Controversial proposals by Sedgemoor District Council to sell off a field in Highbridge to make way for 110 new homes was confirmed on Wednesday (July 22nd).
Members of the Sedgemoor Executive met and voted unanimously in favour of selling the publicly-owned land despite hearing strong arguments from local residents and councillors against the sale on environmental and safety grounds.
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 today reviewed their decision and gave the sale the go-ahead, with all members in favour.
Canpaigner Joy Russell spoke out against the sale of the land, citing the environmental impact it would have. “Nature has taken a back seat,” told councillors during the virtual meeting, adding that it was “scandalous” that the “council is “reneaguing on its promises of years ago” to keep the land as public open land. She said there is a “huge groundswell dissatisfaction” at Sedgemoor letting down the community.
Cllr Phil Harvey argued the sale of the land is “unnecessary” given the numbe of new homes already being planned for the area. He went on to say the £350,000 sale price for the field is “not a good deal” for the community.
Cllr Mike Murphy added that it would be a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to save the land for green use in the town.
Leader Cllr Duncan McGinty added: “We recognise the strength of passion about this situation,” adding “sometimes we have to make difficult decisions in the best interests of the whole community.”
They voted 5-0 in favour of upholding the sale of the land.
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.”