FEARS have been expressed that a proposed 145-homes development would turn a village lane into a rat run to the M5.

Residents in Staplehay are angry that a planning application for the scheme covering four fields has been submitted in the run up to Christmas.

Burrington Estates is asking Somerset West and Taunton Council to give outline consent for the project west of Honiton Road.

As well as energy efficient homes, the plans include highway access off Honiton Road and an ahead-only junction off Sweethay Lane.

There would be a community hub and market square, open space, sustainable urban drainage and landscaping.

Resident Barry Bloxham believes the application was "cynically" timed "before Christmas when people's minds are directed to other matters".

He added: "I was under the impression that given the Prime Minister's statement of October 7 that 'houses should not be built on green fields' that we might see an end to the destruction of our countryside."

Another resident, Georgina Smith fears the development would result in a further 300 residents' cars in the area.

She added: "The houses will have no proper driveways or allocated parking.

"And how is Sweethay Lane going to cope with even more cars using it as a rat run to the motorway?

"It is a single road with no places to pull in."

She added: "You already take your life in your own hands if you dare to walk on the lane. Lane should say a lot - it is a lane, not a motorway."

The application says the site offers a "unique opportunity" to create a new gateway to the south of Taunton.

A statement adds: "These proposals respond to the local character of the area and follow good urban design principles, as well as garden town principles and the guidance set out in the draft design guide.

"The site provides extensive green areas of open space and reinforces existing landscape features, creating a development which is intrinsically linked to its semi-rural setting and the wider landscape.

"The development provides a legible network of streets that are not dominated by highways infrastructure, but are designed to be inclusive and promote walking and cycling by providing multiple safe links to the local area."

It adds: "The result will be a high quality development with a strong garden town identity and distinct sense of place."