South Road car park in Midsomer Norton, once destined to be sold off by the Council for a huge supermarket with underground parking, is again under the spotlight as a paragraph in what you would expect to be a big, dry document, the Local Plan, is causing a stir.

Residents are currently being asked for their views in a series of proposed changes to the local planning framework to fit in with the Council’s declaration of both a Climate and Ecological Emergency. In a future world where we might be expected to walk and cycle everywhere, a paragraph in the Local Plan Partial Update reveals that the allocation of a supermarket in South Road car park (first proposed by the then Lib-Dem authority in 2012), will be moved to the Welton, Bibby & Baron site, but that the existing car park has the ‘potential for other uses, such as minor residential development or renewable energy provision, [which] will continue to be explored, but only where this is complementary to the car parking function and provision of public parking spaces’.

One of the areas identified for a post-pandemic High Street recovery is that linking South Road car park – this area is also one of the primary points of focus in the Heritage Action Zone work, which is now underway and comprises of redeveloping the Island as a market venue, creating a Market Hall space in the Town Hall and commissioning a study on historic shopfronts, launching a grant scheme of match funding for local businesses and landlords to restore their premises. Would the potential loss of car parking spaces throw a spanner in the works? Or could the land identified be used for new public

toilets, for example?

Speaking at a recent meeting of the Somer Valley Forum, Richard Daone, Deputy Head of Planning (Policy) for B&NES Council said that whilst there was currently no scope to release car parking spaces, the situation would be under review. He added that with the declaration of a climate emergency the Council may in future relook at a “charging policy” and review the number of spaces needed. In summary he said that in the “short to medium term” the current number of spaces in South Road car park are still needed.

Councillor Shaun Hughes, (Independent, Midsomer Norton North), believes this paragraph would not be included in the Local Plan update for ‘no reason’ and said that even electric vehicles will need parking and charging points.

He said: “We finally get rid of the ridiculous plan to sell South Road car park to a supermarket, now B&NES Council want to consider selling it for housing? It is clear that despite our objections, B&NES continue to ignore us and look to find ways to sell our facilities for short term financial gain.

“Our car park is a vital part of the town centre revival and survival and therefore is not for sale to housing developers,

supermarkets or any other development – we need

residents to object during the consultation so that this option is removed from the plan.”

The 2019 car parking survey found that the duration of stay was 1–2 hours,

suggesting that the car park is predominantly used by people looking to access the town centre, rather than commuters who might stay all day. The Local Plan says: ‘The survey therefore shows that the car park is important to support the vitality of the High Street. In light of the new evidence from the car parking

survey, the allocation of South Road car park for provision of a retail store will be removed.’

The Local Plan states that there are ‘no sites available in the High Street, so an edge of centre site can be considered’ for a supermarket. A retail study this year reviewed the need for ‘a medium-sized’ food store which could support the

vitality of the town centre.

‘This site [Welton, Bibby & Baron] is considered to be the next best site to

provide a potential site for a retail store of approximately 1,300sqm.

‘The allocation for retail must ensure that linked trips to the High Street are encouraged to support the existing retail offer. The site sits to the north of the High Street and is separated from the High Street by a crossroads.

‘Any retail development should be on the southern part of the site and must ensure good pedestrian connections to the High Street. A crossing would be required at the North Road entrance to allow access to the south side of North Road.

‘A further crossing would be required at the northern end of the High Street due to the fact that there is a break in the pavement on the western side of the High Street.’

The original supermarket proposal on South Road would have been approximately 4,180 sqm and there is a retailer rumoured to be interested in a supermarket on the Welton, Bibby & Baron site. Hopefully more to come on this soon!

Councillor Tim Ball, cabinet member for Planning and Licensing, told The Journal: “South Road car park plays an important role in the vitality of Midsomer Norton and encouraging trade in the town.

“Our assessments of the car park show that it operates at full or nearly full capacity for most of the day for short stay parking. As such, the Local Plan Partial Update seeks to ensure it is retained as the main town centre car park.

“In the longer term, as stated in the Local Plan, we will be reviewing the use and operational management of the car park spaces, but any potential alternative uses would have to be in addition to off-street parking spaces continuing to be provided.”

B&NES Council’s Planning Policy consultation closes at midnight on 8th October. To view and comment, visit:

Users who have difficulty in responding online can request assistance in viewing or responding by emailing: [email protected] or call: Council Connect: 01225 394041.