By now, everyone will have realised that an american poet’s ashes are in the church of St Michael and All Saints and that John Craven can see Yeovil from the top of the church tower.
Those with a deeper interest in the evidence will know that within the next 20 years, Yeovil will have to grow beyond its current boundaries if our children and grand-children are to have homes to live in. Fortunately, we live in some of the finest countryside in England, surrounded by fantastic heritage and served by a fragile road system. Unfortunately that makes growth without pain impossible. Councillors are faced with the difficult decision of choosing a “least worst” option.
On Tuesday 8th November a number of councillors carried out a site visit to areas within the two growth directions still being considered, south/southwest and northwest.
Whilst there are maps being published by campaigners showing more specific detail, ignore them. Most are fakes or older working drafts and all are irrelevant. Only the broad direction has to be decided now, the draft maps were produced to prove to Councillors (and the Planning Inspector) that these directions are viable options. The actual form of any growth will be decided by locals, much later in the planning process.
The visit involved travelling around the edges of the two areas being considered and also looking at them from key vantage points such as the ridge south of the Cokers and Ham Hill Country Park.
We also walked out into the sites to look at the lay of the land, its current uses and its relationship with neighbouring areas.
One of the many difficulties with any growth near Yeovil is the loss of agricultural land, the settings of the many historic sites, listed buildings and conservation areas. To be fair, this is true throughout South Somerset, we have 4,650 listed structures, 87 Conservation areas and 17 Historic Gardens! Click here to find out more.
Many other factors have to be taken into account, including the effect on the road system in and around Yeovil and the effect on the A303, which is strategically important to the South-West peninsular. Transport choices will be particularly important in reducing congestion and in a world where oil and energy costs are rising.
Back in 2009, I initiated a study into whether the Urban Extension could be made to eco-town standards. Early indications are that this has a critical benefit in reducing the traffic throughout the rest of the town. It also means that fully 40% of any urban extension will be green-space, allowing high levels of protection to be provided for neighbouring areas, as well as securing quality in the new homes and employment.
On critical thing we must do is to ensure that all of the required infrastructure is delivered in a timely fashion and not piecemeal. Things like bin lorries and GP surgeries don’t just happen, someone has to pay. More studies have been started and we have decided to allow more time to complete those, putting the final decision on direction back into spring.
As you can probably tell from the serious faces in the pictures above, this will be a very difficult decision … but we will do our best.