Town councillors have strongly objected against two separate housing schemes that would see 168 new homes built in the ‘last green lung’ of Highbridge.

At a meeting of the Town Council’s Planning Applications Committee on Monday night (September 17th), councillors voted unanimously against the two plans for 121 new homes on a publicly-owned field next to Lakeside in Highbridge and 47 new homes on private land next to Walrow.

The two controversial applications have attracted large numbers of objections from local residents, including 114 letters of objection against the Walrow development and 94 against the Lakeside plans.

Councillors considered those letters and also listened to the concerns of several speakers – including campaigning resident Linda Greenland, Highbridge district council Roger Keen, and Highbridge Chamber of Trade Chairman Mike Murphy.

Linda Greenland, above, said “residents strongly object to the last green lung of Highbridge being lost,” adding that “public open space must not be used for development.” She explained that the planned homes would be out of keeping, create dangerous traffic concerns on the busy A38 junction at Lakeside, adversely impact wildlife and create flooding issues.

Cllr Roger Keen, below, added that he’s objecting against the Lakeside plans for reasons of transport, flood risk and ecology. He added:”The Environment Agency has in the absence of an acceptable Flood Risk Assessment objected and recommended refusal. They do not agree that the site can be considered as Flood Zone 2.”

Cllr Keen also questioned the proposed use of so-called ‘S106’ public funding to create new outdoor facilities at the planned Lakeside site. “Even though the stated use is what is in the agreement, I do not agree that public funds should be handed over to a private developer merely to make the development more viable and line the pockets of shareholders,” he said.

Mike Murphy, below, added that he’s “very concerned” about traffic flows around the proposed Lakeside site and the impact that extra traffic would have on roads. He went on to talk about acoustic fencing needs, restricted access to rhynes for removing vegetation and silt, and concerns that extra people would want to use the rail crossing to reach Asda.

Cllr Andy Brewer, Chairman of the Town Council’s Planning Applications Committee, told Monday’s meeting that he’s taken the Lakeside application “very seriously” and had looked at every objection from residents. He said the key objections are around the impact to wildlife, insufficient flood mitigation, loss of public open space, safety on the rail crossing, highways access, the condition of the connecting road to the A38.

Cllr Peter Clayton said: “My main concern is the access road to the site – it is very narrow and would be totally unacceptable. Having at least 121 vehicles would be just ridiculous.” He added that the Lakeside homes would be an “over-development” and that the the loss of open space is “very important.”

Cllr Louise Parkin, below, also voiced her concern about the Lakeside plans, saying that she’s would want an assurance that the current lakes would not be infilled at all, and she added that she is worried about the closeness of the proposed kids play area to the rhyne. The loss of public open space is also a concern for her, and she said that the A38 junction would become “an accident waiting to happen” and would be “very, very frightening.”

Cllr Nick Tolley added: “The total loss of green areas like this is a real danger to Highbridge’s future – I would like to stand up and say ‘let’s keep this last bit of green public land’. The land was designated as public green space and it should stay. It’s needed for wildlife and children just wanting to kick a ball about.”

Cllr Phil Harvey, who was unable to attend Monday’s meeting as he is at this week’s Lib Dem conference, said of the Lakeside plans: “The public open space involved in this application is an area of accessible natural green space which is important to the locality. Although presently under-used – as access has been deliberately restricted – there is potential to bring it into wider use. The area is deficient in this type of green space. There are no over-riding reasons why policies designed to protect it should be over-ruled.”

Councillors voted unanimously to object against the Lakeside plans, but the final decisions rests with Sedgemoor District Council.

Town councillors also voted unanimously to object against the separate Walrow housing application for the reasons below.

Mike Murphy said that traffic is a bit concern along the Walrow. “Three weekend ago I was driving along the Walrow at a slow speed when a car tore round the bend and smashed into my car. I was fine, but a resident told me it had been the ninth accident this year, showing how dangerous this road already is.”

Cllr Roger Keen said: “When Walrow was first built the only vehicular traffic was the horse and cart. Today it is dangerously unsuitable for heavy HGV traffic. The railway bridge has a 3T weight limit so all site traffic would only be able to gain access via Walrow. There is also another bridge at the industrial estate end that was designated weak, but as the railway bridge already had a weight limit on it and no heavy traffic would be going over it, nothing was done at the time. We are still waiting for the county surveyor to report on this.” Ecology and flooding were two of his other key concerns.

Traffic was a key concern for Cllr Louise Parkin, saying the extra vehicles from the planned Walrow housing would be “an accident waiting to happen on what is already a busy, narrow road.”

Cllr Peter Clayton said of the Walrow plans: “The plans look awful – it would very much be an over-development that would also bring an increased risk of flooding, and would be detrimental to wildlife.” reported Burnham-On-Sea.com

And Cllr Nick Tolley, above, said he “strongly objects” to the Walrow plans on the basis of traffic concerns, which was echoed by Cllr Martin Cox, above right.

Cllr Andy Brewer explained that the Walrow plans would require a “huge contribution towards a new school given the location and size of the site. It would be in the order of £300,000.” He added that there are “some positive points to this application as the homes would be low energy and sustainable but the negatives outweigh those points due to the road safety, flood risks and wildlife impacts.”

While councillors voted unanimously to object against the Lakeside and Walrow plans, the final decisions will sit with Sedgemoor District Council.

Reacting to the votes afterwards, Linda Greenland told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “I’m really, really pleased – it’s great that the town council has objected. We are a step closer to getting the plans rejected.”

The Walrow land earmarked for 47 homes that was considered on Monday