SOMERSET Council has signed a 'landmark agreement' with a local water and wastewater engineering firm to allow free septic tank replacements in Somerset.

The agreement will allow WCI Group, based in Wiveliscombe, to replace septic tanks – a key source of river pollution – at no cost to the homeowner, while providing housing developers with a low cost and efficient way of proving their developments are nutrient neutral.

Planning applications for new homes cannot be accepted unless the housebuilder is able to. demonstrate that the development won’t have an adverse impact on nearby rivers and waterways

This has meant thousands of new home plans have been held up in the planning system, but WCI’s deal with Somerset Council will allow for septic tanks be replaced independently of planning applications.

The upgrade of septic tanks with the purpose of phosphate mitigation is the brainchild of WCI’s Brad Taylor who originally conceived the idea in 2021 as a phosphate mitigation strategy for Taunton’s Firepool town-centre regeneration project. 

Where other schemes rely on the removal of vast areas of productive agricultural land for conversion to wetlands and woodlands, WCI’s scheme deals with the problem of pollution from human occupation at source. 

Upgrading septic tanks is immediate, is targeted to the river catchments where housing is needed and avoids the loss of food production from local communities.

Properties within the river catchments of the Tone, Parrett, Axe and Brue are included in the scheme, as it's these river catchments which affect the Somerset Levels and Moors, and the scheme is defined by Nutrient Neutrality restrictions.

Speaking about the scheme, Brad Taylor said: “We are thrilled to have agreement from Somerset Council on what is truly a ‘win-win’ opportunity for all parties. 

"WCI’s scheme removes a huge administrative burden from the Council while providing developers of all sizes with a low cost, simple way of gain planning approval for much needed housing. 

"At the same time, we’re helping cash-strapped households improve their drainage and do their bit for the environment.

“This scheme has been years in the making and we’re immensely proud of the impact it will have. 

"With hundreds of customers already signed up to the scheme, our engineers can finally get to work delivering septic tank replacements to the same high standards that we’ve delivered for over 40 years.”