Plans for “harmfully intrusive” new homes on the edge of the Exmoor national park have been thrown out by planning inspectors.
Mr J. Way applied in February 2021 for outline permission to build up to 12 new homes on the southern side of Beacon Road in Minehead, mere yards from the eastern edge of Exmoor. Somerset West and Taunton Council refused permission in November 2021, which prompted Mr Way to lodge a formal appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.
The inspectorate has now upheld the original decision, meaning the homes cannot go ahead – despite the site being identified as a possible future location for development. The site lies at the western end of Beacon Road, immediately north of St. Michael’s Church and Clevelands, both of which are listed buildings.
The proposed development would have been constructed in the shadow of North Hill, which is owned by Somerset Council and is prone to rock falls and landslips – prompting a £1m scheme to protect the neighbouring properties, which could be implemented later this year. The site was identified within Somerset West and Taunton Council’s strategic housing and employment land availability assessment (SHELAA) as being able to deliver up to ten new homes by 2031 – but officers warned there would be “terrain issues” with this site, and any development would have to be “low density” in nature.
Inspector J. J. Evans visit the site on March 28 and published his findings ahead of a meeting of Somerset Council’s planning committee west on Tuesday (June 20). Mr Evans noted that the existing properties on Beacon Road had “generous gardens” and complemented the “commanding presence” of the parish church, which can be seen from both Minehead’s seafront and the key A39.
He said that the new homes would be “higher up the hill than either Clevelands or the church” and would be “harmfully intrusive” on the character of the area, including its “largely uninterrupted verdant backdrop”. He added: “The provision of twelve dwellings in such a location would be conspicuously noticeable given their position high up the hillside.
(Image: Mitchell Architects)
“It might be the case that the houses could be arranged in groups and be designed to minimise their visual impact, such as being two-storey, having green roofs and timber walling. From some views lower down the hillside and from the old harbour area, the houses would not be visible.
“Notwithstanding this, the site is plainly visible from a number of other views within and beyond the town, and the hill is such a prominent feature in the area that such measures would not mitigate the essential change in the appearance of the site.” Mr Evans said that “ground and levelling works” would be needed to accommodate the new homes within the steep slopes, which would result in trees and other vegetation being removed.
He said: “I am not convinced that planning conditions would be sufficient to protect these trees during construction, nor that the development would ensure their long-term health and vitality. Additional planting is proposed to compensate for those trees that would be felled, but the impact of any replacement trees would take many years to make a similar contribution to the area, if ever.
The land south of Beacon Road where the five houses could be built
(Image: Mitchell Architects)
“The proposal would have a significant and unacceptable impact upon the character and appearance of the area, and the suggested conditions would not mitigate this harm.
“Given the harms raised by the proposal, including the significant harms arising to designated heritage assets, the identification of the site within the SHELAA would not override these.”
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