Revised plans for 121 new homes at Lakeside in Highbridge have this week been given a ‘thumbs down’ by town councillors.
Councillors raised several objections when they considered an updated outline planning application for the site at this week’s meeting of the Town Council’s planning applications committee.
Cllr Andy Brewer, Chairman, said there has been minimal changes to the application’s layout, with minor changes to the public open space, play area, highways access and the rail line crossing.
Cllr John Parkes said the “hugely contentious application has attracted over 130 responses from residents” and he added that the revised plans still raise “too many concerns”.
“Highbridge simply does not have the infrastructure to support another 121 new homes here. The town has absolutely horrendous traffic at the moment and it can’t support hundreds more vehicles,” he said during this week’s meeting.
Cllr Louise Parkin added: “We previously had concerns about the proximity to the rail crossing – and while the developer has agreed to install a kissing gate on their side of the rail line, I don’t feel it would be too much to ask them to put one on the other side as well. I also don’t think this would deliver a sustainable access route from the site into Highbridge.”
Cllr Phil Harvey added: “I have a fundamental objection – this site is public open space and the national guidelines state you shouldn’t build on public open space unless there are ‘very special circumstances’, which I don’t think exist here.”
While Cllr Andy Brewer pointed out that “not all of the site is public open space – some of it is privately owned,” Cllr Harvey responded that “17-18 acres of the site is public open space, which is still a significant chunk of land.” Cllr Brewer conceded the plans do represent “a significant loss of open space.”
And Cllr Parkin added: “Sedgemoor District Council has made sure this open space has not been used by the public by locking it up to create an area that’s therefore under-used. It’s disgraceful.”
Cllr Parkes agreed, adding: “We need to take Sedegemoor to task on this – it’s blocked off and has been deliberately neglected. The question needs asking of them!”
Cllr Andy Brewer added: “The Burnham and Highbridge Neighbourhood Plan requests that new developments have fully sustainable transport links. The obvious link to this proposed site would be the railway crossing, but the developer’s proposal of a kissing gate will not provide a sustainable transport link.”
“Our plans discourages the use of cars and encourage walking and cycling. Kissing gates at the rail crossing would prevent cyclists accessing it – the alternative is to cross the A38 twice to get to Asda which is not in the spirit of sustainability.”
Cllr Harvey said the transport proposals for the Lakeside site are “in stark contrast to the Brue Farrm plans where the developer has agreed to build a new bridge over the River Brue to encourage walking and cycling into the town centre.”
Cllr Peter Clayton said he feels the “original objection to the plans should stand – there have been no fundamental changes.” Cllr Nick Tolley agreed: “I echo Cllr Clayton’s sentiments – the developer has not addressed our previous concerns.”
The Town Council voted to uphold its previous objection against the plans – on the grounds of inadequate highways access, over-development of the site in terms of a loss of open public space, safety concerns around the proximity of the railway, insufficient flood mitigation measures, detrimental to wildlife on site, and light pollution. The final decision rests with Sedgemoor District Council.