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Call for new homes to 'maintain and enhance' Somerton services

By Western Gazette - South Somerset  |  Posted: October 11, 2012

BUILDING SITE? Barratt Developments is hoping to build 230 homes to the west of Somerton. The developer believes the homes are needed to ‘maintain and enhance local services’

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A developer hoping to build 230 new homes in Somerton says more housing is needed to “maintain and enhance services” in the town.

Barratt Developments wants to build on a 40-acre site to the west of the town in adjoining fields to the award-winning Gassons Lane sports field.

This suggested area was the least favoured option of Somerton residents in consultations surrounding South Somerset District Council’s Local Plan.

The proposals come after the district council scaled back its Local Plan, which originally outlined a need for 500 homes to be built in Somerton by 2028. This was reduced after people objected that the town should be classed in the smaller category as a rural centre, rather than as a larger development in the market town category.

The district council refused to change the categorisation, but reduced the number of houses to 400.

The figure of 400 takes in the 133 homes already approved at Northfield Farm

Although residents felt the level of growth was still too large, now Barratt is calling for a minimum of 500 homes to be built.

Commenting on the district council’s website, Barratt Developments said: “The delivery of 500 dwellings is far more likely to maintain and enhance local services and facilities in Somerton over the period to 2028 than the lower target, much of which has already been delivered.

“It is contradictory to propose lower housing targets than those previously proposed and still seek to maintain existing services.”

The company argued that the town should be treated in the same way as other market towns, such as Ilminster and Wincanton, as they had similar populations.

There is due to be an intense period of construction in Somerton with the 133-home Northfield Farm development, new doctors surgery and care home at Behind Berry, and another care home in the Somerton Court House building in Market Square.

The town council said earlier this year it was disappointed that concerns had been ignored by the district council which was still classing Somerton as a market town.

Barrie Davies, vice chairman of the town council, said its views have not changed.

He said: “The community cannot take high numbers of houses when you have not got the infrastructure to accommodate them.

“We already can’t see what benefits the town will get from the 133 houses at Northfield – it may be years before we see any benefits.

“Barratt’s plan encloses the town. We’ve got playing fields in that area and it’s one of the best areas the town has got in terms of open spaces.

“We do welcome the latest additions to the plans that do have a lot of green space, they are treating it reasonably.

“But the town council feels the volume of houses is too much – there are other areas which naturally could accommodate further houses which would not take up prime locations.”

Barratt’s vision for 240 homes will be subject to the usual planning processes.

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