by Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Mumby.

SOMERSET'S cricket ground could lose the right to host international matches if the phosphates crisis is not solved quickly, councillors warn.

The Cooper Associates Ground, in Taunton, lies beside the River Tone, within the catchment area of the protected Somerset Levels and Moors Ramsar site.

A court ruling and legal advice from Natural England has stalled the delivery of around 18,000 homes across Somerset, with councils and developers struggling to put measures in place to prevent any increase in phosphate levels within the catchment area.

Somerset County Council has warned the town could miss out on international cricket matches if new hotels planned locally are held up by the crisis.

Cllr Ros Wyke, portfolio holder for development and assets, has written to Defra and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

She said the council is committed to protecting the Somerset Levels, but the delivery of new homes is being “disproportionately” impacted as homes account for a relatively small level of polluting phosphates compared to agriculture or sewage processing.

She said: “We are acutely aware of the impact of pollution on our local environment and recently declared an ecological emergency in the county.

“We are also, however, aware of the impact of the current policy on the provision of new homes in the housing is a minimal contributor to nutrient levels, but is being disproportionately impacted by the issue."

She added: “Local construction companies, which are predominately small- and medium-sized enterprises, are inevitably disproportionately hit by the slowing of permissions due to the current policy.”

Cllr Wyke said: “Although you, rightly, emphasis the impact nutrient neutrality has on the development of new housing, I would also like to stress the impact on substantial parts of the regional economy.

“Somerset County Cricket Club, to give just one example, is currently concerned that the right to host international cricket may be removed from the county due to the pause on the development of suitable hotels to host touring teams.”

The ground hosted three group matches in the 2019 men’s Cricket World Cup, and more recently a women’s Test against South Africa.

Somerset West and Taunton Council’s plans to regenerate the neighbouring Firepool site – which has been vacant since 2008 – include a new hotel, more than 500 new homes, commercial space and possibly a multi-purpose venue.

Planning permission is in place to raise the site to reduce flood risk, to deliver a new access from the A3087 Trenchard Way and to convert the former GWR building at the northern end into offices and a restaurant, but other elements are on hold while phosphate mitigation is agreed.