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Last day of the Barratts public inquiry

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The public inquiry Fingers Crossedinto North Somerset Council’s decision to refuse house builder Barratts permission to build 80 houses outside the village of Congresbury, has finally come to an end.

Adjourned after four days from earlier this month, the fifth day was taken up by statements and cross examination of Gareth Williams, a town planner employed by Barratts. Mr Williams gave evidence as to why his firm should be allowed to build the new estate.

He argued that because North Somerset did not have a five year land supply on which to build, service villages like Congresbury would have to take a greater share of new homes. Mr Williams contended that the Barratts development would be of economic and social benefit to the village. Under cross examination, he agreed that Congresbury was already a vital and viable village.

He was asked several penetrating questions by local residents – CRAG’s Robin Lea challenged Mr William’s assertion that the development would provide much needed affordable homes. Mr Lea said that to afford one of Barrett’s cheaper homes at £250,000 a buyer would need an income of £60,000 plus a 12 per cent deposit.

Dr Robin Jeacocke said the implications from Historic England letter recommending bollards to protect the medieval Market Cross, was that the carriageway of the B3133 was not wide enough to take the junction modifications.

Dr Wilson asked if the development would cater for older people who wanted to move to a bungalow. There was no plans to include bungalows in the development. Viv Tomkinson challenged some of the statistics used by the witness, including the proportion of retired people living in Congresbury. Mr Williams said that they accounted for 21 per cent. Ms Tomkinson contended that using Office of National Statistics, the figure was nearer 6per cent.

After hearing closing statements from lawyers representing Barratts, North Somerset Council and Congresbury Parish Council. Mr Richard Fletcher for the parish, said the council objected to the development on grounds that it is outside boundary, it is unsustainable and caused harm to the character of the village.

He underlined the comments made by many residents that the mitigation scheme would put pedestrians at serious risk.

He added that the works would affect the conservation area visually and because of impact of increased traffic on cross and Ship and Castle, increase the risk of damage from articulated vehicles using the route to Weston.

Mr Timothy Leader for North Somerset said there was no evidence that Congresbury needed 80 new houses to maintain its viability and vitality.

Inspector Richard Schofield now has up to six weeks to deliver his decision.

John Mills John Mills

Journalist and jazz saxophonist John Mills has lived in Congresbury for more than 25 years, moving to the village from West London with his wife Rocki and 10 month old son, Sam in 1979. After a few years in Clevedon, John and Rocki moved back to the village in 2006, renovating and extending a bungalow in Yew Tree Park. Sadly, Rocki died in 2013. John, 71 keeps busy musically, playing with Cadbury Wind Band, with his son in the Sam Mills Quintet, and with a newly formed duo, Sax in the City with fellow Congresbury saxophonist and vocalist, Louise Harris.

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