Ward Members ‘Concern’ as Sedgemoor Planners Vote Through Penlea Development

Hamp Councillors Liz Leavy and Leigh Redman

Bridgwater’s Hamp Councillors campaign to challenge the proposed development of the historic Penlea House to a four storey block of  33 flats has met a serious obstacle as Sedgemoor’s Development Committee voted 10.5 to approve the plan. Labour Councillors Liz Leavy and Leigh Redman spoke at the meeting but their pleas for a site visit fell on largely deaf ears. Cllr Leigh Redman said afterwards “ I am concerned by the approval as it will have a detrimental impact on residents all around the site with considerable overlooking and loss of privacy, by not going to site the committee lost an important opportunity to see just how close the adjoining properties are, the building will negatively impact views all around the estate.”

The historic Penlea House

Cllr Liz Leavy said “ Local residents are shocked and surprised by what is now proposed. Not only would this development be exceptionally close  to neighbouring properties, but it would not be in keeping with the area”

Cllr Kathy Pearce (Labour,Westover) said “Whilst we certainly do need more social housing, and I’m pleased to see the green credentials for this proposal, what does concern me is the size and scale of this, and the potential for overlooking. This needs more investigation. Its close proximity to Oak Trees Nursing Home concerns me as well.”

Cllr Li Gibson (Labour, Eastover) said “I think it looks a bit like a prison. Why did it move from the two-storey design to this massive development? I think it’s disgusting to have one window for an entire flat.” 

The newbuild proposal for Penlea

Burnham Lib Dem councillor  Mike Murphy added “I’m very concerned about the lack of imagination in the design of this ‘prison’, as Cllr Gibson put it. It’s not been designed with children in mind. Where is the nearest play area? They’ve gone for density as always – overbearing, overlooking, without protecting residential amenity. Social housing is a definite need, but I am deeply concerned about this. We should go for a site visit in the fullness of time.”

The majority of Tory Councillors however backed the project. Cllr Kingham (West Polden, Con) said “It’s good to see Sedgemoor providing modern living for our tenants. I think people get concerend when they see tall buildings but it’s in keeping with modern living” while Cllr Alan Bradford (North Petherton, Con) said “we can’t stand in the way of progress. It’s a big site and it wants utilising properly”. Finally Burnham’s Cllr Alastair Hendry (Bunrham, Con) said “To reduce the value of neighbouring properties is never a reason to turn this kind of thing down.”

A proposal for a site visit was put by Cllr Pearce and seconded by Cllr Gibson but the Committee moved and approved the recommendation and the proposal was won 10.5 with just Labour councillors Pearce and Gibson voting against along with Lib Dems Revans and Murphy plus solitary Tory Brian Bolt. Meanwhile, further frustrating their colleagues 2 Labour councillors-Alex Glassford and Graham Granter (Fairfax) joined 8 Tories in supporting the application. There is however, no party whip in planning decisions.

Councillor Leigh Redman’s statement in full

Hamp Town, District and County Councillor Leigh Redman

“Chair, members, thank you for the opportunity to speak to committee. You have heard from Cllr Leavy, she outlined the impact this development will have on the community I live in. I am speaking today as a local councillor and resident.

I have been asked by many, many residents to try and convey to you the negative impact this building will have on the area and their lives. I wish to oppose this application and will ask you to refuse it, before someone shouts NIMBY, I need to be clear, residents are not objecting to the demolition and development of the site.

The now empty building is an eyesore, the area needs regeneration and the community needs more accommodation, in fact most of the people that I speak for, are happy with the already agreed proposal, they are content with the 3 blocks that would provide the accommodation required and not dramatically impact people’s lives the way this monstrosity would. I urge you to go and look at the site, pictures do not do this huge development justice.

This proposal is a massive change in existing developments locally, the block will fill a massive space, the footprint and height of the 4 storey cube proposed is a ridiculous option.

I have been contacted by numerous residents local to the proposed site. Their main concerns relate to overlooking, loss of privacy and the overshadowing causing loss of light the building would have on their lives.

You will have taken the time to review the more than 50 objections from all around the area, I have a petition of local people with nearly 100 signatures, in these strange times you will respect how great that is.

There will be loss of views from many properties and a huge loss of privacy to those people neighbouring the site.

Being limited to 3 mins means I cannot adequately explain how this eyesore will negatively impact the area.

I ask you to refuse the application, the weight of objections and the size of the building deserves full consideration of all the facts. Facts that photos cannot purvey.

The new plans mean aspects of the proposed building would be towering over homes and an old people home just metres away, some sides and the top of the new building will be visible more than a mile away.

The town council and Local councillors fully support the large volume of valid objections from local residents and if members may be minded to support this massive building we ask that you request a site visit to allow you to fully recognise the impact this will have, better still refuse the application and send the council back to the original plan.

Members these are genuine planning objections.

The proposed building will overshadow many properties causing loss of light, it will overlook many properties causing loss of privacy, the visual impact of the development is out of keeping and out of scale for the area, when compared to the existing and surrounding buildings.

Members this is an easy decision, please refuse this application. Thank you.”