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Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg caught in planning battle - between his mother and constituents

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 04, 2014

  • North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, centre, with his late father Lord Rees-Mogg and his mother Lady Gillian Rees-Mogg

  • Farmer Graham Sage is one of the Hinton Blewett residents upset at the plans

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A Somerset Tory MP is under fire because his aristocratic mother wants to build a housing estate in the middle of the Somerset hamlet long regarded as the family seat.

Residents of Hinton Blewett say Lady Gillian Rees-Mogg is using a legal planning loophole to try and build an estate in the centre of the upmarket village which dates back to the Domesday Book.

But they fear they cannot ask their MP for help to fight her ladyship’s plans because he is her son, Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Feelings are running so high that last night they held what is thought to be the village’s first ever public meeting in the local pub to try and save the agricultural land which near the Mendip Hills AONB and only 40 yards from a conservation area.

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The North East Somerset MP’s family have a long association with the village and his father William took the title of Baron Rees-Mogg, of Hinton Blewett, when he was made a peer in 1988.

Many residents have grown up on friendly terms with their aristocratic neighbours and say they are “disappointed” because they feel the family is selling out the area.

They claim the application will increase the size of the village, which has only one bus a week, by more than a fifth.

But consultants, who put in the planning application for the agricultural field just before Christmas claim Bath and North East Somerset (Banes) does not have enough housing land for the next five years, an argument used by developers to build on open countryside up and down England.

Farmer Graham Sage’s family roots to the area stretch back hundreds of years and his aunt was William’s nanny. The 65-year-old has written personally to Lady Gillian but believes she does not understand the strength of feeling.

“I think people are feeling very disappointed and let down by this,” he said. “It’s totally inappropriate and I’ve never known them so upset about anything before.

“Even when the family moved they kept the Lord of the Manor title and there was always this great closeness between the Rees-Moggs and the people of Hinton Blewett.”

A planning application for 19 three, four and five-bedroom detached houses, one third of which will be affordable, was submitted shortly before Christmas.

Consultants say the village desperately needs new homes but objectors say the parish council has already identified around 15 small building plots dotted around the village which are more in keeping with the area than one estate.

“There is no question about it, they are taking advantage of a narrow window of opportunity,” said Mr Sage. “Two years ago this application would have been laughed out because you’d have had a job to put a garden gate or wooden shed up in this village. It will be the same again when Banes gets its act together.”

Villagers have already started sending in letters of objection to the plans saying it is will spoil a very sensitive part of the Somerset countryside.

One resident who did not want to be named said: “People are not sure how Jacob feels about this but he’s bound to have a foot in both camps because the land belongs to his mother. But her Ladyship might be in for a surprise. In the old days the Lord of the Manor could do what he wanted, but the peasants are educated now and are in revolt.”

Mr Mogg lives in the next village with his heiress wife Helena de Chair, three sons and a daughter but is a regular visitor to the hamlet where he grew up.

Last night locals met at the Ring O‘Bells to discuss the application, which is outside the settlement boundary of the village, which has a church and a village hall. The area is not green belt land but is next to a Nature Conservation Area and the site includes the Cam Brook, which is a special landscape designation.

Her Ladyship’s planning consultants say in a newsletter sent to villagers that she will discuss financial contributions towards improvements to highways and education or broadband if she gets planning permission.

But one objector Joanna Burgess told the council: “All planning is political and politically it would be convenient for BANES to grant permission for this development to help meet its housing targets, but for the residents of the village the application represents a money-making exercise by the owner of the land at the expense of the aspirations of others.”

Mr Rees-Mogg said: “Planning is a matter for the local council and is not something that an MP has any say over. However, the green belt is a national policy designation which I strongly support and would oppose developments that threaten it.”

The Western Daily Press could not reach Lady Rees-Mogg for comment.

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  • Biglog2080  |  January 04 2014, 5:26PM

    It's not housing we need. It's less People, we are overpopulated and no one asked for it!!!

    |   5

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