Reasoned Justification for Policy Three 

 38 National policy is clear that design must be of a high quality and inclusive. In particular, the NPPF notes that design policies should respond to local character and history and reflect the identity of local surroundings and materials, while not preventing or discouraging appropriate innovation. The community of Shepton Mallet recognises the need to achieve balance; on one hand, tradition in design is very important to people and on the other hand, the need to innovate in order to address wider issues such as energy efficiency and resilience is also seen as vital to the community’s future. 

39 Whilst encouraging innovation in design therefore, the Neighbourhood Plan reflects the importance of traditional materials and styles to Shepton Mallet. This has been informed by the evidence base used to develop the Shepton Mallet Neighbourhood Plan Design Guide which identifies that the principles and issues contained in it are important to the people of Shepton Mallet. 

40 Shepton Mallet is identified by the quality of its architecture and townscape which provides its overall character and form. 

41 Mendip limestone is the prevailing material, mainly locally quarried Forest Marble and Doulting Stone. Earlier houses in Shepton Mallet are mostly of random or coursed Forest Marble with plenty of mortar showing due to the unevenness of the stone. 

42 The Parish of Shepton Mallet contains a large number of buildings and structures which are of special historic and / or architectural interest to warrant designation as listed buildings. 

43 They have a distinct and valued local character and / or appearance that are worthy of retention as part of development proposals. 

44 The intention of Policy 3 is to restate the desire of the local community to see the continuation of the protection offered to these buildings and character areas. 

45 All of the buildings and structures are identified as a result of: 

• Being very good examples of traditional or established style, or unusual type 

• Being buildings or structures, which contribute towards the local townscape or have important historical associations 

• Remain largely intact and have not been adversely affected by later extensions or alterations 

46 Appendix, Shepton Mallet Neighbourhood Plan Design Guide, identifies these special character buildings or structures and their importance within the identified character areas. 

47 It is clear from the consultation and engagement process that the community wish to see any new developments in the plan area, integrated within the existing rural setting in ways that enhance the area rather than diminish what is distinctive about the settlements and their setting, or undermine their established character. This applies whatever the specific form or purpose of any building development. This policy will apply to any and all development proposals that come forward. 

48 Shepton Mallet has developed over time from its historical beginnings as a mill town. This development has been both within and outside of the existing conservation area. Shepton Mallet built up area is broken into fivecharacter areas identified and detailed fully in the conservation area documentation provided by Mendip District Council: 

• Character Area One: Town Centre including Commercial Road and the Anglo Trading Estate 

• Character Area Two: Sheppey Valley including Hill Lane, Pike Lane, Cowl Street and HM Prison 

• Character Area Three: Waterloo Road, Princes Road and open space south of the former railway 

• Character Area Four: Darshill and Bowlish 

• Character Area Five: Charlton and the Charlton Viaduct 

49 In seeking to maintain the character of Shepton Mallet as a small market town, it is important to ensure that should strategic development be directed outside the built-up-area boundary, it reflects its historic character and does not result in a dense form of development or create a “sprawl effect” with the town growing inadvertently to the limits of the Plan boundary. 

50 In Shepton Mallet, houses are mainly 1 – 2.5 storeys high with a small minority of 2.5 – 3 storey town houses and apartments. There are areas in Shepton Mallet where houses do have three stories, however, these are set in grounds proportionate to the dwelling and therefore do not dominate the street scene. 

51 A comfortable variation in the size and scale of buildings, from single storey to three storey townhouses, can enhance local character by providing variety and difference as opposed to homogeneity. However, new development should take care to fit with the existing local scene and not dominate it. 

52 With a number of site allocations bringing a significant level of growth to Shepton Mallet over the period to 2029, one of the most important messages which was raised by the community was that Shepton Mallet should not lose its identity as a small market town and one with many distinctive characteristics. This includes its rural location on the edge of the Mendip Hills on either bank of the River Sheppey. 

53 In addition, it is necessary for growth to be well planned, well designed and well laid out. Given the gently undulating topography of Shepton Mallet, development needs to fit into the landscape without intruding on the views of the surrounding Mendip Hills. To achieve good design, it is important that proposals recognise the character of Shepton Mallet in terms of its building design and layout and the relationship of the built edge of the town with the surrounding countryside. Trees, hedges and vegetation generally can soften the impact to development, improve the street scene and keep the rural feel of the area. 

54 As well as being of aesthetic and practical benefit, good design attracts buyers, encouraging people into the town. It also enhances well-being and helps prevent discomfort and disharmony. 

55 The space between homes is also a concern for new developments. When a developer builds too many dwellings in a small area, the over-development leaves a legacy of issues that must be avoided in future developments. These include: 

i) Insufficient parking for cars 

ii) Insufficient garden space 

iii) A crammed feel to the street scene, making it feel urban rather than a development that is part of a small market town 

56 With a need for a “healthy nation” new developments should ensure they provide garden space of a useable size and shape to enable the production of produce and to avoid the feeling of over-development with properties overlooking one another. 

57 In order to maintain the varied mix of finishes and materials that provide the distinctiveness and unique feel of Shepton Mallet, it is important that the quality of design and materials used in new developments, extensions, and renovations, must not have an adverse impact on neighbouring properties or the character of surrounding areas within the neighbourhood area. 

58 The community of Shepton Mallet is concerned that the historic area surrounding Cowl Street and Hillmead should be maintained. Cowl Street and its environs form part of original mediaeval settlement and population along the banks of the river Sheppey. Cowl Street itself comprises many listed buildings, a former chapel, an historic bridge allowing vehicle entry to the town’s cemetery and high natural limestone walls on one side forming a unique streetscape. Gold Hill, one of the gateway views in Policy 16, is accessed from Cowl Street and also provides residents with walking and cycling access to the recreation area of Barren Down and one of the community woodland spaces in the town. 

59 The Hillmead housing estate sits on a former gas works site and was therefore a brownfield development when it was started in the 1970’s and 80s. However, the wider Hillmead area comprises much of the historic silk mill and weaving history of the town. For example, Draycott road which borders the Hillmead Estate, comprises areas of former mediaeval settlement, historic blue plaque buildings and former mills as well as a very fine example of a Tudor dwelling. It was also the site of the town’s hanging tree, historic convent and, masonic hall. 

60 However, during the 1990’s and 2000’s some poor quality infill applications were approved for dwellings to be slotted into small spaces with little or no outside space and curtilage cut directly into the rocky hillside. This has already damaged the street scene and this Policy seeks to prevent further damage occurring in this historic area of the town. 

61 The Shepton Mallet Design Guide provides more comprehensive discussion of the local character and materials which form the historic environment of the neighbourhood area and should be referred to for detailed guidance. 

 Screenshot 2023 01 11 at 05.53.06Fig: Character Areas in Shepton Mallet Screenshot 2023 01 11 at 05.55.57Fig: Conservation Areas in Shepton Mallet