Revised plans to turn Highbridge’s former Canal House site into this modern development of 29 flats have been opposed by town councillors this week.
At a meeting of the council’s Planning Applications committee on Wednesday evening (July 4th), members lodged an objection against the revised scheme due to the loss of retail and business space in the town centre.
The high-profile Market Street site, which is situated next to the Church Street roundabout, has been vacant for years since the former Canal House premises closed down.
Highbridge Chamber of Trade Trade Chairman Mike Murphy spoke out against the scheme at Wedneday’s meeting, saying: “This site has seen 200 years of retail – there have been shops and businesses in the heart of Highbridge for years.”
“The agent, Toni Hammick, has told me she can’t sell retail units there as there’s not enough footfall but we know hundreds of new homes are to be built at the Delta engineering site, Brue Farm, Isleport, and at the YMCA hotel site.”
“I want to see two retail units here and think the development should be denied until those are given. There are not enough ‘shop shells’ available in Market Street.”
Cllr John Parkes added: “I have grave concerns about these plans. It’s clear to everyone that Highbridge is being overdeveloped and we just don’t have the infrastructure to support it. This would be a huge overdevelopment.” He added that the ground floor of the development “must be kept for retail”.
Cllr Andy Brewer said the developer had worked on addressing nearby neighbours’ concerns about the proposed site over looking their homes, reducing he risk of shadowing onto their properties. Responding to concerns about ‘over-development’, he said the developer believes the proposed new building will cover a “smaller floor area than the previous scheme for the site”.
Cllr Brewer added that because the site is within the town centre he would like to see “some retail or business use” retained at the site.
Councillors voted to object against the scheme. The plans are subject to a final decision by Sedgemoor District Council.
Resident David Barrett, who lives next to the development site, previously said: “Something needs to be done with this site, but not on the scale of this application.” He believes the proposals represent “an over-development and would be completely out of character with other properties.”
The applicant, local property agent Toni Hammock, discussed her plans for the site with councillors in February, as we reported here. “This site has been a thorn in Highbridge’s side for a long time,” and she added: “Now, we have new plans to develop it.”
She explained that while permission was granted in 2010 for a mixed-use development of 14 flats and shops, that scheme was “commercially unworkable as there wasn’t the footfall.” New plans have therefore been drawn up without shops and a flats-only development.