Plan for nine homes near tourist attraction refused

The entrance to Homestead Park in Wookey Hole

The entrance to Homestead Park in Wookey Hole - Credit: Google

The owners of Wookey Hole Caves have been refused permission to build new homes in the village nearest the popular tourist attraction.

Wookey Hole Ltd applied in March 2020 to redevelopment the Homestead Park site on High Street in Wookey Hole near Wells, seeking to replace a four-bedroom house and three park homes with nine three-bedroom properties.

Mendip District Council’s planning board met in Shepton Mallet on Wednesday evening (May 11) to discuss the plans.

But after around an hour’s debate, the plans were unanimously refused, with councillors arguing they amounted to “over-development” and would damage the character of the village.

Ivor Tetley, who lives in Wookey Hole, said any new homes on this site had to reflect the history and character of the village.

He said: “There is a need for the right houses in the right places. What we have here is perhaps the right place, but definitely the wrong houses.

“The development will be very visible from the road through the village and from footpaths, including the very popular West Mendip Way. It doesn’t contribute positively to local identity.

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“There are better designs in the village right under the applicant’s nose. There are plenty of villages not far away, like Chagford, where the new fits in with the old.”

Plans for nine homes on Homestead Park on High Street in Wookey Hole

How the development would have looked - Credit: ARA Architecture

The West Mendip Way runs for 30 miles between Weston-super-Mare and Wells, via Cheddar and much of the Mendip Hills area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).

Separate plans are currently being considered for 50 new homes on Wookey Hole Road in Wells near the eastern end of the path.

Council leader Ros Wyke – who was recently elected to the Mendip West division on the new Somerset Council – said the village had already seen significant development as a result of tourism.

She said: “The site is a gateway site, and Wookey Hole has very distinctive architecture, with buildings which have stood the test of time.

“It will have a distinctive impact on the skyline of Wookey [Hole, and I think we should be recognising that this sort of new housing alongside these very unique homes will impact on the long-term feel of the village.

“The front gardens for these properties are virtually non-existent, and the back gardens are less than the length of a car. I would suggest that this is over-development.”

Cllr Matt Martin added: “This seems to be a classic case of sticking to the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. The plan seems to be to squeeze as much cash out of this plot as possible.”

Cllr Edric Hobbs said the vehicles which would use the development’s 29 car parking spaces would add problems to an already dangerous rural road.

He said: “Nobody respects the speed limit in this village – they fly around that corner. It’s going to add a lot of blooming vehicles which aren’t needed to the area.

“This village is very visible from Arthur’s Point and other parts of the Mendips – these homes will stand out like a sore thumb.”

The committee voted unanimously to refuse permission on the grounds of over-development, the adverse impact of local residents and the lack of amenity space.

Wookey Hole Ltd has not yet confirmed whether it intends to appeal the decision.