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Plans for 70 homes at Little Keyford Lane refused again

By local democracy reporter Daniel Mumby

PLANS for 70 new houses at Little Keyford Lane have been refused for a second time, with district councillors stating that would accept “no less than the best” for the site. 

Wainhomes put forward plans to build homes between Little Keyford Lane and the B3092 The Mount in Frome, not far from the Marston Trading Estate. 

After plans were refused in October 2021, the developer published amended proposals, moving the access road and seeking to address councillors’ concerns about drainage, road safety and the loss of local hedgerows. 

But Mendip District Council’s planning board voted to turn down the plans again last week, claiming not all of these issues had been resolved and urging the developer to come up with something better. 

The site is one of three adjoining parcels of land allocated for housing within the council’s Local Plan Part II, which identifies additional sites to deliver the district’s housing needs up to 2029. 

The planning board granted permission in February to Barratt David Wilson Homes to build 249 homes on the other two parcels, which lie either side of the B3092 to the south of the Wainhomes site. 

Under the new plans, access will be onto the B3092 (north of the junction with Dragonfly Close), with pedestrian and cycle links being provided onto Little Keyford Lane and into the David Wilson Homes site. 

Cllr Steve Tanner, who sits on Frome Town Council, said he was “pretty disappointed” with the plans, citing the continued use of gas boilers to heat the new homes in light of government policy, which will be banned in new-build homes from 2025. 

He said, “Air source and ground source heat pumps are technically feasible for this site. 

“If it is technically possible, and helps to alleviate carbon, and is forward-looking technology, why isn’t it being proposed and insisted on? 

“We met with Barratt David Wilson Homes to discuss their future plans. They informed us they were told by your officers that they had to install air source heat pumps. Is that’s the case, why isn’t it the case here?” 

District councillor Shane Collins, whose Frome Keyford ward includes the site, said that the designs had not improved enough to warrant permission being granted this time around. 

He said, “This is a prominent, hilltop edge-of-town location on some of Frome’s best quality agricultural land. Frome is not ‘any town’, and ‘off the peg’ solutions will not be good enough here. 

“The application is far from being the best that can be achieved at this site. Very little other than vehicular access has changed. 

“The proposed design of the individual houses and the layout of the estate fails to respect the local context and doesn’t reflect local materials and styles. 

“We think Frome deserves better. We should accept no less than the best that can be achieved at this sensitive location.” 

District councillor Helen Kay (who represents the same ward) said the current plans did not do enough to preserve the hedgerows and the character of Little Keyford Lane. 

She said, “For years and years, we’ve had re-wilding by default, and some of the hedgerows along Little Keyford Lane are now 15 metres wide. There are trees growing in there. 

“This is a really important walking route out of Frome. A lot of people go down there, walking, cycling, running – it was especially busy during the lockdown.” 

Numerous councillors felt the plans were an improvement on the previous design but did not go far enough. 

District councillor Francis Hayden said, “I think we have to acknowledge that this is hugely better that what we’ve seen before. The main question before us now is: ‘is this good enough?’. 

“The biggest issue, it seems to me, is the issue with the hedgerow on Little Keyford Lane. They [Wainhomes] signed up to a master-plan and then didn’t stick to it.” 

District councillor Laura Waters added, “I don’t think this is good enough. It has come some way further and that’s great, but it’s not quite far enough. 

“The hedgerow going down Little Keyford Lane is full of wildlife. I think the developers are missing a trick here – really, that ought to be a community woodland that continues the buffer and can be used by the people in the estate.” 

District councillor Matt Martin said that more needed to be done to ensure children living within the site could safely walk to Christ Church First School, located just up the road. 

He said, “Children need to be able to walk to school. It’s no good people in their 4x4s getting to school and then saying ‘oh, the traffic’s appalling’.” 

After more than an hour’s debate, the board voted to refuse the plans by a margin of seven votes to six. 

Cllr Damon Hooton, who chaired the meeting, said he expected Wainhomes to come back “fairly soon” with new plans for the site. 

Frome Town Council has said that it will now set up a further meeting with the applicants and various interested parties, including district councillors, to try and agree an ‘acceptable way’ forward. 

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