Proposed Submission Local Plan 2006-2028

5 Yeovil - Vision and Proposals

Spatial Portrait

5.1 As set out in the Settlement Strategy, Yeovil is by far the largest settlement in the district, and is the focus for employment, retail, services, and housing in South Somerset. Yeovil is located on the south eastern boundary of Somerset, adjacent to the Dorset border, and is surrounded by a large rural hinterland of smaller market towns and villages that extends across South Somerset and into northern Dorset. Taunton is the nearest larger settlement, around 28 miles away to the west. The map below shows travel to work areas in the Somerset area.

Figure 6: Travel to Work Areas in Somerset[1]

Figure 6 Travel to Work Areas

5.2 Yeovil is closely linked to the A303 trunk road that runs east-west through the district, and the key routes of the A30 and A37 run through the town. The town has two mainline railway stations, Yeovil Pen Mill on the Weymouth - Bristol line, and Yeovil Junction on the Exeter - London Waterloo line. Neither station is in an ideal location, with Pen Mill on the eastern edge of the town and Junction two miles to the south of the town, but there is a regular (half hourly) bus service from the stations to the town centre, and Pen Mill has good pedestrian and cycle links with the town centre via an off road path.

5.3 Yeovil is an historic town with evidence of pre-Roman settlement, steady medieval growth, and a local economy based on cloth and leather manufacturing (with gloving a speciality) that promoted modest expansion into the 19th century. Increased growth came in the 20th century, with aerospace and its associated engineering becoming the town's main industry, and rapid housing development over the last 40 years which has now taken Yeovil's population to around 43,959 people[2]. This residential growth has primarily spread north and west of the town centre, absorbing the small hamlets of Preston Plucknett and Alvington, and now extending to the edge of Lufton hamlet to the west and Brimsmore to the north. Development to the southeast has been limited due to a combination of the River Yeo’s flood plain, steep hills, and historic homes and estates.

5.4 Today, Yeovil plays a very significant economic role in the county,[3] and is the prime economic driver in South Somerset.  It is estimated that Yeovil generated £1.5bn of Gross Value Added in 2007.[4] Yeovil has nearly half of the jobs in the District, despite being home to just over a quarter of the population. Yeovil has a relatively high proportion of manufacturing jobs, and is one of the most important aerospace engineering areas in the country, with “AgustaWestland” particularly prominent, employing around 3,500 people.  There are also lots of jobs in health and social work, and retail in the town.  Yeovil is under represented however in private sector services such as banking and finance.  Prior to the late 2000’s recession, there was strong economic growth at Yeovil driven by an increase in jobs in the business and financial services sector that easily outstripped national and regional growth rates – economic forecasts suggest that Yeovil will be less severely affected by the economic slow down than other places, helped by the large manufacturing sector in the town which has proven more robust than other sectors. There is a requirement however to diversify the number of employees in the town.

5.5 Yeovil has a range of food and non-food shops, with numerous national multiple operators, and has four times the retail floor space of the next largest settlement in the District (Chard), although there are some empty shops in the town, evidence of the economic recession. The town has one of the highest levels of self-containment of any settlement in the region, with 75% of those living in Yeovil also working there.[5] However, there are also high levels of in-commuting with 1 in 3 workers in Yeovil travelling in to the town to work. Some of the key services and cultural activities in the town include Yeovil District Hospital, Yeovil College, the Octagon Theatre, and Yeovil Town Football Club. The town would benefit from greater provision of quality indoor sports and leisure facilities.

5.6 Some of the core town centre functions of Yeovil are currently located elsewhere in the town, which make trips to Yeovil more difficult than in a compact town centre where key functions are in one, walkable centre. For example, many offices (including the main District Council office) are now located outside the town centre, and neither of the towns' two train stations are within the town centre. The dispersal of some town centre functions, such as offices in the 'western business extension', is a further disaggregation of services and facilities.

5.7 The car currently dominates travel in the town, with 65% of Yeovil's residents driving to work. However two thirds of these trips are under 5km,[6] which is short enough to offer potential for these trips to be made on foot, bike or by bus. Key traffic routes across the town suffer from congestion at peak times, although it tends to disperse outside peak periods – the A30 Sherborne Road is the one location where congestion is visible for most of the day.[7] The A30 also acts as a barrier to pedestrian access to the town centre. As with most urban areas, traffic hotspots tend to be at the junctions. Road traffic is the prime cause of poor air quality in parts of Yeovil, which has led to the whole town being designated as an Air Quality Management Area. Although there are dedicated cycle routes around parts of Yeovil, much of this network is discontinuous meaning that it is difficult to cycle to key destinations across the town, particularly from northern parts of Yeovil.

5.8 Yeovil is located in an attractive rural setting, within a sensitive landscape defined by escarpments to both the north and south, which act to 'cradle' the town.[8] There is a particularly rich historic environment in close proximity to the town, including 5 registered Historic Parks and Gardens, 12 village Conservation Areas, numerous Grade I and II* Listed Buildings, and 9 Scheduled Ancient Monuments.[9] These offer important tourism opportunities. Other important natural assets include Best and Most Versatile agricultural land surrounding much of the town, several Local Wildlife Sites, European Protected Species (including dormice, bats, otters), and the River Yeo flood plain along the eastern edge of the town. The presence of Nine Springs Country Park just to the south of the town centre is one of Yeovil's key assets.

1. Source: Somerset Economic Assessment, 2011 [back]
2. 2010 urban area population estimates, ONS [back]
3. Somerset Economic Assessment, 2011 [back]
4. An Economic profile of Yeovil, Ekosgen 2010 [back]
5. A Functional Analysis of Settlements, SWRA, 2005 [back]
6. 2001 Census [back]
7. Yeovil Transport Strategy Review, 2006 [back]
8. Peripheral Landscape study of Yeovil, 2008 [back]
9. Yeovil Historic Environmental Assessment, 2010 [back]