Go-ahead for 'worst ever' housing plan for Somerset village

Masterplan for 40 homes on Old Bristol Road in East Brent - Clifton Emery Design

The proposed layout of the development in East Brent - Credit: Clifton Emery Design

A housing development dubbed “one of the worst” ever planned for Somerset will still go ahead following a successful appeal.

East Brent LVA LLP applied for outline permission to build 40 new homes on Old Bristol Road in the village of East Brent, near Burnham-on-Sea, not far from the Sedgemoor services on the M5.

Sedgemoor District Council’s development committee roundly refused the proposals in August 2020, criticising the new homes’ designs and claiming the plans were “driven by ignorance and avarice”.

The Planning Inspectorate has now reversed this decision following an appeal by the developer, with more detailed plans expected to come forward later in the year.

The development site is classified by the Environment Agency (EA) as being in flood zone 3a – meaning there is at least a one per cent chance of it being flooded in the future.

To counteract this, the developer proposed importing 30,000 cubic metres of soil to the site, raising the whole area by one metre.

Councillor Andrew Gilling, whose Knoll ward includes the site, was deeply scathing towards the plans when the council’s development committee met to discuss them on August 27, 2020.

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Speaking at the time, he said: “I have seen some pretty horrendous applications. This is one of the worst I have ever had the misfortune to come across – driven by ignorance of the local community and by avarice.”

Planning inspector Liam Page visited the site on July 27, 2021 and published his decision shortly before Christmas.

Proposed site of 40 new homes on Old Bristol Road in East Brent

The proposed site of 40 new homes, on Old Bristol Road, East Brent - Credit: Google Street View

Mr Page stated that the noise levels from HGV movements associated with the new homes’ constructions “would not exceed thresholds where sound insulation or temporary rehousing would be necessary.”

He also agreed with Somerset County Council’s highways team that the development would not put pedestrians or other motorists at risk.

He said: “The width of the highway is sufficient to allow a car to pass a large vehicle.

“I note that the highway authority has not objected to the use of Old Bristol Road as a construction access on highway safety grounds and, from what I saw on site, I see no reason to take a different view.

“While I note the council’s concerns that Old Bristol Road does not have foot-ways, the anticipated volume of traffic, which can be controlled by conditions, would not result in an unacceptable impact on highway safety.”

Mr Page said the lack of a pavement along Old Bristol Road was not an issue, arguing the end nearest the new homes “can be treated as a shared surface” for motorists and pedestrians giving the slow speed at which vehicles would be moving.

Regarding the risk of flooding, the inspector stated there was “sufficient evidence” that raising the site and slowing the discharge of surface water into Brocks Pill Rhyne would reduce the risk to locals.

He concluded: “There is no evidence that the principle of development is unacceptable, including in relation to the strategic housing land availability assessment position, the protection of green belt land or otherwise.

“Consequently, given that the principle of development is acceptable, there is sufficient control at reserved matters to manage the expansion of the village in terms of safeguarding the character and appearance of the area.”

A separate request for the council to pay the developer’s legal costs for the appeal was refused by the inspector.

A reserved matters application, with further details surrounding the design and layout of the new homes, is expected to be submitted to the council later in 2022.