ONE week on from the marathon four-hour council meeting in which controversial plans to build 1,600 homes in Staplegrove were deferred, key figures from both sides have given their reaction.

Two outline planning applications to build a combined 1,600 new homes on a scenic site near Staplegrove were deferred after the Taunton Deane Borough Council planning committee meeting last Wednesday.

Debate over the massive development on the edge of town was heard in front of more than a hundred members of public at Castle School.

After TDBC planning officers presented the application and recommended approval, 21 members of public stood up to voice their concerns about the plans, including members of Residents of Staplegrove Action Group (RoSAG), Whitmore Area Residents Group (WARG), and representatives from nearby parish councils.

Following the final decision, Jackie Calcroft of RoSAG said: “The planning committee’s decision for a deferral is most welcome.

“It is encouraging to see the planning officers will be back in discussion with land promoters to review the possibility of forward funding the spine road as the council has made a bid to the Government’s Marginal Viability Fund.

“Building the spine road first would negate any need for access onto Corkscrew Lane. In turn, this would then release funds to boost the affordable housing percentage.

“We really don’t believe a sensible decision can be made until the outcome of this bid is known later this year.

“What is more important - new homes bonus to give the council’s funds a short-term boost or a quality county town?”

The application faced opposition from both members of the public and councillors, with particular attention drawn to the use of Corkscrew Lane as a temporary access road to the site, and the amount of affordable housing at 15 per cent, falling well below TDBC’s own recommended amount of 25 per cent.

Simon Briggs, of Whitmore Area Residents Group, added: “It is difficult to understand why developers are persisting with their proposal for a drop-down road on to Corkscrew Lane when full council had already made it clear that this was not acceptable because the lane is already at capacity and totally unsuitable for large construction traffic.

“Residents of the Whitmore area and Staplegrove will not accept this. As was said at the planning committee meeting, it's not called Corkscrew Lane for nothing.

“If these matters can't be resolved then we would expect the planning committee to reject both applications.”

Ptarmigan Staplegrove Ltd applied for 713 homes with employment land, green infrastructure, landscaping and play areas between Whitmore Lane and Silk Mills.

Meanwhile, PM Asset Management Ltd is planning 915 homes north of Corkscrew Lane, with a primary school, employment land, open space and sports pitches.

Following the deferral decision, a spokesman for the housing promoters said: “We are very disappointed with the decision as we’ve been working hard on these important plans for five years. We are now considering our next steps and will make a decision as soon as possible.”

Both the east and west parts of the application featured a spine road running from Kingston Road to A358.

Residents groups have been adamant that this spine road should be in place before building work starts on housing to ensure that traffic is not forced onto other narrow roads in the area.

In the latest form of the application, developers and council officers agreed to have a temporary drop-down road into Corkscrew Lane which is expected to be in place for around five years.

If approved, this would mean more than 500 homes would be built, put up for sale, and filtering traffic onto the narrow Corkscrew Lane before work begins on the spine road.

Michael Clark, chairman of Staplegrove Parish Council, said: “Surely it was accepted by all at the planning meeting on Wednesday that the regularly overloaded Manor Road/Corkscrew Lane cannot possibly accommodate the extra cars from the planned 576 more houses, the vehicles from the workers building the houses, the material suppliers together with the growth of traffic from the neighbouring other large housing estates also being built.

“All this for more than the five year period that they say it will take to complete the spine road.

“This must provide a very strong case for a government grant or loan being forthcoming to build, at the beginning, the alternative link road between the A358 and Kingston Road.

“Construction of the houses would then follow on much more easily and efficiently and with less danger to the existing residents.

“But Taunton doesn’t need so many houses because the figures used to arrive at this number are out of date. The 713 houses suggested for the west end, which is nearly five times the existing number of houses in Staplegrove, would ruin what is already a Garden Community.

“915 at the east end is way too large. It is accepted that both these areas could take some more houses but let’s not spoil the existing character of Taunton by being greedy.”

Presenting the application, TDBC officers added they felt proposals were acceptable in terms of traffic impact, impact on the character of the surrounding area, and impact on the nearby Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) of Quantock Hills.

They said there were not enough reasons to consider rejection for landscaping reasons, and that NHS had requested money as part of the application to fund a dentist and pharmacy facilities on the new development site.

Ray Stokes, chairman of Kingston St Mary Parish Council, said: “Although we are pleased that the promoters have been asked to look again at some aspects of this development, it was not the ideal outcome.

“It is excessively large and unnecessary. If allowed it to go ahead without the necessary roads and services being place beforehand, it will cause immense disruption to the daily lives and well-being of residents and businesses across the whole of the north of the town and adjacent villages.”

As the meeting continued into its fourth hour, councillors voted to defer the applications - asking for the removal of the access point onto Corkscrew Lane, further information about an access point onto the main road which would see the removal of ancient trees, an increase in the percentage of affordable housing on the site, and asking for more information on the larger impact on highways across Taunton.

District councillor Habib Farbahi said: “TDBC’s core strategy makes it clear there should be 25 per cent affordable or social housing included as the district grows.

“The confusing and at some time chaotic scenes of its planning committee blatantly ignored this under the premise that the scheme was ‘not viable’ financially.

“It is against a background of increasing profits for the big house builders who fail to provide the necessary infrastructure.

“While most of us agree that more houses are needed, these need to be accompanied by the right infrastructure and indeed sustainable employment from the outset.”