• 300 houses between Gittisham and Honiton APPROVED

    25th April 2014 | News | Claire
  • Most councillors voted in favour of approving the application, apparently with a lack of a five year housing supply in East Devon as the main reason.

    The land is a reserve site in the new draft local plan. The general aim of a reserve site is that it is considered if other allocated sites do not come forward in the plan period.

    Unsurprisingly, this piece of land to the west of Hayne Lane, where there is currently no development, has come forward before any other application.  Most towns have not been allocated reserved sites. 

    The case planning officer stated that the land was over one mile away from Honiton’s town centre. 

    The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) demands that local authorities must deliver a six year’s supply of land for housing, if a council has been deemed to have a persistent under-delivery, which a planning inspector has deemed EDDC to have.

    The traffic generated by 300 houses (around 2000 cars a day), although significant and would travel via what is a country lane (Hayne Lane), has not been objected to by Devon County Council’s highways department.

    And although the Turk’s Head junction from the A30 at Honiton is already very congested, the Highways Agency, which is responsible for trunk roads, has not objected either, but has instead, submitted a condition which limits the numbers of houses, pending an improved road junction.

    Unfortunately, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has relaxed the rules on objecting to planning applications on highways grounds. Now, impacts must be “severe” before an objection can be sustained. My understanding is that this has led to just one recommendation for refusal by officers on highways grounds in East Devon, since the NPPF came into being in 2012.

    Five members of the public spoke, including the developer’s representative. I was speaking as the Devon County Council member for the Gittisham parish, which this development falls into.

    David Fallows, chair of Gittisham Parish Council, David Valentine, Gittisham resident, Maureen Phillips, Honiton resident and Mrs Evans also spoke in opposition to the application.

    We made similar and relevant points about issues such as traffic and sustainability. I waved the 52 page NPPF at the committee and said that they had every reason to reject the application on sustainability grounds. Being between one and two miles away from services could not be described in any way as sustainable.

    I also mentioned that the Feniton planning inspector had given weight to policies about high quality agricultural land. An issue in planning committee meetings, councillors are often told, carries little or no weight, despite it being a policy in the NPPF.

    I added that the planning inspector for the Seaton/Colyford planning appeal had pointed out that a five year housing supply shortfall is temporary and an approval of such a major scheme (smaller than the Gittisham/Honiton one) was permanent.

    The representative of the developer, Welbeck, spoke so fast, I barely heard a thing he said. Myself and Cllr Giles wondered whether he thought he had entered a competition to speak as fast as was humanly possible.

    Cllr Susie Bond, who is the ward member, argued that the site stuck out like a sore thumb into the countryside. And from the site visit it was clear how much it would protrude, even more so than she had previously thought. She said that she could not imagine the children walking to the local schools as they were so far away. 

    This in turn would lead to significant increase in car use, which in planning terms (even the NPPF) should be unsustainable.

    Cllr Mike Allen said that Honiton already had sufficient houses that would be built, that would satisfy the proposals in the draft local plan. He said that to approve the application would be “both premature and ill advised.”

    Chair, Cllr Helen Parr asked for legal advice on the agricultural land issue I had raised and the issue on quoting the planning inspector at Colyford. The advice was that Colyford/Seaton appeal decision was different because this was green wedge.

    A section of the Feniton appeal decision was read out, which supported the officer’s case to approve.

    The committee was told that using agricultural land as a reason for refusal wouldn’t stand up on its own (which I hadn’t been suggesting anyway).

    Cllr Mark Williamson, said that the application “on balance” was sustainable and proposed it be approved.

    This was seconded by Cllr Alan Dent, who made references to a bus service and the Heathpark industrial estate, to back up his view that the application was sustainable.

    Cllr David Key didn’t like the application one bit and spent a long time saying why.  Namely, that the roads were unsuitable and that it wasn’t sustainable.

    Cllr Sullivan wasn’t keen on the application either but said he would support it if a condition could be attached relating to Network Rail being happy with the road widening scheme.  This was agreed.

    Cllr David Atkins didn’t like the proposal either. It was too near a farm he said and he didn’t like the access or the narrow road.

    Cllr Geoff Pook was undecided. He said that EDDC should be “plan-led” and approving the application would mean it was a “developer-led” authority. He said he was finding it hard to come up with reasons to refuse it.

    Just before the vote, there was a little spat between Cllr Mike Allen and a legal officer. Cllr Mike Allen had implied that the legal officer was not partial, which was strongly refuted by him.

    And then just when we thought there would be a vote, chair, Cllr Helen Parr asked Cllr Mark Williamson to sum up his proposal to approve, which he did, finally declaring: “The site has to wash its face in planning terms.”

    I am sure that I wasn’t the only one who was baffled by this statement.

    Interestingly, although this was the second meeting about this application (read about the first here – http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/eddc_planning_cttee_to_visit_site_before_making_decision_on_300_houses_betw  it still took one hour and 20 minutes to hear it.

    There was just 15 minutes of public speaking. I spoke as Devon County Councillor for the ward and Cllr Mike Allen spoke as adjacent ward member.  Cllr Susie Bond spoke as ward member.

    The committee debate still took around an hour. 

    Something for Cllr Bloxham to ponder I think.

    See Cllr Susie Bond’s blog for her view – http://susiebond.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/major-decisions-for-honiton-taken-at-planning-committee/