A CONTROVERSIAL planning application in Chard has been passed by the smallest margin.

Plans to build 24 homes off Touchstone Lane sparked an hour-long debate at South Somerset District Council’s area west planning committee meeting in the Guildhall.

The committee voted 6-5 to approve Summerfield Homes’ proposals after considering changes to the original plans, submitted in May last year, and then amended in September and again earlier this month.

Key concerns raised during the process included existing properties being overlooked, the impact on the roads and fears about an increased risk of flooding.

The developer addressed some of the issues in the amended plans, most notably by changing some of the proposed houses to bungalows.

Chris Winter, who spoke at the meeting as Summerfield’s agent, tackled the issue of flooding, saying: “The new development will not make flooding in the area any worse – positive drainage systems will help divert surface run-off.

“I believe we’ve worked with officers to offer a sustainable, attractive and much needed development.”

But ward member Cllr Martin Wale, who also sits on Chard Town Council, was one of those who remained opposed to the plans.

He said: “Summerfield have been quite proper in going away and re-considering, and for that I thank them.

“Though it’s an improvement I still don’t feel it achieves protection of residential amenity.

“I can’t frankly believe the highways department. Anyone who knows this road will know that bend’s dangerous at the best of times without putting an entrance to a housing estate there.

“I think highways are wrong on this point.

“This is one of the worst parts of our town for flooding. It has always been bad and anything which doesn’t help stop flooding should be discouraged.”

Cllr Ric Pallister said: “The applicant has done everything we asked them to last time.

“People don’t have a right to a pleasant view, so we can’t refuse it on residential amenity.

“Of course, there’s an impact – there always will be if you build higher up on a hill, but we can’t refuse it on that basis.”

Robert Learmont, who lives in neighbouring Laurel Gardens, voiced his and other residents’ concerns about the relative height of the new bungalows and flooding at the meeting, and urged councillors to refuse the plans.

Afterwards, he said: “We’re obviously disappointed, but I think it was inevitable.

“The writing was on the wall before we came tonight – it’s too late to stop it now.

“They didn’t really do anything at all about the overlooking problem.

“Because of the slope, those bungalows will be 4m – about the height of a double-decker bus – above our patios.

“We retired there. It’s peaceful and quiet, but it won’t be any more.”