NEW homes will be built in a small village near the A303 in Somerset despite concerns about sewage overflowing onto local roads.

South Somerset District Council’s regulation committee approved outline plans in January 2019 to allow up to 35 homes to be built at the corner of Broadway Road and Pound Road in Broadway, near Ilminster.

The plans – put forward by Fremantle Capital Partners (Broadway) Ltd – were approved for a second time in July 2023 by Somerset Council, following the completion of legal agreements between the developer and the new local authority.

Following this second approval, Broadway Parish Council announced it could legally challenge the decision, believing the new council (which assumed control in April) had not fully considered all the issues that have emerged since 2019 – including concerns about the local sewage network.

Despite these concerns, the council’s planning committee south voted in Yeovil on Tuesday afternoon (November 14) to back the plans for a third time – meaning construction is likely to begin some time in the new year.

The site lies at the north-western edge of Broadway, less than a mile from the site of the proposed Ding Meadow development, which would see 28 new homes constructed behind the Bell Inn.

Pound Road serves as a key route for traffic coming into the village from the Blackdown Hills area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) and is regularly used as a rat ran between Ilminster and Taunton when the A358 is congested.

The homes are expected to range from two- to four-bedrooms in size, with 35 per cent being affordable (the equivalent of 12 properties) and five of the new homes being bungalows.

The original legal agreement between the council and developer (known as a Section 106 agreement) bound the latter to providing contributions towards local sports facilities and play areas, delivering new pavements along Broadway Road and traffic calming on Pound Road, and managing and maintaining the small copse at the south-east corner of the site.

Chard & Ilminster News: The proposed site of the homes.The proposed site of the homes. (Image: Google Street View)

The new legal agreement retains these commitments, but also requires that four of the dwellings are now served by package treatment plants rather than septic tanks.

Package treatment plants allow for small quantities of waste-water (e.g. the amount generated by a single household) to be successfully treated and then discharged into existing sewers.

Under the revised legal agreement, the plants must be installed before any homes are constructed on the site, and no dwelling within the development can be occupied until January 2024 at the earliest.

The committee voted in July to approve the plans on the condition that Wessex Water can provide assurance about how it intends to improve the local sewer network.

Four months after this decision, Broadway Parish Council chairman Peter Gregory claimed that Wessex Water had not provided any such assurance.

He told the committee: “Wessex Water has not produced its report, and a result the frequent flooding of polluted water in Suggs Lane remains unresolved.

“These houses will produce a ten per cent increase in flows into the sewer, and the waste treatment plant does not have enough capacity.

“You will be complicit in the further exacerbation of public health and the damage to property. Without Wessex Water’s response, we can have no assurance that this is no going to make it worse.”

Councillor Sue Osborne (whose Ilminster division includes the site) said she was disappointed that Wessex Water had not attended the meeting to discuss the sewage issues in person.

She said: “I’m rather concerned and a bit disappointed that there isn’t Wessex Water in front of us.

“The flooding has been going on for several years and is quite unpleasant for the residents living at that end of the village.”

Councillor Henry Hobhouse (whose Castle Cary division has seen significant housing growth in recent years) claimed that Wessex Water was not interested in investing in Somerset’s sewerage network, pointing to ongoing issues in the village of Sparkford, also on the A303.

He said: “In Sparkford in 2006, we had exactly this problem. We still have it, where Wessex Water are having to come out every time we have a minor flood and disinfect the whole of Church Street, where sewage is pumping out into the street.

“It’s happened four times this year already. I honestly don’t trust Wessex Water on this issue, and I have proof of them not wanting to spend £3.5m in Sparkford to solve this problem.”

Despite these reservations, the committee voted to re-approve the plans after less than 45 minutes’ debate by a margin of six votes to none, with two abstentions.

Wessex Water stated in its new five-year business plan (which was submitted to the water regulator Ofwat in October) that it would be investing more than £6m a month up to 2030 to create an improved sewage network and reduce the need to discharge sewage into Somerset’s watercourses during heavy rain.

A spokesman said: “There is nothing worse than being flooded with sewage. We already have one of the lowest rates of flooding in the industry and will continue to reduce sewer flooding inside and outside of homes and business.

“We will continue our programme of sewerage network CCTV surveys to identify pipes needing repair or replacement, reducing the volume of rainwater entering the system.

“Sewer capacity will be increased to meet the needs of new development. And we will also continue our information and advice programmes to help customers understand how they can help prevent blockages that cause pollutions.”