The delivery of nearly 200 new homes near the M5 could be held up after an appeal was lodged against the district council over its handling of the phosphates crisis.

C. G. Fry was granted outline permission in December 2015 to construct the Jurston Fields development north of the A38 West Buckland Road in Wellington, consisting of up to 650 homes, employment units, a primary school and a community wood.

Construction on the first two phases is already well underway, and plans for phase three – comprising 190 homes – were approved by Somerset West and Taunton Council in June 2020.

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But the developer has now appealed against the council, claiming officers are holding up the new homes by demanding additional assessments of the site in light of the phosphates crisis.

Following the Dutch N court ruling, Natural England issued advice to Somerset’s four district councils in October 2020, raising concerns about phosphate levels within the Somerset Levels and Moors Ramsar site, which is protected by international law.

The councils were urged to undertake a habitat regulations assessment (HRA) before deciding on any planning applications which may lead to an increase in phosphates – including new homes or commercial premises.

Somerset County Gazette: Artist's impression of the central square within the Jurston Farm development in WellingtonArtist's impression of the central square within the Jurston Farm development in Wellington

As part of the phase three approval, the council required C. G. Fry to take several steps to mitigate the impact of the new homes before construction could formally begin.

This includes the agreement of a drainage scheme to remove surface water from the homes, the approval of detailed designs of roads, pavements and parking areas within the site, and the approval of all pedestrian and cycling routes throughout the site.

The developer claims that the council has refused to agree for these conditions to be discharged until a full HRA has been carried out – not just for the phase three homes, but for the entire Jurston Fields site.

A spokesman for Clarke Willmott (representing the developer said): “The council’s position is that unless an appropriate assessment of the development can now be undertaken which confirms that the entire 650-dwelling mixed-use development would not harm the Levels Ramsar site, the conditions relating solely to Phase three cannot be discharged.

“In short, the later phases of the development would have to find a way of mitigating the impacts of the previously authorised and built out phases. This cannot possibly be how the regulations are intended to operate.

Somerset County Gazette: Artist'S Impression Of Phase Three Of The Jurston Farm Development In Wellington, Including The Pedestrianised Jurston Lane.Artist'S Impression Of Phase Three Of The Jurston Farm Development In Wellington, Including The Pedestrianised Jurston Lane.

“It is not feasible to provide off-site mitigation within the catchment to mitigate the impacts of the whole underlying development (including the elements which have already been completed).

“We cannot stop development now and wait for this matter to be resolved. This would have a catastrophic impact on the business and those that it employs, both directly and indirectly through the supply chain and sub-contractor.”

The Dutch N ruling is holding up the delivery of more than 11,000 homes across Somerset, with the former Taunton Deane area being especially affected.

The council agreed in October 2021 to borrow up to £2M to create new wetlands in the former district to unlock between 700 and 1,350 homes.

Responding to C. G. Fry’s claims, the council said it was “acting lawfully in asking for an HRA to be undertaken… given the provision of the Natural England advice since previous permissions were granted.”

A virtual public inquiry to settle the matter will begin on August 17 and is expected to last for two days, with a decision expected to be published by the Planning Inspectorate before Christmas.