Bridgwater development passed on Chair’s casting vote

The Development Committee of Sedgemoor District Council (SDC) heard a major planning application for Bridgwater this morning. The application is for land at Folletts Farm between the south eastern edge of Bridgwater and the M5. The application has been reduced from 560 homes to 530.

It had already been deferred from November meeting of the Committee as the information was incomplete. This largely related to traffic and highways matters, NHS capacity and air quality and noise issues.

It would be fair to say the application is not one that has been well received by the local community. The application was objected to by Bridgwater-without Parish Council, the Ward Members and the adjoining council, Bridgwater Town Council.

The day before the meeting the Committee received a petition containing 600 signatures objecting to the plan. It claimed that the number of homes in the Local Plan for this area would have been exceeded if this application was agreed. The petitioners note that infrastructure in Bridgwater could not support this many houses.

The planners disagreed. They acknowledge that the extra housing will cause traffic problems, both once built and during the construction. However if the application was approved, the council would seek £883,445 from the developer to improve the transport network. Issues over air quality and noise they claim, can be mitigated. This despite the fact the site is next to the M5. Astonishingly the NHS had not offered any objections. It was expected they would object on grounds that the local NHS capacity would be overwhelmed because of the new housing.

Overall the planning officer, Adrian Noon, recommended approval of the plans.

One other significant matter of note was the developer refusing to agree to build 30% affordable housing. They claim that it would be uneconomic to build that many and offered instead just 10%. That remains controversial in a town was an acknowledged need for affordable housing. And SDC’s planning policy seeks 30% on all developments.

Cllr Liz Brown for Bridgwater Without criticised the impact of the scheme on local NHS. She asked the planners who exactly had said that the NHS didn’t have capacity issues resulting from the new development. She did not receive a response.

Tim Mander from Bridgwater Town Council (BTC) pointed out the development would not be sustainable. The site has no public transport connections and noted the impact on traffic in the area. BTC were also especially critical of the lack of affordable housing.

Ward Cllr Rodriguez offered two grounds for rejection. He claimed the site was overdeveloped. He also noted the requirement of SDC’s Local Plan was for 30% affordable houses in development. SDC’s own officers had, he said, agreed that 20% affordable housing was viable. He pointed out 3,000 people in Bridgwater are waiting for housing. Why he asked, get officers to look at an issue if their opinions are ignored?

The debate that followed was hard to control. Clearly passions were running high. Eventually the Chair, Cllr Bob Filmer called for a proposal. Cllr Betty proposed the plans be rejected. What followed was astonishing. The Chair having called for a proposal, didn’t encourage a vote. Instead he kept bringing officers in to challenge the logic of the proposal. So more officers were invited to contribute. Councillors arguments were whittled down by the officers.

Eventually and reluctantly the Chair called a vote on the proposal to object. It was lost with 5 votes for refusal 6 against.

Cllr Hendry then proposed the application was approved. That was even closer, 5 votes each with one abstention. That left Cllr Bob Filmer from the Chair gave his casting vote in favour. So the application was approved.

Cllr Liz Brown told us: “There has been tremendous strength of feeling against this development and there has been poor public consultation considering the scale of this major application and its impacts.” What is clear is that many will be disappointed with the outcome today.


  • What is the point of having requirements that aren’t going to be enforced.

    Too many “public servants” are in thrall to developers. Consultations are simply a box ticking exercise as the views of local people simply don’t matter to them.

    • Big problem is all areas of Bridgwater is growing rapidly with houses going up all around Bridgwater but no expanding to drs surgery’s with the ones we got that’s nowhere big enough, and when hinckley point has finished building there will be thousand out of a job

  • And there was me thinking South Somerset District Council had lost the plot, and up pops Sedgemore to prove that just when you think it can’t get any worse…. it does.
    Clearly (and again) goes to prove that too many Councillors are in the pockets of developers, if these ‘elected’ people are going against the will/wishes of the electorate.


    A proposal was put forward and a seconded but the chairman decided he would not let that go to the committee and started to water it down until he got what he wanted and the spineless councillors went with him. Again money talks and to hell with the local people an utter disgrace.

  • I don’t understand how the developer can claim the Council’s requirement for at least 30% of the housing to be affordable is not financially viable. Its in the local plan. Did they not take this into account when agreeing a purchase price for the land? Otherwise a housing corporation could have bought the site and made the houses 100% affordable.

  • Strong feelings were put forward on the day, the developers followed all the correct procedures and complied with policy. I believe this to be the right decision, we need houses for the future, and unfortunately more has to be built to release funds for services and provide homes.unfortunately some Nimby ism is to blame in this case but overall we need homes for the future.

    • Schools are full, health services are creaking. Hundreds upon hundreds of homes are being built with inadequate supporting infrastructure. That’s got nothing to do with NIMBYism.

      One thing I don’t blame the developers for is the reduced number of affordable homes. They want to make as big a profit as possible so why would they voluntarily choose to build affordable housing? Responsibility for that lies squarely at the feet of the councillors who for some reason won’t apply their own rules.

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