• MPs urged to stand up for East Devon …

    5th October 2012 | News | Claire
  • To Neil Parish, MP and Hugo Swire, MP            

    Dear Hugo and Neil


    We write to you with deep concern following the Planning Inspector’s decision of 25 September in which he allowed an appeal for 50 homes in Feniton. We will forward you the report separately.

    This decision, which was based on a new way of calculating housing land supply, as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), is likely to have significant and worrying consequences for the East Devon countryside.

    You will probably be aware that EDDC refused Wainhomes planning permission for 50 homes between Station Road and Green Lane earlier this year. Roger Giles attended the appeal hearing at the EDDC offices between 7 and 9 August.

    Many members of the public from Feniton attended the hearing, with several of them speaking, making very well argued and relevant points about the constraints that apply to Feniton. These points were accepted by the Inspector and are detailed in his report.

    However, although the inspector accepts that Feniton has a poor bus service and an infrequent train service, he dismisses this very important issue, in favour of the housing land supply argument.

    The inspector appears to accept the constraints in relation to Feniton School. He agrees that it is constrained and cannot be readily expanded. He admits that `additional demand could, therefore, require transporting children to other schools, which would not be sustainable.’ But again, he also dismisses this very important issue in favour of the housing land supply argument.

    The inspector acknowledges that: “Many local residents have raised concerns about flooding..” and referred to the proposed flood defence scheme, but claimed that conditions would prevent additional flood risk.

    He even accepts South West Water`s concerns about sewage capacity (there isn`t any in Feniton).  It was reported at the appeal hearing that SWW had said that the foul sewer network would be unable to cope with this level of development.

    The Inspector also heard at the appeal hearing in August about other constraints at Feniton such as the Coleridge Medical Centre at Ottery being at capacity, and the poor quality of all the access roads to Feniton.

    At the appeal hearing EDDC planning policy manager, Matt Dickins told the Inspector that to allow the appeal would ‘open the floodgates.’

    Regrettably the Inspector set aside all these very valid arguments, and appears to have allowed the appeal on one issue only – the ability of EDDC to demonstrate that it has a five year supply of housing land. In para 21 he says:  “The council`s failure to demonstrate a five year supply of deliverable housing sites is a significant material consideration in favour of the proposed Development”.

    Feniton therefore appears to be the victim of the Government`s changed planning policies in the NPPF, which allow developers to obtain planning approval on sites that would previously not have been acceptable. 

    In this case, in addition to the constraints we have identified above, the development will:

    – take place outside Feniton’s built up area boundary

    – take place on the best quality agricultural land

    – exceed the level of houses (35) that Feniton residents and EDDC agreed

    – take place on a greenfield site where there is an alternative site (north of Acland Park) with dilapidated buildings on it

    Feniton has been dealt a considerable and damaging blow. It is of huge concern that this development has been allowed, which may lead to even more housing in Feniton, before the essential flood defence scheme in Feniton is provided.

    But we also fear the consequences elsewhere in East Devon. Many developers will be studying the Feniton appeal decision, and will be preparing to cite it in support of their own schemes for development on equally unsuitable sites.

    We understand from planning officers that this decision is not unique. The five year land supply issue is now frequently being used to allow appeals across the country that would have previously been unacceptable.

    People are asking us: “How is this localism?” A community had selected its site for 35 dwellings, but Government, through the Planning Inspectorate has dictated where housing should be built instead.

    We urge you to raise this matter with your planning ministerial colleagues, and to stress the dangers to our countryside – and to seek to revert to the balance in the planning system we had previously. Of course we need homes, particularly for our younger and less well-off local people, but the recent changes to the planning system will result in unplanned and uncontrolled development not only across Feniton, but across East Devon and across the country.

    ROGER GILES                     CLAIRE WRIGHT

    Devon County Councillor             East Devon District Councillor

    Ottery Rural                         Ottery Rural

    Photograph:  Flooding on Feniton’s Ottery Road last year.