Village stands up to South Somerset District Council

We often write pieces about South Somerset District Council. The council is acutely sensitive to any criticism. When we offer pieces for comment, they often refuse to respond at all. When we speak to the public at large in South Somerset, the feedback we get is that this is a council that pays no attention to what they are saying. Of course that is not a scientific sample. No doubt all the members of the public who see SSDC doing a great job prefer to keep their counsel.

On the rare occasions that SSDC responds to our articles or questions, we get tells us how brilliantly they are doing. Everything is on track. They only act to serve their residents.

So we were interested to hear that at least one group of SSDC residents were returning the favour. Mudford Parish Council is serving SSDC. With a letter that is a “Judicial review pre-action protocol”. The letter which The Leveller® has seen, contests the decision made by SSDC in October last year to approve an estate of 765 dwellings in a village of less than 350 houses. The village has decided enough is enough. They were simply not prepared to be railroaded into accepting a situation by a council that wasn’t listening.

The main application being contested is at Upper Mudford. It is being challenged after widespread objections from residents of the area. As usual (this has happened in Ilminster, in Bruton, in Martock, Ashill, Chard and Langport) SSDC’s various planning committees largely ignored the views of local residents. The final decision by councillors followed the SSDC planning officer’s recommendation.

The legal letter sent today to SSDC by Mudford Parish Council cites a litany of complaints. It suggests the officer’s report which councillors followed was unsound. It is alleged that the report contained misinterpretations of planning policy and the local plan as well as material omissions.

As a result, the letter suggests that councillors on the planning committee were misled. Therefore in turn it is argued that the decision should be overturned. The letter invites the council to either revisit the original decision to allow the development or submit to a judicial review.

SSDC has been invited to respond by 2 November.

Stephen Bartlett, Chair of Mudford Parish Council explains “We hope that the Judicial Review will bring out into the open how crazyily this development has been managed by an inadequate planning department at the expense of the people of Mudford who have been ignored from the start. More than 750 houses built in a parish of 320 houses and in a rural economy. Where is the sense?”

Speaking to The Leveller® Independent Councillor Neil Bloomfield (who sits on the SSDC Regulation Committee) suggested “I for one wasn’t happy at the sloppy way the application was handled in the first place. Three committees, one of which seemed to have little to do with the site in the first place, all sitting at the same time. Building 800 houses into open countryside across swathes of farmland is not what local people want. This level of building is to satisfy an arbitrary and frankly stupid annual target not needed locally. Once we destroy the countryside it’s gone forever. I look forward to a legal challenge in the hope that sense will prevail.”

2 comments

  • Listen to the locals

    And this is supposed to be a Liberal and Democratic Council driven by Localism?

    Paddy Ashdown must be spinning in his grave.

    It comes to something when this Government wants to control housebuilding centrally and, despite an expansionary malgorithm to “build, build, build”, South Somerset Council are so inept that there housing needs numbers will go DOWN!

    Start up a crowd funding appeal and watch the money roll in for a judicial review.

  • I believe that the fault cannot be (entirely) placed at the feet of SSDC. Simon Fox’s leaked email to his workers following his resignation in July provided a good explanation. He said he was “having to referee a game nobody else seems to know the rules to”. Planners are expected to fill quotas on a spreadsheet which pays scant regard to the actual need. It’s up to communities to take make robust representations to the SSDC committees. I applaud Mudford Parish Council for their positive action in redressing what is clearly travesty. Here in Haselbury Plucknett we are fighting our own planning battle compounded by the fact the applicant is the vice chair of SCC, Mark Keating. His plan is to build 39 houses on a mainly greenfield site to pay off heavy debts. In our case too, the Officers Report was fundamentally flawed but was nevertheless defeated at Area West And Regulation Committee.Keating is expected to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate within the next four weeks. The “Protect Haselbury Group” which was formed to counter Keatings planning application has grown to represent almost 30% of the Haselbury community. Watching Mudford with great interest.

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