Residents in Brent Knoll fighting controversial plans for 18 new homes say they are “gutted” by a decision to give the scheme the go-ahead.

Sedgemoor District Councillors granted approval on Tuesday (January 22nd) despite 56 households objecting to the scheme.

Coln Residential wants to build 18 new homes at the junction of the A38 and Brent Street in the village, as Burnham-On-Sea.com first reported here.

The plans were considered by district councillors at Tuesday’s Sedgemoor Development Control meeting.

Some of the Brent Knoll residents who opposed the plans travelled to Bridgwater to hear the committee approve the scheme.

This, the latest scheme proposed by Coln Residential for a field outside the village development zone and alongside the busy A38, provides 18 houses – seven of which are to be designated ‘affordable’.

The Development Committee debated the application for more than an hour, with many councillors voicing concerns about consultation and the proximity to the dangerous junction of the A38 and Brent Street. Nonetheless, the final vote was overwhelmingly in favour of approval, with just two councillors voting against.

Toni Hammock, a spokesperson for the developer, said: “We held numerous public consultations and presented at a number of Parish Council meetings where the residents were able to engage and ask questions.”

“There were no objections from consultees and the application meets local and national policy. The developer made significant amendments through the application process to accommodate officers, consultees and residents’ requirements.”
“The approved scheme reflects the historic character of this historic village. One  appreciates that change is not always welcome but houses are needed and the facts should be reflected accurately this is  a quality scheme by a developer who delivers quality homes.”

David Sturgess, one of the Brent Knoll residents who attended the meeting, told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “In truth, those of us who attended are gutted by this result. So many of the committee members, none of whom were our representatives, spoke in support of our concerns, so we were amazed at the final outcome.”

Residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting heard that the Parish Council’s decision to submit a ‘no observations’ verdict would normally be read as being in favour of consent. The tipping vote at the Parish Council meetings was cast by Cllr Bob Filmer, who is also the village’s District and County Councillor, as well as being Chairman of Sedgemoor’s Development Committee, however he did not vote during this week’s district council meeting.

Both objectors and applicants were allowed just one speaker each at Tuesday’s committee meeting – with a strict limit of three minutes to address the committee.

“Despite this severe limitation on debate, it would have been fair – had it not been for the council’s own officers, who made it abundantly plain that they wanted to see this application approved,” claimed David. “Those officers, of course, had no time constraints, and were clearly eager to tick the box for having aided the delivery of some ‘affordable homes’ in Brent Knoll.”

Coln Residential’s application was on a P4 basis (ie the rules for a site that is outside the permitted development area), which demands that it is either community-led or community supported.

“The Sedgemoor committee was told that it would be seen as a T5 application under new planning rules that have yet to be adopted, which reduces public support from ‘vital’ to ‘encouraged’. That’s like changing the rules half-way through a match – and before those new rules have been agreed”, David claims.

“Under the current P4 rules, the fact that Sedgemoor received 83 letters of objection, and a petition signed by 104 people, with only six letters of support would demonstrate that this development does not have community support.”

UPDATE: Sedgemoor District Council response

Burnham-On-Sea.com invited Sedgemoor District Council to give its reaction to the claims. A spokesman said: “Whilst Sedgemoor District Council fully understands that residents will be frustrated by the decision of the Development Committee to approve the planning application it is the responsibility of the Local Planning Authority to make decisions in line with the relevant national and local planning policies. Relevant policies include those within emerging Local Plans which have been subject to independent scrutiny such as Policy T5 and now carry substantial weight when determining planning applications.”

“It is not the case that Core Strategy Policy P4 is a veto on planning consent where objections exceed support and indeed there have been a number of other schemes approved across the District under Policy P4 where there has been local contention.”

“Instead it falls to the assessment of the technical aspects of the application and the balance of the valid planning considerations. In this case members were satisfied that the scheme met the relevant policies and raised no significant adverse impacts, having regard to the views of the consultees and the objections raised by the local community.”