THOUSANDS of new homes on three key Taunton sites are still years from being built.

The former Taunton Deane Borough Council allocated three sites for major urban extensions for the county town in its Local Plan and core strategy:

Comeytrowe: land between the A38 Wellington Road in Comeytrowe and Honiton Road in Trull

Monkton Heathfield: land between the A38 Bridgwater Road and the M5 (as well as other related sites near the A3259)

Staplegrove: land between the A358 Pen Elm and Kingston Road

Between them the sites were expected to meet the bulk of Taunton’s housing growth for the next two decades, as well as providing new schools, employment land and communal green spaces.

But despite planning permissions being in place for all three sites in one form or another, many of the new homes expected are still not built.

A range of issues, such as legal agreements and a lack of funding for infrastructure, have been blamed for the delays.

With the new Somerset West and Taunton Council currently reviewing its Local Plan – setting the targets for housing across the district up to 2040 – it’s a good time to see how much progress has been made across the three sites.

Comeytrowe – 2,000 homes

The story so far: the Comeytrowe site was expected to provide 2,000 homes, along with a new primary school, employment units and a ‘park and bus’ facility to provide public transport links to the town centre via the A38.

The borough council granted outline permission in April 2018 for the new homes – though the plans included fewer affordable homes than was originally planned.

None of the 2,000 homes have yet been constructed – but work to get the site ready began before Christmas.

“Enabling works” were carried out along the A38 in December 2019 to make it easier for a new roundabout to be constructed to link the homes to the main road.

The district council’s planning committee approved plans on March 12 for the western end of the spine road, which will connect the A38 to the new primary school.

This road will eventually be extended to join the school to Honiton Road as the site is built out.

What happens next: Plans for the first 70 homes at the site have been put forward by Taylor Wimpey, with the council expected to make a decision by April 27.

Further plans for the other parcels of land within the site will be submitted in the coming months, with the entire site expected to be built out over 20 years.

Monkton Heathfield – up to 4,500 homes

The story so far: the Monkton Heathfield urban extension was originally expected to deliver 4,500 homes across two phases.

Under the Local Plan, the site will also deliver three primary schools and one secondary school, with a country park being provided near the Nerrols Farm site and a new local centre with shops and amenities.

There has been a lot of progress on phase one – including the delivery of West Monkton Church of England Primary School and a large number of homes -since the first application for 900 houses was approved.

However, the borough council admitted in January 2019 that the development would not deliver the original number of homes due to “lower density development than was anticipated” – in other words, the homes being built further apart than expected.

To compensate for this, some of the employment land south of Manor Farm – between the remodelled A38 and the M5 – could be released for housing.

What happens next: Phase two of this urban extension will include a further 1,500 homes, as well as a new school and an eastern relief road to link the development to the A38 Bridgwater Road.

Under the current proposals, part of the existing A38 would become accessible only to buses and pedestrians.

Initial designs for phase two were discussed by the council’s executive committee on January 27 – though these need to be refined and developed through further local consultation before developers can bring plans forward.

Until this happens, some of the land south of Manor Farm could be developed to provide up to 300 homes, of which 25 per cent will be affordable.

The phase two master-plan is expected to be discussed by the executive again on April 22, according to its forward plan.

Staplegrove – 1,628 homes

The story so far: the Staplegrove site has been divided into two sections for planning purposes, with Staplegrove West providing 713 homes and Staplegrove East providing a further 915 homes.

The total provided – 1,628 homes – is higher than the 1,500 allocated within the Local Plan, and includes a smaller proportion of affordable housing than councillors had originally desired.

The site will also include green spaces, play areas, employment land and a new primary school.

Both sets of plans were narrowly approved by Taunton Deane Borough Council in October 2017, despite concerns about construction traffic using the narrow Corkscrew Lane while the spine road through the site was being built.

Following a successful bid to the housing infrastructure fund in April 2019, the government has provided £14.216M towards the construction of the spine road which will link the A358 to Kingston Road.

What happens next: Redrow Homes put forward plans for the first 173 homes at Staplegrove West in December 2019 – plans which also include the first section of the spine road.

The council was due to make a decision on the plans by March 12, but this has now been pushed back for an undetermined period of time.

Nevertheless, it is likely to come before the council’s planning committee before the end of the year (assuming the committee can be held in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic).

It is unlikely that plans for the Staplegrove East site will come forward for some time, since the district and county councils are still negotiating with the original developers over the amount of funding needed for school places.