PLANS for a new nursery in Wembdon have been rejected despite an ‘urgent need’ for new childcare places.

The controversial proposal for a new nursery catering for up to 60 children on land to the west of Naples View brought 114 letters of objections from residents.

However, when Sedgemoor District Council’s development committee met on Tuesday, it was recommended by the council officers to grant the application subject to a number of conditions.

The biggest sticking point seemed to be in regard to traffic - members of the committee had recently undertaken a site visit - where Cllr Janet Keen observed ‘access is clearly an issue’, despite the Highways authority deeming the proposal ‘acceptable’.

Bridgwater Mercury:

“On the site visit it was apparent that access was a serious problem,” Cllr Keen said. “It is extremely narrow.

“I am shocked that Highways has no objection to this, but then I am frequently shocked by Highways decisions.”

With the nursery proposing to open between 7am and 6.30pm, estimates suggested there would be a further 240 car movements per day travelling to and from the site.

Cllr Lance Duddridge said: “Traffic is already bad in the area and this will only cause further congestion. 
“It is a recipe for accidents.”

Council officers highlighted the pressing need for childcare places in Wembdon, saying there was a current shortfall of 67 places for pre-schoolers, a number set to increase to 108 in the autumn.

In the next two to three years it is expected Bridgwater will need to find between 400 and 500 more childcare places and new facilities will need to be built, the report added.

“This is not something that is down the line - the need is now,”said Sedgemoor District Council development control officer Stuart Houlet.

The applicant, Trevor Boardman, addressed the committee and emphasised the need for new developments to accommodate the growing population.

“Our town is growing in importance, we have hotels, shops and the job market is expanding,” Mr Boardman said.

“The council has an obligation to provide childcare provision for families where parents want to return to work. There are insufficient places in the Wembdon area to do this, with the other childcare providers either already full or nearing full capacity.”

Speaking on behalf of residents who would be affected, Mike Hodson said: “We are being asked to accept this based on the need but it is based on guestimates. 

“If it is going to be open from 7.30am until 6pm as stated, that means there will be an estimated extra 240 car visits per day, 52 weeks a year. The roads cannot cope with that amount.”

He added: “The access to the site is restricted, so there will be highways issues during construction.”

North Petherton Cllr Alan Bradford said he was in favour of the site, saying it would be good for the youngsters to be close to nature.

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“It is not bog land - the village hall is built on similar land just down the road. I actually feel young people are not too close to nature anymore. I think with proper screening and design the building will be justified and needed – I think it is good,” he said.

The committee rejected the application by six votes to one, with three members abstaining.
Mr Boardman may appeal the decision.