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Somerset Council signs landmark agreement with WCI Group to unlock planning

Somerset Council has signed a landmark agreement with WCI Group, a local water and wastewater engineering firm, which allows free septic tanks replacements to be efficiently used as phosphate credits.

The agreement allows WCI to replace septic tanks – a key source of river pollution – at no cost to the homeowner while providing housing developers with a simple, low cost and efficient way of proving their developments are nutrient neutral.

Following guidance issued by Natural England in 2020, councils are unable to approve planning applications for new homes without the housebuilder being able to demonstrate that the development won’t have an adverse impact on our rivers and waterways.  Proving ‘nutrient neutrality’ has been incredibly costly and difficult and has resulted in hundreds of thousands of new homes being held up in the planning system.

WCI’s deal with Somerset Council is unique in that it allows for septic tanks be replaced independently of planning applications.  The upgrade of septic tanks for phosphate mitigation is the brainchild of WCI’s Brad Taylor who originally conceived the idea in 2021 as a phosphate mitigation strategy for Taunton’s Firepool town-centre regeneration project.

Where other schemes rely on the removal of vast areas of productive agricultural land for conversion to wetlands and woodlands, WCI’s scheme deals with the problem of pollution from human occupation at source.  Upgrading septic tanks is immediate, is targeted to the river catchments where housing is needed and avoids the loss of food production from local communities.

Mr Taylor said: “We are thrilled to have agreement from Somerset Council on what is truly a ‘win-win’ opportunity for all parties.  WCI’s scheme removes a huge administrative burden from the Council while providing developers of all sizes with a low cost, simple way of gain planning approval for much needed housing.

“At the same time, we’re helping cash-strapped households improve their drainage and do their bit for the environment. “This scheme has been years in the making and we’re immensely proud of the impact it will have.  With hundreds of customers already signed up to the scheme, our engineers can finally get to work delivering septic tank replacements to the same high standards that we’ve delivered for over 40 years.”

Russell Gray of MIME Architects who specialise in energy efficient, one-off houses and barn conversions in rural areas is delighted with the agreement.  “The nutrient neutrality requirement was introduced in October 2020 and has sent all our planning applications into limbo.

“Up to now, the mitigation schemes available all rely on bespoke Section 106 agreements which the Council has not had the resources to progress.  This means planning applications are held in abeyance for months and years.

“WCI’s scheme will change all that.  With no Section 106 to agree, the Council should be able to approve our planning applications within the statutory 8-week period.  Not only that, WCI’s phosphate credits are significantly cheaper than others, are the most sustainable and are achieved with zero loss of farmland.  This is a genuine win for both our clients and the environment.”

For further information on WCI’s phosphate credits or free septic tank upgrades, please visit  or email

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