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Town Council Calls Extraordinary Meeting over SSDC Planning Decision

Wednesday 21 January 2015, 21:37
By John Smith

The Dolphin Hotel, Wincanton

Wincanton Town Council called an Extraordinary Meeting on 15th December to discuss concerns about South Somerset District Council’s decision to allow temporary access to the rear of The Dolphin Hotel from the Memorial Car Park.

Town Council stated that work has already been carried out on the premises including the rear wall, to the best of their knowledge with no applications to SSDC planning or the Listed Buildings Authority.

Deputy Leader of SSDC, Tim Carroll, said that the issue started when an SSDC barrier between the Hotel and the car park was removed. He confirmed that Chief Executive Mark Williams took the executive decision not to have the barrier re-instated. Town Councillor Howard Ellard said that he couldn’t understand how an unelected, paid employee of SSDC was allowed to take such a decision without reference to the elected members.

Granting a rear access seems straightforward and practical. It would enhance both the hotel and the commercial value of the site. However, the Hotel has an established planning history. SSDC records reveal that:

  • On 21st March 1995 an application was made by the owner of the Dolphin Hotel for a rear access to the Hotel. The application was accepted with conditions. Work should be started within 5 years. From that date SSDC entered into discussions with the then owner regarding payment of an easement fee. When discussions failed to resolve the matter, a barrier was erected across the rear access by SSDC, and this remained in place until recently.
  • On 14th September 2004 an application was submitted for the construction of 12 apartments. This was rejected.
  • On 6th July 2005 the application went to appeal, but was rejected.
  • On 21st March 2006 an application was submitted to build 10 dwellings. This application was passed.

Further applications were submitted for this site:

  • 18th August 2006 – The erection of 12 dwellings – Refused
  • 26th June 2008 – The erection of 11 dwellings - Refused

Work on the successful application was not started within the three year period, so lapsed. However a representative of SSDC stated that unless planning regulations have changed materially, a fresh application would be recommended for approval based on the 1995 approval.

Wincanton Town Hall

Far from providing answers, this current situation raises more questions.

  • Does the owner of The Dolphin simply want a rear entrance to enhance the Hotel access for guests?
  • Will the owners of The Dolphin be asked to pay an easement fee to allow access over the car park that is owned by SSDC? Other developments around the edge of the car park have had to pay easement fees.
  • If a rear access is given, will the owners of The Dolphin then re-apply for permission to build 10 dwellings? A successful application would cause the value of the site to explode.
  • Would any rear entrance mean losing some existing parking spaces? This would affect the “parking Compensation Package” with SSDC.
  • If any negotiated easement fee was seen to be less than charged to other developments around the car park, would this lead to request for rebates from earlier developers?

The recent action to remove the barrier brought the issue back to centre stage. The passage of time has made this issue more complicated, with far-reaching ramifications, and the Town Council feels that the matter should have been fully discussed/debated by the governing elected body, and that they should have been in this discussion because of their material interest in the car parking compensation package.

At the very least, they feel the District Council’s promise to involve the Town Council in all discussions involving Wincanton car parks has been broken.

So when taking this executive decision onto his own shoulders, did Chief Executive Mark Williams consider any of this information and the possible ramifications? Did he break any rules? Has he stepped over a line?

After in-depth discussions the Town Council voted unanimously to call Mr Williams and Council Leader Ric Pallister to attend a Town Council meeting and account for the handling of this sensitive issue.

With a glut of planning applications currently under consideration for Wincanton, the Town Council’s actions support growing recognition that something needs to be done to restore flagging confidence in the SSDC planning process.

A representative of SSDC confirmed that the owner of The Dolphin was given until 19th December to request a rear access and submit payment of the District Valuer’s fee. This deadline was met. A letter will shortly be sent to the owner of the Hotel stating the full conditions to be fulfilled to be granted a rear access. This will have to be received by a stated deadline in the New Year, to be passed for final decision by the District Executive in February.

If written confirmation is not received by the due deadline the SSDC representative confirmed that action will then be taken to restore the rear wall permanently, with no option for future application.


Posts: 1
Dolphin Hotel, Rear car entrance
Reply #1 on : Sun March 29, 2015, 10:05:21
I think John Smith's questions on this post dated back in January have been resolved in part. The issue over the access from the S.S.D.C has now been settled as the stone wall in back in place. It seems to me that as much as anything else this was a case of the Town Council taking on Goliath, namely Businessman magnet, Bill Hopkins and scoring points over S.S.D.C. The reason of the Town Council actions I don't take issue with the outcome I do! While the Town Council won the day I do have concerns that nearly every day I witness cars and vans enter and exit the tight archway that leads directly onto Wincanton High Street. Customers and staff cross daily that archway more important is pedestrians walking in front of the archway or vehicles colliding with traffic as they emerge. The Dolphin is a Hotel, a local business would a rear access have been a lot safer? Loss of car parking spaces, really when mainly outsiders take up shoppers parking spaces, often too all day to travel on Coaches up London? And what about the 10 homes that have been for the rear, like homes at the back of the Green Dragon wouldn't they be welcomed as it brings residents and therefore spending money into a hard pressed High Street? We really do need some more forward thinking people on our Town Council, some are good, others need to call it a day!

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