Council needs to spend £13m on infrastructure

By in Planning

WEST Somerset will need to find over £13 million over the next 15 years to boost its infrastructure to cope with nearly 3,000 new homes planned for the area, district councillors were told this week.

The huge cash injection – which needs to be spent on everything from roads, bridges and community halls to new flood defences – would be the cost of a new Infrastructure Delivery Plan, presented to the council’s local development panel on Wednesday.

The plan was commissioned last year by the council from consultants Three Dragons to support future growth as set out in the council’s revised Local Plan.

The consultants stressed that the plan was not a policy document but provided a focus for long-term strategic financial decisions. It did not override strategies or policies which the council had in place.

Planning policy manager Nick Bryant told the panel that, as public funding was currently limited, much of the finance would come from contributions from developers and possibly through a new community infrastructure levy.

But there was still likely to be a funding gap and it was expected that a new approach to funding and delivery of strategic infrastructure would have to be found.

Councillors were told that urgent improvements to the infrastructure will be necessary when the 2,900 new homes identified as necessary in West Somerset by the Local Plan begin to built in the next four to 15 years.

There are plans for 750 houses in Minehead and Alcombe, 290 at Parsonage Farm, Watchet, and 406 at Williton.

Additional sites south of Periton Road, Minehead and Cleeve Hill, Watchet, have been identified for longer-term development.

The plan includes a new road to link the Minehead homes to the A39 and a £650,000 community hall will be protected by new flood-risk management.

Plans for the Watchet development would include walking and cycling links connecting the town centre and a new pedestrian bridge over the West Somerset Railway estimated to cost between £500,000 and £1 million.

Studies showed that some time in the future the road out of Watchet on Cleeve Hill would succumb to erosion and would need to realigned inland, probably through the nearby housing development planned for the future.

The plan identified Williton as needing walking and cycling links to the village centre and a £3million to £4m flood risk management structure to protect residents from the Doniford and Monksilver streams.

Planners also recommended enhancement of the designated heritage site Battlegore Barrow cemetery with landscaping and public access.

The study identified the need for new community halls, particularly a large hall in Minehead as an alternative, up to four small halls could be provided in such towns and villages as Watchet, Williton and Stogursey, and one more in smaller villages like Brompton Ralph and Haddon.

The hall at Huish Champflower was identified as needing rebuilding within five to ten years and the total cost of addressing the current lack of hall facilities would be about £3.25m.

The development panel was told that the information in the plan would help the council identify investment priorities and provide feedback on the most effective ways of implementing the Local Plan and monitoring progress.