Monday, April 23, 2012

South Somerset Local Plan - not pleasing all the people all the time

Update: according to Jon Gleeson's tweets, the proposed 'urban extension' to the S of Yeovil has been approved, along with the housing targets for the next 15 years.

This morning I've been at the Gateway in Yeovil for the main South Somerset Council meeting over their local plan, which takes Yeovil and South Somerset through to 2028. Nearly all the morning was taken up with contributions from the public, and the agenda stated that, should the meeting still be going at 9.30pm (from a 10am start) it would then be adjourned until the following day.

It's going to be impossible to please everyone. The main bone of contention is an attempt to plan for jobs and housing growth in the district. Disperse that growth too widely, and there isn't enough money generated by housing growth to pay for extra community facilities where the growth happens. Clump it together, and people nearby complain about the effect on their community. South Somerset council has taken the latter option, with plans for a 2500 home 'eco town' to the South of Yeovil. The development will include primary and secondary schools, local shops and businesses, and even the possibility of land for 'faith facilities'.

Most of this morning was spent hearing arguments from residents of East Coker and Barwick, near the proposed site, on why the housing should either be a) somewhere else or b) more widely dispersed. Or, on the other side, residents from the N and W of Yeovil (Montacute, Tintinhull, Chilthorne Domer, Stoke) on why (as the 2nd preference for the eco town) the council was making the right decision in preferring the E Coker option.

There's no way to do this in a way which keeps everyone happy. The danger is that the residents of the new housing are the ones who lose out, either because the housing is crammed in to reduce the impact (50 dwellings per hectare is the standard now, it wasn't long ago it was 30. Don't expect any gardens in these new estates), or the numbers are whittled down, reducing the money available to pay for community infrastructure.

Either way, I was glad I wasn't on the council. Glad also that I wasn't a tree, looking at the piles of paperwork on the tables. But now praying for the wisdom of Solomon for the 60 people who's job it is to make this decision.

 BBC people were interviewing folk during the interval this morning, and an ITV van was parking up as I left.

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