AROUND 40 residents packed into a heated meeting which saw the green light given provisionally to a huge 250 home development for Watchet.

Seven residents spoke against the plans, citing concerns with traffic, overdevelopment, and the extra strain on Watchet's infrastructure.

One of the residents, Chris Mitchell said he believed more concern had been given to the impact the development would have on newts and moths than Liddymore Road residents.

One of the main sticking points throughout the debate from both residents and councillors was the impact on traffic.

Cllr Ian Aldridge said it was ludicrous to put the extra amount of traffic down Liddymore Road, which is already very busy.

"It beggars belief that Somerset County Council's Highways team believe Liddymore Road can accommodate another 900 car movements a day," Cllr Aldridge said.

However planning officer Tim Burton replied: "We have taken professional advice from Somerset County Council regarding Highways issues, and they have considered it acceptable. If you refuse permission on those grounds, you do so in contradiction of your independent professional consultant."

He added: "The recommendation from officers is for approval. We do not think there would be substantial grounds to uphold an appeal if it were to be rejected."

Planning officer Bryn Kitching presented a report on the plans to the committee emphasising conditions developer Summerfield Homes would would have to adhere to, including creating 35 per cent of the dwellings as affordable housing, contributing £184,275 to fund 13 new early years education places, provide an on-site play area and give £25,000 to be used toward cycling provision.

"This plan would be built in four phases over a number of years," Mr Kitching said. He also addressed one of the other key concerns regarding the development - its affect on Knights Templar School.

"The education authority has commented on the application and says there is capacity at the school for this number of dwellings," Mr Kitching said.

But Knights Templar governor Linda Bulpin said that while the school did have the technical capacity money would be needed to bring some of the school's buildings back into use as classrooms.

Watchet currently has two other major housing developments in the pipeline, and if they were to go ahead as well it could see Watchet expand by 600 homes.

Town councillor Loretta Whetlor was one of those that spoke against the development. "We need to think about the long term future of the town. The Paper Mill is an enormous brownfield site, has any consideration been given to putting some of these new houses there?

"It may take longer but these new homes are permanent and will be standing in Watchet long after the developers have left," she said.

The mayor of Watchet Cllr Peter Murphy said he hoped more consideration would be given to the overall impact of the three developments on the town, and questioned the traffic assessment.

"There are a limited number of jobs available in Watchet, so it is likely many of the people who move into these homes will need to drive to Taunton through Williton to get to work.

"This traffic assessment takes no account of the junction at Five Bells, no account of the impact on the junction by the Williton Co-op yet these are small junctions which are likely to be affected," Cllr Murphy said.

Following the lengthy debate, councillors voted in favour of approving the outline application provided the traffic assessment and education contribution are reassessed, with eight voting in favour, one against and two abstaining.