THE delivery of Somerset’s newest railway station will not be held up by the phosphates crisis, Somerset Council has confirmed.

Somerset Council has been working with Network Rail to bring forward a new railway station in Wellington, with the final business case expected to be submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT) by the end of January.

West of England Developments (Taunton) Ltd. put forward plans in June 2023 for a new development of 220 homes and commercial space, which would unlock the new station site by extending the current access road to the Lidl supermarket off Nynehead Road.

Unconfirmed reports circulated around the Christmas period suggesting that this development would not be able to go ahead due to the level of phosphate credits being needed to offset the new homes – meaning the station site could not be accessed safety.

But Somerset Council has now confirmed that this development is achievable using phosphate credits and the creation of new wetlands, and stressed it was still working towards the new station being open to passengers by September 2025.

In addition to the new homes and commercial space, the planned development would deliver car parking to the south of the station site, with new footpaths and cycle routes links to the town centre and nearby housing developments being created through a new park.

The railway station itself will be subject to a separate planning application by Network Rail, which will also explore footpath links to the north linking the station to the Nynehead boat lift and west towards the Tonedale Mill and Tone Works regeneration sites (which recently received £20m from the government’s levelling up fund).

Following the Dutch N court ruling and the resulting legal advice from Natural England, any new residential commercial or development within the Somerset Levels and Moors catchment area (which includes Wellington) must provide additional mitigation to prevent any new increase in phosphates.

Mitigation can take numerous forms, such as the creation of new wetlands, the fallowing of agricultural land, upgrading waste water treatment plants or purchasing phosphate credits, which pay for off-site mitigation through fallowing land or planting new woodland.

The council has confirmed that the residential development near the station can be successfully mitigated, and the station itself (i.e. the platforms, lift, ticket office and waiting areas) are exempt from the phosphate restrictions.

A spokesman said: “The station itself won’t need to include phosphate mitigation – a railway station, and associated infrastructure, is not the type of development affected by the advice from Natural England.

“Network Rail is producing the final business case, which is scheduled to be submitted to the DfT later this month.

“The process of delivering a new station and ensuring the requirements of all partners, stakeholders and the DfT are met is very complex and we are working together to achieve the agreed timetable.

“While the residential element of the development site will need to demonstrate phosphate neutrality, we are working with the developers to find a solution to assist them with bringing forward the residential units.

“The recent government funding to increase the availability of nutrient credits will assist with supporting developments across the Somerset area, and there are also a number of third-party credits schemes available that the developer can access to unlock the residential element of this development.”

The government announced shortly before Christmas that Somerset would be given £9.6m to expand its current phosphate credits schemes and other mitigation efforts, in a bid to speed up the delivery of around 18,000 homes which have been in limbo since the Dutch N ruling.

The council has not specified which sites will immediately benefit from this funding, or precisely how many of the 18,000 homes will be allowed to proceed (pending the granting of planning permission and the resolution of any remaining legal issues).

Consultancy firm HalpinRobbins (which is based in Wellington) has provided details of how much phosphate the new homes near the Wellington railway station site can be expected to generate – and how this will be mitigated.

As part of the new development, around 0.6 hectares (just under one-and-a-half acres) will be set aside for new wetlands, with substantial amounts of existing hedgerows and woodland within the site being retained.

Wessex Water is also anticipated to make upgrades to its Wellington waste water treatment plant, located near the Lowmoor Business Park, by the end of December 2024.

Even with these measures in place, the new development will still add nearly 15kg of phosphates per year in the River Tone catchment.

This remainder will be offset by the purchase of phosphate credits, which currently cost £55,000 per kilogram of phosphates – leaving the developer liable for a total of £820,600.

A final decision on the homes planned near the station site is expected to be taken later in the year by the council’s planning committee west, which handles major applications in the former Somerset West and Taunton area.