Joy Russell walow homes development

A campaigner who fought controversial proposals by Sedgemoor District Council to sell off a field in Highbridge to make way for 110 new homes says she is “devastated” at the council’s decision to proceed with the sale.

As reported here on Wednesday (July 22nd), members of the Sedgemoor Executive met and voted unanimously to sell the publicly-owned land despite hearing strong arguments from local residents and councillors who voiced concerns at the sale on environmental and safety grounds.

Campaigner Joy Russell, pictured, told “The Executive Committee listened to us but didn’t hear us. We lost our land. They ignored that their building quotas up to 2032 are already nearly fulfilled, they ignored the fact that there are other access routes onto the sites which are wide enough to create cycle tracks, and they have not done their homework on being able to improve the nearby railway crossing to make it safer with barriers or warning electrical systems.”

“They also sidestepped that the land is economically undervalued and they insisted that the Walrow fishing ponds were part of open space for Highbridge even though they are private.”

She adds: “They accepted there had been a massive amount of objection from the community but once again didn’t actually think that was a good enough reason to stop the sale of this land.”

“I’m devastated and sorry for giving false hope and I’m off to the field to cry my heart out and break the bad news to all the creatures that have thrived there forever and a day. Shame on Sedgemoor District Council.”

Lib Dem councillors had ‘called-in’ the recent decision of the Council’s Executive to sell the field next to Lakeside in Highbridge for housing, which we reported here.

This meant that the Council’s Corporate Scrutiny Committee had to consider whether to ask the Executive to look at the decision again. The Committee met on Monday (July 13th) and referred the decision back to the Executive, who reviewed their decision and gave the sale the go-ahead, with all members in favour.

Claire Faun, spokeswoman for Sedgemoor District Council, said: “A decision was made to uphold the original Executive decision to sell a piece of undeveloped land at Lakeside.”

“The land already has resolution to planning permission for 110 new homes in the area in accordance with the Council’s adopted Local Plan (2019).  In addition, to the new housing, the proposal will also provide large areas of equipped play space, further public open space and an attractive landscaped water course and improved walking and cycling links.”

“More importantly, the proposal will enable a dangerous surface-level crossing of the main railway line to be blocked off and replaced with a new footpath/cycle link from the A38 providing easy and safe access to the new play facilities from the nearby Springfield Road development.”

“After a virtual meeting of the Executive, which lasted an hour and a half, there were many strong and impassioned speeches from members of the public and councillors.  The meeting was called to re-consider the Executive decision of June 24th to sell the land.  That decision was called-in by the Corporate Scrutiny Committee and a meeting was held on July 13th.”

“Following due consideration of the comments and representations made and having carefully balanced the disadvantages of the loss of the land against the advantages of disposal of the land, the Executive voted to uphold their original decision.”

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