Barton Farm plan gets the go-ahead
MASSIVE local opposition has failed to halt plans for a large housing and employment development on the outskirts of Sherborne.
West Dorset District Council's development control committee voted overwhelmingly in support of Charles Church Ltd's proposal for the Barton Farm site after a three-hour meeting attended by around 200 members of the public last Thursday.
The outline plans include 279 homes (35 per cent to be affordable), a 60-bed care home and industrial employment development. An existing Grade II listed threshing barn and adjoining building will be converted into offices and a creche. Permission was also granted for a new access off the A30 west of the existing traffic lights at the Sheeplands Lane junction.
Serious concerns were raised about the negative impact the development would have on the heritage and character of the historic market town and the threat of flooding due to run-off from hard surfaces on what is currently farmland. Objectors also questioned the ability of already busy roads to cope with the additional traffic generated by new homes and businesses, especially around the junction between the A30 and Marston Road.
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Several speakers at the meeting asked why planning officer Bob Burden had recommended approval for so many homes when the site is allocated for "in the region of 230" in the Local Plan.
Town councillor Kate Pike said: "I beg you not to allow more than 230 houses - 280 is not 'in the region of', it is 20 per cent more.
"Sherborne and its setting are unique and are of architectural and historic importance. It must be cherished."
The district council's local planning policy advisor, Hillary Jordan, explained that the figure, decided by a government planning inspector after a public inquiry, was merely "indicative" and not prescriptive. Mr Burden said delivery of affordable housing hinged on the total number of houses to be built. He also told committee members that the proposed drainage scheme had been approved by Wessex Water and the Environment Agency.
Commenting on the impact of increased traffic movements, a Marston Road resident said: "The scheme is not viable without a proper link road. The road is already overloaded and will become impossibly congested."
Steve Savage from County Highways said the organisation had no objection to the application.
"The transport assessment has fully identified the impact. The conclusion is that the development proposal is satisfactory subject to mitigation measures."
The development includes homes of up to three storeys. Emma Robinson, who lives in a bungalow next to the Barton Farm site, said she was alarmed to see plans for a house that was almost touching her boundary.
"It will be intrusive and overlook our garden, sun room and lounge," she said.
"I believe it is unreasonable to design a new property to be built so close to a much smaller existing house."
Sherborne Town Council objected strongly to the proposals and said conditions should be attached to limit the number of homes to 230, for all homes to have off-street parking and to ensure that all road improvements are completed prior to the start of building works. It also requested the removal of the care home and B2 industrial employment use.
Charles Church Ltd's agent Ian Mellor of Barton Willmore said there was local support for the plans.
"There is a proven need for housing in Sherborne. People who are not in this room, young families who want somewhere to live, have supported this development," he said.
"It should not be seen as a major change but the next chapter in the illustrious history of your beautiful town. We want to create a development that we and future generations can be proud of."
Town councillor Marjorie Snowden said the district council was "over a barrel" and would struggle to defend a refusal of the plans given the site's designation for housing.
She told the committee: "It is always about money and this is the key to having housing all the way from here to Yeovil. It is an unbelievable problem - we are destroying our heritage.
"We are not opposed to Sherborne growing, and there are plenty of areas for small groups of housing applications. We just don't want a great chunk of ugly suburbia slapped on the edge of the town.
"This plan is rubbish but the real problem is that if it is refused, the developer will go to appeal and they will win. You have to approve this and write pages and pages of conditions that must be obeyed."