Controversial plans for major business park development

-Credit: (Image: 'Batch Midsomer Norton' © Maurice Pullin ((CC BY-SA 2.0))
-Credit: (Image: 'Batch Midsomer Norton' © Maurice Pullin ((CC BY-SA 2.0))

Councillors are to be asked to consider making use of compulsory purchase powers if needed over a major development in Somerset.

Bath & North East Somerset Council cabinet members are being asked to consider using special powers to buy land and rights that are required to deliver an exemplar, net zero green business park at Old Mills, north west of Midsomer Norton, and the associated highway works.

It is all part of the controversial Somer Valley Enterprise Zone (SVEZ) development. At a meeting on February 1, the council cabinet voted unanimously to approve the local development order for the Somer Valley Enterprise Zone (SVEZ) on fields next to Midsomer Norton’s Old Mills Batch “volcano,” essentially granting planning permission in advance for companies to develop the site. Businesses will still have to submit a “compliance application” showing that they meet the design code and masterplan set out by the council.

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Now on Thursday, the Cabinet is being asked to approve the area of the land, interests and new rights that will need to be acquired for the SVEZ scheme, either by voluntary acquisition or compulsory purchase. A report before the council’s Cabinet notes that the main land required for the SVEZ scheme is held in ten separate parcels: five within the proposed boundary for the main site and five relating to the highway works.

Negotiations with the current owners are ongoing – the report seeks authority to commence compulsory purchase procedures if those negotiations break down irretrievably.

Cllr Paul Roper, Cabinet Member for Economic and Cultural Sustainable Development, said: “The Somer Valley Enterprise Zone (SVEZ) is an important element of the new B&NES Economic Strategy and allows us to create a location for new business and employment. The council is continuing to try and reach agreement with landowners to purchase the required land and rights. We do not take the use of a CPO lightly and will carefully consider the recommendations before us.”

The Somer Valley Enterprise Zone was established in April 2017 to support local businesses and to encourage business growth in the area and the creation of new jobs.

The council has previously consulted on a proposal to put in place a Local Development Order (LDO), which was confirmed by the Local Planning Authority on 22 February.

Locals protest against the SVEZ
Locals protest against the SVEZ

The LDO sets out the use type and quantity of development that can take place on the 13-hectare site and simplifies the planning process by removing the need for developers to make individual planning applications.

It is hoped that first jobs at the “green business park” will arrive in 3-4 years, although it could take up to a decade for the site to be fully developed. The council hopes it will bring 1,300 local jobs back to the area, reducing the need for people to commute out of the Somer Valley to work.

An active travel route will connect the site to Farrington Gurney in one direction, and link up with the Norton-Radstock Greenway in the other, with the hope that people will be able to commute to the site without needing to rely on their car.