Somerdale's transformation gets the go-ahead

Published on: 02 Oct 2013

A plan to transform Keynsham’s former chocolate factory into a new housing estate with its own school, shops, places of work and more has won the backing of planning chiefs at Bath and North East Somerset Council.

On September 25, the authority’s development control committee gave Taylor Wimpey the green light for its proposal to create around 700 homes on the site, including apartments inside one of the old factory buildings, and premises for employment.

Hopes for a second entrance to the site were dashed, however, as councillors on the committee voted the plans through with a single access off Station Road, despite fears of congestion around the site raised by councillors and residents.

Gill Hellier, chairman of Keynsham Town Council, which decided to object to the scheme because of concerns over access, said she felt planners had missed “the one chance to get it right”.

Following the decision, ward councillors for Keynsham said they would continue to campaign for measures to tackle traffic around the site.

Cllr Brian Simmons said: “We’re obviously disappointed that the planning committee decided against making a second access a requirement of the Somerdale development.  However, councillors did at least recognise the desperate need to develop a proper transport plan for Keynsham in order to ensure our town’s infrastructure can cope with the numerous developments coming forward in the years ahead.

“The majority of residents broadly support the plans for the Somerdale site, particularly the new jobs, new Fry Club and affordable homes.  But we must get the traffic issues sorted to ensure our roads can cope.”

The development includes a new Fry Club as part of the first phase of building work and the committee heard from club chairman Kevin Thatcher, who said it would benefit members and the wider community and was “a worthy legacy to the site’s heritage”.

Bernard Grimes, of Fry Club Junior Football Club, also addressed councillors and said while he felt the scheme was “excellent” overall, relocating two pitches into the flood plain was “not acceptable”. 

He called for the third pitch, which was not in the flood plain, to be made an all-weather facility with match floodlights.

It is also hoped that around  1,000 new jobs will be created on the site and the meeting heard from Graham Donald, of drink wholesaler Matthew Clark, who said the firm had earmarked Somerdale as a potential site for its head office, which employed almost 400 people.

Before going to a vote, committee chairman Councillor Gerry Curran said he felt the development would “undoubtedly have an impact on local traffic in Keynsham”. But he added: “Modelling on the impact of a second entrance  shows it really does not make all that difference,  all those cars would come out on the same road anyway – putting in a second entrance does not reduce the volume of traffic.”

Conservative councillors for the town say they hope B&NES will fund infrastructure improvements with the £4.5 million it is due to receive in New Homes Bonus payments from the site.

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