Feelings were running high in Feniton on Monday night as around 160 residents turned out on a wet night close to Christmas, to voice their concerns on three planning applications, proposing over 150 new houses for the village.

The applications come hot on the heels of a planning inspector’s decision to allow Wainhomes to build 50 houses on high quality agricultural land in the village.

Feniton is proposed 35 houses in the draft Local Plan, until 2026.

The village has a serious flooding problem, which saw a number of residents up all night pumping out water from their homes in the floods of last month.  Some have had to move out of their houses for up to six months while they are made habitable once again.

Unfortunately, developers appear to be hovering over Feniton like a flock of rapacious raptors and it is believed that these applications are likely to be the tip of the iceberg.

Around 20 residents spoke against the applications and were enthusiastically applauded by their neighbours.

Among them was Sue Collins, who said she and her husband had been flooded five times since July.  She wanted to know what short-term help there was for her and her neighbours.  She didn’t want the development of 120 houses (that was supposed to help her particular flooding situation on the edge of the village).

Claire Horrocks said that the King’s School headteacher had told her that the school could not take any more development, as the school could not physically expand.  Children would have to be shipped out to other schools, she said.

Another resident, Bill Knollman, described himself as ‘almost homeless’ as his bungalow was so badly flooded that he has had to move out to allow it to dry out for several months.  He asked what would stop the planning inspector just ignoring everyone and saying yes.

The Rev Cate Edmonds asked what the need for all this housing was.  What research had been done?

Dr Tim Cox from Coleridge Medical Centre said that the medical services were under increasing pressure.  There had been five partners, which had been increased to 12 over recent years.  The numbers of patients had increased from 10,000 to 18,000 and GPs were having to “hot desk” with their colleagues, as there wasn’t enough space. 

Dr Cox said:  “I am really worried how we would provide a service if there were more of them” (patients).

Chris Gibbins said she would be upset at the loss of good quality agricultural land, at a time when people need more food to be grown.

Feniton Primary School governor, Mark Maries said that a planning application for 120 houses would mean an additional 30 pupils.  The school had a capacity of 210 and was currently running at 217 pupils and this is before the Wainhomes houses (50) are built.  It would cause the school “terrible problems” he said. 

Moira James from Feniton Action Group. asked what ‘pricetag’ the land would have next to the school, which was owned by developer, Strategic Land Partnerships.

Feniton’s county councillor, Cllr Roger Giles told the meeting that he had always taken the view that the flooding issue needed to be resolved before any further development took place.

He went on to describe a worrying situation with the school.  It had emerged through talks with DCC officers, that to fund any expansion would probably entail financial contributions from hundreds of extra houses in Feniton, potentially doubling the village in size. 

Cllr Giles added:  “The developers are making the rules, not the planners.  Where was localism?”

I told the meeting that the key issues for me were the draft local plan’s allocation until 2026 of 35 houses, the flooding, health services being stretched to the limit and the school.  The village had already been more than provided for more houses than earmarked for it, in the Wainhomes appeal decision.

I urged people to object to the applications, adding that Feniton needed to speak with one voice.

Feniton Action Group’s John Withrington pointed to an article in the Midweek Herald last week which had carried the claims untrue of Strategic Land Partnerships, that all the infrastructure problems would be solved.  He said: “Feniton is NOT the most sustainable village in East Devon, it relies on cars.  We cannot let this rest.”

Feniton Parish councillor, Chris James, told the meeting that the land next to Ottery Road, subject to a planning application for 120 houses, provided a rural backdrop to the village and it would be a “major step” to allow it to be built on.  He added that he couldn’t see any justification at all for the application to be approved.

Cllr Nick Spence said:  “The applications offer absolutely nothing to the village.

“I cannot see for one minute how development (at Acland Park) won’t make matters worse.  The flooding situation alone should be enough to refuse it.  60-70 houses are at risk, to build up there would be absolute lunacy.”

The council unanimously voted against all three applications, which were:

120 houses on land next to Ottery Road – Strategic Land Partnerships
59 houses on the same land next to Ottery Road – Strategic Land Partnerships
32 houses on land next to Acland Park – Feniton Homes

The deadline for objections is Wednesday 9 January.

To find out how to object – and for more information about Feniton and its fight against the floods and the developers, visit the Feniton Action Group’s website at http://theffff.wordpress.com/

Photograph courtesy of Feniton Action Group:  Some of the people (there were many more out of shot) at the meeting on Monday evening.