THE next stage of consultation has begun on options for the best location for a proposed eco-friendly urban extension in Yeovil.

South Somerset District Council, which is planning for an extension to Yeovil to cater for a growing local need for housing, employment and facilities, has successfully secured £730,000 towards planning studies and masterplanning for a world-leading eco development on the edge of the town.

The eco development would include at least 40 per cent open space and parkland, high quality ‘zero-carbon’ homes, employment, local services and facilities onsite for its residents, with plentiful opportunities for walking and cycling, less traffic congestion and state of the art technologies for handling water and waste.

Although over six months away from firming up any preferred options for a location, the district council has been inviting representatives from Yeovil Town Council and every parish council neighbouring Yeovil to discuss broad ‘search areas’ in which a development could go.

Cllr Peter Seib, the district’s spokesman for economic development, planning and transport, said: “We’ve held two workshops at the very start of the identification process that, after consultation this summer, will finally whittle down a preferred location that may be suitable for a development built to Eco Town standards.

“To start, town and parish councillors came up with six possible ‘search areas’ around the entire circumference of Yeovil and our district council officers then looked at a set of criteria to recommend the three stronger areas out of that six.

“Officers undertook a sustainability assessment; as required by regulation, to narrow down those options, taking into account factors such as the proximity to the town centre, facilities and employment, transport links and congestion, landscape and open space and other planning factors.”

The initial studies, carried out by district council officers with information from county council highways, recommended that areas to the South, South East and South West of Yeovil could be the best three search areas to now discuss in more detail.

This information was shared with parish and town councillors at a third workshop yesterday (Wednesday, March 10).

The district council, which has been working and consulting upon a ‘Core Strategy’ which will plan where development will go across South Somerset until 2026, will now begin to feed these suggestions into the core strategy ready for extensive public consultation in the summer.

Cllr Seib added: “This isn’t a small task as we are planning for an average of 1.3 per cent growth to Yeovil per year, but we will ensure this is a development with excellent transport links, employment, sustainable homes and so on.

“We will now collate the initial feedback from the town and parish councillors so that we can begin work on looking at the three suggested search areas and planning much wider consultation on these as part of our work to develop the overall plan for the area.

“These initial suggestions have not been confirmed or considered at all by district councillors or the general public yet – this is the task for us over the next six months or so.”

Public consultation scheduled this summer will be a comprehensive engagement of all parts of the community.