HOLIDAYMAKERS coming to Somerset will soon be able to enjoy a swimming pool in the heart of the Blackdown Hills.

The Nicholls family applied to convert a former piggery in the small village of Wambrook near Chard into a holiday let which can welcome up to 20 people at a time.

Numerous residents and local councillors objected to the plans, arguing it would damage the character of the area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), cause traffic problems and increase the risk of flooding.

But after a tense debate, South Somerset District Council has given the plans the green light, with councillors arguing it would benefit the rural economy.

The site at Foxcub Meadow Farm lies off a single track road half a mile from The Cotley Inn, and around two miles from Chard town centre.

Under the proposals, the piggery building will be converted to provide 10 en-suite bedrooms (capable of sleeping 20 people), with a swimming pool and nine parking spaces.

Somerset County Gazette: The Former Piggery At Foxcub Meadow Farm In Wambrook. CREDIT: Paul Rowe. Free to use for all BBC wire partners.

The site will be managed by Sleeps12 (which is based on the Tonedale Mill site in Wellington), and will be marketed as a luxury holiday let geared towards multiple families staying at the same time.

Numerous residents of Wambrook spoke out against the plans at a meeting of the council’s area west committee on Wednesday evening (December 8).

Edward Hothersall said: “We’re all on private water here – there’s been no indication about the huge increase of water here.

“I would like a technical review of the water reservoir in the area to see if it can cope with this – it includes a hot tub and swimming pool.”

Katie Hart, whose parents live nearest the site, said: “Currently when we get heavy rain, my parents’ property floods. The previous tenant had a slurry pit that would flood across the public road.

“Passing points are very limited – there are none from the end of the road to the property.”

Somerset County Gazette: The Former Piggery At Foxcub Meadow Farm In Wambrook. CREDIT: Paul Rowe. Free to use for all BBC wire partners.

Penelope Liza added: “Wambrook is a special place. This lane is very quiet.

“Our lane is like a park – people walk from Chard, Yarcombe and Holy City from all around. They ride their horses and bicycles – it cannot sustain this development.

“This building is very prominent – it hasn’t been used for farming for some time. If this development is allowed to go ahead, a very special place will have been spoiled on your watch.”

Ashley Vellacott, who runs, said there was “overwhelming demand” for this kind of holiday property, and the development would have “a positive knock-on effect for local businesses, including the pub and Barleymows Farm Shop on the A30.

Nicola Nicholls, who ran a hotel with her husband for 17 years before moving to Somerset, added that the development would create up to eight local jobs.

She said: “We have fallen in love with Wambrook, and we are here for the long run. We have settled into local life, and raised a considerable amount of money for the local church.

“There is a demand for larger, luxury properties for multi-family holidays, and Sleeps12 would provide a high-end client base”.

Mrs Nicholls also promised that 400 new trees donated by the Woodland Trust would be planted on-site part of the Queen’s Green Canopy Project to mark next year’s platinum jubilee.

Councillor Martin Wale – whose Blackdown and Tatworth ward includes the site – said he could not support the plans due to the small size of Wambrook.

He said: “This is a unique and cut-off rural area. All the approach roads are farm lanes on an estate which have become single-track roads.

“You can hear comings and goings from The Cotley Inn from the site, so any noise and disturbance would be noticeable. And there is a danger of making the flooding worse for people nearby.

“We are supposed to protect AONBs – that’s the reason they were put in place. I just feel the noise and traffic from this proposal would have a bad effect.”

Councillor Robin Pailthorpe added: “The access to this positively frightens me. What they’re trying to do is highly applaud-able and I’d love to support it, but I don’t think I can.”

Other councillors either spoke in favour of the plans or warned it would be difficult to defend a refusal at appeal.

Councillor Sue Osborne said: “These things are being passed in rural areas.  Cricket St. Thomas put in for a glamping site, which was turned down on appeal but not on highway grounds – it was due to the native bluebells.

“You can’t pickle somewhere in aspic – but that’s not what AONBs are there to do.”

Councillor Paul Maxwell added: “If i lived in an urban area, booking a holiday here would be idyllic – coming down the A303 from #London, it would be a lovely place to arrive in, and it would benefit the local economy.”

A motion to refuse permission – on the grounds of unsuitable access and the development resulting in “excessive noise and light” within the AONB – was defeated by six votes to nine.

The committee then voted to approve the plans by nine votes to six.