21 February 2023
The Green Party has expressed its concerns about the planning application for an ‘Enterprise Zone’ at Old Mills in Paulton.
The party objects to the application for a number of reasons. Firstly, it makes no sense in a climate emergency to create a large out-of-town facility as it will inevitably lead to increased travel by car, exacerbated by the imminent loss of subsidised bus services and poorly thought-out alternative travel provisions. We are very concerned that the large amount of car parking detailed in the application shows exactly how the developers expect people to reach the site and are paying lip-service to sustainable travel goals.
Quite apart from the environmental aspect, in an area that already suffers from congestion it makes no sense to add to the problem with more cars. The road 'improvements' are only addressing the immediate access to the site and don't go far enough to alleviate existing bottlenecks that already create known air quality issues in the area and won't get any better with more traffic.
Sustainable infrastructure such as cycle paths is neither complete nor comprehensive and there seems to be a lot of reliance on WECA to find the additional funds needed to join up the cycling/footpath provision, which is not a given. As of today there aren’t even pavements from Paulton, Farrington Gurney or Midsomer Norton all the way to the site, and this seems unlikely to change.
While the development is proposed as 95% office and warehouse space, rather than retail, the fear is that this could change over time. This adds to the general sentiment that this is an unnecessary over-development of green space at a time when both Midsomer Norton and Radstock town centres are both failing due to a lack of investment.
Farrington Gurney Parish Council is resigned to supporting this application with some reasonable caveats and requests for more robust conditions that would benefit its parishioners along the A362. While we appreciate that this is disappointing for residents, it is probably the best that the parish council can do within their remit. Only Bath and NE Somerset council can demand substantial changes or refuse permission.
It is not a coincidence that the vast majority of residents oppose the application, as can be seen on the comments given to the council during the application process. Local people value the green space, know that the infrastructure cannot support the development, and want sustainable investment in their towns, not new ‘out of town’ developments that don’t bring trade to local shops and services.
Local resident Angharad Barber said, “I am concerned there is a drive through fast food chain in the plans, this will encourage more car journeys, eating junk food from single use and rarely recycled containers. The transport document states that people can “walk to the new site” - how? People don’t tend to walk along dangerous roads for entertainment.
What purpose will the hotel serve but to take business away from the small B&Bs in the area? I am concerned about the large corporations that will be based at the new site, undercutting local businesses and not paying fair taxes to the UK economy.”
Tracy Attwood, a Farrington Gurney resident, said “With no footpaths or cycle tracks to reach this new development there will be a huge increase on traffic. Because people in Farrington Gurney are not within the boundaries of this development we have not been consulted with but it will impact us massively.”
We call on BNES Council to refuse the application. In Midsomer Norton and Radstock there are already a large number of retail and industrial units sat empty and in need of investment. By encouraging businesses to take these existing spaces the council would save unnecessary green-field development, promote sustainable transport, reduce commute times, and breathe life into towns that are not reaching their full potential for business due to years of underinvestment.
We encourage BaNES residents to object to the application. You can do this online here.