• Another day another grilling at Feniton inquiry

    10th January 2014 | News | Claire
  • But from what I saw I am not sure that the legal teams managed to score many, if any points from Cllr Smith, who knew his stuff, particularly on drainage and flooding, and had even calculated water run-off volumes for various flood solutions on different developments!

    The morning started off with a speech from MP, Neil Parish, who was then followed by John Withrington, chair of Fight for Feniton’s Future. 

    There was a couple of questions for Mr Parish relating to the NPPF being coalition planning policy.

    John gave a resounding speech peppered with amusing soundbites. You can see his speech, as well as a much more detailed resume of today’s proceedings, on Susie Bond’s blog here – http://susiebond.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/a-tale-of-two-parishes-super-inquiry-day-4/

    But there were no questions for John from the bank of barristers.

    I spoke for about 15 minutes (speech below) and despite being revved up to answer some thorny questions from the legal teams, they all waved away the invitation to ask me anything at all! 

    The inquiry will start again on Tuesday morning at 10am and it will be the turn of Dr Claire Horrocks (Feniton Parish Council’s expert witness on sustainability) and Cllr Roger Giles (Feniton’s former county councillor) to have questions fired at them for hours. Good luck both!

    Here’s my speech…..

    Sustainability
    Feniton is allocated 35 houses in EDDC’s local plan valid until 2026, so the first Wainhomes approval for 50 houses more than fulfils this requirement.

    The developers seem to be selectively quoting from the Wainhomes appeal in 2012 in justification for their schemes. But planning inspector, Mr Barton did not say that Feniton is infinitely sustainable.  He stated that a limited scale of development within the village would be appropriate.

    Schools
    The three developments combined would generate around 59 primary school children and 35 secondary school children for two schools that are already full.

    Feniton Primary School is an excellent school but it is at capacity.  Two years ago, several children in the village were unable to get into the school as it was over PAN. Understandably, it caused much angst and upset for local families. 

    If these appeals are allowed this problem would become serious and widespread.

    If these appeals are allowed families from the outlying villages within catchment at Talaton, Gittisham and Buckerell would be unlikely to secure a place at the school.

    Strategic Land Partnerships say they the fact that they will “transfer” the land next to the school to Devon County Council gives their application the edge. They mean sell it, but DCC is happy to compulsorily purchase the land.

    The local secondary at Ottery St Mary, The King’s School, is in an even more perilous position. It simply does not have room to expand. It has built on a large amount of its grounds and needs a new site for a new school. But there are no funds available for such a major project, which could cost in the region of around £50m.

    The planning application consultation responses from DCC’s education department support this as they confirm that King’s is not able to expand unless it has additional land and capital resources. 

    If sufficient land and funding cannot be secured for these planning appeals, DCC advises that a contribution is required to transport children to the nearest secondary school at Honiton.

    But even this financial assistance would only last for a few years…. after which the costs of taxiing children to other schools would have to be picked up by the taxpayer….

    This sentence (on the need to transport children to different schools) has been replicated for many other planning applications in the King’s School catchment area for many months. The Ottery area is subject to massive housing pressure, well over and above the housing allocations in EDDC’s local plan.

    These appeals represent not only an educational time bomb and angst for families as siblings are split up, but they would also be a huge future burden on the taxpayer, at a time when local councils are having to endure massive budget cuts.

    To build so many houses when local schools cannot accommodate the resulting children is not educationally, socially, environmentally or economically sustainable. And it is an affront to common sense and natural justice.

    Page 29 of the Feniton ward profile supports the case for the unsustainability of the current educational arrangements.  It states that in 2011 access to the secondary school was well below the national median at just 77.9 %, with the area ranking in the bottom 20% of wards nationally.

    Read out Faith Jarrett letter.

    Coleridge Medical Centre
    Many residents here will remember Dr Tim Cox from Coleridge Medical Centre describing, at a public meeting in 2012, how under pressure doctors were from a large influx of patients. He said that the doctors were “hotdesking” as a result.

    Other appeals
    Other appeals, including at Irchester, Northants, Goodleigh Road, Barnstaple and Sutton In Craven have recently been dismissed based on landscape grounds, despite low housing land supply figures and out-of-date local plans.

    Agricultural land
    A significant amount of grade 2 agricultural land would be lost if these appeals were allowed. East Devon mostly consists of grade three farmland, so grade 2 is the best we have got.

    The NPPF advises using land of a poorer value, but Feniton has already received well over and above its housing requirements in the EDDC Local Plan until 2026.  The loss of this land should be of considerable importance. Concreting over such high quality land contravenes the spirit of the NPPF and its emphasis on sustainability.

    Affordable housing
    The housing needs survey that was carried out in 2012 found a need for 13 houses which have been catered for by the Wainhomes development.

    Highways
    The highways report submitted by Wainhomes appears to be fundamentally flawed, with Ottery Road being considered as a main highway in terms of the guidance used, rather than the narrow and winding country lane that it actually is. 

    The developers’ highways report also seems to ignore any other road in and out of Ottery. This is surely a major oversight as any residents living in the Wainhomes development would surely be more likely to use the extremely narrow country lane that leads out to Fenny Bridges as the most convenient route out of Feniton, particularly when one considers the delays caused by the level crossing.

    Strategic Land Partnerships accepts that their proposal alone would cause a 40 per cent increase in traffic at peak times on the Ottery Road. Add in the other two applications and we are looking at more than a 50 per cent increase at peak times.  This would surely fall into the NPPF’s definition of a “severe” traffic impact.

    Prematurity
    “Planning system – general principles 2005” is still relevant and it states:
    “In some circumstances, it may be justi?able to refuse planning permission on grounds of prematurity where a DPD is being prepared or is under review, but it has not yet been adopted.

    “This may be appropriate where a proposed development is so substantial, or where the cumulative effect would be so signi?cant, that granting permission could prejudice the DPD by predetermining decisions about the scale, location or phasing of new development which are being addressed in the policy in the DPD.”

    Flooding
    Feniton is ravaged by floods. Residents are exhausted, by both having to battle continued major planning applications … and the threat of many more if these appeals go through…. And of water coming into their houses, time and time again.

    We are told that the flooding situation will not worsen if these developments are allowed, yet, many people who have lived in Feniton for a long time have confirmed that each time a development has been approved, the flooding problem has worsened.  Please do not accept unquestioningly, the views of the Environment Agency.

    Feniton does not need contributions from developers to finance its £1.6m flood defence scheme.  The money is already allocated from public funds.

    Impact on landscape and character of Feniton
    I have read the landscape character assessments of both the land on Ottery Road and the Wainhomes development and they are interesting and valuable.

    A significant development of 83 houses, at Green Lane would be to start to erode the boundary between the new village and the old village. And if the company does what it did with its first application and rip out a huge length of hedgerow, it would wreck Green Lane’s appearance as a country lane and urbanise it, as well as destroying precious habitat, much needed by our struggling wildlife.

    The fields adjacent to the Ottery Road are completely special. They represent the rural backdrop of the village and are in my view, irreplaceable. Driving into the village they give the village its special countryside feel, as Feniton is after all, a village in the countryside – or at least it is supposed to be.

    Importantly, the field adjacent to Ottery Road is clearly separated from the village by the Ottery Road. It is that road that defines the village boundary and it is appropriate that this boundary is maintained.

    It is clear where the village ends and where the countryside begins. Not only is this piece land stunningly beautiful but it is important to the community. Ploughing matches are held here – and of course it is used to grow crops for sustainable food production.

    Camp Field land is a central part of Feniton’s fabric and character and to lose it would, in my view, would simply ruin Feniton.

    These appeals are about as far away from sustainable development as you can get and so par 14 of the NPPF must surely apply: This states that development proposals must be approved unless:  “Any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits , when assessed against the policies in this framework taken as a whole.”

    Letter from Faith Jarrett, headteacher at King’s School ……………………..

    December 4th 2013
    To whom it may concern

    I am writing to express my reservations regarding the volume of housing planned for the Ottery and surrounding areas in terms of the impact on secondary education without proper advance place planning. The situation as I see it as Headteacher of The King’s School in Ottery St Mary is:

    1. The King’s School is full and has a PAN of 180 which it fills every year. There are some students who currently attend from outside our catchment. This would stop as we would fill from within catchment. This may well split siblings.

    DCC believe that by restricting all year 7 places to children in our catchment we can accommodate the projected number of children the housing will generate but are aware than in year admissions ( to year 8-11) will not be possible here. These children would have to be bussed to other local schools.  DCC also accepts that housing in this catchment usually attracts more than the normal number of children so the problem could be exacerbated.

    2. Once all 180 places have been filled we cannot continue to take more children. We do not have the space on this site to accommodate more than 180 + 3% in a year group as many rooms already have maximum occupancy.

    3. We have very few dedicated specialist facilities. Textiles, catering, resistant materials, electronics, music drama, dance all only have one room. Art has limited rooms as do science. We have no space on this site to increase the number of specialist rooms unless we demolish some single story areas and replace with two or even three storey blocks. We certainly do not have the finances to do this.

    4. We have a dual use agreement with the Colin Tooze sports centre and all weather pitch. We do not have full access to all the sports facilities during the day

    5. The footprint of The King’s School is very limited and there is no scope for expansion on this current site. Devon County Council are well aware of this problem hence the school’s resistance to expanding. We simply do not have room to build more teaching spaces on this site.

    6. We are concerned that some students from within our catchment will simply not be able to access a place at The King’s. These students would have to then be bussed to Sidmouth, Honiton, Clyst Vale or Cullompton as the four nearest schools. This is not in the best interests of those young people. It will be even more complex for families if siblings are forced to attend different schools for their secondary education. The additional transport is economically disadvantageous for DCC and at Post 16 for families as well as being environmentally and logistically unacceptable.

    I am well aware that we do not know if my concerns will be realised but I would ask that the possible problems as outlined here are considered along with future planning applications.

    Kind Regards

    Faith K Jarrett
    Headteacher

    Photograph. Andy Thompson:  Camp Field, Feniton, where developers want to build 120 houses.