Mendip villages exploited by developers due to lack of Local Plan

Graham Binns and Mike Kann members of the Pitchfork Rebels campaign group in Norton St Philip
Image caption Graham Binns (L) said building on this site would overwhelm the village's infrastructure

Villages on the Mendips are being exploited by housing developers because the council does not have a Local Plan in place, residents claim.

District councils are required to have an active policy to specify where development will be allowed, but Mendip District Council's expired in 2011.

David Heath, MP for Somerton and Frome, said this has left villagers feeling as if they are being "steam-rollered".

The district council said it has now submitted a Local Plan for examination.

The Pitchfork Rebels, a campaign group in Norton St Philip, said because there is no Local Plan, planning applications are being evaluated against the National Planning Policy Framework, which has a "presumption in favour of sustainable development".

'Virtually full'

Graham Binns, of the Pitchfork Rebels, said more than 50 houses are already being built in his village and another 150 could double its size.

"With 52 houses already granted planning permission we have already more than taken our share," he said.

Speaking in Parliament, Mr Heath called on Planning Minister Nick Boles to set out more clearly how many new homes the villages must accept.

He told BBC Somerset: "The problem at the moment is that, in the absence of a local plan, we have a situation where developers are making opportunistic planning applications all over the place and the local councils are in a very weak position to respond.

"I simply want a system which provides for the housing we need in the right places, that allows villages to grow, but doesn't allow villages to simply be destroyed and built over for the profits of house builders."

'Stronger hand'

Responding to Mr Heath in the Commons, Mr Boles said schemes for more housing can be rejected, but only in "exceptional circumstances".

The Pitchfork Rebels claim it could be June before a revised Local Plan - submitted by the district council on Tuesday - is accepted by central government.

Councillor Nigel Woollcombe-Adams, who is in charge of planning at Mendip District Council, agreed that some developers are "getting away" with building houses they might not have, were there a plan in place.

"It is important that our Local Plan is examined and adopted as quickly as possible because this will give the council a much stronger hand in deciding where planning applications should be approved or refused," he added.

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