Published: June 26, 2012
Disappointment as 85 new river homes in Highbridge win approval

Councillors and residents have reacted with disappointment to the news that controversial proposals for a new riverside housing development in Highbridge were approved on Tuesday (June 26th), albeit in a reduced form.

The proposals for the boatyard site near The Clyce were for eighty five houses, plus ten flats, and attracted scores of objections from nearby residents, the town's MP and the Town Council.

A petition against the scheme was also signed by 91 people amid concern regarding site access, parking and the additional strain that the new homes could cause to the town's roads, schools and doctors surgeries.

But at a meeting of Sedgemoor District Council's Development Control Committee on Tuesday morning, the outline planning application was approved. The number of units was reduced from 95 to 85, after the proposed flats were removed, and the maximum height of the buildings was reduced from 4 stories to 3.

Somerset County Council's Highways department raised no objection to the access fears via Smith Way and members considered the access was therefore adequate.

Regarding infrastructure concerns, members took the view that the £2m flood defences proposed as part of the development along the River Brue will have a wider benefit to the town.

Councillors on the committee also took the view that in the current financial climate the site could not be expected to meet all the other infrastructure requests, however an "uplift" clause was agreed so that if the financial climate improves the issues relating to infrastructure can be re-examined.

But the judgement was met with disappointment by several local councillors and residents.

Highbridge's Cllr Joe Leach, pictured above, told "I am extremely disappointed that the District Council have allowed a scheme which provides zero community benefit. We have got a town on its knees, and Sedgemoor's answer appears to be to build even more homes."

"I am not against homes in general, providing they are viable. At the moment, they are not. Our GP surgery is struggling, our schools are over capacity, and our Highways are flagging. When will common sense prevail, and developers see that they cannot keep piling houses into a town, without improving the infrastructure to support it?"

"I am pleased at least that the 10 apartments have been removed, and that the finer details must come back before the Development committee, however that is still small consolation for a town which is crying out for investment."

He added: "I am further disappointed by a developer who scaremongers that flood defences are needed as a matter of urgency. When Burnham and West Huntspill was flooded in the great storms of 1981, Highbridge was perfectly safe, as was the town during the most recent flash flooding locally. It also disappointing Toni Hammick, the developer, cries 'NIMBY', when the entire town over many years has called for further investment."

Local resident Helen Groves added: "Whilst I acknowledge and appreciate the development control committee have reduced the number and scale of properties on this site, I am concerned that development control has failed to address above all other consideration the ability of the infrastructure to support the increasing population of the Town."

"I understand it is a difficult economic climate and fully appreciate there is an uplift clause. I understand the view that in the future other developments may make contributions towards infrastructure but these are all things which are unknown. We do not know what developments will be brought forward or what benefits and pitfalls they will bring with them."

Toni Hammick, from developer Property Link, told "Some irresponsible people have been spreading misinformation about this site. The opposition does upset me because we have received the backing of many expert consultants over the past two years."

"The £2million flood defences which we will be installing along the river will have long-term benefits for Highbridge, protecting the town from flooding and allowing future development."


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