SEDGEMOOR NEWS: New homes for Highbridge town centre site
A TOTAL of 29 new flats will be built in Highbridge town centre in spite of opposition from local residents.
New Shore Developments Ltd, which operates out of Poole in Dorset, applied to redevelop the vacant brownfield site at 1 Market Street, which lies close to the busy A38.
The site was previously home to a number of Victorian homes and shops, but has been vacant for several years.
Sedgemoor District Council’s development committee has now approved its redevelopment, despite concerns over the access arrangements and the structural integrity of neighbouring buildings.
The committee convened in Bridgwater on Tuesday, July 31, 2018, to discuss the plans at length.
Dawn de Vries, the council’s principal planning officer, said that the site had originally been earmarked for a restaurant and gym with 14 flats above – but added that efforts to market the site commercially had come to nothing.
The new one and two-bedroom flats would be constructed in two three storey blocks, with a communal garden between the two blocks.
A total of 31 parking spaces will be provided for the flats on the lower ground floor across the two blocks, with access being from Highbridge Quay via the River Court car park.
Ms de Vries said that this was “considered to be a suitable site for a landmark building”, and that preventing any further retail development on the site would not have “a significantly adverse impact” to the town.
Toni Hammick, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said that the “constrictive” nature of the site made it difficult to develop it for commercial purposes.
She added: “Most of the flats are largely than the national space standards, none are smaller.”
David Barrett, who lives at the neighbouring Island House, described the design of the flats as “overbearing and out of character with the area”, and added that local parking provision was already “over-stretched”.
Lorna Williams, deputy town clerk for Burnham and Highbridge Town Council, said that the proposals undermined Market Street’s role as the main retail centre for Highbridge.
She added that other developments within walking distance of the site would lead to a “significant increase in footfall to this location”, making retail a more attractive proposition.
Her position was echoed by town councillor Roger Keen, who claimed that the developer had “a callous disregard” for the welfare of neighbouring residents.
He argued: “There is a cellar under 2 Market Street. The applicant has not investigated the extent of these cellars.
“Digging down to build a retaining wall and then driving piles could cause untold damage to the owners of No. 2 – it could become a matter of public safety.
“A bond should be put in place, either with the council or a solicitor, so that if neighbouring buildings are damaged, residents can be suitably compensated.”
Ms de Vries said that the developer would work with neighbours under the Party Wall Act 1996 to ensure that no damage or subsidence was caused during the construction of the flats.
Cllr Dave Loveridge raised concerns about whether new waste lorries being ordered by the Somerset Waste Partnership will be able to access the site for collections.
He said: “Bigger vehicles are coming on line with the Somerset Waste Partnership. If they have to park on the A38 there would be a big hold-up.”
Cllr Janet Keen added: “The proposed entrance from the main road to the car park – this is close to the A38 and a roundabout.
“This is a very busy road, and a displacement highway that takes additional traffic if there is even slight disruption on the M5. It only takes 15 minutes of disruption and that road will become static – nobody moves.”
Ms de Vries responded that waste vehicles would reverse into River Court for collections, so that disruption on the A38 would be kept to a minimum.
Cllr Paul Herbert spoke in favour of the plans, citing work being done by the YMCA Somerset Coast to refurbish the Highbridge Hotel nearby.
He said: “The YMCA is opening a building just opposite fairly soon, so I like to think Somerset County Council’s highways teams have considered the impact, and if they have to do something, they will. I’m putting my faith in their officers.
“We don’t have the money to deliver retail, so the private sector has to do it – and if they say they can’t do it, what do we do? Leave the site as it is?”
After around an hour of deliberation, the committee voted to approve the plans by a margin of 12 to one.