OBJECTORS to proposals for 1,600 homes in picturesque countryside have been denied a level playing field, it is claimed.

Representatives of developers behind the schemes at Staplegrove are today (Wednesday) due to hold hour-long private talks with Taunton Deane Borough Council's planning committee.

But villagers and parish councillors have been told they are not welcome and would not be granted an alternative behind-closed-door meeting.

Ptarmigan Staplegrove Ltd wants to build 713 homes, with employment land, green infrastructure and play areas between Whitmore Lane and Silk Mills.

PM Asset Management intends to put up 915 homes north of Corkscrew Lane, along with a primary school. employment land, local centre and open space.

Both applications, which include an internal spine road, will be debated by the district council's planning committee at Taunton's Castle School next Wednesday (September 20) at 6.30pm, when councillors are recommended to delegate an officer to grant outline permission.

Cllr Ian Morrell refused to attend last night's meeting in protest at what he views as bias.

He said: "TDBC already suffers concerns over questionable planning conduct. Favouring one party over another is highly irregular and unethical.

"The planning officers are under significant pressure by the leadership team to grant development of new homes.

"This shouldn't be at the consequence of due process. Taunton Deane's community and amenity will lose out if this continues."

Dave Orr, who lives across town, said: "Why are the developers given a private hour when the people affected aren't?

"If I lived in that community, I'd want to hear what they said because it could influence what I say during questions at the planning meeting.

"The playing field is already tilted towards the developers without this extra assistance."

A TDBC spokesman said: “The briefing is on the facts of the applications only and gives members an opportunity to ask questions of the applicants.

"This is standard practice which has been implemented in the past for major planning applications at Taunton Deane and is a widely used approach across the country.

"Councillors will not be permitted to express any opinions on the merits of the applications at the briefing.

"The planning committee where these applications are due to be determined is to be held at Castle School next Wednesday.

"The planning committee is a public meeting and members of the public will be given an opportunity to make representations in person before the merits of the two applications are discussed by committee members.”