The application, which would have grown the village by one quarter, was sited on land between Otter Close and Mallocks Close.

It was refused by East Devon District Council last spring, largely for sustainability reasons and because the field is outside the village’s built up area boundary.

The appeal took the form of a public inquiry, held last month and was attended by more than a dozen residents, as well as the council’s legal team, strategic planning team and officers.

Many of the residents spoke at the hearing.  I gave evidence against the appeal and was cross questioned by the appellant’s barrister.

Margaret Hutchesson from Tipton St John Residents Association also raised several issues at the hearing, which were later also identified in the planning inspector’s report.

Planning Inspector, David Prentis, who also conducted the appeal public inquiry hearing into the application by Blue Cedar Homes to build 50 houses at West Hill, backed the council’s position on environmental sustainability issues as well as the fact that the land is outside Tipton St John’s built up area boundary. 

Mr Prentis observed that Tipton’s St John’s bus service was not frequent and no buses travelled directly to Exeter.  He said that it was probable that occupiers of the appeal site would need to travel elsewhere for most shopping trips, for many leisure activities and community facilities, as well as health facilities.  The inspector added that the appeal site was within maximum reasonable walking distance of the school, which would discourage many families from walking to school, with the lack of footways.

Commenting on countryside issues, Mr Prentis said he did not agree with the appellant’s suggestion that the exclusion of the site from the built up area boundary should be regarded as an anomaly, adding that the appeal site provides a clear visual break between the dwellings at Otter Close and Mallocks Close, which forms part of the rural setting of Tipton St John. 

Mr Prentis said that the appeal site should be regarded as part of the countryside as it was outside Tipton’s built up area boundary. 

The inspector said that the National Planning Policy Framework carried little weight as it was subject to change.

Myself, Tipton St John Residents Association and many residents expressed concerns over the access to the site, which looked dangerous but the inspector agreed with Devon County Council that it met existing national guidance.

Surface water drainage issues could, the inspector decreed, be dealt with by a planning condition, so did not feature in his decision to dismiss the appeal.

However, Mr Prentis said he shared residents concerns over the sewage problems (objected to by South West Water) because the Mill Leat is a small watercourse which passes close to residential properties before reaching the river Otter.  It has little flow during dry periods which may mean effluent is not diluted.

We now await the EDDC’s decision on Devonshire Homes’s second application to build 28 houses on the same piece of land.  And also the outcome of the Taylor family’s application to build 15 houses, two thirds of which are affordable in a field designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on land behind Barton Orchard. 

Ottery St Mary Town Council will consider the Barton Orchard applicaton at their Monday 16 January meeting, 7.30pm, at Tipton St John Village Hall.