Blog

Featured

Background

The ‘Selwood Garden Village’ project was proposed in February 2018 as an alternative approach to the District Council’s allocation for housing sites for Frome. Here is a place to discuss issues raised around this project.

Advertisements

Housing plans in LP2

How do Mendip District Council decide on additional housing numbers for Frome?

How do they decide on the number of affordable houses and what does this mean?

This is a follow-up report to the page explaining housing need.

Mendip D.C. have an ‘Evidence Base’ for population and housing. They make a ‘Housing Needs Assessment‘ & an ‘Affordable Housing Study‘ & a ‘Strategic Housing Market Assessment’ (SHMA) – Oct 2016 (298 pages).

They make a ‘Sustainability Appraisal‘ (166 pages) with constraint maps which assess the landscape & agricultural land (here is Frome’s – from here).

You can read a full description of the process and key findings here: MDC housing plans LP2 report.

Summary of sites and numbers for Frome: during the Local Plan period there are allocations of 1616 homes, with further ‘windfalls, taking this to 1741 homes, of which 458 are ‘affordable’. In addition a further 331 houses could be built on non-allocated sites (82 affordable).

This creates an allocated additional population in the region of 4300 to 6100 (at 2.5 or 3.5 people per household), plus the additional sites give a potential total of 5100 to 7250 more people living in Frome. This would bring the population from around 26,000 to 33,000.

NB: Only south part of Saxonvale site (Terramond / Bussman Cooper) has an allocation for housing and not the Notts / FTC part of the site. [not sure why].

MDC housing plans LP2

 

 

Frome Edges

A guest post from an objector

THE VISIBILITY OF DEVELOPMENT

One of the first lessons lay objectors to planning matters learn is that no householder has a right to a particular, or indeed any, view.  Conversely, in appraising the sustainability of a proposed site allocation under the Local Plan process, views of it (the allocated site), from near and distant viewpoints, are considered to be a significant factor.

The “Summary of Sustainability Appraisal Targets” includes:
SA02 Maintain and Enhance the Distinctive Character of Settlements
(allocated sites should not) adversely affect or result in the loss of features or scenes which are recognised as being distinctive.
SA03 Protect and Enhance the District’s Landscape
Protect special landscape features that contribute to local distinctiveness
Avoid adverse effect on landscape character
Avoid unacceptable visual impact
Preserve, and where possible, enhance landscape character
Integrate into existing land form and landscape features

The setting and siting of all Frome sites being considered for allocation under Local Plan Part 2 have therefore been evaluated using this Sustainability Appraisal process. However, I contest the conclusions that have been drawn.  Consequently, I carried out my own research, visiting all outlying settlements around Frome to discover what views they actually had of the town. The results below cover all hamlets and villages within a five mile radius of Frome that could conceivably have any direct view of the town. Approximate distances in miles are given from the nearest edge of Frome to the nearest edge of the settlement, measured ‘as the crow flies’. My list is organised clockwise starting from the north: –

Old Ford (0,5 miles, North) – few properties have direct views of Frome’s outskirts
Beckington (1.5 miles, NNE) – no views of Frome
Standerwick (2.2 miles, NE) – no views of Frome
Berkley/Berkley Marsh (1.0 miles, ENE) – no views of Frome
Chapmanslade (2.3 miles, East) – uninterrupted views of Frome from many houses and other points
Lane End (2.2 miles, ESE) – several properties have views of Frome
Maiden Bradley (4.7 miles, SSE) – no views from village but from outskirts there are uninterrupted views of Frome’s southern slopes
Blatchbridge (0.5 miles, South) – direct views of southern slopes from several houses
West Woodlands (2.3 miles, South) – uninterrupted views of Frome’s southern slopes, particularly from the from Showfield
Tytherington (0.6 miles, SSW) – view of southern slopes from several points and properties
Ridgeway (1.4 miles, SW) – two houses have partial views of western slopes
Nunney Catch/Nunney (2.0 miles, WSW) – no views of Frome
Lower Whatley (1.2 miles, West) – three houses have partial views of western slopes
Whatley (1.6 miles, West) – two or three elevated houses have partial views of western slopes
Mells (2.2 miles, WNW) – no views of Frome
Great Elm (1.1 miles, WNW) – a small number of houses have partial views of western slopes
Buckland Dinham (1.5 miles, NNW) – seven properties in Rogers Close and a small number of main road gardens have views of Frome’s NW edge
Spring Gardens (0.4 miles, North) – most dwellings’ site line towards Frome’s northern slopes are interrupted by the banked road (Iron Mill Lane). Some of the most easterly properties have clear views of these slopes.

From this research, it is clear that the quadrant between Chapmanslade to the east and Tytherington to the south of Frome, has the most uninterrupted view of the town.
It also has the most extensive views of Frome over the longest distances. Additionally, in this quadrant, further out, are the significant tourist viewpoints of Cley Hill (National Trust) and Heaven’s Gate (Longleat), which both have uninterrupted views of the southern slopes of Frome.
By way of contrast, many other views of Frome are intimate, for example from one side of a river valley to the other, notably the view from Orchardleigh to the northern slopes of Frome.

An unasked question in the Sustainability Appraisal process is, “who is the observer whose view of a settlement matters?” Clearly it is not the householder who has no right to a view. Is it, then, the commuter driving home from work in Bath or Wiltshire, the farmer drilling his maize, the cyclist or walker exercising or the denizens of isolated farm buildings now run as a rural business hub? Or is it, perhaps the raven or fox?
To be clear: I believe that views of the town from without do matter a great deal. My point is that where large swathes of countryside would be affected by development on the periphery of Frome, alternatives should be more actively sought where views of the town are less intrusive and extensive.

However Mendip district Council has first ‘preferred’ and then ‘allocated’ sites where they will be most intrusive and extensive in Frome’s case.
In Appendix 5 of Local Plan Part 2 “Results of Sustainability Appraisal”, sites such as FRO060 (Land at rear of Old Vallis House), FRO212 (Land at Whitemill, off Marston Lane), and FRO219 (Land at Critchill) have been deemed not suitable for development, because of, “prominent hill top location”, “prominent location on the western escarpment”, and “ prominent slopes…(having) … a significant impact on the landscape setting and character of the town”.

On the other hand, in the Little Keyford area sites FRO001, FRO150 and FRO150a, for example, have all been assessed as being suitable for development, despite all being acknowledged as having “hill top location”.

The most glaring example of casual disregard for the visual impact of a south Frome site is perhaps FRO150a. Here the Sustainability Appraisal describes the site as having a “hilltop location and the southern part of the site extends onto the southern slopes, which are a feature of this edge of Frome”. What the Sustainability Appraisal does not elaborate on is that the site’s south western boundary is essentially an escarpment. The land, falling steeply away, makes for even greater prominence of FRO150a, viewed from as far away as Gare Hill. Development here would be very prominent and visible for at least five miles.

It is impossible to conclude otherwise than that Mendip District Council is employing the Sustainability criteria of hilltop visibility inconsistently and illogically for its own reasons. To defend less visually obtrusive western and northern edges of Frome whilst simultaneously under-playing the prominent of southern slopes is indicative of bias. I strongly object to the arbitrary and selective application of sustainability assessment criteria.
I consider the allocation of sites in the Little Keyford area not sound for the reasons given above.

MDC plan

Map for DS analysis

Mist across field

Where the story started

The story about this project first appeared on Somerset Live on 15th Feb 2018 with a report by James Somper. It came about as a local landowner was approached by Cooper & Tanner, a letter dated October 2017.

CooperandTannerLetter

Architect Mark Brierley tsaid the development would be different to previous estates built locally and architects were thinking of a “garden village” format.

“If people are concerned about a bigger development then that’s because they’re afraid it’ll be more of the same. What we are planning to do is to do it properly with new infrastructure, employment and affordable housing. We’re thinking of a garden village and will be doing this in a planned manner in consultation with the local community to make it beautiful.”

The ‘Garden Village’ concept can be explored via links in the right hand side bar.

On 19th Feb there was an update. Mark said that the garden village would provide “a more ambitious future for Frome” and would tackle the town’s housing crisis.

“63 hectares of land will be designated for a residential development of 2,000 new homes as well as a “village centre” while 23 hectares will be earmarked for commercial use.73 hectares will be preserved as “green-space” parkland with improved walking and cycling routes. 700 homes out of the 2,000 planned for the site will be designated for affordable housing. ”

Mr Brierely said: “What we’re doing is significantly better than the alternatives. We’re saying let’s use it for housing but let’s make it really nice.”

“Frome is a really successful town but it’s full. It needs more space, it needs more housing, it needs more employment, it needs more parks, it needs more playing fields and the only way you can do that is on the scale of development that can provide that infrastructure, and provide benefits for Frome as a whole. So, we’re proposing a relatively large development but up to the existing boundary.”

He added: “The space to the south of Frome is the most developable land around Frome. The town is by far the most sustainable town in Mendip and is a very sensible place for development.”

So lets unpick that a little. Mendip District Council decide on the need for new housing and have allocated Frome for 2300 additional homes. You can see their calculation here.

The allocation for the southern side of Frome is currently for 510 more houses, 30% of these (153) would need to be ‘affordable’. The SGV proposes an additional 1964 houses, with around 589 needing to be ‘affordable’. What does ‘affordable’ mean? More on this later……

The landowners land values could rise from around £5,500 per acre to £500,000 per acre if given residential consent. See Savills report & FWI report.

Questions to ask.

  • Should landowners with a vested interest make plans for the future extension of Frome, or should it be the (regulated) Planning Authority?
  • Is Frome so ‘full‘ it needs more houses?  Here is what the Planning Authority think.
  • How do you judge when a town has reached its optimum size? When its town centre is too small to serve the population? When the outskirts are so far away that residents don’t go into town?
  • Is the proposal ‘significantly better’ than the current alternative, ie. leaving it as undeveloped pasture with open views over Cley Hill and the surrounding countryside? Here are photos of the site.
  • What does ‘significantly better’ than the alternatives actually mean? Is there any evidence of this in the masterplan proposed? Or does it look like other housebuilder-led ‘garden city’ town extensions? Like Taunton here Here is the Taunton bid for ‘Housing Infrastructure Funding’ which is one reason for using this terminology. More details here.
  • Does the proposal really deliver 73 hectares of ‘preserved’ green space parkland? See this page for clues.