Plans for 40 homes in Leigh on Mendip could be approved by Christmas as appeal lodged
By Daniel Mumby - Local Democracy Reporter
19th Jul 2022 | Local News
Up to 40 homes could be approved near a rural Somerset primary school by Christmas if a planning inquiry scheduled for the autumn is successful.
T. & A. Land Associates applied in September 2020 to build the homes on Quarry Lane in the village of Leigh-upon-Mendip, located roughly halfway between Frome, Radstock and Shepton Mallet.
Mendip District Council refused the plans in April 2021, arguing the development would have "a harmful urbanising impact" on the surrounding countryside.
Following an appeal by the Frome-based developer, the Planning Inspectorate has now scheduled a planning inquiry for early-October – meaning the council's refusal could be overturned before Christmas.
The site of the proposed houses lies to the north of Leigh-upon-Mendip First School, as well as being only a short distance from Halecombe Quarry, which is operated by Tarmac.
In addition to the new homes, access from Quarry Lane, the plans entail the creation of a new playing field and a car park with 30 new spaces for the school, with the homes being concentrated to the north.
Alun Williams, chief executive of the Midsomer Norton Schools Partnership, has leant his support to the proposals.
He said: "The community would benefit from being able to use the car park outside of school hours.
"The community and school would benefit from improved safety in the vicinity of the school, as parking and access to the school site would be improved.
"The school will be further supported by children that live in the village, if we assume that some of the people that purchase the new housing would have children of school age.
"While we recognise that more housing can put pressure on local facilities, it is important to have sufficiently high numbers of people living in a given area to ensure services like schools can be maintained."
The council refused the plans in April 2021 through the delegated powers of its planning officers, rather than a public decision by its planning board, with five reasons for refusal being identified:
- The development would "result in an urban encroachment of housing into the countryside… creating a harmful urbanising impact" which would damage the rural character of the village
- The developer has not demonstrated that the development would not have "a harmful impact on archaeology" due to the lack of geophysical surveys
- The developer has not showed that the development would not harm protected species, especially bats
- The homes would "an unacceptable and unjustified harmful impact" on nearby trees and hedges
- The development does not contribute sufficiently towards community facilities, including the improvement of local footpaths
The Planning Inspectorate has confirmed the appeal will be decided by a public inquiry, rather than through written representations.
The inquiry is due to begin on October 4 and is expected to last for four days, with the inspector's final report anticipated to be published before Christmas.