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£2,702,000 Wasted So Far and Counting

Friday 16 August 2013, 11:55
By Nick Colbert

A plot of commerical land up for sale/let, with the New Barns residential development in the background

Liberal Democrat run South Somerset District Council has spent £2.702 million preparing their "Local Plan", only to find Inspector David Hoggar ruled the plan unsound on multiple grounds.

The Local Plan is a forward plan the government requires every District Council to produce, setting out the housing, industrial workspace, and infrastructure plans, health and education needed to develop the area up until 2028. In other words, an integrated plan to allow an area to grow sensibly.

The obligation is on the council to show that they have produced a robust plan based on sound evidence rather than a wish list or decisions based on political grounds. It is this that South Somerset District Council has failed to do.

The three options suggested by the Inspector were as follows, with the council's assessments beneath:

  1. Continue with the unsound plan.
    Not a viable option as it would be found unsound. The time and cost implications of this would be starting the process again which would take another three to five years. The estimated additional cost would be between £1,807,000 and £2,565,000.
  2. Withdraw the unsound plan.
    Not appropriate as it would mean starting the process again with a delay of three to five years. The estimated additional cost of this would be between £1,694,000 and £2,452,000.
  3. Suspend the examination.
    The time implications would be a delay of around six to eight months to undertake the work identified, with an estimated additional cost of £355,000 plus a further cost of £152,000 until the consultation process.

The council have decided to go for option three; however the inspector found the plan so wanting his preferred option was for the council to start again from scratch. There is a danger, as indicated by the inspector, that "tinkering" with the existing plan will still fail.

The Liberal Democrats have had since 2008 to sort this out so serious questions need to be asked as to how and why they have created such a mess and cost the South Somerset people so much money with no satisfactory result. Have any officers been disciplined for this astonishing waste of so much public money and if not is it because they had to follow directions from the ruling party?

Part of the Bennetts Field Trading Estate in Wincanton

In Wincanton we got the reduction in new housing we wanted on the basis our development had been front-loaded (i.e. we have had ours over the last six years), but although the plan allowed for a supposed five additional hectares of industrial land to provide more jobs in the town, in reality the council had identified none. The inspector agreed this was unsatisfactory and it was one of his reasons for finding their plan unsound.

The land shown in the photograph at the top is the tail end of the industrial park and owned by Abbey Manor Group, the developers who built the social housing behind. One potential employer looking at Wincanton walked away from the town when he was told the only employment land available was £250,000 per acre. Consequently that employer and his 70+ jobs went back to Mendip.

Wincanton has had in excess of 700 new houses built without any reasonably priced additional employment land coming to the market. The District Council needs to address this imbalance so that the residents of our town and their teenage children can enjoy well paid employment without having to travel elsewhere.

The really frustrating thing is the Conservative group had identified the plans failings and warned the Liberal Democrats of the unsoundness of their "Local Plan" many times; indeed as I said in the Council Chamber at a Full Council Meeting on 17th January 2013:

"We have told you time and time again but you are being arrogant, when the inspector rules this local Plan unsound do not say we didn't tell you."

Now, sadly, that has all come to pass and the people of South Somerset are being left to pick up a very large bill that will continue to grow.


Posts: 1
Town Council campaign to tidy up Wincanton
Reply #1 on : Fri August 16, 2013, 17:32:56
Having a rant about the Local Plan is all well and good, Nick, but top of the Town Council's agenda, as well as that of many local residents, is the deplorable state of far too much of our town, blighted by so many "eyesore sites" (see the lead story in this week's Western Gazette). Are you going to get behind the joint SSDC/Town Council campaign to get something down about them?
Nick Colbert
Posts: 3
Re: £2,702,000 Wasted So Far and Counting
Reply #2 on : Sat August 17, 2013, 10:32:05
I already have Nigel, In fact I have been on the case from the early days, unlike some. I have opened some doors for communication to try and get some of the "eyesores" sorted out. Over 9 months ago I set up a meeting with the owner of the Green Dragon and the District Council, which I also attended to try and get the building cleaned up. However the simple fact is the vast majority of the eyesores are not enforceable issues by either council, only a few are. With the vast majority asking nicely is the only way of getting results, sadly asking nicely doesn't always work.

Do not try and trivialise the mess that the Liberal democrats have made of the local plan, it has and will not only continue to waste massive sums of public money but has many other unfortunate ramifications for local residents. Without a local plan many have said it will be a field day for developers as the presumption in planning will be in favour of development as no plan is or will be in place for the forceable future. There is still no employment land allocated to provide employment for the residents of the 704 new houses built. The primary school is full to bursting and no provision for expansion yet (not a District Council problem but nevertheless one I have been trying to push forward).

The fact is much more public money will be wasted sorting this mess out, trying to deflect the publics attention away from this by raising a non related issue is helping no one. Both issues need to be addressed but the Local Plan costs and problems have been caused by the Liberal Democrats themselves.
Last Edit: August 17, 2013, 10:37:53 by Nick Colbert  
Nick Colbert
Posts: 3
Reply #3 on : Tue August 20, 2013, 22:48:55
This is the Distrust council that ru(i)ns everything in our area, doesn't anyone think they are worth defending?
Last Edit: August 20, 2013, 23:13:58 by Nick Colbert  
Posts: 1
More comments
Reply #4 on : Wed August 21, 2013, 05:41:20
Hi Nick. Mosey on over to our Facebook page, where your article generated a few other comments. Not a huge amount of defence for SSDC, though!
Posts: 1
A comment from Cllr. Colin Winder
Reply #5 on : Wed August 21, 2013, 12:52:39
I have been asked to post this comment on behalf of Colin Winder:


I have to take issue with Nigel, the problems of "Eyesores", Signs, Road Works, etc are an everyday problem of the council. We as councillors work with the Town Clerk to get the best result we can for Wincanton. All of which takes time and effort, but the Local Plan (Formally the Core Strategy) is a much more serious problem which effects all of South Somerset.

The Inspectors Report cast doubt on several areas of the plan, and three areas had direct reference to the future of Wincanton.

1. The direction of future development in Wincanton had to be defined in accordance with government guidelines.

2. The amount of employment land required for the future of Wincanton, was not supported by proper evidence in the SSDC submission, despite the information given to them during the Core Strategy consultation.

3. The level of housing to be provided in Wincanton during the plan period. Despite the over supply of planning approvals, well in excess of the figures for a sustainable community.

All of the above were in the view of the Inspector, "Main Modifications" which would require full consultation for the Local Plan to be acceptable.

Which brings me to the real problem, the Town Council held an open meeting last week to discuss those items which effect the future of our town. The interest shown by the vast number of residents make you wonder if in fact you are wasting your time. Can some of you please prove me wrong and reply to these comments.

Colin Winder
Posts: 1
Response to Colin Winder!
Reply #6 on : Sun March 29, 2015, 09:25:45
Colin, I don't disagree with a lot that you and Nick Colbert say about housing issues affecting Wincanton. But there are a few points I would like to add to the issue above. Firstly, the people of Wincanton have become fed up with the political chess game played out the Tories and the Controlling LibDems running the S.S.D.C. It seems that the Town council makes recommendations especially on new Housing developments only to be over turned by the LibDems or the Housing inspector after the normal appeal is lodged. The 'Local Plan' which is being attacked by yourself and Nick Colbert may be flawed but you Tories voted for the 'Plan' to be on the statue book! Yes, I know about your arguments that Wincanton has no safeguards about as you see it excessive over development. But hold on a moment, Who's running the Government? Your Party in Coalition with the LibDems, even Cameron has confirmed that a future Conservative Government will match Labour's 200,000 new house starts, they need to be built somewhere! There was a mass rally in Central London recently in SUPPORT of more new house building at affordable prices. One thing none of your parties will admit too is the problem of mass immigration into this country especially from E.U. Eastern European countries, Polish voices are as common as English around Wincanton these days, these people are taking up the rented sector in particular in the Town as there is a growing shortage of suitable homes for rent. As a footnote UKIP will introduce a binding local Planning agreement on all major Housing developments via a referendum that way the voters have the final word.
Nick Colbert
Posts: 3
Uncontrolled immigration
Reply #7 on : Thu April 02, 2015, 08:56:08
I have pointed out many, many times that since the EU forced the removal of our border controls on us (with no say by the British public) our net population has increased by 5,000,000 which is unsustainable, we need to regain control of our borders which can only be achieved by leaving the EU. If similar thinking people can achieve a majority following the EU referendum in the next Parliament that could happen but only if the Conservatives are elected with an overall majority in May. Labour (the only other party which can achieve a majority) has made it clear they will NOT allow a referendum on our EU membership.

5,000,000 net increase in our population means, at 2.1 people per household, we need an extra 2,380,952 homes to house them which is why there are demands for housing to be built all over our country, and why our infrastructure (A&E, schools roads etc) is at breaking point. For every 1 million extra that relocate here it means another 476,190 homes have to be built, the only way we can regain control of this unsustainable increase in our population is to regain control of our borders which as Mrs Merkel has made clear can only be achieved by our leaving the EU.
Last Edit: April 02, 2015, 08:58:08 by Nick Colbert  

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