Housing plan on old railway land is turned down over lane safety worries
A controversial scheme to build 10 homes on former railway land at the end of Shepton Mallet’s narrow Hitchen Lane has been thrown out by Mendip’s Planning Board after fierce objections from the town council and residents.
Now a call has been made for a proper development brief to be drawn up for the whole area stretching between the Townsend Retail Park and the Ridgeway Estate along what was the former Wells to Shepton railway track.
More than 50 people packed into the meeting last week to hear the outcome of the scheme put forward by Mr G Taylor and Ms T Follett which attracted 43 letters of objections and a petition signed by 134 people.
Shepton Mallet Town Council had recommended refusal on the grounds of highway safety, inadequate sewerage arrangements and the possible obstruction to the Strawberry Line East Project – the proposed multi user path along the disused railway line running through the site.
Other concerns voiced at the meeting ranged from the area being a breeding ground for protected slowworms to flooding fears, loss of trees, loss of play space and allegations of contaminated land.
But the biggest concerns voiced were about the safety to pedestrians and queries about how the narrow Hitchen Lane, which has no pavement, could possibly cope with any increased two way traffic.
The resident’s arguments about the plans for five pairs of semi-detached houses were aired forcibly by their spokesman Graham Brown. Mr Brown lives in the narrow Hitchen Lane which leads to the site – and is also Shepton Town Council’s clerk as well as the town’s fire chief.
To huge applause from residents he urged the planning board to refuse the application on highways safety grounds and on the grounds that the scheme was unacceptable piecemeal development.
But despite the huge concerns about highway safety planning officer Laura McKay said that Somerset County Council highway’s department had raised no objections to the scheme at all.
And applicant Paul Kenny said passing places for vehicles would be created at strategic points along the lane.
Shepton’s town, district and county councillor John Parham said there was a desperate need for more housing in Shepton Mallet. But he said that whole area needed to be looked at as a whole not just one small part and a different access via Station Road would be far more sensible and safe.
Having the narrow carriageway of Hitchen Lane being shared by pedestrians and traffic was he warned: “An accident waiting to happen.”
He said: “Hitchen Lane is barely acceptable now for its users.”
And Councillor Nigel Taylor said they did not want to be part of any decision that “could result in a child’s death.”
Councillor Peter Bradshaw said when he walked up the lane he had to jump into the hedge to avoid a passing vehicle.
The plans were refused unanimously by the planning board on safety grounds because of the highway dangers. And councillors agreed that it was time that a proper planning brief should be drawn up for the preferred development they would like to see for that whole area rather than one small part of it.
It does seem amazing that in 2012 there are STILL some idiots out there who seriously propose new trackbed trespasses that can only end in tears when the Cheddar Valley line is inevitably put back in.
It really does make you wonder if they are just stupid or simply too cut off from reality to realise what they are doing. In this case safety issues were brought into play, but surely it's now time for the government to boldly and simply state - as they have for the S&D - NO more trackbed trespass.