A NUMBER of developers in Taunton are in limbo after the council said it cannot currently determine their planning applications.

New homes and other construction projects are on hold due to a pollution issue.

Somerset West and Taunton Council's planning department is in chaos and no-one knows how long it will take to return to normal.

The problem centres on concerns over high phosphate levels on the Somerset Levels and Moors.

Natural England has advised the council that any scheme that could potentially result in increased phosphate discharges in the Levels should not be considered.

Chris Winter was due to find out this week if he had won permission to build on a plot in Trull.

He said: "I've had an e-mail from the planning officer saying applications won't be determined if there's a risk of developments contributing to raised levels of phosphates on the Levels.

"It's affecting other developers as well, including bigger residential developments, single plots and work spaces.

"Those planning applications affected will be on hold until a solution is found. No-one's got any idea when.

"It happened in East Hampshire, when some development was stopped. That went on for a year or so."

While applications are on hold, the council stands to miss out on Government grants based on housing delivery, while the target for new homes is unlikely to be achieved.

Mr Winter said there will be a knock-on, with architects, planning consultants, suppliers and construction workers all impacted.

"It could be pretty significant. Nobody has the answer," said Mr Winter.

"It's stopping almost overnight. It's a major concern, particularly with everything else gong on."

A SWT spokesperson said a number of planning applications are on hold following advice from Natural England.

Some applications cannot be determined until the impact they would have on phosphate levels has been addressed and, where necessary, compensation secured.

Cllr Mike Rigby, executive member for planning and transport, said: “This new advice from Natural England...will have a significant impact on the near-term development of the district.

“We are working closely with other councils in Somerset to address the potential impact of new development on the internationally-recognised nature conservation value of the Somerset Levels and Moors."

He added: "Implementing this new procedure is likely to take some time and will inevitably lead to delays in determining applications, as it has elsewhere in the country.

"However, the quality of the natural environment in our area is of particular importance and we are responsible for protecting this site of national and international significance for future generations."