Document Section Proposed Submission Local Plan 2006-2028 Yeovil - Vision and Proposals What should the Local Plan deliver? Yeovil Sustainable Urban Extension Future Masterplanning Future Masterplanning and Policy YV2 [View all comments on this section]
Comment ID 2440
Respondent MStorey [View all comments by this respondent]
Response Date 15 Aug 2012
Response Type OBJECT


I write with strong objection to the proposals within the submission Local Plan for South Somerset for development of an 'urban extension' within the civil parish of East Coker.

I am gravely concerned that the very significant heritage assets in the area of East Coker, their setting ad the appreciation of them will be irreparably and detrimentally harmed by the proposals.  The whole landscape of East Coker is a unique asset of great national and international heritage importance, in addition to its critical function as the setting and context for Grade 1, Grade 2* and Grade 2 designated buildings and Scheduled Ancient Monuments which are highly significant and must be protected.  It is a coherent, multi-layered and intricate fabric, rich in historical, archaeological, architectural and literary features.

I believe South Somerset District Council has not properly understood, assessed or accounted for the heritage of the East Coker area, and it cannot therefore have properly known or judged what harm would occur as a consequence of the proposals.

I do not believe that the harm that would be done by a large scale 'urban extension' or plan for such within the civil parish of East Coker could be mitigated sufficiently so as not to cause unacceptable effects on the heritage assets, their setting and the appreciation of them.

I do not believe that a clear and convincing case has been made why harm to these assets should be caused, now or in the future.

I believe the proposals do not comply with the UK national policy with regard to heritage, landscape and agricultural land considerations as required by the National Planning Policy Framework, or with the law and regulations as regards consideration of consequential effects.  I do not believe the policy for an urban extension in East Coker is sound or compliant with the law.

I would not seek to prevent organic, gradual and sensitive development of the area such as has been occurring for thousands of years, however, the extreme sensitivity of this particular area must be respected. I recommend that a policy protecting the entire landscape within East Coker civil parish from large scale development be adopted and that the policy proposing an urban extension within the civil parish of East Coker be deleted.

The heritage environment of East Coker is unique and uniquely inspiring and it cannot be overstated that its power as a heritage asset, as long as it is not desecrated, will last as long as the English language because of its particular significance to the poet T S Eliot, who is internationally regarded as one of the most important literary figures in English language and literature.

Eliot not only chose to be part of this place physically by having his ashes interred here, he transformed the place into a literary symbol in the English language of what is important and worth fighting for.  He did this by writing this particular English landscape into international consciousness at the beginning of the Second World War when his vision of English history, culture and tradition was under threat.  As an American, writing before America had entered the war, this was particularly significant.  Eliot himself regarded his poem East Coker as part of his personal war effort and East Coker is now emblematic of the search for meaning and inspiration in a world where our temporal powers are failing or under threat.

East Coker is a place of pilgrimage for us who wish to see Eliot's inspiration, and the tranquil resting place he chose for himself, for ourselves.  We like to visit St Michael's Church where Eliot is interred and contemplate his demonstration of the cycle of life by returning to the place from which his ancestors emigrated to America.  We like to imagine what it meant to Eliot to be interred near the memorial to William Dampier, the great explorer and observer of the temporal world, to whom Eliot alludes in the poem (the 'petrel and the porpoise' in Eliot's poem are words Dampier brought into the English language), who grew up farming in the fields of the area and noticing the differences in soil and plant life and recording them, and ended up inspiring great literary, scientific and historical heroes such as Defoe, Swift, Coleridge, Darwin, Banks and Cook.

We like to walk in the church yard and contemplate old grave stones and the vision of England laid out in the valley below, up to the distant hills, which inspired Eliot's earthy concept of history and humans in the landscape.  We like to discover the 15th Century buildings and weathered statues that inspired him with the metaphor in the poem of the struggles for succession of the 'houses' of Lancaster and York in the Wars of the Roses, and their preservation and mutability.  We wish to experience East Coker in the tranquillity ("if you do not come too close, if you do not come too close") which inspired him to produce perhaps his finest poem of energetic metaphysical contemplation.

We like to walk in the whole parish day or night through tranquil fields, moors and ridges and sandy shuttered lanes, and discover the flowers and plants and vistas, and old buildings and stones whose stories need to be deciphered and protagonists uncovered, and the stars above in the dark night, as they would have inspired Eliot and Dampier coming upon them.  We like to imagine and search for the ancestors and the places where they danced and laughed and married, which Eliot mentions in the poem, and we like to do this physically by exploring this landscape ourselves.

By doing this we become conscious that everywhere in East Coker if we dig, if we notice, if we prod at any discovery, there are connections and layers ready for new generations to explore and find meaning in.  And we realise that this is exactly Eliot's vision of England, and the world, and us in the cycle of life, and that our culture and places and history are important.  And we realise why East Coker was important to Eliot and why Eliot, his poem East Coker, and the physical place East Coker are important to us now.

These experiences must be available to future generations, and will be lost if the short sighted policy proposed by South Somerset District Council is allowed.