Dear Central Planning Team
I am writing to express my concern at the length of time that the above application has taken to determine, given the strong and clear reasons that exist for refusal.
It was validated in early February and there have been two sets of amended plans submitted since. The applicant has been given four months to overcome significant objections. I would question the reasonableness of allowing the applicant repeated opportunities to address the objections from key consultees, including Natural England and from your own countryside team.
I have copied and pasted the main objections below. This is an excerpt from the East Devon AONB team comment (the emboldening is my own):
“Larger than anything in close proximity, the main development site sits within an arable field and represents a substantial development that will have a significant impact on the landscape character of this part of the AONB. Although reduced in scale, this proposal still presents a large stand alone agricultural development proposal with associated access routes and hedge bank works, situated in a very tranquil and intimate area within the AONB. The scale and nature of the development remains significant given this location and will involve major earth works that will alter the nature and character of the existing landscape. From the public right of way west-east through the site the adverse change in character would be highly noticeable.
Neil Blackmore, EDDC’s landscape architect makes similar points:
“I was not aware of the potential for this Permissive route during the last application and it is important to recognise the significance of this material change in circumstance. “The report also fails to address the impact of the access route which will increase the sensitivity to ‘high’ from these viewpoints as it is likely to be visible for much of the length of track but also alter the character and feeling of separation from development (tranquillity).”
Natural England and the RSPB maintain that the application is likely to breach EU legislation – the Habitats Regulations due to its proximity to the pebblebed heaths and the effect of the nitrogen and acidity levels on the plants and wildlife there.
Given this information it is difficult to understand why the applicant has not been asked to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment. The RSPB incidentally, insist that this is necessary.
This is possibly the most sensitive area in East Devon to build this sort of alien and intrusive structure and the reasons for refusal are clear. The application breaches landscape protection policies in the East Devon Local Plan, as well as at a national level. The National Planning Policy Framework states that AONBs should only be developed if it is in the public interest AND it is an exceptional circumstance. Neither of these criteria apply here. The visual intrusion issues are significant and remain, despite attempts to mitigate them.
The land is grades one and three and is being used productively for crop growing. This contravenes yet more policies in the Local Plan and in the National Planning Policy Framework.
The applicant’s claim of financial difficulty if the application is not approved should be dismissed on the basis that no evidence has been provided to support this.
If EDDC does not reject this application in this most sensitive and protected location, possibly in East Devon, it weakens its position on every single future application of a similar nature. How can any other similar application be rejected if this one is not?
I hope that this application will now be brought forward to committee with a recommendation for refusal, as soon as possible.
Photograph: The beautiful field where the huge pig unit is proposed.