Town councillors and members of the public aimed a barrage of criticism at Taunton Deane’s planning bosses at a special meeting of the council earlier this week. Tim Burton, senior planning officer, and Cllr Richard Parrish, the borough’s portfolio holder for planning and transportation, were in Wellington to explain why they decided to withdraw objections to the proposed Bagley Rd development at last month’s planning inquiry.
Under questioning Mr Burton admitted that he feared in advance that the council’s position at the appeal was “not defensible” and that the avoidance of a potential six figure costs award against Taunton Deane was one of the reasons for the sudden decision to surrender to Gladman Developments.
Nearly 40 members of the public attended the event, far more than for a regular monthly town council meeting. Many spoke with passion about the issue. “What I want to know from Taunton is ‘What the hell are doing allowing this extra housing?’,” asked Charles Webb.
“Our primary schools are reeling with 36 pupils in some classes. There is no capacity to educate our children in this town.”
Diana Land said: “The whole planning department is not fit for purpose. Our town council go to Taunton Deane for planning advice and we are due a refund.”
The people protesting were not displaying NIMBY-ism (Not In My Back Yard) over new housing so much as objecting to the planners’ perceived lack of competence.
“Taunton Deane have spent years and many thousands of pounds putting together a core development strategy which the Gladman barrister demonstrated was as much use as a chocolate teapot and as full of holes as Swiss cheese,” said Gordon Hawker.
Mr Burton did not accept this claim, saying: “The Core Strategy is a development plan that can and will be supported in the future.” He was optimistic that forthcoming planning appeals regarding Gladman schemes at Wiveliscombe and Creech St Michael would be decided in favour of TDBC, saying that there were better grounds for refusal than at Bagley Rd.
However, David Gladman, co-founder of the company which specialises in the acquisition of land to gain planning permission and then sell on to housebuilders, told the High Court in London last year: “We normally only target local authorities whose planning is in relative disarray and … either have no up-to-date local plan or, temporarily, they do not have a five-year supply of consented building plots.”