PLANS for 140 new homes and a pumping station on a major development site in Taunton have been approved by councillors following a seven-hour meeting.
Taylor Wimpey, Vistry and LiveWest are delivering up to 2,000 homes and a new primary school on the Comeytrowe urban extension, which lies between the A38 Wellington Road and Honiton Road on the western edge of Taunton.
Outline plans for the site (dubbed Orchard Grove) were agreed in 2018, with details of the first 70 homes being approved by Somerset West and Taunton Council in July 2020.
The council has now approved plans for two further phases of the new homes and a controversial pumping station complex after a marathon meeting.
The developers originally put forward plans in April 2020 for a “foul pumping station, water booster station and gas pressure reducing station” on Comeytrowe Lane, in the north-eastern corner of the site.
These were thrown out by the council in June on legal grounds, with amended proposals for the same approximate location being put forward in November.
Numerous members of the public objected to these revised plans at a virtual meeting of the planning committee on Thursday afternoon (February 25), arguing they would damage both new and existing residents.
Ben Harrison Lestrange said there was a danger of putting gas and sewage infrastructure so close together, citing an explosion at Wessex Water’s treatment works in Avonmouth back in December 2020 where four people died and one was injured.
He said: “The developer has not addressed serious concerns of the community. The fatal incident at the Avonmouth facility must be in the minds of all members of the committee.”
Judy Stainthorpe said the noise associated with the pumping stations would harm the quality of life of residents living on or near Comeytrowe Lane.
She said: “We will be unable to open our windows or enjoy our gardens without the noise from the pumping stations. We have a right to peace on our property, which this application violates.”
More than 4,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the pumping station to be relocated within the urban extension in order to protect the Galmington Stream from pollution.
Councillor Sarah Wakefield (whose Trull, Pitminster and Corfe ward includes the site) added: “The outline planning consent did not permit access for anything to do with the new development except for the spine road. This seeks to make alterations to Comeytrowe Lane to build the facility and then maintain it.
“Why should the facility disrupt and devalue the existing homes when it could be moved to a more suitable location further upstream?”
The developers stated that there was “no flood risk” in the proposed location and that “vast majority” of the utilities infrastructure for the 2,000 homes would be underground, with only a small number of cabinets being visible to the public on a daily basis.
Planning officer Simon Fox added: “To try and draw parallels between the Avonmouth incident and this is misleading. The area in Avonmouth was a silo containing treated bio-solids.
“It’s like comparing an apple with a pineapple – it’s so far removed from what we’re dealing with here.”
The committee ultimately voted to approve the pumping station plans by seven votes to four, with four abstentions.
In addition to these plans, the committee discussed two separate proposals for a total of 140 homes at the western end of the site, both put forward by Vistry and LiveWest.
One set of plans, comprising 76 homes, concerns the land immediately to the east of the new roundabout being constructed on Wellington Road, north of the spine road through to the primary school.
The other set of plans, consisting of 64 dwellings, concerns the land behind the existing houses on Wellington Road, and includes the first residential street leading off the spine road.
Councillor Alan Wedderkopp was deeply critical of the proposals, calling for a radical design of the entire site.
He said: “I would go so far as to say the whole development is in the wrong place – and if it’s going to be developed, it shouldn’t be done with clapped-out 1930s planning.
“With the kind of rain we’ve had over the last 20 years (and it’s only going to get worse), we can’t keep doing the same things. We shouldn’t have a bunch of rabbit hutches with cars going in and out – you have to build to take public transport.
“They need to scrap it and redesign the whole lot. We’re cramped for land, so we’ve got 2,000 houses jammed into a very small space – and we could do a lot better.”
Despite his strong words, the committee ended up supporting both sets of plans – though several councillors had to leave before the votes due to other commitments as the meeting approached the seven-hour mark.
The plans for 76 homes passed by 13 votes to one, while the plans for 64 homes were approved by eight votes to three with two abstentions.
A separate application has been lodged by Taylor Wimpey for the next 166 homes on the site, located to the east of the planned employment units and the ‘park and bus’ facility.
The planning committee is expected to make a decision on these latest plans later in the year.