Planning update for North Elm Close, Telecoms mast, and December Planning Board

Planning Update for Wells Civic Society on significant applications – 2nd January 2021.

1. 2020 ended with glad tidings for those living at Elm Close when MDC refused the application for 68 dwellings to the north of the Close (2020/2217). The grounds were:

1. Adverse impact due to coalescence of Wells with Haybridge and impact on the openness of the wider setting of Wells

2. Insufficient information re highway impact and

3. “Insufficient information has been submitted to assess whether the proposal would result in an unacceptable increase in phosphate levels within the foul water discharge affecting the current unfavourable status of the Somerset Moors and Levels Ramsar site and as such fails Regulation 63 of the Habitat Regulations 2017. In addition, insufficient information has been submitted in relation to the potential impact on the North Somerset and Mendip Bats Special Area of Conservation….”

Ground 3 insofar as it relates to phosphate levels is based on the Dutch N case. Following the case, Natural England wrote to all 4 district councils urging them to undertake further assessment before approving any plans which could lead to higher phosphate levels in this area – including large numbers of homes. The councils estimated in early December that nearly 800 planning applications had been affected including developments that would deliver over 11,000 new homes.

2. The proposed telecoms mast at the eastern end of Tor Furlong, Wells. Application reference: 2020/0073.

Appeal reference: APP/Q3305/W/17/3185165

The brave decision of MDC to refuse this application was regrettably followed by a successful appeal and I have set out the conclusion of the Decision Letter dated the 9th of December 2020 below.

32.The proposal would be visually intrusive causing harm to the character and appearance of the area in conflict with Policies DP1, DP3, DP4 and DP7 of the Local Plan, and also the Framework. Yet, the harm would be relatively localised, and this is judged to be moderate, given that views of the proposed development, from further afield, would be screened or seen against the backdrop provided by local topography and woodland.

33.Against this harm, the Framework gives strong support to the need for high quality and reliable communications infrastructure. I find that there is a clear and pressing need for development to deliver communications infrastructure to sustain adequate existing coverage and capacity in the area. The proposal would further allow for the expansion of networks. The evidence before me shows a lack of realistic alternative sites to provide coverage which is important for economic growth and social well-being, and in the absence of the appeal proposal, the quality of communication services would be deficient.

34. In this context, I find with regard to the specific circumstances of this case, that the public benefits of the development would be significant, and these would outweigh the harm caused by the visual effect of the development on the character and appearance of the area. Therefore, on this basis the proposed development would be acceptable.

3. MDC’s Planning Board were in resolute mood on the 16th of December when they considered the application for revised signage at Morrisons in Wells (2020/1281). The recommendation to them was to approve the proposal which removed the illumination from the controversial signs on the eastern side of the store and impose a condition requiring all store signage to be turned off when it closed. The Board went beyond the recommendation by requiring removal of the 3 signs on the eastern and northern sides of the store and requiring the condition re extinguishing lights to be applied to the petrol station in addition to the store.

Adrian I’Anson

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