This weeks meeting of ‘soon to be history’ Sedgemoor District Council was permeated by repeated reference to the authority’s controversial planning legacy and in particular the current catastrophe that is the ‘treemageddon’ on Bridgwater’s Quantock road where the hitherto ‘greenfield’ Cokerhurst Farm development is being prepared and the currently ‘green hills of Willstock’, soon to be urbanised. Labour Leader Brian Smedley (Westover) said “One thing Sedgemoor won’t be missed for is it’s planning decisions. In particular the failure to insist on affordable housing by developers, the failure to take action to enforce environmental decisions and the failure to insist on relevant infrastructure. The devastation along Quantock road is criminal and a case in point. It’s the unnecessary destruction of a huge amount of trees and hedges which should be protected! I don’t feel we should support any more development until Sedgemoor assures us that they will enforce the actual conditions applied on current developers.”
Members joined in a general attack on planning policies on several different planning items and managed to bring up Quantock road in each.
Cllr Julie Cordiner (Labour Victoria) said “Developers are holding the council to ransom and will do it again and again. They say they can’t afford to include affordable housing in a development so we let them get away with it and then we end up subsidising the build of affordable ourselves which ‘right to buy’ allows to go straight back into the private economy”.
Cllr Gill Slocombe (Conservative, Wyndham) who represents the Quantock road development area attempted to defend the Tory councils handling of the matter pleading “Ward councillors are on top of this. No trees have been taken out which were protected trees, but we have raised this with officers as a matter of urgency”
Cllr Hilary Bruce (Labour, Fairfax) said “All trees should be protected!!!”
Wilstock ‘up in arms’
The Willstock issue and the Quantock road issue is a major concern to residents. Gen Wark, a Wilstock resident, said “I think it’s really important they look at local amenities such as a shop, takeaway, public transport and youth provision including play areas to support the expanding amount of people in the area. They also seriously need to consider the flow of traffic as this is already problematic due to road lay out. Developers need to be held to account for infrastructure from the get go and work closely with County Council to ensure timely adoption of the roads. This needs to be a high priority integrated into planning so that the needs of residents in the local area are being met. With a rapidly expanding population in the area including many young families, we need a school, more play areas, youth groups and access to shops. We need the facilities and ground to be able to run clubs like brownies/cubs and gym clubs which are so important for our local community. All of this needs to be considered in planning, and implemented to time scales by accountable developers. The new development, Stockmoor and Wilstock need public transport links as a urgent priority. Not only would this be better for the environment reducing the car use the the area but can be a vital link accessing facilities and employment as well as leisure activities. This area is a great place to live but I fear that issues that already exists could expand with the new development unless steps are taken to ensure a focus on infrastructure and the needs of our local community. “
Gen is standing for Labour in North Petherton for the Unitary council and along with fellow candidate and Wilstock resident Jon Falkingham, is organising a petition.
Why Planning Must Change
Cllr Smedley added “What needs to change is the random planning decisions of the Development Committee. The problem is that with Sedgemoor you get councillors from as far away as Cheddar and Burnham deciding planning matter sin Bridgwater. There’s no connect and no understanding. It makes a mockery of the term ‘planning’ when there’s very little actual ‘planning’ involved. It’s more like organised chaos and I’m surprised the hard working planning officers can cope with it. Councillors make all sorts of daft decisions and then they have to implement them. If Unitary can bring about a change whereby local plans are decided by the locallest people then I’m sure we’d all be happy. Especially the planning officers who have to carry out the decisions.!”