Somerset seaside town set to double

West Somerset Steam Railway Bishops Lydeard to Minehead running through Watchet

Housing developers have applied to build so many new houses at a coastal town in Somerset, that the town could nearly double in size.

The attractive and vibrant town of Watchet lies to the east of Minehead, between Exmoor National Park and the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

This charming little town has an active marina in the ancient harbour (the old port was established over a thousand years ago), as well as restaurants, plenty of award-winning pubs, independent shops and galleries, a weekly market and quaint houses, all of which make the area attractive to tourists. It also has good road connections and is served by the West Somerset Steam Railway, which runs all year round.

Not surprisingly, Watchet is a popular place. So much so, that housing developers have now applied to build 900 new homes at four sites in the town which would increase the current population by 45%.

Local opposition groups fear that the “already strained infrastructure” is inadequate to sustain such rapid growth.

The first phase of building has already begun on one site of 250 homes at Liddymore Farm (Application No. 3/37/17/020) which has planning permission that includes 44 social rented houses. This site incorporates three agricultural fields.

A further 230 homes are to be built at Parsonage Farm, Brendon Road (Application No. 3/37/23/031). The first phase will involve the existing farm buildings converted for commercial use, after which housing including 81 affordable homes will be built on the adjacent orchards and farmland. Part of the site was for twenty five years used for the annual Watchet Musical Festival, until the tenant farmer ended his lease in 2022.

A decision is pending on the former Wansborough Paper Mill which will comprise 350 new homes (Application No. 3/37/19/021). The mill was demolished after permission, some retrospective, was granted in 2019. Permission has already been granted to store topsoil temporarily. It is believed that the developer, Stratton Land Limited, proposes to prevent flooding by raising the ground level of this site with imported topsoil from a development currently being built in Minehead.

The Cleeve Hill Development Group has applied for planning permission (Application No. 3/37/21/012) to build 136 homes on the B3191 Cleeve Hill to the west of Watchet but this, and a revised proposal, have been refused. The developer had proposed to realign the main road away from the crumbling cliffs which have resulted in this busy road running through the middle of the new housing estate.