New houses threaten village character on narrow A357

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Henstridge faces 182 new homes, despite strong concerns about road safety, infrastructure and the impact on the village character

The A357 as it runs through the village of Henstridge
Image: © Googlemaps

When the Victorian and Edwardian houses lining what is now the A357 were built, people walked to work and most did not own a car. Today, a busy road winds through the village, which has expanded over the years. With further development anticipated, how much is too much for the infrastructure?

Safer roads before more houses
A development of 130 houses in Henstridge has been proposed since 2017, and was initially rejected by South Somerset District Council in 2018. However, the development has now been approved, subject to road safety improvements. The parish council is adamant that road safety is a priority that must be addressed before any development takes place. To add to villagers’ concerns, an application for a further 52 houses has been lodged, which can only lead to more traffic using the A357.
Henstridge councillor Dr Adrian Gaymer drove me around the village to demonstrate the various pressure points in the village and the sites of the proposed developments.
The road is narrow and in some places traffic is governed by priority signs. There are significant stretches of the road where there is no pavement, with houses opening directly on to the street. Where will pedestrians go when more traffic arrives from new developments? More importantly, where is there room for critical improvements in such a restricted space?
Adrian points to battle-scarred houses frequently knocked by lorries trying to pass on this narrow road.
‘This is where there’s one narrow point which will get even narrower with the suggested yellow box junction, and cars and lorries waiting to pass. One wall is constantly being bashed in and one house had its roof damaged, although we are still unsure how.
‘Lorries come off the ferry in Poole and head up to the A357 to the A303 and on to the Mendips. And of course more lorries come from the Mendips and the A30, back the other way. We’re also concerned about traffic cutting through estates where children are playing or going to school.’

Inadequate infrastructure
In Somerset, there are currently 11,136 people on the housing register, of whom 2,368 are in South Somerset, and of these 301 are in the highest category of housing need.
There is clearly a demand for social and affordable housing.
The demand for social and affordable housing is clearly there. The A357 runs through Henstridge, south to Stalbridge in Dorset, where four major housing developments have been approved and are under way. A fifth proposal, north of Station Road, is raising questions with councillors and residents over the volume of homes and the pace of development. Any development in Stalbridge adds to the pressure on the A357 through Henstridge.
Henstridge and Stalbridge residents have to go to Milborne Port or Sturminster Newton for GP surgeries and further still for NHS dentistry.
Public transport is not the answer. Although the villages are served by a service to Blandford and Yeovil, it only runs on weekdays so is unsuitable for shift workers. A spokesperson from Somerset Council says: ‘As a planning authority, we work closely with and consult Dorset Council on issues such as local service infrastructure. We would expect education, highways and the NHS to pick up on any cross-boundary capacity issues, where communities in one administrative area are serviced by infrastructure from another.’

Large lorries fill the road as it winds through the village, the A357 too narrow here to warrant a central white line

Time to draw a line
North Dorset MP Simon Hoare says: “Where you have major developments, is there enough robust cross-border working? There are two different local authorities, two different planning departments, and two highways departments. It is critical that both highways and planning are talking to each other. I think that if the scale of development actually requires large scale highways change and developments then you have to review the capacity and what there is in the entirety of a situation and what can be sustained comfortably.
‘The developments are clearly felt by local people. Especially when the character of a settlement changes. The Gladman development (in Stalbridge) very obviously starts to distort the character of the village. Stalbridge has taken its fair share of developments.
‘Now is the time to draw a line and let what has been consented to be built on, and then look at other opportunities.’
Cllr Adrian Gaymer also expressed concerned about the increase in the village population: ‘if this continues we will no longer be a small rural settlement but a rural centre like Martock, Bruton or Templecombe – and we’re not Bruton.’

Plans for the A357
A previous plan for traffic lights has been dismissed and there are now discussions about yellow box junctions. Somerset Council is aware of the issue, and a representative says: ’Somerset Council is working with the developer to resolve the outstanding matter(s). Outline planning and reserved matters are approved for this development and we’re confident of an agreement shortly. ‘The developer and utilities are carrying out permitted preparation works in accordance with planning regulations.’
A spokesperson for Barratt David Wilson Homes Exeter says: ‘As agreed with Somerset Council, and in accordance with our planning obligations, infrastructure upgrades are under way to improve the A357. These improvements will deliver a range of safety upgrades, including dropped kerbs and tactile paving at several junctions and enhancing road and traffic signage. The safety of the community and the wider road users remains our priority.
‘We are committed to continue engaging with the community and Henstridge Parish Council throughout the construction process. We are looking forward to commencing on site and delivering 130 much-needed and energy-efficient new homes to the area in the spring of 2024.’

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1 COMMENT

  1. Bypasses with purpose built roads for heavy traffic are needed for many of the smaller villages currently on the only main roads between towns, first and foremost to reduce the risk of fatal accidents and secondly to prevent further damage to roads and buildings in villages where the roads are dangerously narrow and where pavements are lacking.
    Will the Government delay making necessary changes until enough people are killed by the excess fast moving traffic.
    The situation will only get worse adding more housing to small villages (however necessary and desperately needed to keep young families in the villages) already unable to cope with volume of traffic unless a way is found to divert heavy lorries and masses of holiday traffic away from villages whose roads were built to cope with the horse/cart and much smaller vehicles.

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