Plans to turn Highbridge’s former Canal House site into a modern development of 29 flats have been approved by Sedgemoor District Council despite opposition from town councillors and some residents.

The district council has this week published the full conditions and legal agreement that it is placing on the applicant, New Shore Developments Ltd, in giving consent for the scheme, which includes new affordable housing.

The prominent site, which is situated next to the Church Street roundabout, has been vacant for many years since the former Canal House closed down. It has been boarded up with poorly maintained hoardings.

Town councillors lodged an objection against the plans last year due to the loss of retail and business space in Highbridge town centre as the site is turned into more flats.

Highbridge Chamber of Trade Trade Chairman Mike Murphy spoke out against the scheme, saying: “This site has seen 200 years of retail – there have been shops and businesses in the heart of Highbridge for years.”

“The agent has told me she can’t sell retail units there as there’s not enough footfall but we know hundreds of new homes are to be built at the Delta engineering site, Brue Farm, Isleport, and at the YMCA hotel site.”

“I want to see two retail units here and think the development should be denied until those are given. There are not enough ‘shop shells’ available in Market Street.”

Cllr John Parkes added: “I have grave concerns about these plans. It’s clear to everyone that Highbridge is being overdeveloped and we just don’t have the infrastructure to support it. This would be a huge overdevelopment.”

Cllr Andy Brewer said the developer had worked on addressing nearby neighbours’ concerns about the proposed site over looking their homes, reducing the risk of shadowing onto their properties.

Resident David Barrett, who lives next to the development site, said: “Something needs to be done with this site, but not on the scale of this application.” He believes the proposals represent “an over-development and would be completely out of character with other properties.”

Local property agent Toni Hammock, who discussed the plans for the site with town councillors last year, as we reported here, said: “This site has been a thorn in Highbridge’s side for a long time. Now, we have new plans to develop it.”

While permission was initially granted in 2010 for a mixed-use development of 14 flats and shops, she said that scheme was “commercially unworkable as there wasn’t the footfall.” New plans have therefore been drawn up without shops and a flats-only development.