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Mid Wessex Singers

Trial Ground - Planning Meeting 27.06.2018 - Speech by Creole Palmer

[I am a member of Huish Episcopi Parish Council. I represent the views of my fellow councillors and our residents regarding the Trial Grounds, specifically the site plans and the public footpath.]
Site Plans
We understand the developer will now be proceeding with 80 residential units. This is welcomed although concerns remain regarding the overall scheme which, in our view, lacks imagination, and sympathy for this unique rural setting and its proximity (and ties) to the Old Kelways site.
Huish Episcopi is a rural, historic village. However, because of its proximity to the local market town of Langport, its distinct identity and planning needs are often overlooked. In fact, looking through the various planning documents and the Officer’s report we have struggled to find any reference to Huish Epicopi and therefore, we question the extent to which this may have influenced perceptions regarding the suitability of this development to the area.
Significant weight has been given to the inclusion of the open space to the front of the site. Whilst the Council fully supports this landscaping, it’s benefit is diminished by a housing scheme of standard design and appearance, lacking in character and limited to the developers existing portfolio of houses. This standardisation has led to an aesthetically bland scheme which overall provides little mitigation to the loss of this centrally located rural and historical setting. The inclusion of 2.5 storey dwellings also creates an overbearing design due to the oppressively tall nature of these units which are not appropriate for a village setting.
But also, we need to recognise that the Trial Grounds is unique being located immediately opposite the Kelways entrance, separated by just a matter of yards. If you look at the site proposal plan, you will clearly see that the walkway created by the beech hedge is perfectly aligned to the entrance of the main Kelways building. And whilst the developer may choose to simply dismiss this walkway we must not lose sight of its historical importance and its irrefutable ties to Kelways. As the public submissions in response to this application demonstrate, its loss will be keenly felt.
This context is incredibly important, and to ensure ties with Kelways are not altogether severed and to create valuable landscaping within the site, we suggest the concept of a central avenue is retained. This would provide all residents with an attractive walk way allowing the community to enjoy “enhanced views” of the area.
For these reasons, amongst others, we urge the Committee to reject the application.
Public Footpath
We support the proposed condition regarding the public right of way. However, we stress that the right of way remains closed off to the public and therefore, this condition should be amended to require the developer to immediately reopen it. We will strongly oppose any diversion or stopping up order therefore, aligning with the District Council’s policy that if the footpath does not prevent or hinder a site from being developed, relocation or closure is unjustified. In this case, the footpath has no impact on the development and therefore, it must be restated offering a safe passage to residents, whilst supporting the existing wide network of public rights of way within our Parish.