I AM writing to express my utter dismay and sadness at how our town is being overwhelmed by building sites, in particular the proposed development in Staplegrove. The Staplegrove plan amounts to a massive urban sprawl – 1,628 houses planned, plus: community facilities; shops; GP Surgery; Dental Surgery; business units; and a Primary School. Altogether, this urban sprawl will produce huge expanses of tarmac and concrete that must have an adverse impact on the environment. The sheer scale of this is horrifying and unnecessary.

The number of houses under construction and newly built in Taunton is in the thousands already and is far in excess of the number required by Government policy. For example - Monkton Heathfield, Norton Fitzwarren, Comeytrowe, Priorswood and Bishops Lydeard.

The acreage of land lost (all previously agricultural that will never be recovered) with its associated loss of habitats for wildlife, ancient trees, hedges and green space is devastating. The recent UN Biodiversity Conference held in Montreal in December 2022 (COP15) highlighted the urgent “importance of protecting and preserving the world’s nature and biodiversity“. COP 15 set new goals to reverse the damage already done because “our societies and economics depend on healthy and functioning ecosystems”. This cannot mean covering our countryside with acres of concrete and destroying ancient trees that are vital to the health of our community. Of course, new trees can be planted but they take years to mature and locally thousands have already been lost.

Our MP Rebecca Pow has recently stated her concerns about the environment and has spoken of the “launch of an ambitious new government blueprint” for the Environment Improvement Plan 2023. I wonder what part massive housing developments like Staplegrove play in this Environment Improvement Plan.

Some years ago, Taunton was awarded Garden Town status. It is hard to imagine how covering our green fields with concrete makes our town a garden. If Taunton has to build, there are many brownfield sites and unoccupied buildings in the town centre and on its periphery which ought to be the priority for Council planners and developers.

If the Staplegrove development is to go ahead, then Staplegrove’s village environment must be protected. The proposed Spine Road must be built first, before the phases of residential housing. Corkscrew Lane must not be used for construction traffic as it is totally unsuitable. Worryingly, the developers have so far been reluctant to proceed with the Spine Road, presumably until they have made profits from the first tranche of houses. The developers have, so far, shown no regard for local residents with their plan to use a “Drop Down” road from Corkscrew Lane into the building site. Profit for the developers must not be the determining factor in allowing a Drop-Down Road.

The owners of the first houses to be built would have a huge impact on Staplegrove village in terms of traffic flow. The junction at the western end the Spine Road should be at the Silk Mills roundabout, not at the layby on the Staplegrove Road, where the Spine Road traffic would cause massive congestion for the whole area.

In conclusion, I am horrified by the Staplegrove development’s total disregard for our beautiful countryside and green space. All this leads me to question the need for yet another massive development, given our local and national concerns about the environment. I call on the SWT Council to halt, or minimise, this planned development to protect the health and welfare of this and future generations. A responsible Council must not sacrifice this for the profit of developers.

(Mrs) Sue Pawson