A COUNCILLOR who is protesting against plans to build 350 homes to the north of Chard has lodged a complaint over South Somerset District Council’s handling of the appeal process.
District councillor Martin Wale said the planning inspector will not make a decision on the application until August 28 at the earliest and claimed South Somerset District Council did not submit information relating to the five-year housing supply, which was made available during the hearing.
A four-day public inquiry was held at the Guildhall over developer Mactaggart and Mickel’s plans to build the homes, a floodlit full-sized football pitch for Chard Town Football Club, unlit full-sized training and mini-pitches, multi-use clubhouse, spectator facilities and parking alongside the homes on land east of Mount Hindrance Farm.
Cllr Wale said: “I was astonished and frankly very angry that this vital information was denied to the Inspector. This lack of fiveyear housing supply information is a keystone of the developer’s case and should have been made available to the inspector.
“I, and various members of Cuttifords Door and Mount Hindrance Action Group, attended the executive meeting and protested at the manner in which the council had dealt with the appeal.
“We were informed, at first, the decision not to submit the information was because it wasn’t available and had to be ratified by the executive until the council solicitor stated that information could have been given during the hearing.
“They then were undecided what to do until I told them I was going to send the papers to the inspector anyway – then a reluctant agreement was reached to submit the information.”
Leader of SSDC, Ric Pallister, said the five-year land supply is a difficult area for all councils.
He added: “There is guidance, but no hard and fast criteria for undertaking the assessment with a clearly defined line which says you either have or you have not got the required figure.
“We are fighting this case to the best of our abilities and have gone to exceptional lengths through the extended Chard Regeneration Scheme to try and ensure that development should be located in the most appropriate locations.”
Mr Pallister said they were asked late in the day by the Local Plan inspector to present their up-to-date fiveyear land supply position despite the last review being carried out in February.
He added: “If we had reviewed earlier, the more likely it would be that the February assessment of not having a five-year supply would still be the outcome whereas we knew that the recent number of planning applications should change the outcome.
“Had we declared that we had a five-year supply during the enquiry there is no doubt that appellant would have blown the whistle and declared a foul.
“Despite an enquiry being concluded, the case remains live until such time as the decision is issued. Where a major material consideration occurs after the enquiry but before a decision is issued, parties are required to submit such evidence to the Inspectorate, and we now have.”
Mr Pallister wanted to stress that the evidence was not submitted because of Cllr Wale’s intervention.