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Residents 'let down' over Wincanton Community Hospital homes appeal

By Western Gazette - South Somerset  |  Posted: November 29, 2012

Friends of Wincanton Community Hospital

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Plans to build 55 homes next to Wincanton Community Hospital have been resurrected.

In September, a Government planning inspector threw out an appeal by Hopkins Development Limited after the original application was rejected by South Somerset District Council.

The proposals would have seen the hospital site divided by a new access road which could have led to a temporary closure.

However, the plans could yet be approved amid revelations that the developer has appealed against the inspector’s decision on alleged grounds of ‘procedural unfairness’ or a ‘breach of natural justice’.

The case will now be settled in the High Court in 2013.

Colin Winder, mayor of Wincanton, said town councillors were disappointed with the district council’s decision to not take an active role in the appeal as it is deemed their role to represent the views of Wincanton’s residents during the proceedings.

He said: “We feel let down. The people in this town will not be represented and not heard during this court case.

“We’ve had no contact at all despite being the town to be discussed. It’s a bit like a patient sitting there while a doctor and surgeon decide what is to be done.

“We can’t go on building houses in Wincanton without the jobs or infrastructure to support them.

“If this goes ahead it will mean other places in the town will also be made available for developers to build on.”

Last week, Wincanton town councillors attended a meeting held behind closed doors to discuss their response to the district council’s stance.

Town councillors have requested a copy of all correspondence between the district council and the developer.

The council is also seeking the assistance of MP David Heath to highlight its concerns to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles.

A district council spokesman said: “The legal challenge submitted by the appellant relates solely to alleged procedural unfairness in the way the inspector determined the appeal and not to our reasons for refusing planning permission.

“The High Court challenge does not give the district council a further opportunity to put forward its position in relation to its reasons for refusing the application.

“The judge will only consider whether the inspector acted fairly in the way she determined the appeal. As such, the district council would not take part.

“The Verrington appeal is an important issue for Wincanton, and the district council hopes that the Inspector’s decision will be upheld.”

By the time the Western Gazette went to print, Hopkins Development Limited had not taken the opportunity to comment.

News that the plans could be resurrected was met with disappointment by The Friends of Wincanton Community Hospital. Treasurer Alan Judge raised fears the hospital could face temporary closure.

In a submission to the inspector at July’s inquiry, hospital matron Claire Andrews said the plans would “result in a danger to the lives of employees, patients and visitors”.

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