A COASTAL town will be getting nearly 150 new homes despite fears of a “serious accident” on the neighbouring roads.

Grass Roots Planning were granted permission by Somerset West and Taunton Council in October 2019 to build 139 new homes on land either side of Normandy Avenue, at the south-eastern corner of Watchet.

Newport-based developer Edenstone Homes acquired the site in late-2022 and submitted amended proposals in January 2023 for the same number of properties – plans which were subsequently revised further in early-2024.

Somerset Council’s planning committee voted unanimously to back the new proposals when it met in Taunton on May 1, despite local fears about the safety of pedestrians on Doniford Road.

The site straddles three agricultural fields either side of Normandy Avenue and Cherry Tree Way, a short distance from the Liddymore Park development of 250 homes currently being constructed by Summerfield Developments.

The main access will be from a new junction on Doniford Road at the site’s eastern edge, providing a direct link to the neighbouring village of Williton.

Under the original plans, a spine road would have run uninterrupted throughout the site to the northernmost homes, with Normandy Avenue being divided into two and accessed via staggered junctions.

Somerset County Gazette: The planned site of 139 homes on Cherry Tree Way in Watchet.The planned site of 139 homes on Cherry Tree Way in Watchet. (Image: Daniel Mumby)

Following discussions with the council’s planning and highways officers, this has now been changed, with Normandy Avenue being retained as a continuous road and staggered junctions leading off it to the homes at either end of the site.

The existing farm track to Liddymore Farm will remain in place, allowing farm vehicles to pass through the development and maintaining the public right of way which provides access to Knights Templar Community Church School.

Of the 139 homes planned for the site, 49 will be affordable (the equivalent of 35 per cent of properties), with the homes ranging from one-bedroom flats to four-bedroom houses.

The homes will be concentrated at the southern end of the site, with the northern tip being allocated for a hilltop park, preserving the existing views of the Bristol Channel.

Alan Dyer, who lives in Williton, said he was concerned that the extra traffic from the new homes would lead to a “serious accident” on Doniford Road.

He told the committee: “The road from Williton to Doniford has a number of dangers. It is narrow (some of it is single track), it has no pavement, a large part of it has no verge, with hedges immediately adjacent to the road.

“Bends in the road hinder visibility, and water runs down the side of the road and across it in places, especially in winter. This at times pushes pedestrians and cyclists using it out towards the centre.

“Pupils, some accompanied by parents, use the road to cycle and walk to school.

“I’ve feared for some time that the road will be the site of a serious accident. Doniford Road needs a footpath and cyclepath along its length.

“We need serious vision. We don’t need a serious accident to make us think.”

Christopher Mitchell, who lives on Cherry Tree Way, claimed that Edenstone Homes were not acting in good faith over the ownership of the site.

He said: “The outline does not match the ownership of the site. This is either a mistake or it is a deliberate attempt to adversely affect the outcome for local people.

“We need to decide whether the applicants are trustworthy, and if you do not think they are, you should not issue planning permission.

“The current access road is deteriorating badly and is unsafe to use. The applicant has owned the road for the last two years, and despite residents’ attempts to get them to make repairs, nothing has been done.”

Matthew Kendrick, director of Grass Roots Planning (representing the developer)  responded that the ownership of the site had been established when outline permission was granted and that he was not aware of any issues that had emerged since this time regarding this matter.

He added that Edenstone Homes had “engaged positively and pro-actively” with the council and “gone further” than the standards set out in the outline approval.

Councillor Andy Hadley (who represents Minehead) argued that the council would lose any appeal by the developer if it refused permission over road safety fears).

He said: “Our highways team hasn’t reached any objections – I would find it very difficult to refuse permission on a highway issue.

“They do seem with the affordable housing to have set a good example. I am struggling to find any planning reasons to object to this.”

The committee voted unanimously to approve the revised plans after under an hour’s deliberation.

Since Watchet does not lie within the Somerset Levels and Moors catchment area, developers are not required by law to provide additional mitigation against any net rise in phosphates – meaning construction could begin very shortly.

The town could grow by up to 50 per cent in the coming years, with decisions still pending on 280 new homes on the former Wansborough Paper Mill site and a further 230 homes on the Parsonage Farm site, both located on the B3191 Brendon Road.