A U-TURN on Ilminster’s future housing growth has left the town divided.

South Somerset District Council this week formally agreed to change plans to build 315 homes in Shudrick Lane (above) and instead earmark them to be built at Canal Way in the south-west of the town.

The council’s district executive went back to its original idea of Canal Way for development as part of their Local Plan, which is laying down the areas of development to bring 496 homes to Ilminster by 2028.

At last Thursday’s meeting, council leader Ric Pallister supported the Canal Way option, but Ilminster town councillors criticised the plan’s sustainability appraisal and consultation period, and backed the Shudrick Lane option instead.

Ilminster Mayor Emma Jane Taylor said the Canal Way option left her concerned about increased crime, health and wellbeing provision, and damage to beauty spots at Herne Hill.

She said: “The Shudrick Lane option would bring a link road and a lot of residents would like to see the town joined up with a circular route so you can get around.

“We’re trying hard to protect the flora and fauna at Herne Hill, some of which is rare, and this option will have an impact because a strip of houses will be around the bottom of it.”

Town councillor David Miller said: “We’ll be sticking to our guns. The prime drive for the Shudrick Lane option is because it will bring an alternative route into the car park that offers options in the longer term for partpedestrianising East Street and Silver Street.

“We believe it would make Ilminster an even more attractive place to shop and be a good commercial benefit for the town.”

District councillor Carol Goodall abstained from the vote, but told the meeting she felt the proposed modifications were not necessarily the best solution for Ilminster.

The decision will now go to the Inspector in June, and Rob Drayton, of the campaign group Save Shudrick Valley, said they were delighted, but would wait until the inspector’s final decision before celebrating.

He said: “The district council has come to the decision which is not only the best solution for sustainability, but also the best way forward for the town. It will eventually bring a new first school, when money is available, two extra playing fields and a development which people will be able to afford.

“There were only six objections from the district council to the original Canal Way option back in 2010, and this decision shows Ilminster Town Council’s stance to back Shudrick Valley as its preferred option was ill considered, had no backing from the townspeople and wasn’t in the best interests of the town.”