IT is D-Day for residents of Staplegrove as the council is set to pass judgement on controversial plans to build more than 1,600 homes in one of Taunton Deane’s most scenic areas.

UPDATE: Decision over Staplegrove homes deferred by planning committee

The planning committee is due to be meeting tonight (September 20) at The Castle School, off Wellington Road, Taunton at 6.30pm.

Councillors will decide whether to grant outline permission for the plans.

Ptarmigan Staplegrove Ltd has 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.

Both applications feature a section of an internal spine road for the increase in vehicles.

Protest letters have already been lodged with the council expressing outrage at the "scale and density" of the schemes and claiming local roads would be overwhelmed.

Members of two groups set up to try to block the projects - Residents of Staplegrove Action Group (RoSAG) and Whitmore Area Residents Group (WARG) - and parish councils in the area have already come out strongly against the plans.

Jackie Calcroft, of RoSAG, has accused the companies of bumping up the number of homes originally suggested and said the development would have a detrimental impact on already over-stretched resources, including highways, education and health.

Ahead of the meeting, she said: “One of the issues of most concern to local residents is the lack of initial infrastructure being provided to ensure that Taunton as a whole is not just being used to attract monies from new homes to bolster council funds in general.

“A second issue is the provision of much needed affordable housing.

“We applaud Taunton’s policy to incorporate 25 per cent affordable housing across all new developments within the Borough, yet already on various other sites we have seen the council make concessions to developers to allow them to build less than the stipulated 25 per cent. Erosion of the amount of affordable housing has to stop.

“Rebecca Pow MP and John Williams leader of The Council all talk of infrastructure [highways, education and health facilities] needing to be in place in advance of development. Are we seeing this?

“It is absurd that Taunton has secured Garden town status yet is keen to encroach its suburbs nearer to the Quantocks AONB and to build on prime agricultural land. Once built upon this cannot be re-instated. More consideration of cleaning up brown field sites will make these more attractive to potential developers.

“Taunton should start to consolidate current new initiatives before it embarks on yet another ‘good idea’.

“Hopefully the councillors on the planning committee will vote on September 20 to halt developments which at this point in time are not in the best interests of the County Town.”

Simon Briggs gave a statement on behalf of WARD ahead of the planning committee meeting.

He said: “The members of the Whitmore Area Residents’ Group urge the planning committee to totally reject both of these applications.

“If granted, this development will ruin an area of prime agricultural land which abuts the Quantock Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and one of the most distinctive and beautiful parts of Somerset.

“Staplegrove village and the Whitmore area will be totally overwhelmed.

“Kingston Road and Hope Corner Lane will be unable to cope with all of the extra traffic and Whitmore Road and Clifford Avenue will suffer from increased rat running.

“The development is likely to take up to 10 years to complete from start to finish and local residents will have to suffer from the construction traffic and noise and related pollution for all of that time.

“More houses may be needed but not this number and not in this location and not without all of the proper infrastructure being put in place first.

“This development is not for a Garden Community, it’s for an urban extension. Taunton is being turned into an enormous housing estate as a result of all the building around it.”

The chairmen of Kingston St Mary and Staplegrove parish council’s have been objected to these latest plans for the area.

Ray Stokes, chairman of Kingston St Mary Parish Council, said: “There is nothing ‘green’ about this proposed development.

“This vast urban sprawl is four times the size of Kingston St Mary and would lead to the loss of hundreds of acres of productive agricultural land, ancient hedgerows and trees.

“To allow such a massive development in a scenic rural location, without the necessary supporting infrastructure being in place would be unsound and would cause immense disruption to the daily lives and well-being of residents and businesses across the whole of north Taunton.”

Michael Clark, chairman of Staplegrove Parish Council, added: “It is essential that all infrastructure is provided correctly and in a sensible order.

“The Government has money available for this to be achieved and as we are the first new Garden Town then we must be seen to do this properly, but that is not what is being proposed here. The plans even ignore confirmed TDBC policies.

“There is not the urgency for this number of new houses until the accompanying new jobs arrive to support them.

“Let there be time for a more sensible sized rethink and consideration of possible more appropriate sites appearing like Norton Manor Camp.”