• Feniton residents back built up boundary change

    13th November 2012 | News | Claire
  • The plans were discussed at a special meeting of the parish council, with Feniton ward member, Cllr Graham Brown, taking a contrary view.

    The move will mean that the 50 homes allowed on appeal on land next to Louvigny Close in September, will now be drawn inside Feniton’s built-up area boundary.

    This, Feniton Parish Council believes, is the best way of protecting the remainder of the field and Feniton itself, from further speculative planning applications.

    EDDC planners agree with this position and are proposing to allow the 50 homes near Louvigny Close, to be Feniton’s official allocation for the Local Plan.

    Feniton is actually allocated 35 dwellings in EDDC’s Local Plan, until 2026.

    A planning application for 32 dwellings at Acland Park – previously the favoured site for development in the village – will now not be supported by the parish council and residents, because to do so, would bring forward AT LEAST a further 82 new dwellings for the village (50 near Louvigny Close and 32 at Acland Park), rather than the allocated 35.

    Surprisingly, Feniton’s district councillor, Graham Brown, argued strongly that Feniton Parish Council should leave the built-up area boundary unchanged, as he claimed that the village would get development anyway and that the Acland Park proposal would generate some revenue for a flood relief scheme.

    The cost of a flood relief scheme for Feniton has been estimated at around £1.6m.

    The meeting kicked off with the agent for Feniton Homes, David Cutler, proposing to build 32 homes at Acland Park, speaking in favour of his scheme to the 40 or so residents who had gathered to have their say over the built-up area boundary changes.

    The planning application for Acland Park will be determined by the Development Management Committee (DMC) at EDDC next Tuesday (2pm), and is recommended for refusal by officers.

    Mr Cutler outlined his scheme and how he thought it would benefit the village, before claiming that according to the National Planning Policy Framework, Wainhomes would be permitted to build a further 100 dwellings on the appeal site at Louvigny Close, because the appeal decision was regarded in national planning policy as ‘windfall.’

    This risk he claimed, would be offset by allowing the Acland Park development to go ahead.

    Cllr Brown chimed in.  He said that EDDC had let Feniton down and he apologised for this.  He said the land at Louvigny Close should NOT be included in the built-up area boundary.  He said EDDC was a failing council and the planning inspector determining the Louvigny Close appeal had applied a 20 per cent ‘buffer’ to EDDC’s housing figures, which meant EDDC must find a further 20 per cent of land for housing across the district.

    This penalty is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework – what an irresponsible new rule.

    Cllr Brown then attacked EDDC’s Local Plan process. He insisted that the housing figures should never have been reduced from the figures in the Local Development Framework (which imposed around 20,000 houses on East Devon).  He added that the revision process had meant it had taken EDDC 12 months longer than it should have done, to finish its Local Plan.

    This view was not a surprise because Cllr Brown chaired the Local Development Framework Panel from 2009-2010, at which point the meetings were held behind closed doors and all discussions were regarded as strictly confidential.

    Cllr Brown argued that Feniton Parish Council should leave things (the boundary) as it was for the time being ‘to find out what happens when the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) comes in.’

    What Cllr Brown seems to have meant by this is that the government has given councils without an up-to-date Local Plan one year to get their plans ready, prior to insisting they use the policies in the NPPF.  East Devon is relying on an adopted Local Plan that was out-of-date in December 2011.  Although the policies have been saved and are still being used to determine planning applications.

    It isn’t clear exactly what will happen in March 2013, but I understand that many developers are rubbing their hands in anticipation, hoping for a planning policy vacuum. 

    Cllr Brown requested that the parish council and residents back the Acland Park application.

    At this point I stood up to address the meeting. My part of Feniton (closer to Ottery St Mary) was subject to an application for 120 dwellings last year, which was rejected by EDDC last December.

    I went through the planning policy reasons as to why EDDC supported the parish council’s proposal to allocate the land next to Louvigny Close as Feniton’s housing allocation.  This WAS permissible under the NPPF I said and EDDC was using the NPPF as its guide on this.

    I then raised the issue of the Acland Park application and explained to the meeting that it was recommended for refusal at next week’s DMC meeting.  I asked the developer, Mr Cutler, about Feniton Primary School’s position (which he had so far been silent on). 

    I referred to next week’s DMC committee report.  On page 106 of the committee report – HERE – it states that the developer’s contribution to education would have to involve land purchase to extend the primary school. 

    This would be vital because Feniton already has 50 dwellings allowed on appeal. With a further 32 houses, the school would probably be unable to cope.

    I said that I understood that Strategic Land Partnerships owned the school field and would be delighted to use it for school expansion … providing they got their application for 120 dwellings approved on the other side of the village!

    Mr Cutler started talking about bussing children to other schools but it was clear that he had no answer to the education difficulty. 

    Children generated by this development, may not have a school to attend, not in Feniton anyway.

    Not only that, I argued, but if the councillors on the EDDC planning committee next week, approved the Acland Park application, against officer advice, it would give Strategic Land Partnerships a lever to argue for approval of their scheme on the other side of the village – the schooling situation would be desperate.

    The parish council, I said, was doing the right thing.  I sat down.

    Chair of Feniton Action Group, John Withrington, said that the argument made by Cllr Brown – of advocating more development to prevent development – was ‘perverse.’ 

    Dr Withrington added that the approach would be akin to ‘making a pact with the devil.’

    One resident argued that to build at Acland Park would provide more sports facilities for children.  The parish council chairman, Martyn Smith, however, replied that although this would be helpful, it was more important to protect residents against flooding, than it was to provide sports facilities.

    Mark Morris, chair of Feniton Primary School governors spoke up in favour of the parish council’s proposed boundary change.  He said the village must avoid children having to be bussed to other schools.

    Local farmer, Francis Pyle claimed that if the Acland Park site was not developed, a child could be killed in the derelict buildings.

    Mr Pyle was reminded that it was the duty of the landowner to make the buildings safe.

    In a last ditch attempt to convince residents and the parish council to leave the boundaries unchanged, Cllr Brown then spoke of what he saw as the benefits of the Acland Park scheme.

    He criticised Feniton Parish Council for not supporting the Acland Park application previously (it was submitted last year) and insisted that it was the council’s decision and residents objections against the application, that had contributed to the Wainhomes appeal decision.

    He claimed when communities object to development, they get it forced upon them.

    He said residents of Acland Park wanted the scheme to go ahead and told the meeting of the flood relief money it would bring, if approved. 

    He went on to mention the NPPF coming into force in full, in March and what a good document EDDC’s Local Development Framework had been and how it should never have been revised. 

    All of these things, he claimed, were strong grounds to support the Acland Park planning application.

    Listening to Cllr Brown’s speech, I found myself becoming increasingly concerned.  I did not believe he was being fair to residents or the parish council.  Nor did I believe that he was promoting Feniton’s best interests.

    I stood up and said that I disagreed with him.  Cllr Brown warned me that Feniton was his ward.  I acknowledged this but pointed out that decisions on the built-up area boundary here, would also have an impact on the part of Feniton I was responsible for.

    I said that had been one of the biggest campaigners against the Local Development Framework and it had been an appalling document.  I said it needed to be revised and it was good that it had been withdrawn.

    I said I thought that the criticism against Feniton Parish Council was unfair and they had been right to take the stance they had done.  The Acland Park application had been contrary to the adopted Local Plan, and it had been submitted last year – well in advance of the new Local Plan.

    The application was for land outside Feniton’s built-up area boundary and to support it, or approve it would undermine the Local Plan and could encourage other speculative planning applications.

    I told the meeting that Feniton was in a very difficult position, an appeal was allowed that never should have been allowed and the wrong site had been approved for housing, but the village had to make the best of a bad job and to work out the safest way forward. 

    The parish council’s proposal was the safest way forward I said, and that is what is most needed for Feniton – a safe way forward.

    A vote was taken on the built-up area boundary.  Feniton Parish Council’s proposal to include the appeal housing site was substantially carried by residents.

    Photograph:  Land next to Louvigny Close, which is proposed to be drawn inside Feniton’s built-up area boundary.