IT is interesting how quickly certain members of the TDBC Planning Committee distanced themselves from the catastrophic decision to inflict planning permission on Staplegrove. 

With 56 councillors who, according to one senior member of the council ‘all have a view’, I wonder just how much of a view they really have?

Across the Planning Committee, six members voted against the proposal, one abstained (!) and seven voted in favour. 

The seven approvers offered no opinions, yet still voted in favour despite the well-reasoned evidence against the viability of this project. How is it possible to get something so wrong?

If nothing else, Taunton’s MP, Rebecca Pow, has been conspicuous by her absence during this whole controversial affair. 

Citing a variety of reasons why she has been unable to get involved, she has nonetheless very publicly championed numerous other green issues, including barn owl preservation, microbeads in shampoo and sustainable soils.

She has, however, failed to comment at every stage on the biggest environmental matter in her constituency - the destruction of the gateway to the Quantocks and the disastrous impact it will have on the town, infrastructure, environment, constituents and of course, any form of Garden Town. 

The irrefutable fact is that the roads and infrastructure remain an unsolvable problem in north Taunton. The roads in particular are simply not big or safe enough to sustain this scale of housing project. 

This factor alone contributed to the Planning Committee opting to defer their determination pending further information.

So, how can it be possible that in just four weeks, SCC’s Highways Department has been able to re-assess and mitigate all the previous limitations of Taunton’s road system, with no explanations offered? 

A combination of pointed, one-sided language from TDBC planning officers, combined with other tactics, all contributed to a fundamentally-flawed planning proposal being waved through.

The consternation and outrage among local residents will not subside anytime soon.

As the Gateway to the Quantocks is permanently deleted, I can only hope that the Planning Committee members were fully informed in their decisions, rather than just appeasing irresponsible council leaders and two promoters. 

Judging by how easily TDBC relented on a number of key issues in ‘resolving to grant’ the house builders almost carte blanche non-accountability, including a significant reduction in the percentage of affordable housing, I suspect that this had very little to do with addressing the housing crisis. 

As the full horror of this decision becomes clear over the coming months, the Planning Committee will feel deep regret.

The essence of our once beautiful floral town will be lost forever, and replaced with two nondescript housing estates and a deep local sense of anger and betrayal.

So, will TDBC’s leader, or Rebecca Pow, be prepared to hold a public session to answer to the public? 

After all, they are our elected public servants, and north Taunton is very keen to understand how this catastrophe has been allowed to happen. 

Kingston Road