Over the past few weeks, a speculative new housing planning application has been made by Redrow Homes to build up to 125 dwellings on land adjacent to the Old Wells Road, on the outskirts of Shepton. The final decision on whether this application is approved is made by Mendip District Council (or the national Planning Inspectorate if the application is rejected and Redrow decides to legally challenge the decision). The Town Council is a statutory consultee on such matters and on Tuesday night, Town Councillors debated and came to a conclusion about what they think should happen with the application. This decision is now fed into the Mendip District Council planning department.

Planning can be a complex process so even before Councillors met, we decided to host a virtual meeting (to make it as accessible as possible) to explain the full context of how the planning of new housing works. The evening was hosted by Councillor Jane Nicklin and I thank Jane for doing such a great job whilst I was on holiday so unable to contribute. The core messages of the presentation given were:

– Shepton has 11,000 residents
– Shepton has 4,377 properties
• There is a ‘top-down’ challenge from central government to encourage new house provision through guidance called a ‘National Planning Policy Framework’. This provides specific housing targets by local authority
– The NPPF is a land use planning policy from central government
– It pursues a pro-growth de-regulationist agenda
– It favours sustainable development
– Locally-led Neighbourhood Plans can legally influence local planning policy
– The NPPF for Mendip challenges housing growth of 6,000 properties by end of 2029
– This equates to 798 properties for Shepton, an 18% growth
• The two biggest current areas under consideration for new dwellings in town area
– The former prison (148 dwellings)
– The ‘CG Fry’ (‘showground’) development (600 dwellings)
– These equate to 748 properties. The rest would come from ad hoc development
• Shepton is developing a ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ which takes into account local needs and views and although nearly complete, is not quite at the stage where it can provide legal reassurance to protect against other developments.

However the Redrow development progresses, there is general agreement that as a country, county, district and town, we need more houses. The Town Council will continue to work to ensure we make the planning process as easy to understand and engage with as we can.

Until next time,

Matt Harrison
Chair, Shepton Mallet Town Council