• Controversial West Hill application for three houses refused

    12th November 2013 | News | Claire
  • The application for three houses on two properties knocked into one by the applicant – Corner Croft and Wrenswood, on Lower Broad Oak Road and Elsdon Lane, made many residents angry because prior to the application being submitted four mature oak trees, up to 150 years old, were ruthlessly killed, then felled, in March this year.

    A few weeks later, the applicant destroyed a hedgebank between Corner Croft and the property next door, Wrenswood, prior to submitting a planning application for three, two-storey dwellings, across both properties.

    The application prompted many objections, as well as outpourings of anger from residents, me, West Hill Residents Association and Ottery St Mary Town Council, about the veteran oaks being felled, that were so distinctive of West Hill’s woodland character.

    Planning officers and EDDC’s legal adviser said that the loss of trees should not colour the views of members of the planning committee and that this action should not be taken into account in the decision.

    Cllr Jo Talbot from Ottery Town Council was the first to speak. She said that West Hill was described as a Woodland Village and approving the application would send a message to developers that trees have no value.  She said that removing the trees after being given advice to the contrary was “irresponsible.”  She said was worried that there would be a further threat to the remaining trees if the application went ahead.

    Cllr John Harding, who was speaking in a personal capacity, said that the pre-application advice (finally acquired last week after a long battle by West Hill resident, Jessica Bailey) had clearly indicated that a further access would not be acceptable on amenity grounds.  He said that the applicant had “crossed the line of acceptability.”

    Sir John Evans, speaking on behalf of himself and a neighbour, said that the application represented over-development of the site and he had traffic concerns for the narrow lane of Lower Broad Oak Road.

    He referred to a previous appeal decision at Hollybank, next door, adding references about the three proposed two storey houses, being surrounded mostly by bungalows.  He asked the committee to help residents protect the woodland village by refusing the application.

    Jessica Bailey referred to the pre-planning application advice and said the tree removal was relevant because it had resulted in reduced screening. She added that 26m of an old Devon bank would be cut into for visibility spays. 

    She then asked a question of applicant, David Crocker, who was present. She asked him why he had stated on his application that no pre-application advice had been sought, when it clearly had been.

    Next it was Dick Beardsall from West Hill Residents Association, who said that the application was not in accordance with West Hill village design statement and constituted over-development. A single dwelling would not have required tree removal, pointed out Mr Beardsall.  He added that the EDDC’s policy of only imposing tree preservation orders when trees are under threat “simply does not work.”

    Applicant, David Crocker, said he had been a resident of West Hill for nine years, he had two children at the school and lived two doors away from Corner Croft.  He said he had supported West Hill and its community projects and he “cared passionately” about the village.

    Mr Crocker said that he wasn’t a developer, he was in the milk business (he is a director of Westcountry Milk).  Mr Crocker said that he had bought the property and put in an application in order to influence the design as he wanted it to be acceptable. He said that he had worked “diligently with the planners throughout the process.”

    I set the scene for West Hill and why it was called the woodland village. Not just for all its important veteran trees, but also because of all its old Devon banks. I said I was horrified when I had heard that the trees were felled.  I said that any approval would result in 26m of old Devon hedgebank being either removed or reduced, which could destabilise the the bank.  An approval would damage the character of the area and was contrary to the adopted local plan, the new draft local plan and West Hill village design statement, which was adopted by EDDC in 2006, I said.

    It was a short debate and Cllr Mike Allen proposed refusal on the grounds of scale, massing, over-development and damage to the character of the area.  It was refused by nine votes to four.

    Photograph: The Corner Croft oaks being felled in March this year.