A HOUSEBUILDER based in Bridgwater has slammed Somerset Council for its interference with several plans to build houses on a site near Taunton.

S. Notaro Ltd, based in Bridgwater, first acquired their development site in Milverton in 1999, but construction on the proposed 72 dwellings is still yet to begin.

Eight years later, on May 11, 2007, the local planning authority issued a Certificate of Lawfulness confirming permission had been granted for 72 dwellings.

A judicial review was subsequently lodged following appeals from the locals, but this was then withdrawn.

Discussions continued between Joe Notaro, the housebuilder's Managing Director, and the council, with regard to revising the extant planning permission so that the site met modern design standards.

These were continuously met with support, but then had support withdrawn at the last minute. 

Also during this period, negotiations were carried on with the council to purchase the access strip, which S. Notaro Ltd bought in 2018 for £425,000 - paid up front as part of the total £1.2 million contribution to the council.

Works under the extant permission re-commenced in this year, but the planning officer soon stopped this work.

Since then, S. Notaro Ltd has had several meetings with various officers from the council to continue works on the site, but to no avail.

Fast forward to 2024, and the housebuilder is being met with yet another reason as to why they cannot build on the site - Somerset Council says planning permission is needed to connect into a storm water culvert, despite this being on S. Notaro Ltd’s land and not property of Somerset Council. 

S. Notaro Ltd believes someone from Somerset Council has since attempted to register the ownership of the culvert, and has documentation to support this claim, provided by solicitors.

In addition, the housebuilder has also been informed that planning permission is needed to install PV panels on the site to meet current Building Regulations, which the team says is contrary to common practice throughout the industry.

S. Notaro Ltd feels Somerset Council are attempting to take ownership of the culvert to stop them building homes on the site in Milverton.

The team at the Bridgwater-based housebuilding company are confused by this, as if all of the proposed 72 homes were to be built, they would have to pay circa £1,200,000 to Somerset Council in total for access to the site -  which they believe would be of benefit amid the council's financial emergency, in addition to the extra income from eventual council tax on the proposed properties.

They are also confused by the various council’s attempts to seemingly stop them building on the site - not only as a local and family-run business which has already invested over £1,000,000 to date in fees - but also due to the current housing crisis, which looks set to worsen due to an increase in workforce at Hinkley Point C, and the eventual opening of the Gravity giga factory which is predicted to provide 7,500 new jobs.

Joe Notaro, the company’s Managing Director, feels he has already 'wasted' over £1,000,000 in trying to bring forward the Somerset housing site, which S. Notaro Ltd feels is 'much needed'.

In response to the claims, Somerset Council maintained that it had regularly spoken with S. Notaro Ltd, and stated that planning permission is needed to connect into the culvert, as it drains into a ditch owned by the local authority.

However, the council did not address its unusual request for planning permission to install PV panels, nor alleged attempt to take ownership of the culvert.

A spokesperson for Somerset Council said: "Somerset Council has responded to S. Notaro Limited, further clarifying the Council’s position.

"The company needs planning consent for an on-site attenuation scheme - a means of storing storm/surface water before it can be discharged into the Somerset Council-owned ditch.

"These works are not part of the original 1970’s scheme, and as they are engineering works, planning permission is necessary.

"The Council has been in regular dialogue with S. Notaro Limited, elected Members, the Parish Council and neighbours who are all aware of the position and is awaiting a planning application."