South Somerset Local Plan Review 2016-2036 Preferred Options Consultation (Regulation 18)

Comment ID 1683
Document Section South Somerset Local Plan Review 2016-2036 Preferred Options Consultation (Regulation 18) Introduction Duty to Co-operate and Statements of Common Ground Text Block View all on this section
Respondent Hallam Land View all by this respondent
Agent Alder King (K Scholz)
Response Date 18 Sep 2019

The duty to co-operate is of particular importance, given the relatively tight SSDC boundary along the eastern edge of Yeovil. Accordingly, land to the east that might otherwise be considered for the expansion of Yeovil actually falls within Dorset Council (DC). Given the substantial employment opportunities in Yeovil, and the existing degree of in-commuting, it must be assumed that a substantial number of employees in Yeovil actually reside in Dorset Council to the east.

Indeed, this is evidenced by the Housing Market Areas and Functional Economic Market Areas in Somerset report (Sept 2015), which states the following:

  • Para 2.3 - Much of South Somerset and Dorset has essentially been defined as forming a sub-regional housing market, essentially centred on Yeovil.
  • Para 3.18 - South Somerset is almost entirely covered by the Yeovil commuting zone (96.3%), which also extends into northern parts of West Dorset

This is further supported by the Strategic Housing Market Assessment report (Oct 2016), which states:

  • Para 1.49 - A Yeovil-focused functional area [housing market geography] included much of South Somerset, and stretched into West Dorset.

On this basis, it is our contention that SSDC and DC should have a closer working relationship in the context of Yeovil in particular, to ensure that this sub-region is planned for effectively and appropriately. Accordingly, and covered in more detail below, SSDC should be reviewing its previous position on our client’s site on the eastern edge of Yeovil and continuing a pro-active dialogue with DC.

The merits of our client’s site are covered in more detail below. Notwithstanding, it is appropriate in the context of the duty to co-operate to suggest how this site, which for all intents and purposes essentially straddles both authority areas, could be handled in the context of the respective Local Plan reviews.

The site is not strictly within SSDC but there is potential to identify if for allocation through the SSDC Local Plan review, in the context of the duty to co-operate. This would be our preferred option as the DC Local Plan review has now been set back by the formation of the new Dorset Council. The DC Local Plan is now not expected to be adopted until Spring 2023, as per its recently produced Local Development Scheme.

To take this suggestion forward, SSDC could consider the inclusion of a specific policy covering the site, which clearly sets out that its allocation is favourable and would be supported in the context of the subsequent DC Local Plan review. Such a site-specific policy could be set out as follows:

Main text - Land at Babylon Hill – the Land at Babylon Hill site is provisionally allocated for residential development to provide the following:

  • About 450 dwellings (over 1-2 phases), including 28% affordable housing;
  • Children’s formal and informal play space;
  • Public Open space;
  • A landscape buffer along the southern edge of the site

Supporting text – The site is provisionally allocated for residential development in its context of being well-related to Yeovil and appropriate for development. SSDC will engage with DC as part of its subsequent Local Plan review to ensure that the site is formally allocated in DC’s plan. The proposed apportionment of housing numbers between SSDC and DC will be agreed and all matters of necessary infrastructure provision (i.e. highway improvements, enhanced link to the Pen Mill Station, education facilities, community facilities etc.) will be reviewed and co-ordinated.

Land at Babylon Hill

Our client’s site is available and deliverable and should be included as a cross-boundary allocation between SSDC and Dorset Council. The site is located on the edge of Yeovil and within circa 5km from Sherborne to the east. Given the site’s proximity to both settlements, an agreement as proposed above should be reached between both SSDC and DC to jointly allocate the site. Such an allocation is achievable and indeed an entirely reasonable prospect under the ‘duty to co-operate’.

Capacity – preliminary masterplanning has indicated that the site would be capable of providing circa 450 no. dwellings, at an overall density of 34 dwellings/ha, along with the provision of a significant area of open space, in the form of a country park along the River Yeo on the western portion of the site. It could also provide land for a new primary school if required.

Delivery – The delivery of the site could be phased, within an initial scheme of circa 250 no. dwellings being developed within the next five years. Accordingly, this site could clearly benefit the respective Councils’ housing land supplies in the short term.

Flood risk – most of the western portion of the site is located within the flood plan (flood zones 2 and 3) but the majority of the site is located within flood zone 1 and thus entirely acceptable for residential development.

Transport – The potential entrance to the site is located circa 2.5km from the middle of town centre, and is thus within feasible walking and cycling distance. It also lies along the main transport corridor into Yeovil (A30) which would allow for the site to be served by regular public transport, and achieve relatively short travel times into the majority of Yeovil. From a brief review there are a number of existing bus services along this corridor (58, 58A, X10, X11). Furthermore, the potential site entrance is circa 1km from the Yeovil Pen Mill station, which provides services between Bristol and Weymouth.

Heritage – the consultation document makes reference to ‘historic homes and estates’ to the south east of Yeovil. These heritage assets are noted (Newton Surmaville Park and Garden Grade: II [Located to the SW]; Barwick Park Park and Garden Grade: II* [Located to the SW] and 2 no. Roman Scheduled Monuments [located to the SE]) their location and context is such that their setting would not be affected by the development of the site in question.

Landscape – The site is open agricultural land but is to a great extent visually contained due to local topography and significant vegetation along the northern and southern boundaries of the site. Accordingly, it is not considered that the site levels or wider views or the site would result in problematic landscape impact.

Ecology and Trees – the site is in existing agricultural use and it thus not considered to be overly constrained in either respect.

In summary, it is our contention that the Land at Babylon Hill site should be identified for residential development in the SSDC Local Plan and brought forward for a formal allocation through working with DC via the Duty to Co-operate.