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Council Outrage at Dancing Lane Appeal Success

Monday 13 July 2015, 12:46
By John Smith

The track leading to the successfully appealed plot on Dancing Lane

With the Verrington development appeal imminent, residents of Wincanton are in shock because Planning Inspectorate Chairman has decided to allow up to 25 dwellings on the Dancing Lane site. This site is only a few hundred yards from the Verrington site, which is the subject of a current planning appeal by Hopkins developments.

Questions are already being raised about the high success rate being achieved by recent local planning appeals. Local resident Chuck Downton from Dancing Lane shared the concerns that the local community has about the integrity of the Planning Inspectorate in such matters, believing that they are unduly influenced by the Government’s push to increase the housing supply.

The Town Council, also angered by this result, has sent a written request to District Council asking them to petition the Minister of State to re-assess this decision, and if needed, challenge it in the High Court. Read the full statement below.

Wincanton Town Council is appalled at the appeal decision (2224654) and find the reasons for the approval unacceptable. The report fails to give due consideration to the following legal documents.

  • The Town and Country Planning Act 1990
  • The Localism Act
  • The National Planning Policy Framework
  • South Somerset Local Plan 2006 - 2028
  • Wincanton Peoples Plan 2006 - 2026
  • The emerging Wincanton Neighbourhood Plan public consultations

The Town Council therefore requests that South Somerset District Council, as the planning authority for Wincanton, make representation to the Minister of State to have the appeal decision called in and reassessed, or proceed with a legal challenge in the High Court. The Town Council’s preliminary reasons are set out below.

A view of Wincanton Racecourse from the Dancing Lane plot

The question of the five year land supply to deliver housing. The local plan sets out the minimum housing levels over the plan period for all the market towns. Wincanton has provided with planning approvals the numbers specified, and has already exceeded those minimum figures by over sixty dwellings. It is therefore unacceptable to suggest that if other towns are not yet in a position to meet their commitments, then building should increase in Wincanton. This would not be in accordance with the local plan, and would be social engineering of the worst kind.

This application was dealt with as a major planning application of more than ten houses. That decision was not disputed by either the appellant or the inspector. It is therefore not acceptable that the designation should be changed to a permissive development (Dealing with small sites and minimum numbers) at the whim of the appellant. It is quite clear in the approved local plan that the district council have three years to put in place a policy to address the balance of housing and employment land, covering future developments. These anomalies were not addressed by the inspector.

The appellant produced a drawing showing the direction of growth to the North of Dancing Lane. This was in fact part of a draft Core Strategy distributed for comment, which was rejected by Wincanton town council and the district council, both in housing numbers proposed, and the direction of growth. Had the inspector studied the local plan as he maintained, he would have examined the map for Wincanton. This would have shown him that the agreed direction of growth was in fact to the east west of the town between the A371 and West Hill. The plan presented was misleading, incorrect information, and a waste of time as it was not relevant to the planning application.

The site includes grade 1 agricultural land. Grade 1 is the best and most productive land, but this application makes no provision for the retention of this within agriculture. The inspector’s approval suggests that this will remain untouched, but the facts are that this land will deteriorate in to scrub and no longer fit for agriculture. The overall plan for the site should have included provision for this area to be cultivated.

The failure of the appellant to address the transport problems indicated in the planning committee report in his submission has been ignored by the inspector. A traffic survey that starts after most of the work force are already at work would seem to be clearly defective. The provision of public transport based on the education system was not addressed, and the inclusion of train times at Castle Cary without bus connections was irrelevant.

Wincanton Town Hall and Community Office

The inspector agrees that the development will have a detrimental effect on Verrington Lodge, the listed building, as was pointed out by the planning committee, but feels that the need for housing outweigh this. The fact that Wincanton has an excess of housing on other sites in the town this should therefore have negated this decision.

The inspector preferred the estimated distances to facilities provided by the appellant, taken from an indicative layout, through two hedges and a bungalow followed by a drawn route over a double bend in the access road and through a wooded island to any accurate and checkable dimensions on roads and pavements.

The problem of flooding in South Somerset is very real, and this site is no exception. The history of flooding on the site is well documented and as usual the problems occur lower down the slope in Verrington Lane. Those residents have every right to be concerned about the increased prospect of storm water runoff. The inspector’s comments were not reassuring to those property owners.

The inspector appears to be introducing a new policy in to the accessibility of the site by walkers, in that he suggests the young and fit would have no difficulty with steep slopes. We would point out that according to the census 30% of the population fall into the 20 to 45 age group. This leaves the 55% over 45 year olds rejected and disadvantaged. We would also like to point out that of the 20 to 45 year olds, half will be female. These are the very group who are most likely to have the problems of children, prams, and shopping. The inspector has clearly misdirected himself.

The inspector has repeated the incorrect statement on acceptable walking distances in that the maximum recommended distance to shops is 800m and therefore this site is well outside that distance.

The town council is unable to see how it can proceed with a Neighbourhood Plan for Wincanton, based on consultation with the local population, if the Inspectorate is proposing to label all future applications for housing of whatever size as “permissive”. As previously stated, the provision of a balanced future development proposal covering the plan period will be impossible to establish.


Posts: 1
Dancing Lane Appeal
Reply #1 on : Mon July 13, 2015, 13:25:55
I would just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who worked tirelessly attending meetings and writing letters on behalf of the Dancing Lane Planning Appeal, particularly Chuck.
Although it has been passed, it's far better to have done something rather than nothing at all, and many people should take credit for that.
I live with my family, next door to the bungalow to be demolished and know there is huge unheavel to come, particularly if the proposed road system is built to plan.
I have no idea why the road system to this new propsed estate has been passed...there are so many issues.
Maybe someone knows something we dont, and the Verrington site (if passed) and Dancing Lane site will be linked?
I have nothing against planning or building new houses but I strongly believe the location should be right.

Thank you all once again

Sara Slocombe
Colin Winder
Posts: 1
Re: Council Outrage at Dancing Lane Appeal Success
Reply #2 on : Mon July 13, 2015, 18:22:25
An error in the statement.
The direction of growth was always to the West. The proof reading was not so good.
Colin winder

Posts: 1
Re: Council Outrage at Dancing Lane Appeal Success
Reply #3 on : Mon July 13, 2015, 18:30:50
Typo amended Colin. Thanks for pointing it out.
Nick Colbert
Posts: 1
Poor inspector
Reply #4 on : Fri July 17, 2015, 12:26:55
I sincerely hope this can be overturned, if you read the inspectors report as to why he passed this he made so many errors, it almost appears the result had been predetermined.

He even awarded costs to the appellant because we said one reason for refusal was that the land within the development site was Grade 1 and 3a, both of which are stated in the "National Planning Policy Framework" as to be avoided for development where lower quality land is available.

Lower quality land is available around Wincanton so how this can be an unjustifiable reason for refusal is beyond me, it is frankly nonsense and makes you realise there is such unfair weight given to developers at the moment that "Localism" has become a sad joke.

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