AN action group battling to block a huge new housing development in Watchet has won the backing of local MP Ian Liddell-Grainger.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said he was prepared to support the protests and would meet the campaigners at the earliest opportunity.

Objectors to a plan for 230 new homes on Parsonage Farm are currently raising money to fund a legal challenge and have already amassed more than £3,500.

They fear the development on good-grade agricultural land on a highly conspicuous site would lead to local services being completely overwhelmed.

The Parsonage Farm development is just one of four major schemes pencilled in for Watchet. Together, they would mean 900 new homes which would increase the size of the town by about 40 per cent.

Watchet and the rest of West Somerset is one of only a few areas of the county unaffected by an embargo placed on new housing because of unacceptably high phosphate levels in waterways in the Rivers Tone and Parrett catchments.

The problem is linked to sewage treatment works not having been sufficiently upgraded to cope with waste from thousands of new homes which have been built around Taunton and Bridgwater in recent years.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said it was totally wrong for West Somerset to be swamped by new developments because of the restrictions elsewhere.

He said: “We risk seeing the special character of the area completely ruined just because grasping developers want to fulfil their construction quotas.

“New housing should be created where there is a need for it, and currently there is no need in Watchet, where new estates have been steadily developed in recent years.

“Schools and health centres in the area are already under pressure and if the Parsonage Farm scheme is allowed to go ahead they are likely to collapse.

“We always hear fine words from developers, such as how in the case of a planned development at Williton they could provide a new medical centre.

“But they can never explain how they are going to find the doctors to run it.

“Parsonage Farm is a case where a line has to be drawn firmly in the sand.

“If any more development should happen in Watchet, which I do not necessarily accept, then it should be on land formerly occupied by the paper mill.

“It is a brownfield site which will have far less impact and quite importantly will not lead to the loss of more productive farmland at a time when we are trying to improve this country’s food security.”