who doesn't use the front of his house – he bought a lovely farmhouse, and the front of it is just full of boxes. He can't use it because of congestion on the A39 – and it's going to get worse.
"Walton has done its bit – it's had enough. It's stuck in the middle of all this development like an island of sensibility."
Councillor Heather Shearer – who represents the neighbouring Street North ward – agreed: "I have knocked on doors in Walton and tried to speak to people – on the main road, you cannot speak and people do not use their front doors.
"There has not been a clear amount of information from Somerset County Council's highways team. I'm not quite sure what can be done on South Street to mitigate this."
Councillor Edric Hobbs – who regularly cycles along the A39 – added: "I go past this area around the time that children are being taken to school. I've seen worried-looking parents trying to cross the A39.
"I'm a qualified Bikeability instructor, and I would not teach children to ride a bicycle on or around South Street – it's ridiculous."
After around an hour's debate, the board voted to refuse the plans by ten votes to one, with two abstentions.
The homes would have been built around a mile from the eastern end of a proposed bypass, intended to take 95 per cent of traffic away from the A39 through the villages of Walton and Ashcott.
While the intended route has not yet been made public, it is understood the bypass would run to the north of both villages, with connection points to the west of Ashcott and near Street Business Park.
The proposal was given backing in principle by councillors in July 2019, with then-chancellor of the exchequer (now prime minister) Rishi Sunak MP giving the go-ahead in his budget of March 2020.
The Peninsula Transport Shadow Sub-National Transport Body – which brings together elected representatives from Somerset, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay – stated in April 2022 that the scheme would still be carried forward despite a spending review by central government, with the road expected to be open to traffic by the end of 2025.
The scheme's postponement has now been publicly conformed by Sarah Dyke, who represents villages within the Blackmore Vale on both Somerset County Council and South Somerset District Council.
Ms Dyke made the announcement while chairing a meeting of the district council's area east committee in Yeovil on January 11, as part of a wider discussion about the council's regeneration projects in Wincanton.
She said: "The new Somerset Council has reviewed the capital projects across the five existing authorities, and as a result, a number of projects have been identified which could be deferred for a year. This includes the Wincanton regeneration project.
"It also includes the Walton to Ashcott bypass, the Bridgwater library improvements, the Yeovil Crematorium chapel upgrade and phase two of providing new homes for children and adults with learning disabilities."
The first budget of the new unitary council is due to be debated by councillors on February 22, ahead of the authority formally taking control on April 1.
As part of this budget, councillors will sign off on the capital programme for the next 12 months, as well as a plan for major schemes which will come forward within the next two to three years.
Walton LVA LLP has not yet indicated whether it intends to appeal the planning board's decision.