Efforts to deliver a crucial relief road on the eastern side of Chard will come under close scrutiny in a new report due out this summer.

The eastern relief road is a crucial component of South Somerset District Council’s Local Plan and is intended to complement the delivery of new homes to the south and east of the town.

The need for the road was identified when the Local Plan was published in 2015, but to date, not a single metre has been built despite numerous new housing developments in the town being approved.

A new report laying out options for how to proceed will come before the council’s area west committee in July – as local campaigners warn that the road may cause untold damage to the town’s green spaces.

Under the Local Plan, the road will stretch from the A358 Tatworth Road to the A30 Crewkerne Road, taking pressure off the existing 'Convent Link' junction where these two roads meet in the town centre.

Rather than building the road itself via central government grants or external borrowing, the council envisioned the road coming forward as part of housing developments within the Chard Eastern Development Area (CEDA), which will deliver up to 2,700 new homes, 17 hectares of employment land and two new primary schools.

Starting from the south, the road will begin at a new roundabout on the A358 and cross the B3162 Forton Road to the east of the existing houses.

It will then move north around the back of the Lordleaze Hotel, skirting the edge of the current employment units on Millfield and join up with the A30 to the east of a new research and development facility for Numatic, one of the town’s largest employers.

From there, improvements will be made to the existing roads on Oaklands Avenue and Touches Lane, with a new road cutting across Chaffcombe Lane (leading to Chard Reservoir) and rejoining the A358 near the junction with Thorndun Park Drive – near the planned site of a new 66-bed care home.

Chard & Ilminster News: Artist's impression of 252 homes on A358 Tatworth Road in Chard Artist's impression of 252 homes on A358 Tatworth Road in Chard

Efforts to deliver developments within the CEDA have been repeatedly delayed, with council officers admitting in May 2021 that they would be willing for the different stages of the road to be built “out of order” as each site came on stream.

A decision on plans for 252 homes on the A358 – which would include the first stage of the road – has been repeatedly delayed, with concerns being raised about road safety, funding for new school places, how easily doctors’ surgeries can be expanded, and the ongoing phosphates crisis which is holding up the delivery of thousands of new homes across Somerset.

Nick Mair, a member of the pressure group Residents 4 A Better Chard (R4ABC), believes that the planned route of the relief road contradicts the council’s more recent commitments in its Future Chard Strategy to protect the town’s green spaces – including the nature reserve between Chard Reservoir and Touches Lane.

Speaking at a recent council meeting, he said: "The northern sector, based on the Local Plan’s detailed map, will pass through our nature reserve and bird sanctuary, requiring the pouring of thousands of tonnes of concrete to raise the level of the bird sanctuary end some ten to 15 feet to that of the narrow Touches Lane and the felling of some 60 to 80 mature trees.

"The destructive effect on the nature reserve and bird sanctuary cannot be understated if that busy road belches and screeches its disruptive way through the reserve."

The Future Chard Strategy commits the council to 'respecting the richness of its [Chard’] environmental assets and features, protecting these for future generations and embracing biodiversity and climate challenges'.

It also notes the town has 'a variety of green areas such as parks, amenity areas and paths or trails which are well-loved' by the community.

READ MORE: Latest plans for A358 dualling between Taunton and Ilminster

Mr Mair said: "Do you want to permanently damage our nature reserve and bird sanctuary by cutting down mature trees? Or do you want to look after those green spaces for today’s and tomorrow’s generations?

"I think there’s a great head of steam going to come from voters if you trash our nature reserve and bird sanctuary in order, supposedly, to allow visitors to shave 120 seconds off their journey from Ilminster to Axminster.

"The Strategy states: ‘Chard must use its key strengths in terms of its strategic location and its fabulous green spaces to capture economic investment and growth.’

"How do we use green spaces to capture economic investment and growth? Maybe we build a bypass through the nature reserve now, and then at some point in the future we turn the rest of the reserve into a big housing estate and industrial area, because all the wildlife has gone?"