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Dancing Lane Developments & the Impact on Wincanton Community Hospital

Saturday 11 July 2015, 18:45
By John Smith

The appealed development land behind Wincanton Community Hospital

A couple of months ago, after an earlier planning application rejection, Hopkins Developments of Wincanton won their appeal allowing the development of their site on Bayford Hill, despite strong local opposition.

Following that success they are now appealing for permission to build up to 55 dwellings in the field behind Wincanton Community Hospital. The original planning application came to Town Council back in April 2014, where it was rejected. District Council upheld that objection.

The applicant took the matter to appeal, where the Planning Inspectorate rejected the appeal on the basis that the site was not sustainable. The Planning Inspectorate is a Government body whose work includes processing planning and enforcement appeals; holding examinations into local plans and community infrastructure levy charging schedules.

The appeal was then taken to the next level with a Judicial Review, where the Inspectorate's rejection was overturned. The Planning Inspectorate then successfully challenged the Judicial Review in the High Court. The High Court then referred the case back to the lower court recommending that other issues should also be taken into consideration. Surprisingly, at this late stage the developer withdrew the application.

However, Hopkins Developments then submitted a new planning application for the site which went through the normal Town and District planning process, with one unusual turn of events. The planning process states that applications should be determined (passed or rejected) within a prescribed period of time, 8 weeks for minor, and 13 weeks for major applications. Because of ongoing enquiries the 13 week deadline was not met, and the application was therefore declared "undetermined". It had neither been passed nor rejected.

Wincanton Community Hospital

That left Hopkins Developments with one of two options. They could leave well alone and allow the District Council Planning Department to continue the process to conclusion, or they could lodge an appeal with The Planning Inspectorate on the basis of "Non Determination". The appeal was lodged.

On 14th July District Council will base their case for rejection on the following points.

  1. Site sustainability.
  2. Loss of agricultural land.
  3. The access would not be safe enough for those using the hospital.
  4. Dancing Lane is not fit to handle the expected increase in traffic flow.
  5. The visual outlook for staff and patients at the hospital will be impaired.

This site has been controversial from day one. Questions have been raised about the viability of the site access, and whether Dancing Lane can cope with the increased traffic levels. The appellant hopes to overcome these issues with the provision of open space, improvements to the existing access, and relocation of the current Hospital car parking facilities.

How will this affect current improvement programmes at the Hospital? The Friends of Wincanton Community Hospital are in the process of a £50,000 garden improvement programme. Will the developer's proposals mean that part of the hospital gardens will have to be given over to car parking space?

Wincanton Community Hospital Dancing Lane entrance

Complicating the matter, an appeal by former Town Councillor Tim Adams to build 25 dwellings on his site to the west of Dancing Lane has been approved by the Planning Inspectorate. At the appeal the Inspector refused to take into account the possible 55 dwellings on the hospital site because that outcome was still to be decided. How will the success of this appeal affect Hopkins' chance of winning theirs?

To date, two major development sites, Bayford Hill and Dancing Lane, have been approved at appeal, leaving only the Hospital and Windmill Hill sites to be determined. How does all of this affect the new Neighbourhood Plan, currently under development? This plan, in compliance with the District Council Local Plan, should dictate the future residential and commercial development of the town.

The public appeal (anyone can attend) will be based in the meeting room at the South Somerset District Council offices at Churchfields, Wincanton, starting on Tuesday 14th July at 10.00am. It’s estimated that the appeal could last up to four days to allow enough time for supporters and objectors to put their cases.

Wincanton Community Hospital car park entrance

A view of the development site from inside Wincanton Community Hospital

Another view of the development site from inside Wincanton Community Hospital


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