• Firstly, I note the comments of EDDC’s landscape architect, Neil Blackmore who states that the revised landscaping does not address the issue of views from the footpath across Venn Ottery Common and fails to address the impact of the access track.  I make the following observations on the letter submitted by Gavin Bloomfield of the RSPB. -      that due to the combined floorspace of the proposed two buildings, that this meets the criteria for a Schedule 2 development - Intensive livestock installation, as well as a Schedule 3 criteria – European designated sites [...]

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    The work, which is funded by East Devon District Council, is to prevent further erosion of the riverbank, would ultimately flood the council-owned properties at Tipton Vale. I attended a site meeting last month with East Devon District Council officers Chris Brookbank and Keith Steel, engineering consultant, Alan White, Cllr John Harding, and the landowner, John Carter, last month.  It was a very interesting hour spent learning more about the initiative and the consequences of continuing erosion, should the river be left to its own devices. Large rocks and trees will be used to continue [...]

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    Blog by Andrew Lainton:  “So the new National Planning Policy Framework has fallen on its very first hurdle on the question everyone, developers, communities, campaigners want to know - when can you build housing in the countryside, when can you refuse it? It is the simplest and single most important question of any planning system, and if it is not answered clearly in national policy we are in for years of argument, confusion, appeals, legal challenges and delay as well as bankruptcy by campaigners and developers along the way.  Fudge on this point is a key cause of cost and [...]

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    People from Aylesbeare, West Hill and Ottery came along to ask questions of representatives from Devon County Council and study display boards, which attempted to justify extending an existing quarry at Uffculme, as well as opening a new and vast one at Straitgate on the Exeter Road. Devon County Council has admitted that there are ‘significant’ environmental constraints at Straitgate, yet they are still backing a proposal for a quarry here. Yesterday when asked why two quarries are being proposed, representatives claimed they wanted to halve the nuisance.  But surely by [...]

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    Call me a cynic, but when I read the highly controversial new planning legislation this afternoon – all 50 pages of it – replacing thousands of pages of detailed policy guidance, I was rather less enamoured. The pre-announcement spin had hinted at a final document that was ‘unashamedly pro-growth,’ according to one minister’s interpretation.  And this was what I was expecting when I downloaded the document at lunchtime today. But what an odd collection of words.  It is as though the team of people writing it have gone out of their way to make it read like a document that [...]

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    The full town council meeting will start at 7pm on Monday 2 April.  Andy Hill from Devon County Council will be presenting on proposals for a quarry at Straitgate Farm, on land bordered by Exeter Road, the A30 and Birdcage Lane. Members of the public are urged to attend to find out more about plans, which could have significant implications for the area.  Residents will be able to speak for three minutes each at the beginning of the meeting. Ottery Football Club is in Butts Road, on the road leading out towards Otter Nurseries. Ottery St Mary Town Council has a controversial policy[...]

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    In a remarkably frank interview, Zac Goldsmith was critical of the government on several fronts and gave a personal insight into the way the government operates. He said: • George Osborne’s anti-green rhetoric was damaging investor confidence in the green economy and investors were “very worried”. • He had been “sacked” just two hours before he was due to take up the position of Cameron’s climate change emissary because he voted against the government on an EU referendum. • He had made it clear to party whips and colleagues that he was not interested [...]

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    1. Do you support or object to N6 and N8 as potential sites for sand and gravel extraction? Support 2. What is the reason for supporting or objecting to the proposal? The areas N6 and N8 are next to an existing quarry and landfill site and therefore extraction would be in line with guidance from Mineral Planning Policy Statement 1 (MPS1) “consider the benefits…of extensions to existing mineral workings rather than new sites”. Hillhead in Uffculme already has millions of tonnes of sand and gravel with planning permission, but the site has been mothballed for several years [...]

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    Between 40 and 50 people attended the meeting, despite far fewer invitations being issued. Myself, Roger Giles and Mark and Monica Mortimer had issued the invitations to people who had contacted us after we leafleted around 500 residents last week, to tell them about the consultation for a quarry at Straitgate. We were surprised and delighted to see so many people last night at West Hill’s Royal British Legion.  Roger, as Ottery Rural Ward’s county councillor, outlined the position we are currently in regarding the proposed quarry. He asked residents gathered whether they would [...]

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    The Directives and regulations are the most important mechanisms for protecting our internationally important wildlife sites – those for which England has a global responsibility. The Government’s review, published yesterday, restates the Government’s support for the Birds and Habitats Directives, and demonstrates that these vital environmental safeguards do not act as a brake on economic development. Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Conservation Director, said: “We are pleased that the regulations have stood up to scrutiny, just as we always knew they would. No evidence “No evidence [...]

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    The informal appeal hearing took place on Wednesday (21 March) at the Knowle. Unlike the recent major appeal inquiry over an application for 50 houses next to Eastfield, the Westhayes appeal hearing was without legal representation and took the form of a round table discussion, with the appellant, officers, councillors and residents. Although I have a prejudicial interest in the application I had taken legal advice and was permitted to speak, which I did in relation to the landscape value and drawing the inspector’s attention to key phrases in the Blue Cedar Homes appeal decision, which [...]

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    Many residents have voiced strong objections about the fact the huge site would be built on land designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Now plans have been submitted which attempt to better screen the development from view. If planners are convinced that the buildings are suitably screened it is possible that the application could be recommended for approval. If this happens, a decision would be brought before councillors on the Development Management Committee.  Members of the public would be able to comment at the meeting for three minutes each. Residents now have just one [...]

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    A seven hour meeting peppered with frequent intense debate, criticisms and accusations over the level of development proposed in East Devon. That’s a summary of the latest (and probably final) Local Plan Panel meeting, held on Tuesday (20 March) at the Knowle, Sidmouth. The meeting kicked off in flurry of controversy at 9am, with LibDem councillor for Axminster, Douglas Hull, challenging the minutes of the last meeting held on 28 February. Private meetings with town councils Cllr Hull was concerned that the minutes did not properly reflect the vote relating to holding town council meetings [...]

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    If this is a correct interpretation (from planning consultant blogger, Andrew Lainton), it means that around one third of local authorities could be at serious risk of a planning free-for-all in their areas. East Devon District Council will be one of those councils at risk, because its adopted Local Plan became out of date in December 2011.  The new Local Plan is still in draft form and is considered to carry little weight in planning terms. Currently, rules allow for authorities to ‘save’ their policies in this situation in order to go on refusing inappropriate development. [...]

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    Neil Sinden, Director of Policy for the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), says: “The Prime Minister shows a disturbing misunderstanding of planning when he suggests that to prevent housing ‘sprawling over the countryside’ we must seek only to protect our ‘Green Belts and National Parks’. “The majority of the countryside does not enjoy any national designation or special protection. If the Government’s planning reforms remain unchanged from the draft published last year, pressure for sprawling development is precisely what we can expect. Even in David [...]

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    Hugh Ellis, Chief Planner of the Town and Country Planning Association stole the show, at a conference I attended last week in London. Delegates attending ‘Securing the Future of our Natural Environment’ listened to a variety of speakers from Government Departments, non-government organisations, academics, an MP, Natural England, a wildlife trust and two London authorities. Many made excellent presentations and carried thought-provoking messages, but Mr Ellis stole the show for me by launching a very justified attack on the highly controversial National Planning Policy [...]

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    Scores of environmental regulations are to be slashed under government plans to be announced on Monday, the Guardian has learned. The rules affected include controls on asbestos, invasive species and industrial air pollution; protection for wildlife and common lands; as well as restrictions on noise nuisance and deadly animal traps. Ministers are expected to say the cutting of red tape will save businesses £1bn, but the move has shocked campaigners, who argue that the government’s search for economic growth is mistakenly targeting the environment. The impending announcement follows [...]

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    Championed by the Department for Food and Rural Affairs in the White Paper published last year - Securing the Value of Nature, LNPs are aimed at linking up a range of organisations that have an interest in the environment. Before LNPs can be set up, Devon County Council will have to bid to DEFRA to be part of the nationwide scheme. It is hoped that with a wide ranging collection of organisations, with the added weight of Government backing, that Devon’s LNP would become a powerful group that carries weight in policy and decision-making on environmental issues. Currently DCC is carrying [...]

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    Ottery St Mary Meeting 5.1 The fundamental point made for Ottery was that the overall housing figure was too high and it was not felt that evidence had been provided to justify the figure. It was very strongly felt that the Town Council was best placed to judge the correct number of houses and that there was no justification for planning for a higher number. The Town Council advised of the extensive work they had done in justifying there preferred numbers. The point was made that the overall number of homes planned for East Devon has dropped and yet the number allocated for Ottery St. Mary has[...]

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    Devon County Council minerals - Straitgate quarry consultation Residents who wish to oppose Straitgate Quarry should click on the link above to take a look at the policy documents and lodge their objections. People have until the 30 April to make their comments. Please see my earlier blog about the quarry for details of events coming up where you can also find out more information and give your view.

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    The meeting will take place on Tuesday (20 March) and councillors will consider more comments made during its consultation from December 2011 to January 2012. Councillors will also be debating the way forward for the seven East Devon towns. This could well be the last Local Plan Panel meeting held…. however, all indications point to the National Planning Policy Framework being published on Budget Day (next Wednesday). Very sadly (and madly in my view), rumours from reliable sources are saying that not much will have changed from the draft plan. We could be in for a turbulent few years. [...]

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    The developers, Paul Hunt Associates, applied to build 15 houses, 10 of which were affordable, on parkland at the top of Eastfield, West Hill. The application was eventually rejected after initially being recommended for approval.  Following the appeal dismissal by a planning inspector for 50 houses (application by Blue Cedar Homes) on land also next to Eastfield, the Westhayes application was withdrawn and resubmitted on the December Development Management Committee agenda, this time recommended for refusal. The main grounds for the appeal seem to be related to this last minute [...]

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    Aggregate Industries wants to excavate the huge quarry at Straitgate Farm, just off the Exeter Road and opposite the junction to Toadpit Lane. The 150 acre quarry would be next to the Straitgate Farm listed building and would be boundaried by the A30 and Exeter Road (going into Ottery St Mary). The consultation is the second one in a year for the site, following an examination of around a dozen quarrying areas in the Ottery area.  All were dismissed for one reason or another, except Straitgate. A year ago Devon County Council (DCC) consulted on whether there should be sand and gravel [...]

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    They are scheduled to take place next week. The invites are for meetings debated by the Local Plan Panel last week, which councillors agreed should be held in the public domain. Although the panel was overwhelmingly in favour of the meetings being held with the press and public present, by six votes to one, the decision was later overturned by EDDC’s chief executive, Mark Williams.  Mr Williams claimed that the panel’s decision was unconstitutional and meetings in the public domain would be ‘harmful to the ongoing effective working of the council.’ The invites [...]

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    The study, commissioned jointly with the National Trust and the RSPB, finds that the Government’s proposed reforms could even undermine public wellbeing. The report shows that very little has been done to measure the benefits that good planning delivers, and concludes that there is no evidence that the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) would have any positive effect on growth or employment in the short run. The report can be viewed here: CPRE report on Govt’s plans to dismantle planning system The National Planning Policy Framework is due to be published before the [...]

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    Under the ‘constraints’ tab on the EDDC planning portal it can be seen that the land in question for an industrial pig unit equivalent to an area the size of three football pitches, is in fact among the highest quality food growing land available anywhere in the country. Government guidance states that the best and most versatile agricultural land should not be built on, unless circumstances are exceptional. The EDDC adopted Local Plan and the new draft Local Plan both state that this land, including grades 1, 2 and 3a should be avoided for building purposes. Grade 1 land is pretty[...]

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    I am the adjacent ward member and it is my preliminary view that this application be REFUSED. I list the reasons below: 1. Habitats Regulations The land in question is next to some of the most sensitive landscapes in the country – the pebblebed heaths – both at Venn Ottery Common and Aylesbeare Common (part of which is in my ward). The proposal’s increased ammonia and nitrogen outputs have the potential to considerably damage the heathland and the rich biodiversity that it supports by increasing soil fertility which risks changing the heath’s vegetation, encouraging more common, [...]

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    Members voted on a proposal from me to hold forthcoming meetings with town councils, with the press and public present, rather than behind closed doors, as advocated by Head of Economy, Kate Little and Deputy Leader, Cllr Andrew Moulding. The proposal was supported six votes to one. In a shock move, panel members have now received a letter from chief executive, Mark Williams, stating that he has overruled this democratic decision, made by councillors. Mr Williams states that the decision to allow the press and public to be present at forthcoming meetings between town councillors and planning [...]

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    The cancellation comes just two days before the hearing.  East Devon District Council officers have put in a substantial amount of work to prepare a defence for the appeal at considerable cost to the taxpayer, and I believe that it is unacceptable that an appellant should opt to withdraw an appeal at such short notice.  It has been in the system since November. The application in my view, was an unreasonable one as the density and scale was considerably out of line with West Hill’s character.  It is unclear what action the applicant will now take, but I would have [...]

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    The appellant, Nigel Hardy, who wants to build 38 dwellings, including four storey flats with underground parking for 50 cars on land opposite McColls, has made the untrue and damaging claims in his appeal statement, which he has submitted to East Devon District Council to justify his appeal.  The statement is available on EDDC’s website. Mr Hardy devotes four paragraphs of his statement to falsely allege that I have pre-determined my position (made up my mind about the development at an early stage).  He claims I have done this largely by communicating with West Hill [...]

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    Chris Down from Crealy Farms has lodged an application to build the vast indoor pig unit at Venn Ottery, on land designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The revised application, which states will involve intensively rearing 740 breeding sows, only slighty varies from the proposal last year that was covered by BBC’s Inside Out, which also reported on the activities of Communities Before Developers – the campaign group I used to be involved with. As the adjacent ward member (the application is in the Newton Poppleford ward), I am very concerned about the impact on the surrounding [...]

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