Vision for new homes on Palace Farm site

THE Church Commissioners have been consulting with local stakeholders about a possible housing development on part of the Palace Farm site in Wells.

The land off Silver Street is owned by the Church Commissioners, which manages investments to support the work of the Church of England.

They have recently given a presentation to Wells city councillors and have had informal conversations with members of The Bishop’s Palace team and some members of the Wells Civic Society on proposals for Palace Farm. The preliminary scheme outlined envisages up to 300 houses where the farm buildings and the Palace Farm Car Wash are currently situated, and on land behind them in the vicinity of the existing housing estate by Morrisons.

There are no plans to submit a formal planning application at this stage and the Church Commissioners say it would be their approach to work with Somerset Council regarding the proposals through the council’s emerging local plan.

The Church Commissioners say they are seeking to engage local stakeholders about their emerging vision for the site, but are keen to note that, even if the proposals are supported by Somerset Council in its local plan, it will be years before any building work would start on site.

There are no proposals to build on the Deer Park area near The Bishop’s Palace, and Deer Park could be enhanced as part of the scheme, with the potential for other benefits to Wells on the site as a whole.

Joanna Loxton, Head of Strategic Land Investment at the Church Commissioners, said: “We have been considering how the land might be brought forward for various uses, as part of Somerset Council’s emerging local plan. The site could include new homes for the city, both open market and affordable, and could also deliver other benefits to the community, including car parking for the city and new areas of open space.

“We are right at the start of the process. At this point, we are interested in sharing our vision for the site with local stakeholders and to hear their views and thoughts on the emerging proposals.” 

These early proposals have been shared with Merryn Kidd, the new Chief Executive Officer of the Palace Trust, the charity which manages The Bishop’s Palace & Gardens, and Palace Trust Chair Roger Hawes.

Merryn Kidd said: “The Palace Trust has had sight of the Church Commissioners’ plans to develop Palace Fields. We were pleased to be consulted at this very early stage and welcome their proposal to transfer, as part of any planning permission, a section of the Deer Park to the Trust – to preserve the historic views of the city, form a green corridor out of the city and to be used by the community in perpetuity. We would also welcome plans for further community benefit such as more parking and meeting Mendip’s need for more housing, but will need to be assured that all stakeholders are happy with the proposals and that the Palace and surrounding historic areas will not be adversely affected by this development.”

Steve Luck, Wells City Council’s Town Clerk, said that without more detailed information it is too soon for the council to express an opinion on the plans. “At this stage the city council are unable to make a comment as they have not seen the full application,” he said.