A SOMERSET council will “not look to actively defend” an appeal against more than 100 new homes being built in a village near the A303.

South Somerset District Council refused plans in July for 120 new homes on Coat Road in Martock, which locals argued would put greater pressure on local roads and services.

Barratt Homes has appealed the council’s decision, and re-submitted new plans for the site which will be discussed in Yeovil on Wednesday (November 27).

But the council has now admitted it will not defend itself against the appeal if a planned public inquiry goes ahead in February next year.

The prospect of an appeal was first discussed in a confidential meeting of the council’s regulation committee, which makes the final decision on all major planning applications in the district.

The committee met before the full council meeting on September 19 and received advice from the council’s legal team.

The minutes, which have only recently been published, state committee members agreed that “whilst it was to be hoped that an appeal could be avoided, the council should not look to actively defend the reasons for refusal in the event that an appeal was submitted.”

As part of the appeal process, Barratt Homes has submitted two new versions of the Coat Road plans – one which is practically identical to those refused in July, and one which only deals with the access to the site.

The council’s area north committee – which handles major planning applications for Martock and other settlements north of the A303 – will discuss both sets of plans when it meets in Yeovil on Wednesday (November 27) from 2pm.

Planning officer Colin Begeman confirmed in his report for the committee that the council “would not be actively defending” its reasons for refusing the plans.

If the plans are not passed by the area north committee – or the regulation committee – a public inquiry will begin in Yeovil on February 4, 2020.

A council spokesman said: “We took advice from a barrister specialising in planning law and shared this with the members of the regulation committee.

“Following receipt of that advice, the committee agreed that they did not wish to defend an appeal in this particular instance, should it arise.

“As a result a decision was taken that it was not in the public interest to defend an appeal should it arise.

“Each case is looked at on its own merits and no precedent is set by this.”

Councillor Neil Bloomfield – one of Martock’s two ward members- previously accused the council of “running scared of the Bogeyman in Bristol” – referring to the Planning Inspectorate, who would decide the outcome of the appeal.

Speaking in July, he said: “Martock cannot currently look after the needs of its own – it has 40 per cent social deprivation, and is one of the most deprived parishes in the district. We spend 50 per cent of our parish precept on social deprivation.

“We are compromising the future because we cannot deal with the present needs.”