Council sells more land near Martock

The Leveller® understands (well it was posted on Facebook) that Somerset County Council is selling more land. The land in question was once part of the county farms holding. Last year (2020) SCC approved the sale of land on the edge of Ash Parish for a Special Needs Academy. That building is planning to open in 2023. However as SCC is responsible for schools provision in Somerset, that sale is a bit circular. It is almost (but not quite) as if SCC were selling the land to itself.

This time we understand a commercial sale is envisaged. Which raises a significant public interest. After all it is barely a year since Crown Estates were accused of selling land under similar circumstances. The land at Orchard Portman was sold without any uplift provision in the event that it would be developed.

SCC, we understand, rejected bids from farmers to buy the land at agricultural land prices. As the land is right next to the A303 there will be serious questions to answer. Why is land in open countryside being sold for development? It is not immediately clear what sort of development. However whether it is industrial or housing, it does not alter the principle.

Will an appropriate uplift be sought for the land? Planning permission has not yet been sought from South Somerset District Council. So any land sale at this point should, to maximise return, be sold with an uplift clause. This would ensure that in the event of development being approved, the sale price is uplifted accordingly.

This is especially important as SCC will be losing rental income which it currently receives on the farmland.

And how exactly does selling a greenfield site for development sit with SCC’s declared climate emergency? This should have been considered under risks and implications. Our money is on the fact that it wasn’t. That would of course be a major oversight. We’d love to know one way or another but guess what?

Needless to say all the salient details are being hidden from the public. We understand the decision has already been made. Yet no papers have been published for the public, even with redactions.

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