Green space will be sold off to provide ‘much-needed’ homes

PUBLISHED: 14:09 29 June 2020 | UPDATED: 14:09 29 June 2020

Proposed Layout of 110 homes off Lakeside in Highbridge. Picture: The Landscape Practice

Proposed Layout of 110 homes off Lakeside in Highbridge. Picture: The Landscape Practice

Archant

A large area of green space in Highbridge will be sold off to allow a new development of 110 homes to go ahead.

Sedgemoor District Council approved plans in February for Coln Residential Ltd to construct the houses on vacant land between the existing Lakeside homes and the Walrow ponds.

Hundreds of residents have signed petitions calling for the development to be halted and the space to be preserved as a ‘green lung’ for both current and future residents.

But the council’s executive committee has now given the new homes the all-clear after it agreed to sell off the land to the developer for £350,000.

The site was originally transferred to the council back in 1996, with 33 homes being built on its northern edge.

The council originally intended to enhance the site as a green space, but this was never implemented due to access issues from both Lakeside and the railway line.

The council’s development committee voted on February 4 to approve outline plans for 110 homes (downgraded from 121), with the existing road linking Lakeside to the A38 Bristol Road being extended into the rest of the site.

Around 1,200 people have signed petitions objecting to the development – 500 via an online petition, and a further 700 in paper form.

Local resident Joy Russell told a virtual meeting of the council’s executive committee on June 24 that councillors would be letting down the people of Highbridge by selling off the land.

She said: “A large proportion of the people I have spoken to are disappointed and sceptical about this.

“The Apex Park is something you as a council can be proud of. Will you be the council who just approved more and more housing?

“You are elected to serve us, and so far you have let us down.”

Councillor Janet Keen – whose ward includes the site – said it was senseless to sell off green space given the benefits it had provided during the coronavirus crisis.

She added: “If there is one thing we have learned during this pandemic, it is that people need green space for their health and wellbeing.

“The council should rethink this plan and the covenant on the land, allowing to remain as a refuge for all the creatures that live here and contribute to the air we breathe.”

Councillor Bill Revans said he found the objectors’ case “very convincing” and warned about the message it would send to local residents.

He said: “I have real difficulty with the public perceiving as selling off green space for housing. This needs to be looked at again.”

Council leader Duncan McGinty said it was a difficult decision, but the need to ease the housing crisis ultimately outweighed the environmental concerns.

He said: “It is not about money. It is about providing housing, which is much-needed to support our communities.”

Deputy leader Gill Slocombe added: “These plans will benefit so many families that are desperately needing housing.”

After an hour’s debate, the committee voted to approve the sale of the land. A reserved matters application, detailing the designs and layout of the houses, is expected to be submitted later in the year.


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