• The Habitats Regulations is the most stringent of laws in force, brought forward by the European Union, and makes development on or near to, wildlife sites, virtually impossible. But business leaders claim the laws are too restrictive. In East Devon, areas that could be affected by a weakening in the laws, are:  - pebblebed heaths (Woodbury, Venn Ottery and Aylesbeare Commons) - one of the few places that the Dartford Warbler can still be found in the UK - the Exe Estuary, home to many rare species of migrating birds - the coast from Lyme Regis to Seaton - parts of the River Axe Natural [...]

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    The change of heart centres around a planning inspector’s appeal report, published last week for a piece of land next to Westhayes (Eastfield), which describes the landscape as ‘valuable’ in that area.  The previous planning officer’s report, listed for approval at the November Development Management Committee meeting, was withdrawn by planners minutes before the meeting started last week. The key paragraph from the revised report is below: “Despite previous assertions that the site was reasonably well related to the built-up area boundary, the recent [...]

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    The economic strategy for the district has been prepared by EDDC’s economy ‘think tank’ chaired by Cllr Graham Godbeer – which has met regularly since May behind closed doors. No minutes have been taken at the meetings nor any agendas prepared, on the basis that this inhibits ‘free thinking’. A query last night by Cllr Mike Allen on a reference to this strategy in last night’s scrutiny committee meeting papers, led to Cllr Graham Brown – a member of the think tank – to reveal that the document had been written and prepared and was poised for public consultation next week, [...]

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    The final decision will be taken by councillors on the Development Management Committee, on Tuesday 6 December. The reasons for refusal centre largely around the application contravening district and county council countryside protection policies. As well as: - damage to local distinctiveness to a rural village - loss of a large tract of grade two agricultural land - National Planning Policy Framework carries little weight as it is still in draft form and subject to change - insufficient capacity for sewage arrangements - no firm plans for an affordable housing element - Cranbrook being in [...]

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    Representatives of Aylesbeare Parish Council will be asking residents what they think of proposals to grow the village by around 50 houses over the next 15 years. The village is one of a handful in East Devon which is keen to grow larger than the five percent growth allocated by East Devon District Council. A parish plan put together several years ago, showed that the majority of residents were in favour of growth in order to give the village ‘a heart’.  It is likely that Aylesbeare Parish Council will be asked to develop a Neighbourhood Plan to bring forward any extra [...]

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    The meeting will take place on Friday 9 December, 7pm at West Hill Village Hall. I will be presenting on key aspects of the current plan with Dick Beardsall, who has worked really hard on keeping up to date with the plan’s progress and has made several representations to the Local Plan panel meetings over the past few months. The more people who attend and give their view, the stronger our collective voice will be. Please come if you can.

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    The park was shut for around two weeks during October while South West Water carried out works to water mains.  Two large pits were dug, some of the edging on the path was damaged and the fencing was taken down. Grass was also damaged. Contractors have promised to restore the park, only six months old, to its original condition. West Hill Village Hall committee is overseeing the restoration work and I will join committee member, Keith Browell in an inspection afterwards.

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    The land in question (13 acres) is adjacent to Butts Road and Higher Ridgeway, with the access proposed through Butts Road. The developers had a day of meetings with residents yesterday and plan to hold a further consultation event before Christmas. The proposal is contrary to Ottery St Mary Town Council’s preference to development being on the western side of the town, as the road links to the A30 are much better here.  The Local Plan supports this view. There are several developers interested in Ottery currently, including at Island Farm opposite the Kings School, at the old [...]

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    That must mean that a version for checking by other government departments must be going out any day now. With only just over a month since the close of the consultation it is unlikely that civil servants have even read all of the substantive consultations.  So it can only be the case that fairly minor changes are proposed.  clearly many issues were flagged up during the consultation but just as many only found their way into final consultation submissions, especially relating to time consuming points of detail.  My comment: This is disgusting.

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    Britain’s biggest housebuilders privately lobbied cabinet ministers to secure a significant relaxation of the planning system, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal. The chiefs of housing firms, including Barratt, Bovis and Redrow, insisted that ministers introduced a planning policy that would mean the default answer to applications would be “yes” – a presumption that would hugely boost their business prospects. Ministers included the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” as a key plank of the draft national planning policy framework (NPPF), [...]

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    The Devonshire Homes application on land between Otter Close and Mallocks Close, was refused by East Devon District Council in the spring. A public inquiry appeal will take place at EDDC offices, Knowle, starting on Tuesday 6 December at 10am.  It is expected to continue for three days. In response to the reasons for refusal, the developer claims the following: - the development is keeping with the village and neighbours will not be adversely affected - the land is not remote from adequate services - the development would not harm the natural beauty of the area Residents are welcome to [...]

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    Following reports from a resident, the department will send council officers out to take a look at the problem and clean up any existing mess. The dog warden may also be carrying out spot checks over the coming weeks and more signs will be displayed. There is a £50 fine for anyone caught not picking up after their dog. Dog waste can be double bagged and placed into ordinary wheelie bins.

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    The all-day meeting, which was to review the Local Plan (formerly the Local Development Framework) prior to public consultation, was largely a rubber-stamping exercise, however, I was pleased to amend several planning policies for the better - proposals which I had been outvoted on during the previous LDF Panel meetings. These are: - Two environmental policies (EN5 and 6) concerned with developing near sites of special scientific interest and nature reserves.  The wording in the document up until now had made it clear that applications could only be refused if there was a [...]

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    Local farmer, John Sheaves, has offered to store grit supplied by Devon County Council in his barn and distribute it throughout the main roads in the village, via a piece of equipment hooked up to his Landrover. I met with John a few weeks ago to discuss his ideas and was inspired at the thought of West Hill becoming self-sufficient in this way. The move is likely to mean that Bendarroch Road - one of two main routes through West Hill and a bus route, will be gritted in icy weather - as soon as the necessary preparations are in place. It has long been a bone of contention that only West Hill [...]

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    The appeal, which took the form of a three-day public inquiry, was regarded as a test case, as it focused on EDDC’s method for calculating its housing land supply – splitting the district in half, a different approach from many other authorities. The reasons for rejecting the appeal at Eastfield are quite strong.  I list the main points below: • The proposal conflicts with county council and district council countryside protection policies • Cranbrook is now in the process of being built, which should take the pressure off the surrounding villages • The site makes a valuable [...]

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    Landowner, Nigel Hardy is challenging EDDC’s method of calculating housing land for the district, following in the footsteps of Blue Cedar Homes, which has appealed against refusal of 50 houses at Eastfield, West Hill.  The decision on this appeal is expected shortly and is anxiously awaited by residents. The grounds for appeal for ‘Cooper Court’ acknowledges that the application is not in line with the current Local Plan, but claims there is justification for approval including the issue of the five year land supply calculation and the National Planning Policy [...]

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    Chair of the Committee, Joan Walley MP, said: “As it currently stands the new planning policy framework appears contradictory and confusing.  It pays lip service to sustainable development without providing a clear definition, potentially leaving future planning decisions open to legal challenges.” The NPPF must include an up-to-date definition that makes it clear that a ‘sustainable development’ should not breach environmental limits (on water use or waste disposal, for instance), according to the committee. Joan Walley MP added: “There are environmental [...]

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    Rector, Mac Dick led a short service of prayers in memory of men and women who were killed in wars since 1914. The rain held off as two minutes silence fell at 11am as the canon fired at Ottery St Mary and rockets were launched at West Hill. The 11 November holds special significance for me as a dear friend of mine who died two years ago, would have celebrated his 41st birthday today.

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    Devon County Council, which is the authority responsible for minerals sent the letter last week, which has caused a bit of a stir in some communities. Landowners in West Hill, Talaton, Whimple, Feniton, Ottery St Mary and Fairmile have been asked whether they would be willing to allow their land to be used for sand and gravel quarrying. The news follows a consultation event by Aggregate Industries (AI) earlier this year, on excavating a very large quarry (150 acres) at Straitgate Farm, near Daisymount.  The letter to local landowners raises the spectre of further quarries in this [...]

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    Ottery St Mary Town Council had many concerns about the application, which is outside West Hill’s built up area boundary and many residents were worried about the impact of the application, particularly if the Blue Cedar Homes appeal for 50 houses is successful.  Both Westhayes and the land that Blue Cedar Homes are applying to build on, are accessed through Eastfield - a quiet cul-de- sac of around 22 houses. We will not know the outcome of the Blue Cedar Homes appeal until later this month. The Westhayes developers are applying to build 15 houses under EDDC’s [...]

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    Devonshire Homes has appealed against a decision to refuse permission to build 56 houses outside the built up area boundary on land between Mallocks Close and Otter Close. The application was refused during the spring and the public inquiry appeal (similar to the Blue Cedar Homes appeal) will be heard on 6 December.  It would seem fair and sensible to me to wait for the outcome of planning inspector’s decision before coming to a conclusion on the 19 houses at Barton Orchard and I have asked that planning officers consider defer this application.

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    The Bad Neighbour Uses’ policy, which is used by many councils across the country, is designed to protect residents from such businesses from starting up near to, or in communities. The justification was that the thrust of the policy is covered elsewhere and that it was ‘ambiguous.’ I argued strongly against the deletion of the policy from the Local Plan on the basis it could be damaging to residents.  I believe it weakens EDDC’s position and sends a message to developers that EDDC is less concerned about the issue.  And surely, if there is a specific policy [...]

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    First, on the 6 September, Glyn Dobson, Ottery St Mary Town Council Mayor, presented Ottery Town Council’s submission to the panel, but was prevented from continuing as the panel chairman, Cllr Mike Allen (Con) claimed he had not authorised any debate of the villages in the Ottery Parish, despite appearing to indicate via an email that this would be in order. Then Cllr Roger Giles (Ind), ward member was cut short in his representation to the panel - once at a meeting in October where a vote on housing numbers for Ottery St Mary was proposed and agreed without debate.  At this [...]

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    P46 of the 11 October agenda papers for the Local Development Framework Panel states: “Beyond built up area boundaries some forms of development will be permitted.  For example at villages, including those without boundaries, but where they have a range of facilities, mixed use development of market and affordable housing will be permissable. “The development management policies of the Local Plan will provide more details of this and other development types relating to employment, recreation and other uses that can be acceptable in certain types of locations/under specified [...]

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    The vast majority of councillors voted against the application, with two abstentions. As a member of Ottery St Mary Town Council, as well as the ward member I also spoke against the proposal.  Below is a copy of my submission to EDDC’s planning department: ............................................................................................................................................................ This application is in my ward and my preliminary view, based on the information presently available, is that it should be REFUSED. My concerns are as follows: - the [...]

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    The housing numbers appear to have been moved around - away from the most vociferous communities to areas where there has been less objection, such as Ottery St Mary - and Cranbrook, which is as yet, still a building site. And despite being advised by both Roger Tym consultants and Devon County Council, to slash industrial and commercial land by around half, the panel nevertheless voted through only a tiny reduction in the proposals - of around six or seven hectares. The total amount of industrial/commercial land, including both developments at the ‘west end’ and across the rest of[...]

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    The reason I am concerned is that the new policies are loosely defined and are likely to erode village built up area boundaries as they allow for commercial units to be built outside boundaries.  The plan also proposes a flexible approach for development outside built-up area boundaries. There need be no justification given for such planning applications and my proposal at the final Local Development Framework Panel meeting on 1 November, for policies to state that such planning applications should require community support, was rejected. The reason given for this move is to allow people [...]

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