Mike Rigby

Bourne House, High Street, Bishops Lydeard Taunton TA4 3AX mike@mikerigby.org
5th September 2012 Mr A Pick, Planning Department Taunton Deane Borough Council Belvedere Road TAUNTON TA1 1HE Dear Mr Pick, 06/12/0036 – ERECTION OF 5 DWELLINGS AT STATION FARM, BISHOPS LYDEARD I am writing in respect of the further application by Taylor Wimpey to wipe away the last remaining non-residential elements of the mixed use development permitted at this site. As the Council will be aware, the Station Farm development was sold to the Council and the public on the basis that it would benefit tourism associated with the West Somerset Railway. There is already an undetermined planning application to change to residential, the use of the permitted 4,520 sq ft of employment land approved as part of this development. Now we see a further application to develop more housing on what remains of the tourist and employment uses. This is simply not acceptable. Taunton Deane’s record on so-called ‘enabling developments’ in this village is lamentable. The shambles created at Sandhill Park where 50 ‘executive homes’ were permitted in the countryside, unrelated to any settlement, ostensibly to regenerate the historic house is used as an example across the Country of how not to do enabling development. The naivety shown in that case was breathtaking. The local residents trust that lessons have been learned and that this development just a few hundred metres away will not go the same way. The development was justified on the basis that its non-residential elements – the inn, the restaurant, the brewery, the cycle hire, the take-away, the employment land, the museum, the train sheds – would all boost tourism associated with the railway. The residential elements were proposed, as at Sandhill, to enable public benefit. Had the application be submitted in the first instance as nothing more than residential, as now , I suggest that it is very likely that it would have been refused. The Council really must, therefore, move on from the past and find the resolve to resist these applications and to maintain the nonresidential elements. Once again, the applicant has made no attempt to justify the departure from employment use beyond saying that WSR does not want to operate it the inn/restaurant. I was unaware that it had been permitted solely for the WSR to run. The applicant now claims that WSR do not want the inn/restaurant to operate as it would compete with their own sale of food/drink. How was this apparent conflict not obvious to all concerned when the inn/restaurant was proposed in the first place? What has changed? Has the inn/restaurant been offered on the open market?

Mike Rigby
Bourne House, High Street, Bishops Lydeard Taunton TA4 3AX mike@mikerigby.org
What efforts have been made to assess its viability? That said, it would not entirely surprise me if there was little interest in constructing and operating a new licensed premises at a time when pub closures continue apace. But, the applicant has not tested this. If it is decided that new licensed premises are not the way forward here, then other employment or tourism uses ought to be examined first before, resorting to yet more residential development with no long-term economic benefit to the village or benefit to the railway. As with the employment land that the applicant seeks to do away with through application no. 06/12/0007, there is no assessment of appetite in the market for other employment uses. Again, I raise the fact that Broadgauge Business Park is operating at full occupancy and has done so pretty much since it was built. In the case of application 06/12/0007, the applicant claims, without any market testing, that the location, without road frontage, would not be attractive to potential occupiers. I do not believe this, and the applicant advances no evidence to back the claim, but in the case of this application, even this figleaf is not available as the site has full road frontage. It is also instructive to note that the original proposal incorporated uses over and above the inn/restaurant mentioned in this application. What has happened to the cycle hire, the take-away, the brewery? I know of one brewery that would ‘move tomorrow’ to new premises at this location if it were made available. In the planning statement, the applicant argues at para 4.9 that ‘This resulting community will help to strengthen and protect existing service provision in the village.’ On the contrary, additional residential development will place further strain on local services that are already under significant pressure, including the local school. I am unaware that this proposal, or the 39 other residential units have made any contribution to educational maintenance. The applicant states at para 4.21 “The proposal is not recreation or tourist development. However, the applicant is working with WSR to help deliver the railway’s programme of improvements.” This is typical of the woolly analysis in the statement. What on earth does it mean? The applicant argues at 4.25 that “The proposed housing will help maintain the local population in the context of falling household sizes nationally. Maintaining the resident population is directly linked to protecting local services. The homes will also help meet local housing need.” There is no evidence that the population of Bishops Lydeard is shrinking or that its services are in need of further residents in order to remain viable. As with planning application no. 06/12/0007, there is no overwhelming demand for housing that overrides the need to provide employment land generally and in this location specifically. The benefit to the economy of these employment consents, which the applicant now seeks to dismiss, runs into the millions of pounds per year. This is the benchmark against which any application to switch to residential ought to be measured. We hear much from Central Government about the

Mike Rigby
Bourne House, High Street, Bishops Lydeard Taunton TA4 3AX mike@mikerigby.org
need to boost the economy. The temporary benefit associated with the construction of houses is insignificant when compared with long-term employment and/or tourism uses. Accordingly, this application must be refused. Yours faithfully,

Mike Rigby BA(Hons) (Town Planning) BTP CEnv MCIWM ACP

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