What is the planning status of the old railway line?

Surely the District Council’s Local Plan will spell out what it can be used for? (February 2018)

A correspondent called John asked this: I don’t know the area. I have been to Glastonbury once. I don’t understand the assumption that even if the road is built that must inevitably mean development in the view from the Tor. There must be Local Plan policies about the use of this land and it seems a bit simplistic for the article not to state what these policies are. It is critical because any development in addition to the road would need consent and an application that is against policy should not get consent. Objectors get into a muddle about proximity but developers have to make financial contributions to a lot of benefits anywhere in the local authority area. The school they help pay for does not have to be next to their development, it could be 30 miles away.

The Local Plan policy for old railway tracks in general is that they should be used for ’sustainable transport development’, i.e. footpaths, bridleways, etc. However, this particular section was given consent for a bypass back in the 1990s, though the incoming Labour government then called a moratorium on road building. In 2000, as the result of political actions by a prominent Town Councillor, businessman and property developer, who is still there and still a leading member of the pro-road lobby, this permission was retained and put on the back burner rather than cancelled.

Development associated with the proposed road would indeed need its own planning consent, and the District Council is already subject to lobbying in that respect from the local MP (James Heappey, Chris Grayling’s Parliamentary Private Secretary). Housing proposed in the current District Plan has already been taken up, and Glastonbury (being surrounded by peat moors and wetland) is running out of building space. Marginal areas, however, are already being filled up with hardcore or Mendip limestone as space becomes more and more at a premium. Heappey seems confident of getting Mendip’s compliance, which probably implies at least 1,000 houses, or its equivalent partly in commercial development, i.e an increase in the size of Glastonbury by 20% or more at one throw.

No-one has challenged the idea that development would be adjacent to the road – rather than elsewhere in the town –  even though it would be outside the current development boundary. Proposals such as re-locating a local haulage firm to beside the new road and using their existing site for new housing are already being enthusiastically discussed in some circles.

​There is nowhere within the development boundary remotely big enough for development on the scale envisaged. It would probably begin at the western end of the route about a mile and a half from the Tor, though – and this is an assumption, but I think a reasonable one – once development had begun there it is very likely to gradually creep along the route. From the point of view of the Tor itself, simply the road and its traffic would be extremely intrusive, as well as meaning that both the Tor and Chalice Hill would be cut off from open countryside and in danger of being gradually encircled by suburban development.