CAMPAIGNERS objecting to a controversial 220-home plan in Ilminster say they are hopeful it will be rejected after a planning inquiry.
Construction company C G Fry & Son and the Dillington Estate submitted the application for the huge housing development in Shudrick Valley, and after it was rejected a number of times by South Somerset District Council, appealed the decision.
An eight-day planning inquiry was held from January 17 over the plans, which were first submitted in June 2014, and heard arguments from both the developers and opponents.
A final decision on the plans will be announced in the coming weeks.
Now, the Save Shudrick Valley Group, which has vociferously objected to the plans since they were submitted, said it is hopeful the inquiry will reject the appeal and bring an end to the long-running saga.
The group say there are a number of "major issues" with the plans, including traffic concerns over HGVs using minor roads during the construction, three parish councils also objecting to the plans, flooding worries and the loss of the heritage of the site.
A spokesman for the group said: "We are very hopeful of the appeal being dismissed.
"If it is upheld, it could have a major impact not only on Ilminster but the rest of the South Somerset District Council area.
"The main issue the inspector has to decide is over the housing policies in the Local Plan which are considered out of date because SSDC does not have a five year housing land supply.
"If the Inspector finds that the policy relating to the Direction of Growth is a housing policy and so is out of date, then there could be planning challenges throughout the district.
"It could provide open house for any developer to put in speculative planning applications to build on the best greenfield sites that we currently savour so much."
As reported in the News last week, a separate planning application for 450 homes on land off Canal Way has also been submitted, and the group say that plan helps fulfill the district council's housing needs as in the Local Plan, rather than the Shudrick Valley application.
The spokesman added: "If the appeal is upheld, Ilminster will in effect have 220 homes it doesn’t need.
"But it will help fulfil the need for homes for towns like Yeovil and Chard, for instance, where building in the Local Plan period is already lagging behind.
"That is not the case in Ilminster - the town is already 53 per cent towards its minimum target in the Local Plan period and there are still 11 years to run.
"Ilminster picking up the tab for other towns which have not fulfilled their housing requirement could have a major effect on the town’s services and facilities.
"It could quickly become a dormitory town.
"In addition, with the Direction of Growth at Canal Way there is already a planning application for 450 homes. At some stage we would end up with major developments at both ends of the town at the same time, and construction traffic could be using the town’s narrow streets or the surrounding country lanes for well over five years.
"The residents of Ilminster don’t yet realise what is in store if this planning appeal is agreed by the Inspector. The impact will be immense.
"Do we want our town to grow so much that it starts to lose its identity and character for which it is well known?
"It would be much better for the town to grow gradually as planned in the Local Plan and for the employment land at the Hort Bridge site to be developed to provide jobs and keep the town sustainable.
"We have fought this application for over six years and we believe we have a very strong case.
"It has cost around £50,000 to fight this application through donations and fundraising and we will continue to do so. But it is now down to the Appeal Inspector and his decision will be known in a couple of months.”
A spokesman for C G Fry & Son said the firm did not want to make a comment until the decision of the planning inquiry was announced.