Housing plan for green fields
A CONTENTIOUS bid to build scores of homes on green land in Shepton Mallet has taken a step forward – sparking renewed opposition.
Redrow Homes' outline planning application for up to 142 new dwellings at Shepton West has been officially registered by Mendip District Council.
The proposed site is 6.9 hectares of green pasture land on Old Wells Road, but the developer claims its plans will bring "improvements to the visual impact of the site".
Aside from aesthetics, opponents have specified several areas of serious concern. Peter Hillman formed the Shepton Mallets group in resistance to the development, and claims that the demand for new-builds simply doesn't exist.
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"Our mantra is that development should be demand-led not developer-led. We only need a fraction of the houses that are planned. We should look at brownfield sites like the old prison before greenfield."
Office of National Statistics data shows on average there are 2.3 people per household, and opponents cite the inevitable population increase as too much for resources that are already choked.
"It's too much too fast," said Carol McClelland, of St Peter's Road. "Shepton doesn't have the infrastructure; there is not enough parking, the doctors surgery is already full – and then there is the issue of floods."
A flood risk assessment, according to Redrow, showed little or no risk of flooding, but, Ms McClelland pointed out, "if that land is concreted over, where is all that water going to go?"
Not everybody, however, will be dismayed if the plans are approved. With housing-building at its lowest level since 1923 and property prices increasing, Nicola Apfelstedt has struggled to afford a home in the area. Thirty per cent of the proposed builds will be affordable housing, and so Ms Apfelstedt sees this as the help up she needs.
"It's a brilliant idea," she said.
"It's been impossible to buy my first house. The new properties and the government's help to buy scheme would finally get me on the ladder and on in life."
For one couple, though, economic benefits are of secondary importance behind matters of principle. Mark and Debbie Roberts moved into their property just last year, partly because of the views of open fields to the rear – over the proposed site.
"It's un-democratic," said Mark, "I have hundreds of signatures on a petition but don't feel like I'm being listened to. We worked all of our lives to buy a house we love, and to find out what could end up behind us is heartbreaking. Anybody against the plans needs to make their voice heard, we all need to come together."